Recently, we spent one day at Poás Volcano National Park, learning about the geology of Costa Rica and highland ecosystems, but more specifically about the management strategies being employed in the country’s national parks, their importance to present and future park health, and usage patterns by visitors. On this day we were lucky: the crater was completely clear—a rarity at this mountain peak—where clouds usually crowd out the amazing view of the huge active crater of this large volcano. Clouds of white volcanic gases constantly emerging from the crater made clear to us than this giant mountain is “awake,” though calm most of the time.

Our hike of the trails of the National Park was combined with a field lecture about the management of protected areas, and their use for the purposes of environmental education, recreation, and conservation. The students observed the effect humans can have on wildlife, but also how the infrastructure in the national park should be adapted to allow for sustainable tourism and reduce the impacts on biodiversity. The economic importance of tourism for conservation and development were also considered.

After hiking the trails, the students had the opportunity to talk to both domestic and foreign visitors to the park, collecting important data during their interviews that will serve to help park administrators to improve the experience at Poás—one of the most important stops on the tourist circuit in Costa Rica. Finally, a lecture about urbanization and urban growth wrapped up our busy day of activities.