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A Visit To Rincon De La Vieja National Park In Costa Rica

A Visit to Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica for my son’s wedding a big group of us took a day to visit Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It’s located close to the city of Liberia in the northern part of the country.

Most people visit the park to see the cinder cone volcano – Rincon de la Vieja, comprised of nine contiguous craters. To get to the crater it’s an 8 kilometre hike with a lot of vertical gain – not something many in the group would have been interested in doing had the trail even been open. But the trail, as we found out upon our arrival, has been closed for a while as there has been a lot of volcanic activity lately. The last eruption according to Wikipedia was in 1998.

We planned to do the easier 10 kilometre round trip hike to La Cangreja waterfall. Swimsuits were added to our backpacks though none of us really knew what to expect on the hike.

The Grand Canyon of Costa Rica is how our guide described this canyon seen on the way into the park
The Grand Canyon of Costa Rica is how our guide described this canyon seen on the way into the park
I was surprised by the park hours
I was surprised by the park hours
Pickled snakes in the office at the park headquarters
Pickled snakes in the office at the park headquarters

Hiking in Rincon de la Vieja National Park

The hike ended up being quite interesting as we made our way through a number of different ecosystems. Starting out it felt more lush and tropical, with big trees and slick trails. But after just a few kilometers it opened up and we emerged on a dry hillside with a view to Nicaragua.

That was totally unexpected. From there it was back into a landscape filled with more giant trees and big roots, seemingly designed to trip you up – all the way until we reached La Cangreja waterfall.

Snake alert

Of course we were all on high snake alert for the duration of the hike, especially after seeing pickled samples in the park office. Costa Rica is home to loads of venomous snakes including the bushmaster and Fer de Lance – though I don’t know exactly what landscape specifically they prefer.

Fortunately we didn’t see a single one but we did see a turquoise browed Motmot (one of 300 bird species that have been sighted in the park), two monkey species, a lizard, an agouti and several other birds. Biting insects were almost non-existent.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park has loads of other trails we would have loved to explore had we had the time. There are trails that take you by steaming fumaroles, boiling mud pots, and even to thermal hot springs.

What we saw on our visit to Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Near the start of the Rincon de la Vieja hike; I always watched where I put my hands
Near the start of the Rincon de la Vieja hike; I always watched where I put my hands
A few wildflowers are blooming
A few wildflowers are blooming
We are all dwarfed by the trees we see in the park
We are all dwarfed by the trees we see in the park
One at a time only on this rickety old bridge
One at a time only on this rickety old bridge
Interesting blue hue of the water in this small stream
Interesting blue hue of the water in this small stream
Giant strangler figs surround and eventually kill the tree
Giant strangler figs surround and eventually kill the tree
Fungi in Rincon de la Vieja reminds me of what we see in the Rockies
Reminds me of fungi we see in the Rockies
Woods with a real mixture in the size of trees
Woods with a real mixture in the size of trees
An ever changing hike - through a section of agave look alikes
An ever changing hike – through a section of agave look alikes
Happy to see lizards and not snakes
Happy to see lizards and not snakes
Looking out to Lake Nicaragua
Looking out to Lake Nicaragua
One of the 13 capuchin monkeys we saw
What an old man face
What an old man face
In Rincon de la Vieja National Park I look for snakes when I go through a tunnel of green
I look for snakes when I go through a tunnel of green
In Rincon de la Vieja sometimes the hiking is very tough
Sometimes the hiking is very tough
In Rincon de la Vieja Wwe enjoyed a refreshing swim we had once we reached La Cangreja waterfall
What a refreshing swim we had once we reached La Cangreja waterfall
Swimming is refreshing and you warm up quickly once you're out of the water in Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Swimming is refreshing and you warm up quickly once you’re out
Our guide handing out papaya
Our guide handing out papaya
Lucky to see an agouti in Rincon de la Vieja - prized unfortunately for its' meat; it moves like a bunny
I was lucky to see an agouti – prized unfortunately for its’ meat; it moves like a bunny
Spider monkeys in Rincon de la Vieja were way up in the tree so very hard to get good shots
Spider monkeys were way up in the tree so very hard to get good shots

For more information on Costa Rica visit the tourism board website.

Further reading on things to do in Costa Rica & Panama

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A Visit to Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Costa Rica

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 39 Comments
  1. It’s safe to say that I’ve never been on a hike that had such a diversity of wildlife, scenery and terrain. I’d be a little apprehensive about running into one of those venomous snakes, but otherwise would love this hike. What a view to Nicaragua!

