Rincon de la Vieja National Park: Volcanic Vents and Tropical Forest

Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province in the northwestern part of the country is a popular spot for surfers and beachgoers alike. But many visitors to this relatively flat and dry coastline are also looking to explore some rainforest and volcanoes. Luckily, just a short drive away, there are both. Rincon de la Vieja National Park has all the makings of a great day trip from the beach. In this post, we’ll give you everything you need to plan your visit.

 

Volcanic Activity at Rincon de la Vieja | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Orientation

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a special place because it sits in a part of Guanacaste where the flat plains meet the jungle-filled mountains. For this reason, in dry times of year like the busy tourist season (late December to April), the area will remain green and vibrant. Since there is more vegetation, there are also better chances to spot wildlife. Another big draw of Rincon de la Vieja National Park are the many volcanic elements. Active steam vents and bubbling mud pots can be seen right along the trails.

 

Rainforest meets the dry plains at Rincon de la Vieja | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
The transition from dry plains to green rainforest

 

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is located about 25 km (15 miles) northeast of Liberia, the capital city of Guanacaste. It’s about 2 hours inland from popular beach towns like Tamarindo and Playa Flamingo and even closer to Playa Hermosa (1.5 hours). The 14,300 hectare (35,336 acre) park has two public entrances, one at the Santa Maria ranger station and another at Las Pailas station. We visited Las Pailas ranger station, which is a bit easier to access. For detailed directions, see the end of this post.

Overview of Trails

Las Pailas ranger station has two main trails (click here for a link to the trail map). Las Pailas Trail is a 3 km (2 mile) loop that passes through thick rainforest and some open fields. This is the most used trail because you can see volcanic features (more on this below). The first part of the trail is also very scenic, with a short hanging bridge that crosses a river, a small waterfall, and really thick forest. Las Pailas Trail is moderately difficult because of uneven ground and many large roots and rocks. Expect to spend at least 2-3 hours on Las Pailas Trail and be sure to read our tips on what to bring below.

Here’s a photo we took of the trail map with the Las Pailas Trail zoomed in.

 

Trail conditions at Rincon de la Vieja | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
A section of the Las Pailas trail with lots of roots and rocks

 

The second trail is the Sendero de las Cataratas or Trail of the Waterfalls. This trail actually splits into two trails about halfway through, each leading to a different waterfall. These trails are longer and more difficult. Combined, they add up to about 18 km (11 miles) roundtrip and would take most of the day for an experienced hiker. Keep in mind that the waterfalls are seasonal, so may not be worth the trek during the dry season when little or no water is flowing. Be sure to ask the ranger about current conditions before you start the hike.

For those hoping to climb to the summit of Rincon de la Vieja, there is a third trail, the Sendero Crater Activo or Active Crater Trail. Unfortunately, this trail is closed and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. This is due to high volcanic activity and dangerous gases coming out of the volcano’s crater and vents. Better to stick to the trails around the base of the volcano like Las Pailas.  

What You’ll See

The first part of Las Pailas Trail is mostly thick jungle, which makes it good for seeing wildlife. We were able to spot some coati (a raccoon-like animal with a long nose and thin tail), lots of lizards, butterflies, and some other interesting insects. We also saw different bird species, including Long-tailed Manakins. These are black, blue, and red birds with two long and wispy tail feathers. They are somewhat rare and it was our first time seeing them so we were really excited.

 

Long-tailed Manakin in Rincon de la Vieja | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
The Long-tailed Manakin

 

After passing a small waterfall (only a trickle during our visit), Las Pailas trail leads to one of the most impressive features of the park: steam vents, also called fumaroles. These basically look like big holes in the ground that constantly billow steam, while making strange gurgling sounds and giving off a stinky sulfur smell. The fumeroles can reach temperatures in excess of 200˚F (93˚C) so it is really exciting to be able to see them close up.

 

Steam vent or fumarole at Rincon de la Vieja
One of the steam vents or fumaroles

 

Farther on the trail, the forest thins out and there are more volcanic features to discover. Although during our visit it was too dry for the mini mud volcano to be active, we have heard that with a little rain it can be quite impressive, spitting up mud almost constantly. The bubbling mud pots nearby were active though and were very intriguing. Tiny bubbles from underground heat and gases constantly churned the thick, gray mud to make it silky smooth. This volcanic mud is the same kind that is used for body and facial masks, so if you want a closer look, hit up one of the spas in the area after your time at the park.

