Rendevous at Rincon de la Vieja National Park

The Costa Rica Team

Rincon de la Vieja is the largest of Costa Rica´s volcanoes

Costa Rica sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area that is world reknowned for its high volcanic activity. Many of Costa Rica’s volcanoes are found in the northern and Central Highlands regions of the country. Volcanic activity dates back sixty-five million years and the country has over 200 volcanic formations. You can say the country’s rich biodiversity is due greatly to the presence of these volcanoes. As they erupt, they deposit minerals into the soil which makes it fertile. This rich volcanic soil promoted the growth of the dense forestation that covers much of the country.

 

Designed For Human Exploration 

There are three distinct volcanic ranges in Costa Rica: the Guanacaste Range, the Central Volcanic Range and the Talamanca Range. The Guanacaste Range is located near Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua and is home to the Orosi, Rincon de la Vieja and the Arenal Volcanoes. Within the Central Volcanic Range are the Poas, Barva and Irazu Volcanoes. The only volcano found in the Costa Rican section of the southern Talamanca Range is El Viejo. In comparison to some national parks, Rincon de la Vieja National Park seems designed for human exploration. At its base, the park’s acres are threaded with trails and paths leading out to waterfalls, volcanic craters, fumaroles, mud cauldrons and hot springs. The Sendero Encantado leads along the park’s lowlands, winding through cloud forest and plains brimming with purple orchids before connecting to the park’s more famous Las Pailas hiking trail. The park and its namesake, the Rincon de la Vieja volcano, are located in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, about an hour from the city of Liberia.

Legend of the Fumes

The name, Rincón de la Vieja, translates to English as ‘the old woman’s corner.’ According to locals, the indigenous people of the Guatuso tribe named the volcano this for one of two reasons. One claims there was an old witch on top of the mountain who sent columns of smoke into the air when she was angry, The other is that the smoke was actually from the cooking fire of a kind old lady preparing meals for weary travellers. If legends should stand, the witch is still quite angry or the nice woman is still busy cooking. . The Rincón de la Vieja crater has had at least eight periods of intense volcanic activity, and still bubbles and steams. Only a few days ago, there was phreatic activity on the north side of the volcano, caused by the heating and expansion of groundwater. open. Since 2014, the trail that leads directly to the volcano´s crater has been closed intermittently due to volcanic activity (fumaroles). The crater lake is also closed as it is the site of the recent activity. Notwithstanding, the park is open for visitors to hike other trails, enjoy the wildlife, and visit the waterfalls. 

Call Of The Wild

Rincon de la Vieja is home to more than 300 bird species, including curassows, bellbirds, parrots, hummingbirds, owls, woodpeckers, tanagers, motmots, eagles and quetzals. At its base, the park’s acres are threaded with trails and paths leading out to waterfalls, volcanic craters, fumaroles, mud cauldrons and hot springs. The Sendero Encantado leads along the park’s lowlands, winding through cloud forest and plains brimming with purple orchids before connecting to the park’s more famous Las Pailas hiking trail.

Another main trail in the park is a traverse along the slopes of  Santa María Volcano between the Las Pailas (aka Las Espuelas) and Santa María stations.  You stay mainly in the dry forest and rainforest crossing streams and rivers each of which offers a side trail to an amazing waterfall or natural back country hot springs. The two waterfalls open to visitors are La Cangreja and La Escondida. La Cangreja waterfall hike is about 10 km roundtrip while Las Palais trail is one to two hours. Completing both trails is certainly feasible during a full day trip for an intermediate level trekker and well worth the effort.

Getting There:

Visitors can fly directly into the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, or take a local flight from San Jose. Nature Air and Sansa Air offer 40-minute flights daily from the Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose to Liberia. Sansa Air has six flights a day and Nature Air only two. Call before lunch to get ahold of a reservationist. If you are not a resident, expect to pay anywhere from $70 to $96 for a flight. Nature Air is bit less expensive. From the airport, you can rent a car or arrange a taxi ride at around $20 to go the 20 km to Rincon de la Vieja National Park. 

Rincon de la Vieja has two entrances, Las Pailas and Santa Maria. The Las Pailas entrance is the more popular of the two, and is accessed via a bumpy 7.5-mile road. The Santa Maria entrance to the east is more rustic. In the dry season, any midsize car with good clearance can make the trip, but a 4WD will be necessary during the rainy season.

Rincon de la Vieja is located about 20km from Liberia

When to Visit

The whole region around Rincón de la Vieja has more predictable seasons than the rest of Costa Rica. The chance of rain is much less during the dry season from December to April, but the higher you climb, the more likely you are to get wet any time of the year. The region is also much dryer than the rest of Costa Rica. 

Although it is fairly likely that it will rain on any given day during the rainy season, also known as the green season or winter), afternoon showers usually do not last too long. Be sure to bring a rain jacket and a good supply of drinking water. 

Helpful Information

Location : 17 miles northeast of Liberia

Altitude : 6,286 feet above sea level

Area : 34,993 acres

Hours : 8 – 4 . Tuesday-Sunday closed mondays

Telephone : 2666-5051

Entrance Fee : $12.00

Sansa Air:   1-877-767-2672: Local number (506) 2290-4100

Nature Air: 1-800-235-9272; Local number (506) 2299-6000