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

Last Updated: December 17, 2020

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 to Rincon, including updated trail conditions and the park’s Covid procedures.

Volcanic Activity at Rincon de la Vieja National Park



Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a special place because it sits in a part of Guanacaste Province where the flat plains meet the jungle-filled mountains. For this reason, in dry times of year like the busy tourist season (January to April), the forested areas of the park remain green and vibrant.

Rainforest meets the dry plains at Rincon de la Vieja National Park
The transition from dry plains to green rainforest

Since there is more vegetation, there are also better chances to spot wildlife like monkeys and tropical birds.

But arguably the biggest 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!


Rincon de la Vieja National Park is located about 25 km (15 miles) northeast of Liberia, the capital city of Guanacaste. It’s about two 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 is the Santa Maria ranger station and the other is Las Pailas station. In this post, we cover Las Pailas ranger station, which is a bit easier to access.

For detailed directions to Las Pailas entrance, see the end of this post.

Overview of Trails at Las Pailas Sector – Rincon de la Vieja National Park

The Las Pailas sector of Rincon de la Vieja National Park has two main trails, the Waterfall Trail and the Pailas Trail (click here for a link to the trail map). A third trail leads to the summit of the volcano but is currently closed.   

Las Pailas Trail (Most Popular)

Las Pailas Trail is a 3.2 km (2 mile) loop that passes through open fields and then thick rainforest. This is the most used trail because you can easily see volcanic features (more on this below), and the hike isn’t too long.

Volcanic features along trail at Rincon de la Vieja
Getting up close to some volcanic features

Expect to spend around 2-3 hours on Las Pailas Trail, going at a leisurely pace. About 45 minutes to 1 hour of that time is spent in almost full sun. Be sure to read our tips on what the trail is like and what to bring in the sections below.

Waterfall Trail (Longer Hike)

The second trail at sector Las Pailas is the Sendero de las Cataratas or Trail of the Waterfalls. This trail splits into two trails about halfway through, each leading to a different waterfall. The two waterfalls are Catarata La Cangreja and Catarata Escondida. 

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.

If you’re visiting during rainy season (May through end of November), be sure to ask the ranger about current conditions before you start the hike. Sometimes they close one of the trails due to poor conditions.

Tip: If you want an easier hike to a waterfall, right next to Las Pailas ranger station is the entrance to Oropendola Waterfall. This is a gorgeous cascade that you can swim in during much of the year. It’s only about a 15-minute hike to get there. Read our full post for all the details, Oropendola Waterfall: An Easy-to-Access Waterfall in Guanacaste.

Crater Trail (Closed)

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 has been closed for several years and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. This is due to continuous 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.  

Las Pailas Trail: Details About the Hike

Las Pailas Trail was recently updated and is now in much better condition.

There are two distinct parts of Las Pailas Trail. The first is a hot sunny field and the second is a shady forest.  

Las Pailas Trail Rincon de la Vieja
First sunny part of the trail 

Las Pailas Trail: Part 1 – Open Field

Starting off your hike, Las Pailas Trail is a paved path that leads through the shady forest. It crosses a river via a sturdy bridge and brings you to lookout where you can view a volcanic steam vent. This part of the trail is perfect for those with limited mobility as it is well maintained and fairly easy.

After about 10 minutes, the foliage quickly becomes thinner and the trail gets a little more uneven. It turns to graded dirt with some small steps but remains mostly flat.

In the dry season (late December to April), this open field section is almost desert-like and can be extremely hot. We recommend getting to the park in the morning before the heat becomes too intense.

The open field part of the hike is important, though, because that is where a lot of the volcanic activity is seen. Within this section of the trail are three volcanic features.

Fumarole Lagoon

The first is a fumarole lagoon (laguna fumarolica). This is where gases and steam come out of a low spot in the ground. The fumeroles can reach temperatures of more than 200˚F (93˚C) so it is really exciting to see them close up (see cover photo above). You’ll know you are getting close when you smell the sulfur, which has an odor of rotten eggs. 

Acidic Pond

The second feature is a small acidic pond (pailas de agua). The pond has a rich yellow color from volcanic minerals. It looks like something from Yellowstone National Park in the United States. If you look closely, you’ll see gases and steam bubbling up through the water in some places.  

Acid Pond Rincon de la Vieja
Volcanic acid pond viewing area 

Bubbling Mud Pots

The last feature in this sunny part of the park are the clay or mud pots (pailas de barro). Here, gray mud bubbles and boils up from the ground. It is constantly churning and becoming silky smooth.

This rich volcanic mud is the same type that is used locally in spas and at hot springs for mud baths.

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

Each volcanic feature is sectioned off with short fences so you can’t get too close. But even from a safe distance, they are impressive. At all the stops, you’ll observe an array of colors and smells caused by the chemical reactions taking place.    

Las Pailas Trail: Part 2 – Shady Forest and a Waterfall

After trekking through the heat and sun, the second part of the Pailas Trail suddenly transitions into much cooler forest. Here, there are more elevation changes and many more steps to traverse. It’s completely worth the effort, though, as you may see some wildlife along the trail. 


On one visit, we were able to spot a family of coati (a raccoon-like animal with a long nose and thin tail), lots of lizards, and a pair of Long-tailed Manakins. These are black, blue, and red birds with two long and wispy tail feathers. They are somewhat rare, so we were really excited.

Long-tailed Manakin in Rincon de la Vieja National Park
A beautiful Long-tailed Manakin

During our most recent visit, we were lucky to see a family of spider monkeys high in a tree. Spider monkeys are also rare, especially in Guanacaste, so that was another awesome sighting. In addition, we saw a few Aracari (birds in the toucan family).  

