Rincón de la Vieja National Park & Volcano
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Rincón de la Vieja National Park surrounds two impressive volcanoes – the active Rincón de la Vieja and the dormant Santa María. Located 15.5 miles (25 km) northeast of Liberia in Guanacaste, Rincón de la Vieja is the largest volcano in the country’s northwest, and features a 15-kilometer-wide (9 miles) caldera. The park’s 24,800 acres (14,090 hectares) are split into two sections, Las Pailas and Santa María. Las Pailas (“The Cauldrons”) includes the active volcano whose name means “Corner of the Old Woman”, along with fumaroles, mud pots, steam vents, and a number of waterfalls.
The active Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is a massive 600,000-year-old geological wonder with at least nine volcanic cones. The rim of the most active crater is 5,925 feet (1,806 meters) high with near-vertical sides denuded of vegetation. No less than 32 rivers flow down the mighty volcano that bridges the Continental Divide, and its activity once served as a natural lighthouse for ships at sea.
Rincón de la Vieja National Park’s diverse ecosystems offer a wide variety of flora. Its high forested slopes feature gnarled dwarfed trees draped in moss mats that provide the arboreal base for orchids and epiphytes. The Park hosts a large population of Costa Rica´s national flower, the “Guaria Morada” (purple) orchid, and in the center of the brushwood is an immense 800-year-old Ceiba tree. Rincón de la Vieja is home to 300 bird species, including the Crested Guan, Blue-crowned Motmot and Emerald Toucanet, as well as a variety of mammals such as collared peccaries, agoutis, nine-banded armadillos, white-nosed coatis, raccoons and several species of monkeys.
The most popular trail is Las Pailas, a loop of 2.5 miles (3.5 km) that takes from 2 to 3 hours to complete hiking. Wildlife is easy to observe if the visitor is in the company of an experienced naturalist guide. And of course, the reason almost every tourist in Guanacaste visits the area is the volcanic activity, which is abundant and easy to see.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park