When most people think of Costa Rican volcanoes they immediately think of Mount Arenal, but Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park in northern Guanacaste includes active volcanic features like geysers, hot pools, craters, mud pots, and more. The Rincon de la Vieja volcano is a different kind of volcano than Mount Arenal but it is just as exciting in its own way, and is surrounded by a Costa Rica national park atmosphere that is so otherworldly it almost feels like landing on a different planet.
Costa Rica’s Ricon de la Vieja National Park is an easy and rewarding stop to make, especially for tourists on the way to world-famous the beaches of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula. Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park is also home to spectacular waterfalls, lakes, and pastures, and is great for hiking or bird watching.
Plentiful nature trails wind through Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja past major landmarks, birds, and mammals. One impressive three-mile trek runs from the park entrance to Blue Lake and La Canrejo waterfall, and takes hikers through dry forest, moist forest, and transitional savannah, each with different kinds of wildlife.
The hike to the summit of the Rincon de la Vieja volcano is about five miles and best saved for experienced hikers, but those capable of taking the summit trail will be richly rewarded with an unforgettable view of the Guanacaste valley and the Pacific Ocean beyond it.
Another popular trail makes a loop all the way around the entire park and takes about two hours to complete. If you plan to take one of the longer hikes, take along some extra dry socks or wear waterproof shoes or both, since you may have to walk through rivers and streams in the course of your adventure.
Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja Park entrance is just 16 miles north of the major Guanacaste city of Liberia. Travelers can either stay in Liberia in a comfortable hotel, or camp in the park itself for about $2 per night, depending on how close they want to get to nature.
Two campsites are available in Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park: the Santa Maria and Las Pailas, with Las Pailas being closest to all the best sights and trails, and also the more popular of the two. Guided hiking and birding tours can be arranged in Liberia or within the park proper for tourists who do not feel confident setting off alone, but trails are marked for difficulty so even beginning hikers can safely negotiate one of the shorter walks alone.
The entrance fee to Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park is $6 per person, but the roads to either of the two entrances are a bit rough, so start out early if you are staying in Liberia and plan to head to back to the city well before dark for the best experience.
Finally, don’t feel you must choose between Mount Arenal and Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park, as if only one volcano is necessary. The two parks are quite different and both are well worth seeing. Plus, Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja makes a great day trip on the way to the Playas of the Pacific coast. Get your exercise in here, and then go lie on the beach without guilt!