Hiking: Routes on the slopes South of Volcán Poás

Updated: Jan 28

On Google Maps, you can clearly see that there are less big roads North of Grecia. In this area, the smaller roads are all more or less perpendicular lines from South West to North East. Once on these roads, you’ll notice that they are all quite steep, since they’re located on the slopes of Volcán Poás. The height difference between the ‘valley’ where Grecia is located (about 1000 meters above sea level) and the top of Volcán Poás (2708 meters above sea level) is about 1700 meters! So, you can imagine that it’s quite a trip uphill.

This area offers great hiking opportunities with amazing views towards the valley. Down here, we highlight three of our favourite hikes around this area. If you’re not such a hiker, we do highly recommend to take one of the roads uphill and enjoy the amazing views overthere. There are several viewpoint restaurants/bars in this area. It can be really nice to just drive up for a drink, a snack and to relax, just like locals like to do. ‘Restaurante Mirador’ near San Luis de Grecia is a nice option for example. You can also first go for a hike, starting off in San Luis de Grecia and have lunch or an afternoon snack at ‘Restaurante Mirador’ upon return.

Hike San Luis de Grecia

This hike is ideal for adventurers who want to get to the starting point by public bus. There is a direct connection from the bus station near Grecia’s central market (two blocks West of Mangífera Hostel) to San Luis de Grecia, exactly where this hike starts. Just hop on the bus showing the text ‘San Luis de Grecia’ and you’re good! Ride the bus to the last stop and simply start hiking uphill.

Soon after taking off, you’ll already notice great landscapes on both your left and right. At a certain point, you’ll get to a big fence, showing a sign with two big guns and the message ‘private property, keep out…’. Well, the sign is intimidating, but don’t worry. Years and years of experience have pointed out that it’s completely safe to pass the fence (the fence has a regular opening on the left side) and enjoy a hike through this area. The trails are located on a local ‘finca’. A finca is basically a big stretch of privately owned land. Traditionally, fincas were used for farming. Nowadays these domains also accommodate hiking trails or other recreational activities. Some waterfalls are located on fincas. Usually the owner of the finca charges a small fee for visitors.

There are basically two options after the fence with the guns. For both options you just follow the obvious, broad path uphill. This is a trail with nice views and at a certain point it enters into a more forestry area. Once you reach a small river surrounded by equipment that seems to be used for water purification, you’re as far as you can get on this trail. Hike the same way back to get to the bus stop / car again.

The black square on map below here shows where the second hiking opportunity in the area starts. You basically start the same way as the first route, but at a certain point, you take a sharp right hand turn that leads up a dirt road. Be aware: you might have to share this path with the occasional cow or horse! This path leads to a view of Volcán Poás. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to witness the mist rolling down the volcanic slopes into the valley. It gives the scene a truly mystic feel, and it will allow you to take more original photographs than everyone would take on a super sunny day!

Starting point of the hike from San Luis de Grecia

The black square indicates where you can take a sharp right

towards a nice view of Volcán Poás

Hike Bosque del Niño

Are you searching for a nice hike through a diverse forest area, both suitable for families and for a bit more adventurous hikers, and are you perhaps in for a nice spot to have a picnic? Then you might want to head to Bosque del Niño. Bosque del Niño is a reserve that protects part of the forests north of Grecia town. Locals pay 600 Colones for the entrance and foreigners $5. The rangers that maintain and protect this area, can give you directions and a lot of interesting information about the forest.

Bosque del Niño is best reached by car. The images down here show you how to reach the entrance with your own vehicle. At the intersections that is highlighted with an orange square you have to take a left turn. At his intersection, you’ll also find a sign that points out the way to Bosque del Niño. At this point, the road starts to get a bit rougher. We would advise you to only enter it with a high vehicle. Especially during the rainy season, parts of the road can be flushed away. Experienced drivers should be able to make it though. At the entrance, there’s enough space to park your car, and to have a picnic in the grass!

Road from Grecia centre towards Bosque del Niño

At the intersection, marked with the orange square: take a left.

Bosque del Niño basically offers two hiking trails on the slopes of Volcán Poás. The shorter and easier one, leads you through mystic forest trails, where you can spot some really amazing types of trees. The trails is covered with roots and interesting views through the nature that surrounds you. Once you get to an intersections where a sign point out that the path to you right hand side is a private area, you should actually walk down this path for about 30 meters. It will first get you to a small river. Following this stream upwards, you’ll get to a small, but lovely waterfall. At this point we didn’t have any mosquito repellent with us, and since this spot forms a perfect hatchery for insects, we got bitten quite a lot! It’s advisable to wear clothes that cover you skin sufficiently and/or to bring repellent. Following the trail again, you’ll get to a viewpoint with a small bench. A great opportunity to rest your legs and to enjoy the landscape surrounding you.