 

Bubbling mud pot at Rincon de la Vieja | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Silky smooth mud bubbling from the ground

 

The last section of Las Pailas Trail goes through an open field before looping back into the forest. This section is almost desert-like during the dry season but also really beautiful. Smaller trails off the main one lead to several acidic ponds, also bubbling from the underground volcanic heat and gases. Like other features along the trail, these ponds are sectioned off so you can’t get too close. But even from a distance, they are really impressive and have an array of colors caused by the chemical reactions taking place.    

What to Wear/Bring

A trip to Rincon can be uncomfortable if you aren’t well prepared. We saw a few hikers who either weren’t wearing the proper gear or didn’t bring enough water. And they didn’t hesitate to express their discomfort to us- Don’t let this happen to you! Here are the essentials to make sure you have a great visit:

Closed-toed shoes, sneakers, or hiking boots – Although parts of the trail are flat and easy, if you do the complete loop, you will have to traverse some slippery and steep spots. 

Sun Protection – A hat and sunscreen are the biggest things you will need, especially for the last part of the trail when you are in direct sunlight. 

Water and Snacks – The ranger station is remote and there aren’t any stores nearby. Be sure to stock up on things when passing through Liberia. Water is especially important because of the heat, often creeping up over 90˚F (32˚C).

Insect Repellant – Some parts of the trail are bug free but we did encounter a few swarms of mosquitos near the small waterfall.

 

A very dry trail at Rincon de la Vieja | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
The last section of the trail can be really hot. Make sure to pack extra water.

 

Park Hours

Las Pailas Sector: 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Tues. – Sun. CLOSED MONDAYS

Santa Maria Sector: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Every Day

Price

$15 Foreigners, ₡1000 Nationals

Directions

From Liberia, take the Pan American Highway (Route 1) going north. Drive 5.8 km (3 miles) and turn right at the sign for Curubande and Rincon de la Vieja National Park – Las Pailas sector. Stay on this road through the village of Curubande de Liberia. Watch for signs to Rincon de la Vieja National Park – Las Pailas sector. Eventually you will come to a gate and the road will turn to dirt. At the gate, you must pay an attendant (700 colones, about $1.50, when we visited) for access to the private dirt road. Continue on the dirt road for 20 minutes and you will come to Las Pailas parking lot and park entrance.

Tip: Although the road is dirt and somewhat bumpy, it is in good condition and regular non-4×4 cars were having no problem accessing the park entrance.

 

Have a question about Rincon de la Vieja National Park? Ask it in the comments below.

 

Visiting Northern Guanacaste? Here are more articles on places to see and things to do in the area:

Llanos de Cortes – A gorgeous waterfall right off the highway just outside Liberia.

The Big Cats of Las Pumas Rescue Center – A wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center with pumas, jaguars, ocelots, toucans, parrots, and many more animals.

Tamarindo: Where Paradise Meets Convenience – Destination Guide to the popular surf/beach town of Tamarindo, including recommended hotels and restaurants.

Playa Conchal: The Allure of Shell Beach – Tips for visiting one of Costa Rica’s most gorgeous beaches and info on the all-inclusive Westin Resort.

 

Related Posts

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Playa Avellanas: Sun, Surf, and Fun in Guanacaste
Playa Dantita from Above
Playa Dantita: A Serene White Sand Beach in Guanacaste
Car Seats Costa Rica Travel
Car Seats in Costa Rica
Planning a Family Vacation to Costa Rica
Planning a Family Vacation to Costa Rica: Essential Tips and Info

71 Comments

  1. Silly question. I need a good pair of hiking shoes for an extended vacation (at least 2 months) but would prefer buying them there. Are the quality and price of shoes better, worse, or about the same? I realize this is a strange question but you guys seem to be the best source I’ve found on the web.

    1. Hi Trent, Definitely don’t buy them in Costa Rica. Things like quality hiking boots are hard to find in Costa Rica and much more expensive. Most of them are cheaper in terms of quality unless you know just where to go in San Jose, and then they will be pricier. We always buy stuff like that in the US when we visit. In fact, Jenn even got new hiking boots last time we were there.

