• Photo: Wouter Tolenaars / Shutterstock
  • Photo: Eduardo Ramirez Sanchez / Shutterstock

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Wildlife, rivers, waterfalls, and mud baths are just the tip of the volcano when it comes to the natural wonders of Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Dominating the scenery east of the Pan-American Highway just north of bustling Liberia, the national park's 34,800 acres are home to two peaks, the most impressive being Rincón de la Vieja at 6,254 feet, which is often enveloped in clouds. Expect to see monkeys, sloths, and birds in a single day’s exploration. If your vacation plans only include the Pacific Coast but you really want to visit a volcano, this is your chance. Rincón de la Vieja is a great alternative and much shorter trip than the more popular Arenal.

For lodging, take your pick from working ranches, river lodges, rustic B&Bs, and garden villas; just be sure to rent a 4WD vehicle to reach the more remote properties, especially in rainy season. To get a taste of the area, there are plenty of activities that blend nature and adventure, like horseback riding, river rafting, ziplining, and hiking on a network of trails that set off from the Santa María ranger station and wind past hot springs, mud baths, and waterfalls. Lathering up with the volcanic mud softens the skin and detoxifies the body, and it makes for a fun photo op.

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