Rincón de la Vieja (lit. Old Woman’s Corner) is an active volcano in NW Costa Rica. It had its last large eruption in 1991, with smaller eruptions in 1998 and 1999. The volcano is a very interesting area with mud pots, hot springs, steam vents, and lots of interesting plant and animal life. We saw several howler, spider, and white faced monkeys, coatis, grisons (weasels), as well as many birds. There are many waterfalls in the area as well.
The lower slopes of the volcano are very hot, dry, and dusty in the dry season, but the upper slopes are almost always windy, cloudy, and rainy.
Have your camera ready, as this is one of the best and most interesting hiking areas in Central America!
From the Costa Rica Guide Website:
In 2014 the trails to the peaks were closed intermittently due to increased volcanic activity. In 2015 permanent signs went up and in 2017 the trails to the top remain off limits.
Make sure to keep updated on current conditions on the above website.
The first destination is Liberia, the largest city in NW Costa Rica. There are hourly buses to Liberia from San Jose from the terminal at Calle 24 and Avenida 5.
Liberia now has a major airport. Call SANSA at (Int) 221-9414 for information.
There is public transportation available to the trailhead from Liberia. Small tourist buses leave from several inexpensive hotels south of the town square in Liberia. Two of the hotels are Hotel Liberia and La Posada de Tope. Transport cost $10 a person and leaves Liberia at 7AM and leaves the trailhead at 4PM arriving back at Liberia at 5PM.
There are three main trails in the park. It is recommended that you do the loop hike to Las Pailas first as it may be the most interesting trail, though all three are certainly worth the visit. Only a very strong hiker can do all three trails in one day, so you will have to pick and choose unless camping at the campground and spending two days.
Las Pailas: The trail starts at the ranger station and is well sign-posted. This is a 3 km loop hike that passes many boiling mud pots, hot springs, a waterfall, and lush rainforest. See the route page for more details.
Rincon de la Vieja Summit: Keep in mind that the rangers close this trail during really windy weather (quite common in January and February), so be prepared for that. The summit area is usually cloudy and rainy (and can be cold) as well. The one-way distance to the summit from the trailhead is 8 kms. See the route page for much more detail.
Catarata Escondita (lit. Hidden Falls)/Catarata La Cangreja: This is a hike to the spectacular waterfalls that are in the area. The total one-way distance from the trailhead is 4.3 km for the Cataratas Escondito and 5 kms for the Catarata La Cangreja. See the route page for much more detail.
There is a $6 fee for entering the national park. There is also a $2 "road maintainence" fee collected by the ranch in this area that maintains the road.
December through March is the driest season, and the best time to climb the peak. January and February are usually very windy. December may be the best month of all, but any trip during the dry season is likely to be enjoyable.
Near the ranger station is a campground that charges $2 per person per night. The campground has water, pit toilets, showers, and grills. Backcountry camping is also allowed along the trails in the national park.
For eruption updates:
There are no on-line links available for the mountain or national park, and the only way to contact the ranger station is by phone at (Int) 661-8139.