If you’ve done some research on Costa Rica, then you have probably read about the country’s famous volcanoes and soothing hot springs. Flocks of visitors come to destinations like La Fortuna and Rincon de la Vieja to soak in naturally heated pools and gaze up at volcanic peaks. But not all of Costa Rica’s volcanoes hold the same acclaim. The Miravalles Volcano, for example, offers similar features, but has only a few small villages in its surrounds. Here, tourism is hardly noticeable and an authentic Costa Rica experience awaits. In this post, we’ll describe what makes the Miravalles area unique and help you plan a visit.
The Miravalles Volcano is located in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province. Though situated inland, it is only about 1.5-2.5 hours from popular beach towns like Playa Hermosa, Playa Conchal, and Playa Tamarindo. Two small towns, Guayabal and Fortuna, sit on the southwestern side of the volcano. These towns offer a glimpse of local culture, with mostly undeveloped land, rolling farm fields, small neighborhoods, and of course a soccer field or two.
The Miravalles Volcano itself has some interesting attributes. Towering at 6,654 feet (2,028 meters), it is the tallest volcano in the Guanacaste mountain range. Though now considered dormant, the volcano generates an abundance of thermal energy. In fact, the Costa Rican government’s electric institute (ICE) has several industrial plants here that turn the volcano’s underground heat into geothermal electricity. You will likely see some of the steaming tubes as you drive around town. There are also many wind turbines nearby, helping to add to the country’s sustainability goals.
Special Note: The Miravalles area is another part of the country that was hit hard by Costa Rica’s first hurricane in late 2016. Hurricane Otto dumped enormous amounts of rain on the steep hills of the volcano. This, in turn, caused devastating flash floods, resulting in property damage and the loss of several lives. The area has rebounded, and repairs are ongoing, but a visit here can go a long way in helping the local community.
Although the Miravalles Volcano area can be visited as a day trip from many of the beach towns in Guanacaste, there are enough sights to stay for a night or two.
Thermal Hot Springs
Probably the biggest draw of Miravalles are the thermal hot springs. There are several casual hot spring options as well as one upscale resort.
Yoko Termales has five simple hot spring pools that reach temperatures of 100˚F (38˚C). The property is more spread out, with some shaded sitting areas, picnic tables, and a wet bar and waterslide. Many of the pools are in direct sun so a lot of people prefer going at night when it is cooler. Yoko is especially popular with local Ticos. Admission is a bargain at ₡5000 ($10) for adults and ₡4000 ($8) for children under 10.
Colinas de Miravalles
Colinas de Miravalles doesn’t have as many pools, but we preferred the atmosphere. It has one giant pool with a manmade waterfall and two smaller, more intimate, ones. (See cover photo, above, which shows the larger pool.) The springs serve the guests of the hotel, but we saw a lot of locals coming for the day. The views of the volcano are outstanding and the landscaped property is very nice as well. You can make a day of it by grabbing lunch at their restaurant, or bring a cooler with food and drinks. Admission: $2,000 ($4).
If you have kids, you will want to check out Thermomania. This is a fun, over-the-top waterpark with cartoon-character-inspired thermal pools, waterslides, and play structures. There is a huge onsite restaurant and bar where the adults can grab a drink. The resort is very popular with local families. Admission: ₡5000 ($10).
Las Hornillas is a private property that offers hot springs as well as a variety of other activities. See below for a full description.
You wouldn’t expect it from its remote location, but the Rio Perdido is a gleaming high end resort hidden deep in the tropical forest. At the end of a bumpy dirt road near Fortuna, you will come to this well-manicured resort. Although primarily a hotel (see below), the Rio Perdido is a destination for day trippers as well. It has eight registered hot springs, which you can enjoy in a natural riverbed setting with jungle surrounds, or at the two elegant pools adjacent to the spa.
Las Hornillas Volcanic Activity Center
If you want to experience what it’s like to stand in an active volcanic crater, then head to Las Hornillas. Carved into the side of a hill, this is an area at the base of the volcano where the energy emerges from the ground. A short trail brings you past volcanic steam vents and bubbling mud pots. The smell of sulfur fills the air but is all part of the experience. Visitors can apply mineral-rich volcanic mud to their skin and then soak in the thermal pools afterwards.
Las Hornillas also has some hiking trails, which lead to stunning waterfalls. The guided hike starts with a tractor ride and then crosses some rustic hanging bridges. From the bridges, you can see all the way to the Gulf of Nicoya (Pacific Ocean).
Stay tuned for a more in-depth article about Las Hornillas, coming soon.
Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
About 35 minutes from the Miravalles Volcano is one of Guanacaste’s most stunning waterfalls. Llanos de Cortez is located right off Highway 1 and is a popular stop for those making the trip between Miravalles and the Guanacaste coast. The beautiful waterfall, with it wide, wispy streams of water, flows year-round. Because it is only a short (but steep) walk down from the parking area, this waterfall is very popular. Read our post Llanos de Cortez Waterfall for more information.
Since the towns near the Miravalles Volcano are very small and rural, most of the lodging is quite simple. Below we give a couple of these options as well as the upscale Rio Perdido Resort for those looking for more amenities.
Colinas de Miravalles
Colinas de Miravalles is a small, locally run lodge with onsite hot spring pools and five spacious cabins. In addition to its volcano views, the property itself is scenic, with tropical landscaping that attracts birds. We stayed here recently and really enjoyed it. The cabins are large and spaced out enough to provide privacy. The onsite restaurant is also very good and uses a lot of local ingredients (farm-raised chicken, cheese, and homemade jams). Since there are few restaurants in town, we ate here quite a bit. Best of all, though, was the friendly family who runs it. $80-105/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Paraiso Camping Lodge
Paraiso Camping Lodge consists of three cabins located in Guayabal at the base of the Miravalles Volcano. The small lodge is probably best known for its owner, who makes sure that each guest receives personalized attention. Meals are fresh and cooked to order. This is great choice for budget travelers and families trying to save some money. $40-$80/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Rio Perdido Resort
The Rio Perdido is a destination in and of itself. Located near the town of Fortuna in a remote and seemingly untouched area, this high-end resort has 20 modern bungalows set in the thick forest. Guests can enjoy the 26 km (16 miles) of hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as the zip line for some adventure. There is also ample opportunity to just relax with a soak in the natural hot springs, a rejuvenating yoga session, or some pampering at the spa. For those looking to disconnect from it all, the Rio Perdido is the perfect place to do so. $200-250/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Miravalles is a little-known destination in Costa Rica with a lot to offer. If you prefer off-the-beaten-path travel, but still want to experience volcanic hot springs, this area offers the perfect mixture of both.
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Looking for more information to help plan the perfect Costa Rica vacation? Check out these articles:
- Bijagua: A Gateway to the Rio Celeste – Less than 1.5 hours from Miravalles, this is another rural town that offers some stunning attractions and a bit of culture. The nearby Rio Celeste Waterfall is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful.
- Rental Car Discount – If you’re visiting Costa Rica’s lesser known towns, you will probably want a rental car. Use our discount to save 10% or more and get other perks.
- Playa Hermosa (Guanacaste): Costa Rica’s Northern Beauty – Translating to Beautiful Beach, Playa Hermosa lives up to its name with a gorgeous cove. This is one of the closest beach towns to Liberia Airport, and its location allows for easy day trips to places like the Miravalles Volcano.