  2. Hello,
    I just discovered that the Rincon de la Vieja NP is closed on Monday, and Monday is the only day I can visit it. I understand that the Santa Maria Sector is open on Monday, but does it have interesting trails, too? Any website you could recommend to check?

    I will be staying at the Hacienda Guachipelin, is Santa Maria section far from it?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Teresa, We haven’t visited the Santa Maria sector yet but from what we have heard it is worth checking out. There is an old ranch house, a few short trails, and one slightly longer one (3km) that leads to some hot springs you can take a dip in. There is also a small waterfall, but depending on when you visit it could be dry. The road getting to the Santa Maria sector is rougher, so 4×4 is recommended. It’s not too far from your hotel and they will be able to help with directions and give more info. There is a good description of the sector written the Guanacaste Conservation Area website (http://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/turismo/sector-santa-maria). It is in Spanish but translates well using Google Translate. Hope this helps, have a great time.

  3. We will be traveling here in a few days and are concerned about the weather. Do you have any tips? Do you think the weather will be a significant inhibitor to seeing wild life and enjoying some of the excursions?

    1. Hi Jennifer, For travel in the rainy season we always recommend being flexible with your plans and spending a little more time in each place so that you can do outdoor activities when it’s less rainy. It doesn’t rain all the time, so you have to get out there when it’s nice. Generally it rains in the afternoon and night so try to get going early in the morning (of course this isn’t always the case but it sometimes works).

      Wildlife is still out in the rain but can be harder to see if they’re hunkered down. Again, just try to hike, etc when it’s drier to see the most. Some activities are totally fine in the rain like the hot springs, mud baths, visiting waterfalls, so try not to worry. Costa Rica, and especially Guanacaste which gets so dry and barren in the dry season, is absolutely beautiful in the rainy season.

  4. Where can you stay that is near the national forest? I a going to Costa Rica for 8 days. The first three I am spending on Playa Del Coco. Is there a bus from the beach into the jungle?

    1. Hi Jordann, The Borinquen and Hacienda Guachipelin are two popular resort-style places very close to the national park. There are also some smaller, family-owned lodges nearby like Casa Rural Aroma de Campo, Rinconcito Lodge, and El Sol Verde Lodge and Campground.

      There is a bus from Playas del Coco to Liberia, the city near Rincon. It looks like it runs on the hour. Here’s a link to a website with the schedule. Not sure what there is for a local bus the rest of the way to Rincon, but you could always just take a cab. It will be much faster and shouldn’t be too expensive.

  5. We are traveling up north for a wedding at Dreams. We’re flying into Liberia and want to spend the first night in the area to do some hiking in Ricon the next day. We are renting a car but dont have a ton of time. Would it be better for us to stay in Liberia or one of the resorts close to the park. It seems a far drive to get to the park entrance.
    REcomendation for hotel in Liberia.

    1. Hi Nancy, You might as well stay near the park since it’s more scenic and will get you closer for your hike the next day. We gave a few options for hotels near Rincon the other day. Go back to the post and scroll up to our response to Jordann on November 30. If you decide to stay closer to the airport, there aren’t a ton of choices but the Hilton Garden Inn is a good one. Hope you enjoy the hike!

  6. Hi Jenn,
    Rachel again. If you had to choose between this as a day trip and Diria, which one would you choose? We may only be able to do one of the two and I’m having a hard time deciding!
    Rachel

  7. Hello, I want to know if now is possible to hike to the summit of the crater or is still closed. Do you know if there is some Web, mail or guide who could contact to have more information or alternative hikking trails

    Thanks

    1. Hi Katy, The trail to the summit has been closed for years and still is for safety reasons due to volcanic activity. You can still hike the rest of the park, though. We give the options at Las Pailas sector in this post and there are more trails at the Santa María sector.

    1. Hi Juliana, We can’t remember if Rincon takes credit cards or not. A few parks do, but not all, so it’s better to bring cash just in case since there is not an ATM for miles.

  8. HI there, we will be traveling late December/early January for 2.5 weeks with 3 children (11, 8 and 6). We are planning on Arenal, Monteverde, beach (somewhere) and trying to decide where to go for wildlife – Manuel Antonio, Rincon de le Vieja and/or Osa peninsula. Not concerned about driving or flying if it’s a distance to go as we are happy to change destinations every 3-4 days. Our youngest can’t hike much for than 2-3 hours roundtrip at most. What would you suggest? Thank you.

