My tour driver, Carlos, was punctual this morning. First, we checked out a canopy tour that’s close to San José. Along with a zip line, it has a trout pond, restaurant, canoeing, and fun games. We continued to Poas Volcano passing by coffee plantations, strawberry farms, and flower farms one of which was a large fern farm that covered several hillsides. The rich volcanic soil on these slopes makes for abundant produce and flowers, most grown for export.
We paid a $10 entry fee at the main gate of the Poas Volcano and then continued to the parking lot where there were bathrooms, a gift shop and restaurant. From here it is a 15-minute walk to the one kilometer wide crater with its 300-meter deep sulphuric acid pool. On clear days, you can see the Pacific Ocean and Arenal volcano on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. Poas’ second crater lake, Laguna Botos, is located up a short trail to the south. It is 10-to 20-minute walk on a uphill paved trail past lichens and mosses that cling to curiously shaped trees that form interesting tunnels. I felt like I was in an enchanted forest rather than a dwarf cloud forest! Laguna Botos has no fish life due to the acidity of the water.
We then traveled to La Paz Waterfall Gardens which has changed dramatically since my initial visit. The grounds are now abundant with lush and blossoming flora creating beautiful verdant gardens along each walkway. In addition to the hummingbird area with 16 different species and the outstanding butterfly observatory, there is a new enclosure with a variety of Costa Rican birds, big cats, and snakes. There is also an historical Costa Rican house with farm animals and a trout lake with lakeside bar, Jacuzzi, and pool.
I walked the paths and climbed up and down multiple stairs to the five waterfalls. The first three have photographic viewing platforms available for close up shots. The last waterfall on my tour was the largest, La Paz. Although there is a bridge below La Paz, it is only accessible by road. I noted that some new stairs are being constructed to the fourth waterfall. As I made my way up the steep stairs, I was quickly passed by workers carrying cement bags.
We stopped for a typical Costa Rican lunch on the way back to San José. There were many farmers selling fresh strawberries, palmito cheese, and a variety of fresh fruit on the roadside. We stopped to sample some strawberries which were delightfully sweet.
I ended my day at the Hotel InterContinental with its two outdoor swimming pools, large fitness area, business center, gift shop, spa, beauty salon, and meeting rooms. It is a spacious hotel with four restaurants (Japanese, Italian, Continental, and steak & lobster) that surround the pool area.
Across the street is the city’s most prestigious shopping mall, Plaza Roble, with 365 stores, bars and restaurants. I walked over to find the holiday festivities in full swing with three musical groups and various entertainers on stilts.
Before my driver left, I arranged tomorrow’s airport transfer for 5 a.m. The next morning, he was right on time and dropped me at the airport by 5:15 a.m. The lines were already long at both the airport departure tax and airline counters, so I was thankful I had more than two hours to check in.
By: Line A. Bouthillette, Senior Program Manager – Central America and Venezuela