Spider Monkey Rincon de la Vieja National Park
A baby spider monkey swinging in the trees

In the shadier part of the trail, you’ll find two more volcanic elements.


The first is a mini-volcano (volcancito). Here, you can see what is like a combination of a fumarole (steam vent) and mud pot. During one of our visits, this was all dried up, but on our latest trek (with some recent rains), it was much more active. The hot steam was coming out through the soupy mud, making the mud bubble and churn.

Mini Volcano Rincon de la Vieja
A mini-volcano bubbling and steaming from the intense heat

Steam Vents/Fumaroles

After a bit more hiking, there is another area with some steam vents/fumaroles. These ones are larger that the first ones along the trail and more spread out. With lots of steam rising high up into the trees, it created a cloud effect, which was very interesting.  

Steam Vents Rincon de la Vieja
Steaming fumeroles casting a cloud through the forest

Seasonal Waterfall

The last big feature of the hike is the seasonal waterfall. During the dry season, this waterfall is usually no more than a trickle. If it has rained recently, though, it can be quite spectacular. We caught it at a great time in late November after several days of rain. There is a nice viewing platform next to the waterfall to get some good photos as well. 

Pailas Seasonal Waterfall - Rincon de la Vieja National Park
The seasonal waterfall looking gorgeous at the end of rainy season (late November)

What to Wear/Bring to Rincon de la Vieja National Park

A trip to Rincon can be uncomfortable if you aren’t well prepared. During the hotter months, we have encountered some 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 steeper spots. Flip-flops are not recommended.

Sun Protection

A hat and sunscreen are the most important things you will need. These will be essential for the first 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. Bringing plenty of water is especially important because of the heat. Temperatures often creep up over 90˚F (32˚C).

IMPORTANT: Plastic water bottles are no longer allowed in the park. Make sure to bring only reusable water bottles. The rangers will not allow you to bring in disposible ones.

Insect Repellent

Some parts of the trail are bug-free, but we did encounter a few swarms of mosquitoes near the waterfall and in the forested part of the trail. Definitely bring some repellent.

For specific recommendations on sunscreen, repellent, and gear, check out our post, Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials.

Park Hours

Las Pailas Sector: 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Tues. – Sun. CLOSED MONDAYS.


Foreigners: $15 adults. $5 children (2-12 years old).

Citizens and Legal Residents: ₡1000 adults, ₡500 children (2-12 years old).

Children under 2 are free.

Covid Protocols at Rincon de la Vieja National Park

  • Reserving tickets online (link) is encouraged. Park capacity is limited to 100 people at one time. You can reserve your ticket through the link above but won’t need to pay until you arrive.
  • Credit cards only, no cash accepted.
  • Temperature check and handwashing is required before entering the ranger station.
  • Only one member of each group will enter the ranger station to pay.
  • A mask is required when entering the ranger station. It can be removed on the trails.
  • On the trails, you must remain in your own group (social bubble) and avoid crowding and contact with others. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (1.8 meters).
  • Picnics are prohibited within the park.

Directions to Las Pailas Sector – Rincon de la Vieja National Park

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 for 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 will have to pay an attendant (₡800/$1.50 per person, when we visited) to access the private dirt road. Continue on the partially dirt/partially paved road for 20 minutes and you will come to Las Pailas parking lot and park entrance.

Tip: Although part of the road is dirt and somewhat bumpy, it is in good condition. A regular car (non-4×4) would be fine.

Last Updated: December 17, 2020

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

Some of the links in this post are connected to affiliate programs we have joined. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

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

Oropendola Waterfall: An Easy-to-Access Waterfall in Guanacaste Right before the entrance to Las Pailas sector is a gorgeous waterfall that flows through a canyon. Read our post for everything you need to know about visiting.

Llanos de Cortez: Another stunning waterfall right off the highway south of Liberia. This one is great for swimming.

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

Palo Verde National Park: If you’re looking for another great park to visit from Guanacaste, read our experience seeing monkeys and crocodiles on a boat tour of the wetlands.

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

Related Posts

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Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve Guide
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve: Uncrowded Nature
Cerro Tortuguero
Cerro Tortuguero: Hike and Viewpoint
Cafe Monteverde Tour
Café Monteverde Coffee Tour: A Lesson in Sustainability


  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!

  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


    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
    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).


    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!

    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.

    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.

  27. What a wonderful blog. Thank you!

    Hoping for your opinion/guidance -My husband and I arrive in January 2nd for a week. We will be staying at El Mangroove and W Playa Conchal.

    We have been previously and visited Manuel Antonio, La Fortuna and Monteverde.

    We would love to find one or two day trips. We would love to see some wildlife and a few new sites.

    What would you recommend especially considering Covid? Rincon? Bijagua? Somewhere else?

    We would also be totally open to hiring a guide if it would be better. Or we could drive ourselves.

    Much appreciated, thank you!

    1. Hi Alyssa, It looks like you are arriving today! Hope this information is still helpful. We think either Rincón or Bijagua would be great options. Rincón (national park) has been filling up we’ve heard lately, but that’s only because of capacity limits. So there should still be plenty of space for everyone since it’s so big. You may just have to wait a minute for a spot at the various viewing platforms if they are busy. It is probably similar at Tenorio National Park in Bijagua.

      If you did something like the Oropendola Waterfall in Rincón, that might feel busier since the trail is narrower and the viewing platform is small. Same with the hot springs at Rincón. Something like the Palo Verde boat tour would be nice since the capacity is limited by the size of the boat, which is smaller. That’s a great tour for seeing wildlife like monkeys. Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you! On the plane as we speak, very helpful!

        Last question – given the time of the year, rafting or tubing recommendations? Tour operators?

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