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Parque Nacional Volcán Poás

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With a record attendance of 175,000 people in 1996, Parque Nacional Volcán Poás is the most popular park in Costa Rica. This is mainly because of its proximity to San José (37 km) and the excellent paved road that goes all the way there (and even right up to the volcano).

Despite being crowded, there is a lot to see and do at the Poás Volcano national park: craters, lakes, short trails and an interpretation centre. Several photos and models illustrate the history of the Poás Volcano, with its several significant periods of activity. The first well-documented eruption was in 1747. The most famous occurred in 1910, when the explosion sent lava 4,000 metres into the air and volcanic ash as far away as Puntarenas, 70 kilometres to the west.

This national park was created on January 25, 1971 to protect the 2,708 metre-high volcano and the dense forests around it. In 1993, the 6,506-hectare park has incorporated the Cerro Congo mountains in the south. The annual precipitation is rather heavy at 3.5 metres. Even during the dry period, which lasts from December to April, it is best to visit the park in the morning because clouds often obscure the view of the crater by afternoon. The average temperatures is a cool 14°C and can get as low as 6°C, and only goes up to 21°C, so always bring warm clothes and rain gear.

It is an easy 400-metre walk to the star attraction of the park: the main crater of the Poás Volcano. One and a half kilometres wide and 300 metres deep, it is one of the largest craters in the world. The greenish water at the bottom of the crater is very acidic and sulfurous. As the water evaporates, it produces sulfur deposits and acid rain. This constant release of gasses probably reduces the volcano's internal pressure so that a devastating eruption is unlikely in the near future. Nevertheless, the state of the volcano is closely monitored and constantly analysed since this volcano has more than one crater: nine have been counted so far.

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