- Cool Places: Rincón de la Vieja

Ther­mal won­der of­fers some re­ally hot at­trac­tions

Howler Magazine - - Featured Contents - By Karl Kahler

Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, a princess named Cu­rubandá, daugh­ter of the chief of the Cu­rubandé tribe, fell in love with the son of the chief of a ri­val tribe named Mix­coac. Her father put an end to this for­bid­den love by throw­ing Mix­coac into the boil­ing crater of the largest vol­cano in Gua­nacaste.

Des­o­late, the princess moved onto the slopes of the vol­cano and be­came a her­mit. Liv­ing out her life alone, she learned about nat­u­ral cures and be­came a healer, sought out by pil­grims with phys­i­cal ail­ments. Thus the vol­cano be­came known as Rincón de la Vieja — mean­ing “cor­ner of the old woman,” or per­haps “the hag's lair.”

Rincón has been called Costa Rica's Yel­low­stone be­cause of its gey­sers, boil­ing mud pots, fu­maroles and hot springs. The 6,286-foot vol­cano is the cen­ter­piece of Rincón de la Vieja Na­tional Park, which of­fers fas­ci­nat­ing walk­ing trails and beau­ti­ful wa­ter­falls.

The park is di­vided into two sec­tors, Santa María and Las Pailas (“the caul­drons”). Just 15 miles north­east of Liberia, Las Pailas of­fers an easy, shady, 2.5-mile loop trail where you can see lots of steam­ing vol­canic fea­tures up close (but don't get too close).

If you're feel­ing re­ally en­er­getic, take the 6-mile round-trip hike to La Can­greja Wa­ter­fall, a 130-foot beauty with a sky-blue pool below.

Or if you'd like to see a re­ally pretty cas­cada with­out the long hike, there's the 82-foot Oropen­dola Wa­ter­fall, a short walk from the park­ing lot at the Las Pailas en­trance. Ei­ther of these falls (and there are two oth­ers) is a great place to take a cool dip.

This be­ing Costa Rica, of course there are mul­ti­ple re­sorts scat­tered around the vol­cano that of­fer all kinds of ad­ven­tures.

Among the best of these is the nearby Ha­cienda Guachipelín, a classy ho­tel (and a work­ing horse and cat­tle ranch) with an ad­ven­ture cen­ter that of­fers zi­plin­ing, canyon­ing, rock climb­ing, white­wa­ter tub­ing, horse­back rid­ing, hot springs and mud baths.

Most of the same ad­ven­tures are on of­fer far­ther afield at Bor­in­quen Moun­tain Re­sort & Spa, Buena Vista Lodge & Ad­ven­ture Cen­ter, Cañon de la Vieja Lodge and Blue River Re­sort & Hot Springs. The lat­ter has an amaz­ing Dino Park with life-size an­i­ma­tronic di­nosaurs (made in China) that move, grunt, snort and roar.

Rincón has been called Costa Rica’s Yel­low­stone.

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