Nothing but Poas
We flew from La Fortuna to San Jose. Since we were flying to Puerto Jiminez, we took advantage of the Nature Air All You Can Fly Pass. For 7 days, you have unlimited plane travel, for $282, which is less than what it would have cost us to book our tickets to Puerto Jiminez separately. I highly recommend the pass, since the restrictions are clearly printed on their website and there were no secret loopholes. We tacked on the La Fortuna-San Jose flight to take advantage of the pass, and motion sickness aside, it was worth the ride just to be able to get the awesome views from above. My friend and I were the only passengers on the plane, save one American girl, and we were blown away by the beautiful, green, lush landscape of Costa Rica.
The next day, we hired a car for the day with a Swiss couple. (There are so many Swiss visiting Costa Rica.) For about $40 each, the driver took us to the Volcan Poas and La Fortuna waterfall. The latter was a disappointment, since we were expecting a grand waterfall but it was very small. (To be fair, I think most waterfalls will be a disappointment after visiting Iguazu.)
Volcan Poas is the most visited volcano in Costa Rica, famous for its sulphur blue crater lake. We were told that the hike to the crater would be at least 30 minutes, but the path is completely paved so it took us about 10 minutes. I believe we arrived around 9am and it was extremely cloudy and misty, and soon the rain started to pour. When we got to the top, we saw a sea of haze; the crater lake was completely hidden. We waited for awhile and just as we were conceding defeat, the mist started to move. The entire crowd cheered woos of excitement and of course, started shuttering away, lest the clouds came back. And they did come back, but we waited longer, and finally it was completely clear. And the crater lake is stunning.If you can hire a car, it’s well worth the cost (which is significantly different than a tour bus if you can find other people to share it with you.) Had we been part of a tour group, we probably would have not been able to see the lake since they’re on a schedule and wouldn’t have lingered as long as we did, hoping to see the lake. Additionally, our driver was really nice, showed us a nice restaurant in Poas and watched our belongings.
There really was nothing else to do during our time in the San Jose region. All the travel guides, internet forums and friends who have visited San Jose said that it is not a very nice city and it’s kinda true. I’m sure there are some nice nooks and crannies but the city is polluted, grey and dirty. The only interesting thing we could say we did in San Jose was visit Volcan Poas, and that’s an hour outside of the city. We visited La Teatro Nacional but it was closed so we could only see the lobby (which was beautifully designed).
Just a note that we stayed at Costa Rica backpackers which is one of the filthiest hostels I have ever stayed in. The online reviews were good and the Lonely Planet described it as a great, laidback hostel. I think they meant, so laidback, they don’t clean! Our floors had an oily residue, our beds looked 100 years old, the bathrooms looked like they had never been cleaned, the fridge looked like the fridge of someone on Hoarders. Avoid this place if you can!
Poas was worth the trek to San Jose but if we were able to make the plane schedule accommodate, we would have stayed just one night rather than two.