Rincón de la Vieja National Park, Guanacaste

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Ecological diversity abounds at Rincón de la Vieja National Park, one of the parks in the Guanacaste Conservation Area. This park is a must-visit destination when you are in the Guanacaste Province. At over 34,000 acres, Rincón de la Vieja has room for two volcanoes, 32 rivers and streams, and an incredible variety of flora and fauna.

A number of activities can be enjoyed at the park such as hiking, horseback riding, enjoying hot springs, swimming, picnicking, and camping. Rincón de la Vieja is approximately 15 miles northeast of the city of Liberia, which is the capital of the Guanacaste Province.

Explore Both Sides

With its location and sheer size, this national park allows you to experience both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the Cordillera de Guanacaste. The west side of the park on the slope of the volcano that fronts the Pacific Ocean is more arid than the eastern Caribbean-facing side, which means that it has a dry season from February through April.

The dry season on the west side allows for great hiking conditions for those that want to hike the slope of the volcano. Atlantic trade winds on the eastern side of the park provide it with an average of 200 inches of rain per year, keeping vegetation lush and growing all the time. There is no distinct dry season on the east, so the tropical ecosystems on that side continually stay damp.

The park is serviced by two ranger stations, one in the Santa Maria sector, and the other in the Las Pailas sector. Hiking and horseback riding trails fan out from the Santa Maria ranger station and traverse 5,000 feet in vertical elevation. Picnic areas are also available to rest and rejuvenate before hitting the trails again. Next to Las Pailas ranger station, campground facilities allow you to spend the night in the park.

See Incredible Flora and Fauna

Rincón de la Vieja hosts a wide variety of tropical forests, including dwarf cloud and montane ecosystems. Exotic and rare flora and fauna find refuge here including kinkajous, pumas, a variety of monkeys, sloths, tapirs, and jaguars. Rare emerald toucanets and blue-crowned motmots glow in the sunlight along with vibrant fuschia and purple Guaria Morada orchids. Laurel and Guanacaste trees form canopies for birds and mammals to live in.

Sightsee and Swim

Various water features are major attractions at the park and include a freshwater lagoon, waterfalls, hot springs, and boiling mud pits. You can soak in a sulfuric hot spring a little under two miles down the trail and then enjoy a refreshing dip in a nearby waterfall or stream. Waterfalls with swimming opportunities are frequent along hiking trails. More evidence of geothermal activity in the area are the bubbling mud pools along the trail.

Witness Volcanic Activity

The ancient Rincón de la Vieja volcano last erupted in 1983, with a minor ash and lava emission in 1991. Today, adventurous visitors can take a day-long hike to the top of the summit via a six-mile trail that originates at Las Pailas. The journey along the trail will reveal several different ecosystems. You will see Von Seebach, the main crater of the volcano, periodically spew steam as evidence of its geothermal activity.

Those completing the hike will be rewarded with views of the Nicoya Peninsula and the Lago de Nicaragua If the skies are exceptionally clear, you will be able to see Los Jilgueros Lake and almost all of Costa Rica. If you are considering taking the hike, be sure to bring adequate water to stay hydrated, and a warm water-resistant outer layer of clothing.

In a country of national parks and wildlife preserves, the Rincón de la Vieja National Park is like no other in Costa Rica. You will long remember the wild flora and fauna in this premier park in the Guanacaste Province.
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