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Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a still relatively undiscovered gem of the Costa Rican interior. Within it, is the active Volcan Rincon de la Vieja, an andesitic stratovolcano, one of 5 volcanos in the Cordillera de Guanacaste (Guanacaste Mountain Range). The highest peak of Rincon de la Vieja stands at 1916 meters above sea level.

Rincon de la Vieja is the most accessible of the volcanos in the range, although it is still remote enough that is has remained a natural wilderness, with as yet little adverse impact from tourism. The National Park is also part of the World Heritage Site, the Guancaste Conservation Area.

See below for:

Best Time to Visit

How to get there

Climbing the Volcano



Eruptive History


Rincon de la Vieja National ParkThe name Rincon de la Vieja is translated as 'Old Woman's Nook' and refers to the legend of a young girl whose lover was thrown into the volcano by her father, after which she became a recluse with healing powers.


Santa Maria Peak is the highest peak of Rincon de la Vieja at 1916 meters, however the most active area is on Von Seebach peak which contains a crater with an acidic lake. This you can climb up to - see below.




Best Time to Visit

One of the best times to visit Rincon de la Vieja is in the green season (May to November) as this is when the fumaroles and boiling mud pots are most active, on the flip side the crater is usually covered in cloud and so it is not the best time to hike to the top. If you want to do this check weather reports and head off early in the morning to have the best chance.



Hotels in Rincon de la Vieja:

Buena Vista Mountain Lodge    $55

Hacienda Lodge Guachipelin     $67
(all inclusive option)

Rincon de la Vieja Mountain Lodge
$65 - $75

Hotel Borinquen Mountain Resort
$185 - $285

Mud Pots in Rincon de la Vieja



How to get to Rincon de la Vieja

Have a look at our map of the Northwest of Costa Rica to see where Rincon de la Vieja National Park is situated. It is just a short drive from Liberia Airport or Liberia City, taking about 45 minutes. If you aren't renting a car but need to hire transportation please contact us. There are also public buses from Liberia to the Hacienda Guachipelin 3 times daily



Climbing Rincon de la Vieja Volcano

It is possible to reach the summit of Rincon de la Vieja (best done during the dry season (Feb - April) if you want to get any views). The 8 km trail starts from the Las Pailas Ranger Station. The first 6 kms slope gently upwards, and the final 2 km ascend steeply to the crater, where you will arive, out of breath, to view the eerie volcanic landscape.

Crater lake at Rincon de la Vieja

Fumaroles at Rincon de la Vieja

Be careful at the top as strong winds and poor visibility are possible. There are no rails or guards to stop you leaning over the edge and considering that you are standing on gravel and ash it is not advisable to do so unless you wish to plunge 200 meters into the acidic lake!


It may start out warm at the bottom, but you are likely to find it a little or a lot cooler at the top, so you need to be prepared with long pants and rain jacket.


Las Chorreras in Rincon de la Vieja National ParkWildlife

The National Park of Rincon de la Vieja was created in 1973 and its remoteness has allowed it to maintain a unique healthy, abundant population of wildlife. As you ascend the flanks of the volcano you will pass through varying elevations, accompanied by changes in the flora and fauna around you.





Rincon de la Vieja National P ark is home to a myriad of bird species. Some of the species found here include the: blue-throated goldentail, whitefronted parrot, spectacled owl, laughing falcon, red trogon, black-faced solitaire, curassow, emerald toucanet and Montezuma oropendola. The book to have on birds in Costa Rica is 'A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica' by Stiles & Stutch if you are interested.


Mammals found here include peccaries, coatis, skunks and of course monkeys (white-faced and howler), 2-toed sloths, armadillos and anteaters.

The park also has probably one of the largest populations of the national flower of Costa Rica, the orchid 'Guaria Morada'.



FlowersAlways ask for local advice as to the best and safest trails currently, as steaming vents and boling mud dot the volcano flanks.

Ironically this very evident activity is also the reason why the volcano is considered safe. Volcanos that are literally 'letting of steam' are less likely to have a big eruption as they are not building up pressure.

The lower slopes have many well marked trails that lead you to mud pots, fumaroles, waterfalls and swimming holes, most of which are near the Las Pailas entrance to the park.

One trail leads to the summit (see above). Another 5km trail leads to Catarata La Cangreja where a beautiful waterfall crashes into a shimmering blue lagoon. The trail leads you through forest and grasslands. There is also a 4.3 km trail to the Cataratas Escondidas, a slightly smaller waterfall.

There are a multitude of activites in the area so it's best to stay a couple of nights if you can at one of the local hotels (see list above). These hotels specialize in providing tours that allow you to experience everything the park has to offer. The Hacienda Adventure tour is one of the best in the area and gives you a full day of exciting adventure in the stunning National Park. Each hotel offers a variety of activites on and off site. Or you can of course take off hiking by yourself after picking up a map from one of the ranger stations.

Rincon de la Vieja Range



Activity since historical records have been available:

Rincon de la Vieja VolcanoAn excellent source for information about the volcanos of Costa Rica and Volcan Rincon de la Vieja in particular is Volcanologia ( , for those of you who can read Spanish. Below is some historical information about activity at the volcano which uses as its source Volcanologia.

Picture courtesy of La Nacion




  • Phreatic eruptions have been recorded intermittently between 1850 and 1955

    • (phreatic - 'An explosive volcanic eruption caused when water and heated volcanic rocks interact to produce a violent expulsion of steam and pulverized rocks. Magma is not involved')
  • 1963, June 29.  Fumarolic acitivity. The crater emitted constant streams of sulphuric vapours which cause irritation to the throat and eyes.

    • (Fumarole - 'A vent or opening through which issue steam, hydrogen sulfide, or other gases. The craters of many dormant volcanoes contain active fumaroles')
  • 1965 - 66   Fumarolic activity. Small gas vapour eruptions.
  • 1966, December 19. Phreatic eruption. Locals in Curubande heard loud rumblings and observed a dense black column of ash. In the Colorado and Blanco Rivers fish were dead the next day. An OVSICORI specialist reached the summit and found a layer of ash 40 cm deep, vegetation destroyed for 2 km around the crater and saw blocks and bombs.

    • (Block - 'Angular chunk of solid rock ejected during an eruption'
    • Bomb - 'Fragment of molten or semi-molten rock, 2 1/2 inches to many feet in diameter, which is blown out during an eruption. Because of their plastic condition, bombs are often modified in shape during their flight or upon impact')
  • 1969-1975. Eruptions of ash and fine material.
  • 1983-1987. Periodic phreatic eruptions
  • 1983, February 6. A phraeatomagmatic eruption heard by the inhabitants of Dos Rios de Upala (8 km north of the volcano)
  • 1991- 1998. Periodic phreatic eruptions
  • 1998 onwards. Fumarolic activity

Definitions source Volcano World ( - a fascinating site offering reports and information on volcanos around the world.