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Rincón de la Vieja National Park is an impressive park !!

Life is mostly froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone, Kindness in another’s trouble, Courage in your own. ~ Ye Wearie Wayfarer, Adam Lindsay Gordon, 1833-1870

Rincón de la Vieja National Park is an impressive park surrounding two volcanoes, 25 km/15.5 miles northeast of Liberia. The park’s 14,090 hectares / 34,802 acres have been split into two sections, Las Pailas and Santa Maria.

Las Pailas (The Cauldrons) includes the active volcano, Rincón de la Vieja (Old Woman’s Place), complete with fumaroles, mud pots and steam vents, plus a number of waterfalls. The park is part of Area de Conservación Guanacaste, and you can contact their headquarters for information, . 506/666-5051. Admission is US $6 per day.

The volcano’s name comes from a Romeo and Juliet native legend about Princess Curubanda, whose lover from a feuding tribe, Prince Mixcoac, was thrown into the volcano. In order to be near him, she moved to the mountaintop and became a great healer, bestowing healing qualities to the ash and mud from the volcanic mud pots.

Rincón is a massive 600,000-year-old geological wonder with at least nine volcanic cones. The rim of the most active crater is 1,806 meters / 5,940 feet high with near-vertical sides denuded of vegetation. No less than 32 rivers flow down the mighty volcano that bridges the Continental Divide, and its activity once served as a lighthouse for ships at sea.

The most recent eruption of consequence was 1997 when it caused problems for some small towns on the Atlantic side.

Rincón’s diverse ecosystems offer a variety of flora. Its high forested slopes feature gnarled, dwarfed trees draped in moss mats that provide the arboreal base for orchids and epiphytes. It hosts a large population of Costa Rica’s national flower, the guaria morada orchid, and in the center of the brushwood is an immense 800-year-old ceiba tree – the start of one of several canopy tours.

Rincón de la Vieja is home to 300 bird species, including crested guan, blue-crowned motmot and emerald toucanet, as well as a variety of mammals such as collared peccaries, agoutis, ninebanded armadillos and several species of monkeys. Many more people would visit here if access were a little easier, but the roads are often as bad as those at Monteverde.

WARNING: Do not wander off the trail to get a closer look at the hot springs and vents. The crust is sometimes fragile. The good news is that hiking is less difficult, and there are a number of good trails in both sections.

Two routes lead to Rincón Park. From Liberia itself, head west on Av 3 through Barrio La Victoria. Once out of town this road is very rough – dramatically beautiful, but very rough. Turn left in Colonia Blanca. The more common route is to go five km/3.1 miles north of Liberia on the highway to the town of Guadalupe and follow the gravel road toward Curubandé, for a total of 20 km/12.4 miles. This road crosses the private land of Hacienda Lodge Guachipelin, which charges US $2 per vehicle as a toll.

You might stay at Hacienda Lodge Guachipelin here and take their tours to the hot springs and other natural wonders. (If this is your first time, tours with any of the hotels are more rewarding than wandering around on your own.) The Guachipelin accommodations are a bit sparse but comfortable, with a lovely little pool. It’s set amid a working 19th century-era cattle ranch.

Their exciting adventure tour, includes the Kazm Cañon Canopy Tour, involves hikes, climbs, traverses and rappelling in a lush canyon of Río Colorado. There’s river swimming and diving, too. Loads of fun.

The Rincón de la Vieja Mountain Lodge is also close to the park and offers comfortable rooms. Despite its being called a posada, the Posada El Encuentro is an excellent B&B in a former private home en route to the park. One of the “Charming Nature Hotels” Group, the posada is owned by a German couple who welcome guests. Although located farther from the park than others mentioned, it offers guided tours and pleasant rooms in which to relax.

Hotel Borinquen is a luxurious and private mountain resort and thermal spa within range of the volcano’s warm underground springs. Drive 26 km/16 miles north of Liberia, turn right through Cañas Dulce and continue to the main gate, about another 20 km/12.4 miles. In the middle of nowhere, guests are indulged in spacious luxury cabin suites with satellite TV, air conditioning and other amenities, such as spa beauty treatments, hiking, horseback riding, ATV rides, mud baths and swimming.

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