Rincon de la Vieja National Park is one of the most beautiful parks from Costa Rica home to two volcanoes, more than 30 rivers and incredible fauna and flora.
Activities like horseback riding, swimming, hiking, camping and even bathing in hot springs are among the most popular activities to try in the 34.500 acres Rincon de la Vieja Volcano national park.
Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja is located about 16 miles northeast from the town of Liberia, the capital of Guanacaste province.
The park has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, visitors can admire the green and lush rain forest, the cloud forest as well as the mystical boiling water formations, steam holes and bubbling mud.
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano national park is located on the flat plains from the Guanacaste province exactly where these plains meet the mountainous jungles.
The park is home to two volcanoes: the active volcano Rincón de la Vieja and the dormant Santa Maria Volcano.
The entire protected area is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Guanacaste Conservation Area and is one of the most visited places from Guanacaste Province.
With its 1900 metres high and 15 kilometres wide, Rincon de la Vieja volcano is the largest volcano in the country called also the Colossus of Guanacaste.
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The legend around Rincon de la Vieja National Park
This beautiful place is surrounded by mystery and there is even a very interesting legend which explains the name of the volcano.
First of all, I want to tell you that the name of the volcano means “ Corner of the Old Women” and now let me tell you in a few words where the name comes from.
According to the legend, the forests near the volcano became home to a beautiful princess whose lover was thrown into the volcano crater by the king when he found out about their affair.
The same legend says that the princess gave birth to a son who was thrown in the same volcano crater to be with his father forever.
The princess spent the rest of her life near the crater and she acquired healing powers and so she was able to heal suffering people who came to the volcano.
Getting to Rincon de la Vieja Costa Rica
This national park reminds me of Yellowstone with its boiling hot mud springs, steam vents, fumaroles and sulphur springs spread all over the place.
Costa Rica Rincon de la Vieja is located about 27 kilometres (16 miles) north of Liberia, just 2 hours drive from the popular beach towns Playa Flamingo and Tamarindo and about 1.5 hours away from Playa Hermosa.
The fastest way to get to the park from the capital city of San Jose is to fly to Liberia International Airport and from there take public transport, a taxi or rent a car.
The park has two main entrances: Las Pailas sector and Santa Maria Sector, both very well signalised and quite easy to find.
To get to the Las Pailas sector from Liberia International Airport you need to drive to Liberia city and at the main intersection from the city turn left.
If you drive for another 4 kilometres (2.3 miles) you will see the sign for “Rincon de la Vieja National Park Las Pailas Sector”.
Follow the sign and turn right after you pass the Ebais clinic and continue the road for another 21 kilometres until you reach the entrance to the park.
For the Santa Maria sector, from Liberia don’t turn left at the main intersection and soon you will see many signs pointing to this entrance.
Although the road to the Santa Maria sector has some unpaved parts, for getting to the entrance of the park you don’t need a 4×4, maybe just a higher car.
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Weather for Rincón de la Vieja national park
In this national park, temperatures do not record significant variances, with values between 22 degrees Celsius ( 71 degrees Fahrenheit) during the night and a maximum of 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) in the middle of the day.
The warmest month of the year is considered to be April and the so called dry season lasts from January to April.
As the humidity is very high you will feel the heat and the cold more intense as the thermometer indicates.
January is the month with the least rain, followed by February and March and no snow is recorded all over the year.
This park is considered to be the driest area in the whole country, but afternoon showers are quite common even during the dry season.
This is another beautiful place from Costa Rica that has its own microclimate, dictated by the volcano, with enough rain all over the year to maintain the vegetation green and many animals around.
Entrance fee and opening hours
The park is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon; Monday is closed.
Both sections of the park Las Pailas and Santa Maria are open to the public, but Las Pailas is more popular among tourists.
As the access to the park is limited to 100 people at the same time, we strongly recommend you reserve your tickets online and pay for them when you get to the ranger station from the entrance of the park.
