Rincon de la Vieja
Introduction to Rincon de la Vieja
Tucked away in the Northern Guanacaste Province, the Rincon de la Vieja National Park was created in 1972 and protects over thirty streams and rivers that have their source there. Everywhere you go you’ll hear the rush of hidden cascades and murmuring brooks. The park is named after the legend of an indigenous Chorotega girl whose disapproving father threw her lover into the crater of the volcano. Mourning her lost love she became a recluse on the mountaintop, where she developed healing powers. It is thought that these powers are now present in the volcanic hot-springs that flow from the mountain and are one of the major draws of the region.
Outside of the National Park, the Guanacaste region is a real countryside idyll, with dry-tropical forests and grassland dotted with grazing cows and Sabaneros (the local cowboys) herding cattle. As you pass through small, sleepy villages, you’ll see children playing out in the street and grandmas on the porch in their rocking chairs. The remoteness and serenity of the region is captivating, yet below the earth’s surface things are not quite so calm. The Rincon Volcano often steams and grumbles away in the distance, and there are other hidden volcanoes and a host of gurgling and spitting volcanic pools and mudpots among the forest trees. There are many ways to experience the area, ranging from adventurous hikes, rappelling, rock-climbing and canopying to relaxing horseback rides, gentle walks and soaking in the hot springs.
What not to miss in Rincon de la Vieja
Hike to the Volcano
If you are ready for a challenge then take on the Las Pailas Trail near the entrance of the National Park to hike to the volcano’s crater. For a less extreme hike there is a 2.5 hour version of the trail, which leads you to waterfalls, hissing volcanic mudpots and natural hot springs.
Have a relaxing and thrilling tubing experience in Rincon de la Vieja. Enjoy bouncing and splashing your way down gentle Class II and III rapids in a crystal clear river. There are a number of quiet pools and calm water where you’ll be able to appreciate the surrounding beautiful tropical scenery.
Feel the adrenaline rush of flying through the treetops and zip lining your way across canyons in Rincon de la Vieja. Experiencing a canopy zip line is a fast, exciting and unforgettable adventure that is a must-do during your stay in Rincon de la Vieja.
Volcanic Mud Bath
Get muddy and soak away your troubles. The ancient Chorotega Indian ritual of a volcanic mud bath is highly recommended.
The thermal hot springs in Rincón de La Vieja may not be as well known as those in the Arenal area but they are just as beautiful and relaxing. Heated naturally by the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, the largest and most active volcano in Guanacaste, you’ll be able to unwind in the peace and quiet of your surroundings.
Saddle up! Outside the National Park you can enjoy the beautiful dry-tropical scenery like a true Sabanero, (local cowboy), on a horseback riding excursion.
Admire the breathtaking beauty of the turquoise blue Rio Celeste Waterfalls in the nearby Tenorio Volcano National Park. Plunging 64 ft. down into an incredibly sky blue almost turquoise pool of water below, Rio Celeste is a natural, beautiful and hidden wonderland!
What you need to know
When to go
One of the best times to visit Rincon de la Vieja is in the green season (May to November). This is when the volcanic springs and boiling mud pots are at their most active. On the flip side, the crater is usually covered in cloud, so it is not the best time to hike to the top.
How to get there
Numerous international flights from North America, Europe, and the rest of Latin America now arrive directly to the Liberia International Airport which acts as the gateway to Costa Rica’s region of Guanacaste.
If you’re already in Costa Rica, or are flying in and out of the San Jose International Airport, you may consider taking a domestic flight versus driving to Liberia and Rincon de la Vieja. The driving distance from San José to Liberia is 130 miles (210 km), which takes approximately 4 hours; whereas the flying time is only 45 minutes from San José to Liberia International Airport. There are two local airlines, Nature Air and Sansa Airlines, with scheduled flights between the two airports.
Where to stay
Accommodation in Rincon de la Vieja ranges from ranches and river lodges to rustic B&Bs.
If you decide to rent a car, just be sure it is 4WD especially if your accommodation is one of the more remote properties and you’re traveling during the rainy season.