    1. Hi Sian, Manuel Antonio is a good option for both beach and wildlife, but it will be very busy that time of year. Maybe check out the Costa Ballena area of Dominical and Uvits. This area has beautiful beaches, a lot of wildlife, and quite a bit to do with younger children. Take a look at our Costa Ballena post and Things to Do in Dominical post. We also love Drake Bay on the Osa for wildlife but it is harder with young kids. Rincon isn’t particularly good for wildlife so I would skip that if that’s you’re only reason for wanting to go there.

      1. Thank you for the suggestions, I will definitely look into it. The other question I had is about great beaches for younger kids – they like playing in (smaller) waves, snorkelling and overall hanging out in the sand. Would the Uvita/Dominical area be good for that. Thank you.

        1. Uvita/Dominical has a few options for calm water and some nice waterfalls for swimming, but overall, this area is better for surfing. The best beaches for kids are Playa Samara, Playa Conchal, Puerto Jimenez, Playa Herradura, Playa Blanca and Playa Mantus near Jaco, and Playa Hermosa Guanacaste. Manuel Antonio also has a couple of options for calm coves.

          If you would like more help with your itinerary, we would be happy to help find the perfect fit for your family through our itinerary service.

  9. I noticed that the park hours are short. Does that mean they stop people from entering or do you also have to be out of the park by closing hours. Thanks

    1. Hi Kent, I think 3:00 is last admission. I’m not sure how much longer the park is open after that, but would assume you would have enough time to do the hike or they wouldn’t let you in. We always recommend getting an early start for hikes anyway, especially for Rincon because it’s very hot there.

  10. I need some help making a decision as to where to stay while visiting Rincon de la Vieja (I did read the previous post). We have several older (teens) children, but one 4 year old. I wanted to make sure we had plenty of opportunities/options for activities. I think I would like to go into the park itself (for short hikes, wildlife, pretty scenery, boiling mud and wildlife), but if I have similar opportunities to explore outside of the park, that would be fine and I would not have to go into the park itself. I know Hacienda Guachipelin has plenty of activities and is close to park, but Borinquen and Blue River Resort and even the Rinconcita Lodge look like a higher quality place to lodge as far as the rooms and amenities (but are a much longer drive away from the park). Are the tours and activities equal among these hotels? If the park is optional in the scheme of things, do you have a preference when comparing the tours/activities and quality of rooms? Going in June.

    1. Hi Don, This is a tough question to answer because of the number of factors involved and because we don’t know much about your group’s preferences. If you like the looks of the rooms at Borinquén or Blue River, go with one of those. Both have a good mix of activities, much of which overlaps, and includes many of the things you would see in the national park. If you’re basing your decision on proximity to the park, Hacienda Guachipelin or Rinconcito are the best choices, and Guachipelin is the clear winner for availability of other activities.

      If you aren’t set on the Rincon area, the Rio Perdido Resort near the next volcano over has probably the nicest rooms and has thermal pools and some activities on site (hiking trails, zip lining, etc.). They are also a short drive to volcanic features like mud baths, fumeroles, etc. Read our Miravalles Volcano post for more information.

  11. Hi Jenn and Matt, somewhere on the internet we read that there’s No longer a gravel road to the park. It says that’s it recently upgraded to a asphalt road. For us it is good to know If it is True. We hope you can help us.

    1. Hi Martijn and Evelien, Rincon has two entrances, Las Pailas, which this post is about, and Santa María. We have only driven to Las Pailas. Last time we visited, the road from Highway 1 was paved most of the way and turned to dirt at the very end. But it wasn’t in bad condition and could definitely be done in a 2wd. We haven’t heard that the road has been paved since then but you never know. They have been making some improvements to the park. If you go, it would be great if you could report back and let us know how it was.

  12. We are staying at Rio Perdido and planning a day trip to visit the volcano’s but, I really want to horseback ride to see the waterfalls… any suggestions? Thanks in advance! Your blogs have been very helpful!

