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Rincón de la Vieja National Park: An Overview

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Rincón de la Vieja is one of the most memorable destinations in Costa Rica for adventurists who dare to wander in this volcanic hotspot. Home to the country’s largest and most active volcano, Rincón National Park in Costa Rica offers unrivaled opportunities to witness geothermal activity, enjoy adventure activities in pristine rainforest, and explore the rural wilderness in Costa Rica’s cowboy countryside.

This park is lesser known to travelers sticking to the main tourist trail, which only adds to its enchantment as one of Costa Rica’s best wilderness destinations. Its relative remoteness serves to maintain its abundant and diverse wildlife population as well as its natural beauty. Experiences here are markedly authentic and exude a more intimate feel than many other major destinations.

To help with planning your trip, we’ve prepared this guide with the best things to do and tips for travel in this incredible national park in Costa Rica.

Rincón de la Vieja National Park facts

Number of annual visitors: 70,000
Size: 141 sq. km.
Entrance fee/permits: USD 15* per person; closed on Mondays
Province: Guanacaste
Common animal sightings: Monkeys (white-faced, spider, and howler), sloths, deer, peccaries, armadillos, coyote, tapir, pumas, ocelots lizards, snakes, and over 200 species of birds.
Best season to visit: December to February for the driest weather, advantageous for outdoor activities. However, the side months (November through to April) are good too. The scenery is also incredibly lush during this time as the rains have tapered off, leaving the rainforest to flourish.

Highlights

  • Trek the volcanic terrain filled with bubbling mud pots and steam vents.
  • Soak in natural volcanic-fed thermal springs.
  • Ride on horseback alongside Costa Rican cowboys.
  • Spot three of Costa Rica’s famed monkeys in their natural habitats.

Lowlights

  • This rural destination requires preparation. No ATMs, gas stations, public buses, or medical facilitates are available. Your nearest options are in Liberia, which is 60 km away from the park.
  • Cell phone reception is poor. Plan accordingly.
  • Some hiking trails are closed due to elevated levels of volcanic activity. We recommend calling the National Park information center for current accessibility.

Activities in the Park

Hiking

Rincon de la Vieja has two popular hiking trails within the park.
A girl hiking in the rainforest.

Several trails wind through the national park, providing varied levels of challenge and diverse scenery. Two of the most popular hikes are the challenging Blue Lake and Congress Falls hike delving deep into the rainforest, or Las Pailas hike, which is a short and mild 3 km loop. Along the trails there are mud pools, waterfalls, swimming holes, and hot springs for enjoyment.

Horseback riding

Adventure through the Costa Rica countryside like the cowboys of the region. With views of scenic open farmland and spectacular forest, you’ll pass through varied landscapes with options to ride up to one of the national park’s highest peaks or to inviting hot springs. No matter where you go, the horse will get you there as the best all-terrain means of transport in the region. Take your riding skills to the next level with a unique cattle-hoarding tour.

Swimming

Numerous waterfalls with delicious watering holes can be visited in a trip to Rincón Volcano in Costa Rica. You’ll need to hike or horseback trek there, but the refreshing swims will be well worth it. Oropéndola Waterfall is one of the most accessible from Las Pailas entrance. Chorreras Waterfall includes two cascades down a canyon. Victoria Waterfall, located on the Rio Negro, makes an excellent base for swimming, then river tubing. Cangreja Waterfall requires a 5 km hike through wildlife rich forest.

Hot springs and Mud baths

Rincon de la Vieja provides thrilling adventures and luxury mud baths.
Mud baths are a very popular thing to do inside the Park.

A contrasting experience to swimming in the cool waterfall pools, enjoying the natural thermal springs will leave you refreshed in other ways. The hot springs in Rincón de la Vieja are packed with minerals and considered therapeutic and rejuvenating. Up the ante with a mud bath by covering yourself with volcanic mud ash before taking a dip in the thermal pools. Some tours include options for massage to take relaxation levels to the max.

If you like this idea, check out this Costa Rica tour that visits Rincon National Park and includes hikes and mud baths.

Canopy tours

Rincon de la Vieja National Park provides many adventure activities.
Ziplining is a fun activity to do in the National Park.

If walking isn’t your thing, maybe soaring is. Rincón de la Vieja National Park tours can lead you on thrilling zip-line adventures through the tropical forest treetops. Get a birds-eye view of the lush jungle and river gorges. Perhaps make friends with wildlife along the way. Tarzan swings will send you free falling, then swinging to the next platform for extra excitement.

Canyoning

Canyons and gorges are distinctive features of this Costa Rica national park and spectacular scenery isn’t the only thing they offer. With the excellent collection of rock faces and waterfalls, you can interact with this landscape through challenging activities such as rock climbing, rappelling, and navigating hanging bridges.

River tubing

Rio Negro in Rincon de la Vieja is a calm, enjoyable river.
Rio Negro provides excellent conditions for river tubing.

The gorgeous Rio Negro is a gem of a river nestled in one of the canyons of the national park. Here, the class I and II rapids provide an enjoyable setting to float down river in a tube raft. It’s not quite a lazy river — you’ll experience lots of splashing, a bit of bouncing, and a whole lot of fun!

Mountain biking

Just outside the park, mountain bikers can enjoy many excellent trails on private property. While most people ride the several trails ranging from 10 to 30 km, the surrounding Rincón de la Vieja area is also home to an annual extreme 160 km mountain bike race. Bike rentals are available locally, or tours provide great options for day and multi-day trips for individuals and families.

Good to know

  • With the last major eruption happening approximately 3,500 years ago, Rincón de la Vieja is still one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes. Minor activity, including rumbling and small eruptions, occurs fairly often, resulting in restricted access to the summit.
  • The cowboys local to this region of Costa Rica, Guanacaste, are called Sabaneros. The Museo del Sabanero, a museum in nearby Liberia, is dedicated to sharing and honoring the history and traditions of the local culture and includes collections of historical photographs, tools, and memorabilia.

Without a doubt, Rincón National Park in Costa Rica is one of the country’s most diverse destinations for outdoor fun and adventures. Take yourself off the beaten path and discover the true beauty, wonder, thrill, and culture this volcanic national park has to offer.

*Note: The prices listed are as per January 2018.

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