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Rincon de la Vieja National Park – Volcanic Adventure

rincon de la vieja

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is located in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica north of the city of Liberia. 

This national park is home to two volcanos and consists of 34,000 acres of land. It is a popular spot to experience volcanic activity, such as bubbling mud, up close. There are also several amazing waterfalls, hot springs, and adventure activities that take place in the area.

In other words, if you fly into the Liberia International Airport or plan to spend some time near the northern Guanacaste beaches, this is a great volcanic destination to check out!

Rincon de la Vieja National Park Background Info

rincon de la vieja

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is divided into two sections. These are called the Santa Maria sector and the Las Pailas sector. 

Las Pailas Sector

The Las Pailas sector of the national park is the most popular to visit because it is the most easily accessible section from the Liberia area. 

Santa Maria Sector

The Santa Maria Sector is more difficult to access. There is only one hiking trail here and a small ranger station. 

Important Info About Visiting the Las Pailas Sector

rincon de la vieja

Because most people visit Las Pailas and it is the most easily accessible, we will focus on how to visit that area.

Hours

8:00am to 3:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday.

The park is closed on Monday

Directions

Click below to access Google Maps with the exact location of how to enter Las Pailas.

Cost

$15 for non-residents

$5 for children

Costa Rica residents pay: ¢ 1,000 for adults and ¢500 for children

Facilities

There is a ranger station on-site that is actually really nice. This station has a parking area, clean restrooms, drinking water, and picnic tables if you would like to bring a lunch.

What to Bring

Sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, water (you can always refill your bottle at the ranger station), and your camera!

What to Wear

rincon view

The weather fluctuates a lot here depending on the time of year. Typically I would suggest wearing some type of sport pants or shorts, a fast-drying t-shirt, and bring a light long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt depending on the weather, and a hat. 

For shoes, we suggest close-toed shoes that you feel comfortable hiking in.

Where to Stay Nearby

OK, I struggled in writing this because there are several great small hotels in the area that would absolutely love your business and you will have a great time at. However, this is one instance where I actually highly recommend the most touristy hotel, Hacienda Guachipelin

I know, I know, we like to support small businesses, but in this case, the most touristy hotel also seems to be the best. I get more into detail about Hacienda Guachipelin further on in this post.

Safety at the Volcano

In recent years there has been a fair amount of volcanic activity at Rincon de la Vieja. Please always stay on the marked hiking trails and follow all rules put in place by the rangers. 

Here is a video of the latest eruption. Don’t worry, the trails are not near this active part of the volcano.

For example, they will ask that you back your car into any parking spaces. This isn’t just to be annoying but rather so you can pull out quickly if you need to flea during volcanic activity.

That being said, the active area is currently closed to visitors and you don’t need to be scared about visiting the park. 

The Rincon de la Vieja Hikes

hikes rincon

From the La Pailas side of the national park, you have two main hike options. These are:

Sendero de las Cataratas

rincon de la vieja

This is a waterfall trail. It is not a loop trail. This trail is more strenuous and splits about halfway in so you can access two different waterfalls. In total, if you visit both waterfalls it will be about an eleven-mile hike.

We do not suggest this hike unless you are an experienced hiker in good shape who is used to sometimes extreme heat.

However, the waterfalls are beautiful and worth seeing if you are up for it.

If you are intimidated by this and want to see a waterfall, don’t worry, there is a waterfall called Oropendola which is located just before the ranger station. This is an easy and short hike. 

Las Pailas Trail

rincon de la vieja

This is a two-mile loop trail that goes through vast fields and dense tropical forests. Along the way, you will see bubbling mud activity, steaming vents, a waterfall (during the rainy season), and more. It is a great hike for really getting a feel for the volcanic activity in the area.

The hike was not overly strenuous, but I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone that is not able to handle moderate hiking conditions.

Other Things to Do Near Rincon de la Vieja

rincon de la vieja

If you stay at Hacienda Guachipelin, definitely take advantage of all the other fun activities on their property. These include visiting the hot springs and hiking to the other waterfalls on the property.  Both of these activities are free for Guachipelin guests.

If you would like more action, Hacienda Guachipelin has several fun combo day tour options. These include rafting, zip-lining, horseback riding, and more! 

Another cool thing nearby is Poza Los Coyotes. This is an area with bright blue water that you can float down in an inner tube. At the moment, it hasn’t taken off in popularity except with locals, so visit while it’s cheap and not overrun! The owners have a Facebook page you can check out for more info. 

Hacienda Guachipelin

guachipelin

As I mentioned earlier in this post, we suggest staying at Hacienda Guachipelin if you plan to visit the Rincon de la Vieja volcanos. The reason for this is because you actually have to drive through the Hacienda Guachipelin property to access the Las Pailas ranger station. The Guachipelin property has everything you need to have the perfect few days at Rincon de la Vieja.

So, we thought it’s best if we give you a little info on our experience if you are considering staying here.

The Rooms

We stayed in the cheapest basic room, and it was super basic. It doesn’t seem that the rooms have been updated in probably at least twenty years. However, it was fine. We really didn’t spend much time in our room besides sleeping.

Also, there are nicer room options if you are willing to pay more.

At first, I felt that the room price was kind of high, but once you take into account all the amenities you get by staying there (free breakfast, access to their private trails, access to their hot springs, pool access), I think the price is actually very reasonable.

The Food

The food was OK. Breakfast is a buffet which is included in the room price. This is a basic Costa Rican breakfast with eggs, fruit, plantains, corn tortillas, cheese, and gallo pinto.

For dinner, you will have a buffet option or the a la carte menu. We opted for the a la carte menu both nights. The food was basic but decent. We both got quesadillas one night and they were actually great and fair priced.

The Property 

rincon hot springs

The property is great. Everything is well manicured and there is tons to do here. 

Our favorite activity was definitely visiting the natural hot springs on the property. The hot springs consist of several pools of varying temperatures along a riverbank. Unfortunately, some of the pools were not filled when we visited, but it was still enjoyable. 

While at the hot springs you will also have the chance to cover yourself in volcanic mud for a nice little mud bath. 

Thomas and I both felt absolutely amazing after our hot spring visit. I felt like I was rejuvenated and super alive. I don’t know if it was the hot springs or the volcanic mud, but either way, definitely plan a little visit here.

Oh and just a tip, we got to the hot springs right when they opened for the day so we had the whole place to ourselves for almost an hour.

The Staff

The staff here has it together! It is not unusual in Costa Rica for things to be a bit unorganized, but not here. Everything was completely streamlined from check-in to check-out. 

For example, we needed a detailed electronic bill because we visited as a Costa Rica Vibes business expense. This is usually a total hassle. However, at Guachipelin the person at the front desk was able to do this for us quickly and easily. 

The staff in the restaurant and bar will also really nice and helpful. 

I had an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite on my hand (I’m a constant disaster) and I asked a bartender for ice. He made me a nice little bag of ice and checked to see how it was looking after a little while.

I have no doubt that whatever you need, the staff here will help you out. 

Our Thoughts on Rincon de la Vieja

rincon de la vieja

We really enjoy visiting Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It’s a great spot to combine hiking, unique volcano views, and adventure. If you are flying in and out of the Liberia International Airport this is a great spot for you to visit for a few nights. 

Last time we visited we spent two nights in the area. This was enough for us, but if you would like to add in a day of a combo tour with ziplining and rafting, it is better to spend three nights here.

Do you have any questions about planning your trip to Rincon de la Vieja National Park? Don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

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About Us

We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

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