  13. Hi- my wife and I are going on our honeymoon and trying to plan our trip. I have been to Costa Rica once and have visited Monteverde, Arenal and Tamarindo so looking to explore some different areas. We are looking for 2-3 nights visiting a volcano and being active and then we are going to head to Manuel Antonio. It was recommended that we visit Rincon de la Vieja. We are going in March for 10 days. Should we visit Rincon de la Vieja or would you recommend Paos Volcano instead or another option? I am hoping for some good hiking, waterfalls and wildlife adventures. Since it is busy season I am thinking Rincon de la vieja might be a little better. We are very torn. Thank you!

    1. Hi Lisa, Poas Volcano is closed right now and will be for the foreseeable future because of recent activity. Rincon de la Vieja is a good option if you want to see a volcano. It has hiking, wildlife, and the national park has a waterfall if it is still flowing in March and not dried up. This area of Costa Rica is very dry so it won’t have a rainforest feel. It’s the tropical dry forest and can get quite dry and barren by the end of the dry season in April. It is still a cool place to visit though, just be aware of that. You will get true rainforest in Manuel Antonio anyway.

      Another option instead of Rincon is the little known Miravalles Volcano area. This area doesn’t have as many activities but it does have hot springs, volcanic mud baths, hiking, waterfalls, etc. Here’s a link to our post about the Miravalles area with more info.

      1. Hi- thank you VERY much for your recommendations. We actually are switching things up because of your reply and going to head to Miravelles and stay at Rio Perdido. Curious if you have any recommendations on getting around Costa Rica. We don’t plan to rent a car so wondering if you recommend one shuttle company vs another. Night 1 we are staying in San Jose and will just cab it to the hotel. But we will need a shuttle or something from San Jose to Rio Perdido and then a shuttle from Rio Perdido to Manuel Antonio and then Manuel Antonio to Peace Lodge.

        Thanks so much.

        1. Hi Lisa, It’s always great to hear when our recommendations work out! The Rio Perdido is a beautiful property. We can definitely help with those shuttles. You will most likely need private ones because the shared shuttles don’t serve those destinations. We work with a few very reputable private shuttle companies. I know it had been some time since you asked about this, so if you still need help, just send a quick reply to this thread and we can email you some quotes.

          1. Hi- thanks so much for your insight and ideas. Yes, if you can look into quotes for shuttles that would be great. We are still deciding if it makes more sense to rent a car for our trip or not. Cost will help with that decision. Thanks!

  14. Love your blog posts, very informational. We are a family of four, two adults and two kids ages 12 and 9, visiting CR in early April 2018. We are flying into Liberia and renting a car. We are not beach goers. We’d like to hike in lush forest, see wildlife, see geothermal activity, experience hot springs, dance under a waterfall, be off the beaten path. We are thinking of going to Monteverde and one or two other places. Maybe Tenorio, Miravalles or Rincon de la Vieja. Will this area be dry, dusty brown in April? Can we experience the same sort of things in this area as one would experience in La Fortuna/Arenal?

    1. Hi Jennifer, Northern Guanacaste will be quite dry and brown in April so you should avoid Rincon if you want lush forest (Rincon is more touristy too). Miravalles will be a little less dry and is a good option because it’s off-the-beaten path and has hot spring and geothermal activity. Bijagua/Tenorio is a great option for you because it stays green year-round, so will have the lush rainforest you’re looking for. It also has a lot of wildlife (guided tours are recommended in particular here to see the most), and of course, Rio Celeste Waterfall. Monteverde is a very good option too. With some careful planning, you will be able to experience the same things as what you can get in La Fortuna/Arenal, but if you’re avoiding Arenal because it is busier, you could always stay outside the main area of town, around the lake where it is much quieter. If you would like more help planning your itinerary, we offer a custom itinerary service and would happy to get into more detail with you. Here’s a link with more information.

  15. hi, we are traveling beginning of July but hear different information about rainy seasons. we want to visit a rainforest for 3 days and then head over to the coast. whats your opinion of that time of year to enjoy CR

    1. Hi Linda, July is rainy season but early July is usually a very good time to visit because the country typically experiences a “mini-summer” where the rains lessen and it’s quite pleasant. You should see showers in the afternoon or evening but nothing too heavy or for long periods. Rainy season is nice too because the forest is green, whereas many areas are dry and brown in the middle to end of dry season.

