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Location : 16 miles (26 km) NE of Liberia. Information / Reservations : telephone/fax (506)695-5553; e-mail; Web site

Enchantment might also be the best word to describe what awaits here on the slopes of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, just outside the national park that protects it. You can visit bubbling mud pots and geysers, hike to hidden waterfalls, bathe in mountain streams or hot springs, ride horseback through pristine forest, and visit a mountain lake. As well as visiting the nearby national park, lodge guests may explore 30 miles (48 km) of trails in the ranch’s 740 acres (300 ha) of primary forest, in elevations from 2,100 to 6,000 feet (640 to 2,520 m), visit a hot spring or a Chorotega archaeological site, and return to the Río Colorado to watch for birds and butterflies and soak up the energy and beauty of the place. A full day of horseback riding and hiking takes in the gurgling mud pots as well as a lake and 90-foot (27-m) waterfall, colored a spectacular blue from copper in the water.

Traverse an exhilarating trail through the treetops, moving among 16 platforms via strong steel cables. Top Tree Trails offers a four-hour forest canopy experience for $50, including horseback ride to platforms and lunch, or a full-day naturalist tour that adds bathing in thermal sulfur springs, $77. Nighttime in the canopy is another option. Owner Alvaro Wiessel’s family has a history of more than 100 years in the area; the lodge was the family home. Today it contains a living area, dining room, kitchen and rooms for guests. Alvaro has brought the number of rooms to 27 by adding guest cottages with private baths (some with hot water); front porches have hammocks and chairs. Furnishings are simple but comfortable; some rooms have bunk beds. The newest group of rooms is built in rich forest beside a small stream. A small swimming pool and rancho/bar are in front of the lodge.

Among the showier of 257 species of birds on the ranch are violaceous, elegant, and orange-bellied trogons; crested caracaras; red-lored, mealy, yellow-naped and white-fronted parrots; toucans, motmots, and the three-wattled bellbird. Mammals include howler and white-faced monkeys, deer, coatis, peccaries and pacas. Tapirs live here but are not often seen.

Guests may accompany ranch workers, helping with milking or herding cattle. The lodge rents horses, working cowboys give riding instructions. Hikes can be with people who have grown up here or with bilingual naturalist guides.

Getting there By car : North of Liberia, turn east through Curubandé and follow lodge signs; last 7 miles (11 km) unpaved. A small passage fee is levied by a ranch along the way.

Another option is to go the less travelled route, to the Rincon de la Vieja’s Caribbean (north) side which is distinctly different. Whereas the Pacific side is dry forest and pastures, the Caribbean side is in the cool, lush rainforest. Only the Caribbean side offers swimming in blue volcanic rivers, experiencing cascading waterfalls and natural mineral “green” hot springs. More abundant wildlife and some different bird species are also found here. It’s a 60 km scenic drive from Liberia (about 1.25 hours by car), that changes from dry pastures and forest into an enchanted cool, lush, rainforest, with views of the volcanoes.

Source: Costa Rica Adventures in Nature by Ree Strange Sheck, John Muir Publications, Santa Fee, New Mexico. 

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