    1. @Cathy I hate snakes as much as anybody can hate a snake but after not seeing one on the way there I got over my fears. That’s one of the reasons we had a guide. It was an interesting hike and a good way to get to know my son’s in-laws.

    2. Hey Cathy,
      Great Post! You got some amazing shots. How long was this tour? How long did you spend at the waterfall? What company? Thanks for the help!

      Will

      1. Hello Will, WE spent about an hour at the waterfall – plenty of time to go swimming and eat fruit. We hired a local company out of the nearest village closest to the Four Seasons where we were staying.

  2. I haven’t hiked in this national park in Costa Rica, but love hiking there – especially since there are so many good opportunities to see monkeys. Looks like a great hike.

  3. What a fascinating journey this was for you! So much wildlife and I still can’t get over the size of that Papaya!! Wow!! Sure looks like you had a marvelous time as evidenced by your gorgeous pics!!

  4. Beautiful photos – it looks like an amazing hike! I would love to see a spider monkey – even if they were far up in the tree. My older daughter is going to Costa Rica on a service trip for spring break – I’m a little jealous!

  5. Amazing photos. Love the emerald water pools, the giant trees (you should have taken a photo next to one so people can have an idea of their magnitude). The agouti looks like a cross between a rabbit and rat.

    1. @Rachel I agree that conveying a sense of scale is very important. The agouti with its bright red ears is definitely a strange looking creature. Unfortunately it’s numbers are going down because its’ meat it so highly prized. Our guide told us it sells for about $30/kg.

  6. You captured the richness of the colors so well, Leigh! What an amazing trail you followed (not sure after seeing the selection of snakes) I would have headed out on it though. . .I am glad you did, I enjoyed the tour!

    1. @Jackie I think you have to put the snake thing at the back of your mind – be aware of them but don’t freak out. I saw one when we hiked a volcano – and it was thankfully non venomous but 5 feet long.

  7. I have wanted to visit Costa Rica just to see the capuchin monkeys in the wild. This looks so wonderful with the waterfalls as a bonus. Of course, I would be so paranoid with the prospect of all those snakes. Those trees are amazing. I’ve never heard of an agouti so what a treat to know about and virtually see. Glad you got to do some sightseeing and hiking.

  8. Those look like ceiba or silk cotton trees, Leigh. We have them in Jamaica. They have very large, very distinctive, buttress roots. The trees can be several hundred years old.

  9. What an awesome hike Leigh. What’s not to love when you can have waterfalls, swims, tunnels of trees (and such interesting patterns and shapes on those huge trunks). I hope your son’s wedding was wonderful too!

  10. Hi Leigh, what a beautiful hike. It’s nice to see you in a tropical surrounding this time. I enjoyed everything that you saw on your trail – the birds, the monkeys, the wild strangler trees, the tunnels of green and, of course, the waterfalls and the pool! Everything looked amazing. Congratulations to your son’s wedding. It must be very memorable.

  11. Nothing quite like a jungle hike ending at a beautiful waterfall. Great that you saw some cool wildlife along the way (although no snakes). Good thing to be on high snake alert in this part of the world. I am going to Borneo tomorrow, so I will be doing the same.

  12. Pickled snakes?! Ewww. I think after I saw all those, I’d be careful, too. I love how verdant and green that hike is. It’s so different from the Canadian hikes you often post. That strangler fig is so visually interesting… biologically interesting, too, as long as you’re not the tree that’s being strangled. Were the monkeys mischievous or did they leave you alone?

    1. @Michele The hike offered so much and was so wildly different than anything I do in Canada that it was a real treat. I hate snakes but don’t want to be paralyzed by fear so I put them to the back of my mind. And these were nice monkeys; they left us alone so they did have something to say about our presence.

  13. Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a magical place in Guanacaste.Hotels there are really sustainable such as Guachipelin Hacienda and Buena Vista Lodge. Activities in this area are wonderful: Tubing, Canopy, “Cowboy Day”, Horseback riding and springs. A magical waterfall called “oropendola”, what a place. Sky blue waters, full green, nature, birds, extreme hiking. Rincon de la vieja is not the most popular destination in CR, but it is amazing.

  14. What a great adventure! I personally love hiking, so I would love a trip like this. I am definitely adding this to my bucket list. The pictures are magnificent. Thank you for sharing!

    -Sara

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