  16. We are coming for close to 2 weeks
    Questions:
    Papagayo vs. Tamarindo for 6 nights of beach?
    Monteverde for 4 nights – is this enough/too much?
    Rincon de la Vieja for 3 nights – or is there something else?
    Does this sound good? Flying in and out of Liberia

      1. Hi Jessica, Papagayo and Tamarindo are totally different. Papagayo is beautiful but very isolated without much around. Tamarindo is a fun beach town with a lot to do, though in August it won’t be too crazy. We usually recommend 3 nights in Monteverde, but if you have a lot of activities there you want to do, 4 would be fine too. Rincon de la Vieja is good for 2 or 3 nights. That area has mostly resorts that offer adventure activities (also a popular spot for day trippers from the beach towns in Guanacaste), but it is a cool place. Another option would be La Fortuna for Arenal Volcano or Bijagua for the awesome Rio Celeste Waterfall. Those are also good options flying in and out of Liberia.

  17. Hello! I am visiting the Blue River Resort Hot Springs in Guanacaste near Rincon de la Vieja. Then a surf camp in Tamarindo for 2 days. I am not sure what clothing to bring or what to expect from the weather. We are going May 21st… Any and all suggestions are welcome!

    1. Hi Reyna, It will be rainy season but Guanacaste usually doesn’t have much, if any, rain that early on. Still, come prepared for it. We have some tips in our Packing for Costa Rica post. Lightweight clothing that dries quickly is best. Shorts and T-shirts/tank tops, lightweight dresses, etc. Make sure to have a rashguard shirt for surfing too. I (Jenn) just bought this one and really like it. It runs small so go a size up!

  18. Hi

    I read your post about Miravalles Volcano and was wondering if Rincon and Miravalles are quite similar?
    Is it worth visit both of them? (we have time so this is not a factor).
    If only one – which one would you prefer and why?

    If relevant – we are a family with 2 young kids age 5 and 2 (will be in a carrier as needed).

    Thanks,
    Tami

    1. Hi Tami, Rincon and Miravalles have similar volcanic features but the areas are very different. Rincon is remote but touristy and Miravalles is much more off-the-beaten path. Rincon has a lot of adventure activities offered through the resorts but your kids are too young for a lot of them. So we might recommend Miravalles- doing Las Hornillas for the mud baths and short hikes, plus the hot springs park for kids. The Las Hornillas hike includes a fun ride in a tractor that your kids would probably enjoy.

  19. Hi Matt & Jenn! I’m writing you from Perú 🙂 my partner (german, 36) and I (peruvian, 33) are traveling to CR in November and looking for destinations which are not too turisty. We well be 9 days and hoping to visit volcanos, forest and beaches. Regarding the first, we are having some trouble looking for hikes to a volcano summit. We have found all sorts of infos regarding Rincón de la Vieja crater trail being close. Is it true? A second option is Arenal Volcano, but we think is too turisty and you actually don’t get up to the summit. A third option is a hike to lake Danta in the crater of Tenorio’s Volcano (with a guide)… If all the options are available, which would you recommend? We wanted to spend 3 days in Liberia (and surroundings) and then head to the Caribean (Cahuita, Manzanillo), and our two last days in San José. We would be renting a car. Thanks for your recommendations! Great web!!

    1. Hi Marisu, In November, the whole country is quieter so you should not have a problem finding places that aren’t too touristy. Yes, the crater to Rincon de la Vieja has been closed for a few years because of volcanic activity. Arenal, you can’t hike to the summit of either, because of activity and also that the earth is unstable around it. We have not done the Lake Danta hike, but have heard it’s very nice so that’s a good option. Your itinerary sounds good- the city of Liberia is full of locals. There’s not a ton of attractions there, but it’s worth checking out for a day or two for the culture and you can explore the surrounding area in your car. Check out our Map for what’s around. The Southern Caribbean is beautiful so that’s a great choice. Hope you both have a wonderful trip!

  20. Hi,

    Do you think it is possible to do the 18km hike, starting early in the morning from and getting back to San José on the same day?

    Thanks for the answer!
    Levin

    1. Hi Levin, It’s a 4 hour drive from San Jose, so unfortunately, no, you would need at least an overnight. There are some other great hikes closer to SJ, though. Check out our Map for some ideas.

  21. Hello Matt & Jen
    I wanted to know if you can go inside those mud baths and cover yourself up with that mud. You mentioned its the same one you get at a spa. Some friends heard about a place that you can do that at. I was wondering if its the same place.

