Rincon de La Vieja National Park is one of the country’s most diverse ecological areas. Surrounding two volcanoes, Rincon (active) and Santa Maria (dormant), the park is also home to an extraordinary display of local flora and fauna, while being a part of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste World Heritage site.
While the plant life is impressive on its own, especially considering the enormous concentration of purple orchids here, it’s the concentration of volcanoes that really wows visitors. The Rincon de La Vieja volcano gave rise to the park’s name and contains nine separate but contiguous craters. It is one of the largest of the five volcanoes in the Guanacaste region and is believed to be over a million years old. Despite being considered active, it has not erupted since the early 1980s.
The park does see a lot of volcanic activity, including vents, fumaroles and boiling mud pots and has at least 32 rivers that flow down its sides. There are a number of nature trails for guests, with some reserved for very experienced hikers. The most popular is the 2.5-mile La Pailas trail, which takes about two to three hours and is great for spotting wildlife, flora, waterfalls and traces of volcanic activity. More ambitious hikers can spend eight hours hiking to the Santa Maria crater's summit, from where you can see Lake Nicaragua on a clear day.
Rincon de La Vieja National Park is open year-round and is closed on Mondays. Dry season, which typically falls between December and April, is the recommended time to visit, as the trails are dry and it’s easiest to spot wildlife gathering at water sources. Easter (Holy Week) and Christmas are peak times for locals to visit and the park may be very crowded. Be sure to bring swimwear and shoes appropriate for loose gravel and rugged terrain. Hikers are only allowed to complete one hiking trail at a time and must check in with the ranger station to avoid initiating a search.