In the images down here, the trail we just described is the circular hike shown in the left side of the first image. This path is quite doable for all kinds of adventurers. It’s not that large and the elevation difference is not too big.

The second hike, pointed out with a sign ‘Sendero Panoramico Carboneras’ is a lot more challenging, since it takes you all the way to a viewpont with an amazing view over the slopes of Volcán Poás and afterwards to a waterfall that’s located in a lower part of the mountain. When we were at Bosque del Niño to record both hikes, we first did the easy hike and started the second one, but we got caught by the rain. We decided to turn around and hike this trail another day since we weren’t going to be able to see anything at the viewpoint ;-) . Once we have done the hike, we’ll post more information about it over here!

We also want to share this insider tip with you about this second trail of Bosque del Niño: through a side road of the second trail, you can hike all the way up two lagoons near Volcán Poás. During the dry season, these lagoons dry up completely, but during the rainy season it’s very worth it apparently. Once we went up there, we post more information about this trail in a separate blog post!

Hike Monte Redondo

Another similar, but yet very different hike is also located on the slopes of Volcán Poás, just a little bit east of San Luis de Grecia and known as ‘Monte Redondo’. This route is also reachable by public transport. Take a the bus towards ‘Carbonal’ from the bus station near Grecia’s central market (two blocks West of Mangífera Hostel). Down here you can find the bus schedule of Grecia’s central bus station (date: 31/08/2020. We appreciate it if you give us a heads-up if you notice that the schedule changed). It’s also an option to take an Über or local taxi towards Carbonal. The images below shows the point where we advise you to get off the taxi. First, you’ll hike uphill towards a viewpoint to, thereafter, hike down towards a town called ‘Cajón’, where you can take the public bus or a taxi back to Mangífera Hostel. Since the route we show here, has a different starting and ending point, you’ll have to adjust this route if you want to get there by car.

Bus schedule of the Grecia's central bus station at the central market

A good thing to know about the official red taxis of this area, is that they only charge about 600 Costa Rican Colones (about $1) for a ride back to Grecia town. This is less than you would pay for the public bus. Since Grecia is more or less located in a valley, taxis charge the ‘normal’ price for getting out of Grecia and more or less the standard price of 600 Colones to get back to town. Another great thing is that the taxi station, where all the red taxis return to, is located right in front Mangífera Hostel. So: cheap and private ride home for the win!

You only got to be lucky that a red taxi passes your way once you want to return to the hostel again (or when it suddenly starts to pour down). Normally this isn’t a big deal. We usually keep hiking towards Grecia until we can wave down a taxi.

A bit more about the surroundings of Monte Redondo. This hike characterises itself by a constant change of landscapes. First you’ll encounter some colourful farmlands left and right, then the scene changes towards a more forestry area, first with big trees then to smaller trees with twirling branches. Hiking downwards to the town Cajón, you’ll again see farmlands, but these ones look more like a piece of patchwork. The different types of crops grown on the slopes of the hilly landscape, with here and there a small red dot representing the roof of a farmer’s house make up for unique sight. Complete this image with a strong inhalation of humid mountain air and the sound of diverse bird species. I bet you already feel like going?!

Hiking advise: What to take?

Especially during the rainy season, you’ll have to consider the possibility to get wet during your hike! Be aware that when it rains in Costa Rica it often poures down like crazy (you can be completely wet within 10 seconds) and that it often comes with thunder and lightning, so be prepared. We always go out with a waterproof bag to protect our electronic devices (mobile phones, camera…), our wallets and other valuables against the rain. We often bring both a rain coat and an umbrella… To reduce the chance of being caught by the rain, we advise you to go out early (the sun already rises around 5:15 am). Consider taking a sweater or a hoody since higher up it can definitely get a bit cold.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to protect yourself against the sun (whether it is with sun screen or with protective clothes. Depending on the time of the year, you’ll also find it helpful to protect yourself from mosquitoes or other small insects that are eager to bite you (from my own experience I can tell you that you don’t want to get bitten by Purrujas (small sand flee type of insects that cause very, very itchy and inflamed skin)… :). Some clothing brands offer ‘insect bite proof’ fabrics. It’s a great way to protect yourself from getting bitten in a more sustainable and healthier way than to always spray insects repellent on your skin.

Keep in mind that during the hikes, you’ll have to climb and decent steep trails and streets. To be comfortable, good hiking shoes and socks are great. Stable sports shoes that support your feet well, will work as well.

We personally also really like to take our binoculars. You’ll be surprised by the amount of birds you’ll encounter during these hikes and it’s a pleasure to be able to look at them up close through binoculars… Apart from all this equipment it’s advisable to take water and a nice snack for the road! You’ll also walk by several small supermarkets (or ‘pulpería’ in Spanish) and bakeries, so you can also choose to get a snack on the way.

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