    1. Hi Carlos, You can’t at the national park but there are a couple of places nearby where it’s possible. One is called Symbiosis Spa- despite the name, it’s not a fancy place. Very comfortable.

  22. Hi, Jenn and Matt – I am loving your website! We are flying into Liberia on a Sunday night in March, and leaving from SJO the following Sunday morning (which gives us 6 days and 8 nights). We were originally thinking of going to Arenal and then MA…but am now rethinking after reading through your site. We are now thinking of staying longer in Guanacaste region and doing a day trip to Rincon de la Vieja. Would this “cover” the volcano adventure that we would get in Arenal (maybe on a lighter scale)? And then we could drive to Montverde for an overnight on our way to MA. Or, should we skip MA, and spend more time in the mountains (Bijagua, La Fortuna)?
    I forgot to mention, we are a family of 6 with four boys ages 6, 10, 13, 16.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Robin, It really depends on the type of experience you are looking for. I think Rincon would cover your desire to see a volcano, but La Fortuna is a good destination for families with kids those ages since there is so much to do. Monteverde takes a while to get to so it’s better to go for at least 2 nights. If you do Guanacaste, you probably don’t need to do more beach time in Manuel Antonio. Hope that is helpful!

  23. Hello
    We are flying into Liberia June 7. Meeting our kids at airport 6 pm June 8 and then all going to our rental in Playa potrero.
    My husband and I are thinking of taking a offitours shuttle to las pailas sector of rincon de la vieja for June 8 and then meeting our kids at the liberia airport.
    I hear there are hanging bridges at hacienda guachipelin. Could we walk to them from rincon de la vieja? Or will we need to stay in rincon de la vieja for our shuttle to pick us up. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Jani, We’re not sure how the Offitours service works so you will have to ask them, but Rincon de la Vieja National park and Hacienda Guachipelin are not that close to one another so I don’t think you could do both unless you had a rental car.

  24. Thank you so much.
    We also thinking of going to Helconias from liberia to do the hanging bridges.
    No car. So we would have to do a tour. I love the idea of hanging bridges. Is this realistic in one day from liberia airport and then back to airport. Are the heliconias hanging bridges very special to see. Thank you so much.
    Jani

    1. Hi Jani, We work with a company that does Heliconias as a one day tour from Liberia. It includes transport, entrance fee, guide, and lunch for $129 pp. Heliconias is a pretty cool place because it’s very authentic and pristine. When we visited, we saw a ton of wildlife (monkeys, toucans, etc.). We’ve booked this for people before and had them tell us it was literally the best tour they did in Costa Rica so some would say it’s very special 🙂 If you’re interested in having us help you book this, just reply to this thread and we’ll send you more info by email.

  25. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    I and my boyfriend are going to Costa Rica in the end of October. I’ve seen some pictures of Rincon De La Vieja National Park, volcanos and waterfalls and I love it so much!

    We will arrive in San Jose and I would like to know how can I go from San Jose to Rincon de la vieja. Do you know? Is a good time to go there in October? Does it rain a lot in October?

    Moreover, I’d like to know if I need to pay for taking baths at the hot springs and waterfalls, or if I just need to pay the entrance to the park ($15.00)?!

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Andrezza, You could get to Rincon by rental car or shuttle. A shuttle from San Jose will be expensive because it’s a long drive.

      October is peak rainy season so it can rain a lot. Usually the rain is during the afternoon or evening with sun in the morning but there can be days where it is more all day rain. See our Weather post for more info.

      To dip in the hot springs and use the mud baths, you would have to go to one of the resorts as there isn’t a place to do it right in the national park. Simbiosis Spa isn’t far from the Las Pailas entrance and isn’t expensive. Hope that helps!

  26. Hi Jenn and Matt, we are planning to go to Tamarindo this spring and would like to visit a volcano for just one day. We will fly to Liberia and we can stay one night and then head to either Rincon de La vieja or Miravalle and then after head to Tamarindo. We have young kids, youngest is 4 but is used to hike. Which volcano do you recommend doing? Thanks!

    1. Hi Carol, Either would work so just go with whichever experience looks more appealing. At Rincon, you could do the main loop, which is easier. And in Miravalles, we’d recommend Las Hornillas. Las Hornillas is nice because you can have lunch there, making it easier with kids.

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