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Things to see in Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano national park is crossed by 7 trails with the Las Pailas sector being the most popular as it is closer to Liberia.
On your visit to the park you can choose at least one of the following hiking trails to spot the volcanic activity and the beautiful landscape:
Sendero Las Pailas or Boiling mud pots trail
This trail is about 3 kilometres long and goes around the area where the boiling mud points are located.
Along this trail, besides the volcanic mud points, you will see some volcancito or “small volcano” as well as a seasonal waterfall.
Las Pailas trail is an easy trail with no steep climbs which will take you about an hour of walk even if you stop for photos.
The first part of the trail is covered by tropical forest, while the second part offers amazing views of the mountain range on a clear and sunny day.
On the second part of the hike, you will reach the seasonal waterfall which is almost dry during the dry season and the mud pots as well as the Volcanito, very active mud pots constantly bubbling.
Sendero Catarata La Cangreja or La Cangreja waterfall trail
This trail is a little bit longer than the other one, it has about 10 kilometres long and somewhere along the way it branches off in 2, each path going to a different waterfall.
If you want to visit both waterfalls the total length of the path is about 10 kilometres one-way, so take with you not just water but also some food and comfortable shoes.
The two waterfalls from this trail are named Catarata Cangreja and Catarata Escondida, which is the smallest of these two waterfalls.
Catarata Cangreja is famous for its crystal clear waters and beautiful pool from the bottom of the fall where you can cool off after a long hike.
The first part of the trail to Catarata La Cangreja is under the canopy so you are protected against the sun while the last part is quite steep and the forest disappears.
Catarata Escondida trail is about 9 kilometres long and like the Catarata Cangreja trail, the first half of the trail is under the canopy while the second half is in the dry forest.
Besides these trails, in the park there are the following trails:
- in Las Pailas sector: the trail to the crater ( currently closed) and Cerro von Seebach which is a very difficult path
- in Santa Maria Sector: the Hummingbird trial, Enchanted Forest waterfalls, the Pailas of cold water and the Hot Springs ( all classified as moderate difficulty) and the Sightseeing place ranked as a very difficult path.
Rio Negro Hot Springs
Inside Rincon de la Vieja National Park there are 10 man-made volcanic heated springs known as the Rio Negro Hot Springs where visitors can relax and benefit from the healing properties of the volcanic clay.
Take a relaxing bath in one of these hot springs, put some volcanic clay on your body and after it dries up rinse it off in the cold river waters just to jump back on the warm hot springs.
At the entrance of the hot springs, there are lockers, bathrooms and changing rooms and the distance between these facilities and the hot springs is about 0.2 miles.
Wildlife in Rincón de la Vieja Volcano national park
There is a very impressive number of animals that live in the tropical forests around the volcano, out of which I would name: coatis, thousands of lizards, the rare spider monkeys, pumas, jaguars as well as coyotes, kinkajous and tapirs.
Accommodation around the park
Blue River Resort and Hot Springs is located just 4 kilometres away from the national park and it features botanical gardens and natural hot springs as well as mud treatments and beautiful cabanas.
Daily trips to the volcano and the surrounding waterfalls can be arranged at the reception and guests can serve their meals at the on-site restaurant.
Buena Vista del Rincon Eco Adventure Park Hotel is a wonderful accommodation featuring wooden bungalows with rustic decor but all the modern facilities.
On-site there is a wonderful lake and a great restaurant and the reception lady can help you book horseback riding tours, as well as hot springs experiences.
This huge park is home to diverse habitats including cloud forest, rainforest and lowland fry forest in which can be found an impressive number of animals.
Besides these tropical forests, there are many elements characteristic of volcano activity like mini-geysers, boiling mud pots, steam vents and fumaroles.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is definitely a place you have to include in your Costa Rican experience, especially if you plan an escape around the Guanacaste Province.
Plan your trip to this beautiful place: Logistical tips and tricks
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Rentalcars. com as they have free cancellation 24 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.