Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja

Formed by the simultaneous eruption of several volcanic cones which eventually merged to become one, Rincón de la Vieja National Park now protects 14,161 ha of territory ideal for hiking, and is definitely worth visiting for a few days. The main attraction is the steaming mud pools, hot springs, steam vents and waterfalls in the area which also hosts a rewarding wildlife display in its elevated isolation. Hiking to the summit provides splendid views (on rare, clear days) across the lowlands. The massif, which rises to a height of 1916 m at Santa María volcano, is visible from Liberia when the peak is not shrouded in cloud, and the lower summit of Rincón de la Vieja (1806 m) can be reached on a two-day trek.

Meaning 'Old Lady's Corner', according to Guatuso legend an old witch living on the eastern slopes of Rincón de la Vieja sends smoke skyward whenever she is annoyed. She still gets the hump and last threw really big tantrums in 1995 and 1998, sending ash clouds as far west as Santa Rosa National Park and mudflows down the northern slopes.


For the most part, the park is a calm collection of different ecosystems or lifezones, changing gradually with altitude. The park was created to protect the multitude of rivers and streams that find their source on the volcanic slopes. Four lifezones and over 250 species of birds, including the three-wattled bellbird and great currasow, as well as howler monkeys, armadillos and coatis, ticks and other biting insects are found within the boundaries.

Most places of interest are easily reached from either of the Las Pailas or Santa María Hacienda rangers' stations, which are linked by a path. A number of trails ranging from 1-8 km in length, lead from both stations with inspiring names like the 'Enchanted Forest' and the 'Hidden Falls', leading to thermal pools, mudpots and fumaroles. The area is also home to the greatest density of Costa Rica's national flower the
guaria morada
or purple orchid. Some trails to more sensitive areas may have restricted access.

Towards the summit, the windy conditions have stunted the growth of the forest. Nearby, the
Laguna Jilueros
is reported to be a good site for spotting wildlife.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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