costa.rica.typepad.com > COSTA RICA

« Back to COSTA RICA

Rincon de la Vieja Costa Rica

Rincon de la Vieja Costa Rica


Rincon de La Vieja is located in Guanacaste, COSTA RICA

Rincón de la Vieja (1,895 meters), is an active volcano and the largest of five volcanoes that make up the Cordillera de Guanacaste.
The volcano is actually 9 separate but contiguous craters, with dormant Santa María (1,916 meters) the tallest and most easterly.
Its crater harbors a forest-rimmed lake popular with quetzals, and tapirs. The main crater—Von Seebach—still steams.
Icy Lake Los Jilgueros lies between the two craters. The last serious eruption was in 1983. Rincón, however, spewed lava and acid gases on 8 May 1991, causing destructive lahores (ash-mud flows). The slopes still bear reminders of the destructive force of the acid cloud that burnt away much of the vegetation on the southeastern slope.

The 14,083-hectare Parque Nacional Volcán Rincón de la Vieja extends from 650 to 1,965 meters in elevation on both the Caribbean and Pacific flanks of the cordillera.
The Pacific side has a distinct dry season (if you want to climb to the craters, Feb.–April is best), the Caribbean side is lush and wet year-round.
The park is known for its abundance of orchid species. More than 300 species of birds include quetzals, toucanets, the elegant trogon, eagles, three-wattled bellbirds, and the curassow.
Mammals you may spot howler, spider, and white-faced monkeys, sloths, tapirs, tayras, and even a very small possibility of jaguars.

The lower slopes can be explored along relatively easy trails that begin at the park headquarters.
The Sendero Encantado leads through cloud forest full of guaria morada orchids (the national flower) and links with a 12-km trail that continues to Las Pailas (Cauldrons), 50 hectares of bubbling mud volcanoes, boiling thermal waters, vapor geysers, and the so-called Hornillas (Ovens) geyser of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.
Be careful when walking around: it is possible to step through the crust and scald yourself, or worse. It's recommended for this reason that you use a guide or go on a guided tour.

Between the cloud forest and Las Pailas, a side trail (marked Aguas Thermales) leads to soothing hot-sulfur springs called Los Azufrales (Sulfurs). The thermal waters (42°C) form small pools where you may bathe and take advantage of their curative properties. Use the cold-water stream nearby for cooling off after a good soak in the thermal springs. Las Hornillas are sulfurous fumaroles on the devastated southern slope of the volcano. Another trail leads to the Hidden Waterfalls, four continuous falls (three of which exceed 70 meters) in the Agria Ravine. You’ll find a perfect bathing hole at the base of one of the falls.

You must hike one trail at a time, and report to the ranger station before setting out on each subsequent trail. If you don’t report, rangers set out to find you after a specified time.


Hiking to the Summit
The hike is relatively straightforward. You can do the round-trip to the summit and back in a day, two days from park headquarters. The trail begins at the Santa María Ranger Station, leads past Las Hornillas and the Las Pailas Ranger Station, and snakes up the steep, scrubby mountainside through elephant grass and dense groves of twisted, stunted copel clusia, a perfumed tree species common near mountain summits. En route, you cross a bleak expanse of purple lava fossilized by the blitz of the sun. Trails are marked by cairns, though it is easy to get lost if the clouds set in; consider hiring a local guide. The upper slopes are of loose scree. Be particularly careful on your descent.

It can be cool up here, but the powerful view and the hard, windy silence make for a profound experience. From on high, you have a splendid view of the wide Guanacaste plain shimmering in the heat like a dreamworld between hallucination and reality, and, beyond, the mountains of Nicoya glistening like hammered gold from the sunlight slanting in from the south. On a clear day, you can see Lake Nicaragua.

It may be cloudy, however, in which case you may need to camp near the top to ascend the summit the next morning before the clouds set in (there’s a campsite about 5km from Las Pailas; it’s about 2 hours to the summit of Von Seebach from there).
The beach of Linnet Bird Lagoon—a whale-shaped lagoon filled with very cold water, southeast of the active volcano—is recommended for camping. Bring a waterproof tent and clothing, plus mosquito repellent. The grasses harbor ticks and other mites that bite in the night.
Fill up with water at the ranger station before your hike.


Information and Services
The park headquarters is at Hacienda Santa María, about 27 km northeast of Liberia (a sign on Hwy. 1 on the south side of Liberia points the way to the “Sector Santa María”). The 19th-century farmstead was once owned by former U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson, who sold it to the park service. It contains an exhibition room and is linked by a six-km trail to the Las Pailas Ranger Station (tel. 506/661-8189), on the southwestern flank of the volcano. Las Pailas is reached via a road from Curubandé (see Rincón de la Vieja Vicinity, below). Admission costs $6.

The park is administered from the Guanacaste Conservation Area office in Santa Rosa National Park (tel. 506/666-5051, fax 506/666-5020, www.acguanacaste.ac.cr); see Santa Rosa National Park, below.


Getting to Rincon de la Vieja
The road to the Santa María Ranger Station begins from the Barrio Victoria suburb of Liberia, where Avenida 6 leads east 25 km via Colonia La Libertad.
The road is deeply rutted (and muddy in wet season); 4WD is recommended. Lodges arrange transfers, and the Hotel Guanacaste in Liberia has transfers daily at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. ($7 pp each way, three people minimum). A taxi from Liberia will cost about $30–40 each way. Park rangers may take you if they’re heading to or from town.

The Santa María and Las Pailas ranger stations are linked by trails, or you can reach Las Pailas from Hwy. 1 via a turnoff about 6km north of Liberia: the dirt road leads past the village of Curubandé (10 km) to the gates of Hacienda Lodge Guachipelín (see below). The gates are open during daylight hours. Ostensibly you pay a $2.50 fee for the right to use the private road.
The dirt road leads three km to Hacienda Lodge Guachipelín (the toll is reimbursed if you stay here) and, beyond, to Rincón de la Vieja Lodge (no refund) and Las Pailas Ranger Station. A bus departs Liberia for Curubandé at 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Permalink