Location 14: Poas (Costa Rica)
Volcano and forest with mountain birds hiding in the tough woodland at the top.
Be a Mountain Explorer.
My favourite spots were the lookout over the crater, the paths through the trees near the crater where I saw tanagers feeding in the tops of the trees and the open areas near the car park where I saw Yellow-thighed Finch.
Poas is a volcano towering over the Central Valley. It is easily accessible from San Jose and a popular tourist destination with the volcano the main reason that people visit. Wildlife is limited mainly to a few high-elevation plants and birds. I enjoyed the wild scenery and specialised wildlife.
- Site 1: Parque Nacional Poas The main volcano path and viewpoint. Regular bus service from San Jose. It can be cold. (GPS coords 10.1854N 84.2363W)
Parque Nacional Poas Description
I only saw 5 species of bird on a 1 day visit. However, it is spectacular and those 5 species were all specialist-mountain birds.
If you arrive by bus it will stop at the main entrance. Everyone then gets off the bus, pays and then gets back on the bus to go the remaining 400m (or so). At this point I chose to get off and explored all the little picnic areas and short trails on the way up to the visitor centre. This took me about 25 minutes and I suspect it was also useful because it meant I did not walk up the crater with everyone else, so saw more birds. I just asked around and followed the other people I recognised from the bus to find where to catch it on the way back. I found most people started queuing for the bus very early. Probably, if you don't have an extra project like birdwatching, it can get a bit boring!
It might be tempting to ignore the crater and instead explore elsewhere to avoid the crowds. I do not recommend this as I do not think the wildlife is so good as the other mountain sites and so probably you should only visit if you also want to see the spectacular crater. The crater is often obscured by cloud later in the day so if it is clear you should go and look straight away.
After seeing the volcano I found two good areas for birdwatching. The first area was the path from Mirador laguna Botos south for a few hundred metres. The second area was Sendero Escalonia which goes up from the car park (and is an alternative to the "dual carriageway" that most people walk up). I didn't actually see much in this second area but it offers some of the longest views through the trees and I think I was probably a bit unlucky.
The entry fee (when I visited in 2013) was $10. The bus from San Jose to Alajuela was $1 there and $1 back. The bus from Alejuela to Volcan Poas was $2.50 there and $2.50 back.
Birds seen in 1 day in winter:-
- Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher (Phainoptila melanoxantha) 1x2 (m2)
- Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus pileatus) 4x4 (m8)
- Spangle-cheeked Tanager (Tangara dowii) 1x4 (m4)
- Yellow-thighed Finch (Pselliophorus tibialis) 4x3 (m6)
- Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) 2x2 (m2)
Spangle-cheeked Tanager might be seen feeding in the tops of the trees at Poas.
This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on June 2017.
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