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The Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is undoubtedly a destination with a lot of diversity, and quite possibly the most multi-faceted place in Guanacaste. It has the capacity to make unforgettable memories for novel adventures, including intimate encounters with nature and unadulterated contact with the real Costa Rica: the one known for the slogan “no artificial ingredients.”

 

This is one of the 5 areas in the country with the greatest ecological diversity and one of the National Parks that offers the widest variety of experiences. In addition to extensive primary rain forest on northern side and tropical dry forest in its southern area, Rincon de la Vieja National Park surrounds 2 active volcanoes (the Rincon de la Vieja volcano and the Santa Maria volcano), six minor volcanic peaks, several wells of boiling, bubbling mud (called pailas or pans),a volcanic lake and dozens of rivers, canyons and waterfalls.  Within the park it offers visitors beautiful hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails.

 

Created 37 years ago, this conservation area protects rich and very complex ecosystems that support spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, cougars, coatis, agoutis, toucans and motmots (plus 300 varieties of birds), and at least 12,000 species of vegetables  and hundreds of small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

 

But visiting Rincon de la Vieja is not only about discovering a scenic range of Costa Rican wildlife. It’s also about getting to know the human Costa Rica in its traditional aspect, particularly the “sabanero”,which is the Costa Rican version of a cowboy.  The surrounding area of this corner, or “rincón,”of Costa Rica is still truly rural country.  The change in the pace of life can be felt immediately after turning off the highway. Everything starts to move more slowly and the clock goes into “fiesta” - but considering that no one is paying attention to the time it lapses into a “siesta”.

Although time on these byways ticks at a very relaxed pace, the mind is quickly filled with beautiful images and great memories.



As if nature and the rural surroundings were not enough of an attraction, Rincon has also become synonymous with adventures and innovative experiences. 

There are a variety of options in the area for canopy tours, kayaking, canyoning, tubing, rappelling and several other activities ending in “ing,”all of which are very entertaining and stimulating. 


 


 

 The best part is that while activities are pumped with adrenaline and a sense of extreme adventure, all are very safe and have few age restrictions, allowing them to be  equally enjoyed by both young and old.



Other available options for visitors to this area include hiking up to the volcano’s crater, horseback rides through forests and plains, a 1.300 ft ride down the longest waterslide in the country, several thermal centers and spas (volcanic mud baths are classic), visiting a massive botanical garden and butterfly farm, mountain biking or hiking on forest trails.

One thing that bears special mention is the warm hospitality and openness of the people of these parts. It is always a pleasure to stop along the way to chat with the locals.

Most of the hotels around here boast a rustic style with relatively few luxuries but all the basic amenities of modern life. Thanks to the gentle personality of the locals, the area has become known for their committed and outstanding service.


 

Not long ago, in our 28th edition, we told you about the northern, more rainy part of Rincon and the Blue River Resort that resides there with its great combination of thermal pools, butterfly farm, orchid garden, extensive botanical garden with close to 1,000 varieties of plants, luxurious spa and the gorgeous Rio Celeste (Blue river) with its many waterfalls… You can read that article on this link  (“Discovering the hidden face of the Rincon de la Vieja”) or clicking on this other link to go to page 18 of the Virtual Magazine, edition 28. 





 

This time, it is the south face

of the Rincon de la Vieja’s turn. 

 

On this trip we set out to discover the south face going on the road to Curubande(the closest entrance from Liberia). We went past various hotels along the way and the diverse list of tours offered, and after scanning all the options, we picked the second to last hotel on the road inside the park.  The hotel clearly offered a wide variety of activities and had good rates.  Right away we were pleasantly surprised by the vast knowledge of the staff, and we knew we were going to leave with very fond memories.


 

The first special thing about Hacienda Guachipelin is revealed in its name.  This was once an old time cattle ranch before it was suddenly surrounded by protected lands when the National Park was created in 1973.  The owners, finding their ranching activities limited from one day to the next, developed a vision of expanding its functions and creating activities and services to attract tourists visiting the park.   

  The restaurant and the first tours became a success, so much so that the next step was to transform the old family “hacienda” into a hotel.  The old porches sprung hammock after hammock, and along with the saddles and stirrups, countless harnesses, pulleys, biners, helmets, rafts and ores, increased the hacienda’s equipment.

No doubt the horses were the happiest with these changes, as in addition to getting an Extreme Makeover of their stables, they became VIP or rather, VIE (Very Important Equine), which included halving the amount of work they were used to and featured daily spa treatments for everyone (showers, brushing, pedicure).

