North Pacific: Rincón de la Vieja National Park: A Surrealistic Experience

Getting around the Rincón de la Vieja National Park is almost a surrealistic experience. Incredibly, nature has combined its best elements in a single place.

The park offers waterfalls of all sizes, deposits of volcanic rocks, freshwater springs, sulphuric lagoons, small volcanoes, cavities of boiling mud, spirals of steam escaping from the ground, vapor geysers, clear-water rivers winding through the forest plus the main attraction, an active crater at the Rincón de la Vieja volcano, with at least nine eruptive cones.

Rincón de la Vieja means “The Old Woman’s Nook.” According to a legend, an indigenous princess fell in love with a man of an enemy tribe, and became pregnant. When her father discovered what had happened, he captured the man and threw him into the volcano’s crater. Later, the princess threw her newborn baby into the crater to join his father. She then lived near the volcano for the rest of her days.

At 6,250 feet, this 3,500-year-old volcano lies within the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range.

Since 1973, the park has protected 34,789 acres of tropical dry forest of great geological importance. The park contains hundreds of species of flora and fauna, including more than 250 species of birds. Also, it has one of the largest populations of Guaria Morada orchids, Costa Rica ‘s national flower.

The park is divided into two sectors, each one with different trails to choose from.

In Las Pailas sector, trails include: Las Pailas, the Escondida Waterfall, La Cangreja Waterfall and the Active Crater. The Santa María sector features Hot Springs, El Colibrí Trail, Bosque Encantado Waterfall and Santa Maria Panoramic View. All are splendid and invoke a sense of natural wonder. Las Chorreras Waterfalls is a must-see with peculiar blue waters caused by its mineral content.

Other nice locations to visit are the panoramic view at the Guachipelín Hotel, which offers a 360° view of the surrounding landscape, including the volcano and the Papagayo Gulf; La Victoria Waterfall, a treat for hikers; La Oropéndola waterfall, with its emerald green color; and Poza Roja (Red natural pool), which reveals a red-stone formation underneath.

At Rincón de la Vieja National Park, nature sings for you, not only through the birds, the boiling mud, the running rivers, the falling leaves, but also with the force of the air, fire, earth and water. There’s much to hear … Let yourself be enthralled by the unusual opportunity of being in a place where voices from the center of the planet are constantly whispering.

Travel Tips

Rincón de la Vieja National Park is located about 165 miles northwest of San José via Liberia, and 17 miles northeast of Liberia. It has two entrances: Las Pailas ranger station and Santa María ranger station.

Where to stay? While there are various options, the luxurious and relaxing Hacienda Lodge Guachipelín should be included in your itinerary. Hacienda Lodge Guachipelín offers a Canyon Tour, an adventure trip that combines canopy cables, rappelling and rock climbing in the river canyon. The national park also has a camping area and restrooms.


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