Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Guanacaste has changed a lot since I was last in Northern Costa Rica in 2003. The main city of Liberia has grown exponentially in that time. A brand spanking new airport has just opened up. Bringing with it more flights and more tourists from the United States and beyond. Tourism is big business in Costa Rica, the main business, and they are doing a great job attracting and maintaining visitors.

Not far from Liberia to the northwest is Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja or Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Although it isn’t too far from Liberia, it feels forever away. It is quiet, eerily quiet at night. During the day the only noises are that of bubbling mud pits, noisy animals, horseshoes clomping away and the sound of tourists enjoying a variety of adventure activities.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is named after the volcano of the same name. It is a great place to hike and see nature but it is more famous these days for all the other things to do. However, my first activity was a hike through the beautiful jungle to get to see the bubbling mud pots (pailas).

My awesome driver/guide, Emilio from Il Viaggio Travel Costa Rica, and I set off to see these geothermal mud pots that smell of sulphur of course, but not to the point of being offensive. If you’ve ever been to Rotorua, New Zealand then you know what I mean! These mud pots are just bubbling and blooping a gray ashy mud. It’s fun to watch and listen. Get there early and avoid the European tour groups.

After the mud pits, we headed straight to the Rio Negro Hot Springs. These are apparently some of, if not the best hot springs in Guanacaste. I thought they were pretty cool. There were six natural stone pools of varying temperatures up to about 40 degrees Celsius.

Before entering you are supposed to paint yourself full of mud, let it dry for 15 minutes or so and then hop in to cleanse your skin and get the mud off of you. I actually didn’t do the mud but the pools were quite enjoyable and not too crowded.

After the hot springs I could hardly wait to get to the zip line or canopy tour. Adventure Tours at the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin has built a great course that involves seven different zip lines. To add to the excitement they offer rappelling, rock climbing walls and canyon swings over the river and rocks below. It was pretty cool and relatively intense.

While none of the actual zip lines were that long, they made up for it by being squeezed into the canyon rocks surrounding the river. At times you felt you were going to hit right into the canyon walls. They were also quite high so you got great views if you looked down or even went upside down! The guides were really fun and encouraged that type of thing-which I loved.

I stayed at the nearby Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin; which runs many of the adventure activities in the park. The hotel is nice enough and pretty spread out. The rooms are basic but comfortable and the food is good. My only problems with the hotel were that there wasn’t Wi-Fi in the rooms, only in the reception, and the fact that they catered mainly to tour groups who came to ride horses or do some activities after a group lunch.

That said, Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a great place to be. All activities can be done in a day or two and if you want to hike further into the park, you can. But either way, the views are outstanding whether you’re in an open area or down in the river or hot springs. Beautiful nature is all around you and that’s why you come to Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, they call that ‘Pura Vida’!

Disclaimer: The Costa Rican Tourism Board sponsored my trip to Costa Rica. The opinions is this article are mine and have not been influenced in any way.

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  1. Costa Rica is one of my favorite places to visit, so much to see and do. I haven’t been to this national park but I’ve been to many of them and I love them all. So much wildlife and the volcanoes are amazing. What else are you doing in Costa Rica while you’re there?

    • Hi Pam, I have done a ton in just 4 days thus far and today is my last day this trip but have done a ton of zip lining, hiking, river wildlife cruise, ATV’s etc…a lot more to do today. I will have a few more posts on Costa Rica before in next week or 2!

  2. I can’t believe you didn’t do the mud!!!

  3. That guy in the picture looks like he’s enjoying his job!

  4. Do you prefer Costa Rica over Panama? I do but many people seem to be going there now and also to Nicaragua…any thoughts on that?

    • Hey Keri, Costa Rica buries Panama and Nicaragua…I was just in Panama over the summer and it doesn’t compare. I haven’t been to Nicaragua since 2003 to be fair but I don’t remember being terribly impressed but we also kind of zipped through in a few days in order to get to the Bay Islands up in Honduras so to be fair, I only had a few days in Nicaragua where I’ve been to CR a dozen times or more and Panama twice.

  5. I did the canopy in Manuel Antonio. I loved the feeling of gliding thru the trees! I wish I was there to do it again! Enjoy Pura Vida!

  6. Brilliant photos Lee. What type of camera do you use if you don’t mind me asking?

    • I don’t mind at all. I use a Canon S100. I just got it a few months ago and am pretty happy with it for the most part. It takes great pictures and decent video but sadly I don’t know how to use all the features-I’m not much of a manual reader…only other issue is zoom but anything close or in focus and it’s great and very small and fots in my pocket.

  7. I want to go to Costa Rica soooooooooo badly! It is tops on my bucket list. I’ve only heard amazing things and this story makes me want to go even more. Thanks Lee and Pura Vida!

  8. I wanna go to Costa Rica!!!!

  9. Dude I just googled that Adventure place, looks so awesome…can you jump in the water too? Is there rafting?

  10. Hi Lee, I was there last year at both the hotel and the adventure center/national park. I agree about everything you wrote here but I am shocked you didn’t write about the tubing! I had so much fun doing it. I thought I was going to die a few times but it was so much fun! Thanks for bringing back some nice memories for me. Have fun the rest of your trip and look forward to your other posts-I always enjoy reading them.

    • Hi Beth and I am glad you were there and that I could make you smile. I didn’t go tubing because I only had so much time and the day was packed already. Have no fear though, I’ve tubed before and yes it can be harrowing at times! Thanks again and I look forward to writing them!

  11. That looks like such an amazing place. Did you see any cool animals? I have heard Costa Rica has amazing animals.

    • Hey Debbie, it is a great place. We saw lots of animals on these tours and I wil be writing about a bunch of wildlife I saw on a river cruise tomorrow or Wednesday.

  12. I love the canopy tours in CR. I did one they said was the longest in the world but I don’t know if it really was…

    • Haha, ya lots of places say that but I can say that CR does have some really long nes…I truthfully don’t know where the longest one is.

  13. Lee, you can tell all readers to contact us if they need help making reservations for Costa Rica including transportation, hotels and tours. Regards! Emilio.

  14. Awesome post and pictures! I’ve never been here before but I will be making sure to go here when we visit Costa Rica! Would you say this is the best national park in Costa Rica or what other ones compare?

  15. Hi Lee,
    I’m planning a Costa Rica honeymoon for great friends/clients and I’d love it if you could share the name of a very reputable tour company that does ATV tours in Arenal.

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