One of the most alluring activities to do in Costa Rica is soak in natural hot springs. While the most popular hot springs resorts are in La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano, there are some other great options as well. In this post, we’ll tell you about the Rio Negro hot springs in Rincon de la Vieja. These are thermal hot spring pools set naturally in the tropical forest. We give information on how to access these hot springs, as well as what it is like to do a mud bath.
The Rio Negro hot springs are located in Guanacaste Province in northwestern Costa Rica. They are near Rincon de la Vieja, an active volcano. This volcano is known for its intense thermal energy. The government electric company even harnesses this power to make electricity. You can see the huge pipes that transfer steam all around the area.
If you’re visiting the Rincon de la Vieja area, you can hike the national park to see volcanic features like steam vents, bubbling mud pots, and a mini-volcano.
Another relaxing way to experience the area is to visit one of the hot springs. Here, you can soak in thermal mineral pools that are naturally heated by the volcano’s thermal energy. Most facilities also have mud baths, where you can slather on some mineral-rich volcanic mud.
There are a few options for hot springs and mud baths in Rincon de la Vieja. This article will focus on the Rio Negro hot springs. These are part of the Hacienda Guachipelin property, a local hotel.
Visiting the Rio Negro Hot Springs in Rincon de la Vieja
You’ll first want to get your tickets. These can be purchased online through Hacienda Guachipelin’s website or by visiting their front desk. You cannot show up to the hot springs and buy your tickets right there. See below for more details.
Once you have your tickets and have checked in at the hotel to get a wristband, you can head to the hot springs. The hot springs aren’t located right at the hotel, as some people think. They are actually a few miles away, on a side road before the national park.
Arriving at the Hot Springs
Once you arrive and park, a guard will check you in. This area has a simple bath house with changing rooms and small lockers if you need to store anything.
Then it’s a short walk (0.2 miles/0.32 km) through the forest to get to the river and hot springs. The trail to the hot springs is well maintained, but there are a few steps and steeper spots. In 5- 10 minutes, you’ll arrive at the river and hot springs.
There are two ways to enter. If you follow the signs and go to the left, this will take you the long way over a hanging bridge. It’s just a short bridge over a pretty river, and is a nice place to take some pictures.
If you want to get there faster, just keep straight over a different hanging bridge that leads directly to the stairs down to the hot springs.
The Hot Springs and Mud Bath Experience
Once you come down the short set of stairs, you’ll enter a small landing area bordering the river. This has a few hot spring pools and showers and is also where you can do the mud bath. Someone from Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin will be there to guide you.
After showering off, they first recommend soaking in one of the hot spring pools (38˚C (100˚F)) for around 10 minutes. Then, doing the mud bath after.
The mud used for the mud baths is taken directly from the ground where the thermal energy bubbles up. This soupy, gray mud is full of volcanic minerals.
Mud baths like these have been done for centuries. They are believed to have many health benefits. Relieving stress and purifying, exfoliating, and softening the skin are just some of the many benefits linked to volcanic mud.
Many believe that minerals like zinc and magnesium can alleviate inflammation. Sulfur, which is found in volcanic ash, is even said to help reverse the aging process.
The hotel employee will get you a fresh container of mud. Then you can spread a thin layer all over your face and body. It’s best to let the mud dry completely before rinsing off in the river or showering. Afterwards, your skin should feel softer and look more vibrant. Ours did!
With your skin fresh and rejuvenated, and mind cleared, it’s time to relax in the various hot spring pools.
There are 10 pools in total, with water temperatures ranging from a steamy 40˚C (104˚F) to a comfortable 37˚C (98˚F). Each one is a different shape and size, holding around 5-10 people spaced out.
We were traveling with our young children, so enjoyed the warm, but not hot, pools the most.
The Hot Spring Pools
Right from the main landing area, you can access two hot pools and one warm pool. To get to the warm pool, you do have to wade through a hot one first, but it’s doable, even carrying small children.
These pools overlook the beautiful Rio Negro. They are built right into the river’s edge using concrete and rocks. They fit nicely into the natural environment.
You can also wade in the river itself. The Rio Negro has cool, clear water, and there are plenty of little natural pools to sit in. The river’s water also has a lot of volcanic minerals and sometimes appears blue because of them.
Be aware that in rainy season (May through end of November), the current may be strong depending on recent rainfall, so do use caution.
If you take the hanging bridge across to the other side of the river, there are several more hot spring pools. Some of these are more private and would be a nice place for a group or family traveling together.
Tip: The hot springs at Hacienda Guachipelin are beautiful, but on the rustic side. If you are looking for luxury, head to La Fortuna/Arenal. That area has several options for hot spring resorts that are nicely landscaped and much more elaborate. See our La Fortuna Hotel Guide for recommendations of specific properties.
Planning Your Visit to the Hot Springs in Rincon de la Vieja
Tickets to the hot springs are $20 per person adults, $15 per person children ages 4-12. Children under 4 are free.
You can also buy tickets as part of a package. We did the nearby Oropendola Waterfall on the same day as the hot springs, and it worked out great.
You can buy tickets online through Hacienda Guachipelin’s website or at their front desk. Occupancy is limited so be sure to get them in advance.
On the day of your visit, you will need to go to the hotel front desk to check in and get a wristband. If you’re traveling during Covid-19, they will also do a temperature check for everyone in your group.
The Rio Negro hot springs are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Facility – Changing Rooms, etc.
At the entrance to the facility is a rustic bath house with bathrooms and changing rooms. Lockers are also available.
Right before you get to the hot springs is another bath house.
Towels are provided so you don’t need to bring your own.
No food or drink is allowed in the hot spring pools.
Directions to the Rio Negro Hot Springs
From Liberia, head north on the Interamericana, Highway 1. In a few minutes, take a right towards the town of Curubande/Rincon de la Vieja National Park (Las Pailas sector).
Follow the curvy, paved road, continuing through the small center of Curubande. A few miles after Curubande, the road will turn to rough dirt with some large ruts. Eventually you will come to a gate blocking the road. This is the entrance to the Hacienda Guachipelin property.
At the gate, a guard will check to make sure you have a reservation. If not, he will charge a small fee per person to enter the property (around 800 colones or $1.50). After the gate, continue for about 3 km (1.86 miles) until you reach Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin to get your wristband. The main lobby is off the main road to the right.
After you have your wristband, keep going on the road for a few kilometers. Look for the sign for the Rio Negro Hot Springs, and take a right. Follow this back road for about five minutes. As you come down a hill, the entrance/guard station will be on the right-hand side before a small bridge.
The entrance to the Rio Negro hot springs is about 40 minutes from downtown Liberia.
If you’re visiting the Rincon de la Vieja area or just looking for a fun day trip from the beach in Guanacaste, the Rio Negro hot springs are a great option. These can be easily paired with some of the area’s other interesting attractions like Rincon de la Vieja National Park or the Oropendola Waterfall. We certainly enjoyed a nice soak in them after a big hike in the national park the day before!
Have a question about visiting the hot springs in Rincon de la Vieja? Or have you been yourself? Let us know in the comments below.
Looking for more information to plan your visit to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
Rincon de la Vieja National Park: Learn about trail conditions and what you’ll see at this popular national park.
Oropendola Waterfall: An Easy-to-Access Waterfall in Guanacaste – This waterfall is just minutes from the Rio Negro hot springs. You can get to it by taking just a 15-minute walk through the jungle. Check out our post for all the details.
The Untapped Miravalles Volcano: Hot Springs, Nature, And Zero Crowds – The hot springs in Rincon de la Vieja can get busy during certain times of year. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, the nearby Miravalles Volcano area is a great choice.