 


 

The array of possible activities in this Hacienda is impressive and if you want to do everything it would require either a several day visits or several different visits.  The good part of this is that if you only plan a day visit, there will always be new activities for your next trip and if you stay for a week, you won’t run out of new activities by the fourth or fifth day.  


 

 

The 2 canopy tours owned by Guachipelin (some other hotels in the area offer canopy but send their guests here), are original and very scenic. Because of this pictures taken here often become part of promotional images of Costa Rica seen around the world. In addition to cables running amongst the trees, there are sections where you fly over a river inside a beautiful canyon, climb 90° walls, descend on a free fall towards the river and cross from one platform to another balancing just like Tarzan of the Jungle.

  

 

A very special experience is the educational and well-guided bird observation tour.  We also recommend partaking in the incredibly fun “tubing” experience (floating as a group in individual rafts through a narrow but very restless river), a horseback ride to the foothills of the volcano or a rappelling tour (ascending and descending several rock walls, cooling off in the baths of waterfalls or the landing in the river).

 

One should also be sure to go to the top of the volcano, visit the natural hot water springs at Rio Negro and end the day with a trip to the SymbiosisSpa where you can play like a child covering yourself or your friends with thermal mud from head to toe.  Then spend a few minutes in the sauna before “trying out” each of the several thermal pools hidden in the forest.



Do you want to give yourself a special treat? 

Get a massage on the margin of the river...

The perfect ending to a great day.

 


But the list is not finished yet.  I still haven’t told you about one of the most special features of Guachipelin:  Every morning guests can participate in the daily activities of the ranch and learn how to milk a cow, ride a horse through grazing fields to drive cattle to the corral or help brush a couple of majestic and very photogenic white oxen – some of the other VIP animals in the hacienda.       


    

 

Lastly, I have to give a special mention to the three cute little donkeys that like to walk by the Adventure Center. They love people!  When someone gets close to them, they gently lower their heads and look sideways as if to say, “Would you scratch my ear, please?” 

 

While not part of the official menu of Guachipelin attractions, they definitely delight tourists.  In particular, the children usually cannot contain their rapture at being able to hug such famously stubborn, albeit laid back, equines.


 

An interesting note for national and foreign residents: on Sundays, Guachipelin offers a 50% discount on tours and rooms for the night.

 

Meanwhile Saturday mornings are also special at this hotel.  A day of fiesta and traditions in which guests and the staff gather at the “redondel” (corral) to watch the skillful “sabaneros” (cowboys) show off their abilities with the lasso. Proud horse riders demonstrate the picturesque walking and dancing of their mounts and then cheer the courageous “montadores”(bull riders) in their challenge against the brave bulls.


 

I could continue filling several more pages talking about the numerous adventures available at Rincon, but there is no space left in this edition, so you’ll have to go out and experience it for yourself.

 

In conclusion...Rincon de la Vieja is a volcano and a national park that cannot be missed. It is chock full of beauty and activities for all tastes.  


It’s an intense and multi-faceted experience that won’t disappoint!


 

 


 

How to get there? 

The Park is located Northeast of Liberia, approximately 25 minutes by car (see map on page 54). From Liberia take the highway towards Nicaragua and after 5 Km take a right turn toward the Park and most of the hotels (this road is called the road to Curubande).There are 2 other entrances available (Road to Cañas Dulces 12 Km from Liberia) and towards Quebrada Grande (24 Km from Liberia) which will take you to other beautiful corners of the area, such as to Rio Celeste, and to interesting hotels such as Borinquen, Buena Vista Lodge or Blue River Resort.

In contrast to some years ago, all these roads are in very good condition so you are able to get there in any type of vehicle without problem.  Beware though, that this statement holds true for the dry season, but during the rainy season it is safer to go on a four-wheel drive vehicle.


 

Where to stay?

Hotel
Website
 Rooms  Prize P/P
By the road to
Aroma de Campo   www.aromadecampo.com  4 $30 - 60 Curubande
Blue River Resort  www.blueriverresorthotel.com  32 $65 QuebradaGrande
Borinquen Resort  www.borinquenresort.com   $105-182 Cañas Dulces
Buena Vista Lodge  www.buenavistalodgecr.com  76  $39 - 46 Cañas Dulces
Curubanda Lodge  www.curubanda.com  5  $22-50 QuebradaGrande
HaciendaGuachipelín  www.guachipelin.com  54  $36 -79 Curubande
Rancho Curubande  www.rancho-curubande.com  16  $24 -60 Curubande
The Canyon Lodge  www.thecanyonlodge.com  50  $50-75 Curubande
 

 

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