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.
Located at the base of the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, San Carlos, Baldi Hot Springs features thermo-mineral hot water pools with great views of the volcano. It’s the biggest hot springs facility in the region and the perfect way to relax after hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park.
Located within the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa, there are day-use options as well as availability for hotel guests. The 25 pools range in temperature from 93 to 152 degrees Fahrenheit and get hotter as the elevation rises. It's recommended that you balance your time between pools, as your core temperature will begin to rise after about 20 minutes in a hot pool. The minerality and temperature of the water is believed to rid the body of germs and viruses while increasing blood circulation and releasing harmful toxins.
For the adventurous, Baldi Hot Springs also has extreme water slides that send you bumping and sliding before landing in the natural hot springs pool.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde) contains four different ecological zones, with the majority still untouched forest. Considered one of the most important biological reserves in the world, this site is one of the few places where you can take a photo on the Continental Divide with one foot on the Pacific side and the other on the Caribbean side.
Another draw is the site's eight-mile (13 km) network of trails tat offer a well-rounded immersion into the biodiversity of Costa Rica. Monteverde is home to over 3,000 known plant species, 755 of which are trees alone. Here you can visit “La Ventana,” the scenic overlook displaying the beautiful panoramas created by the continental divide. The reserve also includes the Monteverde Biological Reserve, Santa Elena and the Children's Eternal Rain Forest, part of the Arenal Volcano National Park.
Tucked away in the mountains and known locally as Mariposario, Monteverde Butterfly Gardens is one of the town's most visited attractions, having been educating visitors about Costa Rica's local insect and arachnid species for more than 20 years.
Guides take visitors through the various displays at the biodiversity center, which features over 20 species of live insects and arachnids, as well as an active leaf-cutter ant colony. When it comes to butterflies, this site reigns supreme with more than 30 species in four different climate-controlled habitats that represent ones found in Costa Rica. The three-acre garden also houses other wildlife, including white-faced capuchin monkeys, agoutis, coatis, toucans, motmots and more.