Our first national park trip was to Rincon de la Vieja in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Despite its proximity to Liberia there is no public transport available to the park. Your options are: a car hire, a tourist shuttle or a tour. The tours and shuttles were very expensive, $35 p/p for just a round trip so we opted to hire a small 4×4 as we also wanted to visit Monteverde.
The drive took around an hour and a half despite the park being only 25km away. The reason for this is a combination of unpaved roads made purely of large loose rocks and lack of any signs to the entrance.
If you plan to drive there follow the signs for the Rinconcito lodge until you get half way up a steep hill with a junction, left to the and straight ahead to seemingly another lodge. At this junction go straight, this is actually the entrance to the park as well as the lodge.
You will have to pay 700 colones per person to cross a private property, marked by a closed gate and a guy manning it. Once through, stop at the hot springs entrance on the left at the bridge for a free map of the area and explanations of how to proceed.
We arrived at the Pailas ranger station entrance and paid $10 each to take a short hike of the circuit. Unfortunately the volcano crater was closed due to activity and the waterfalls were apparently still a little dry from it being the start of the rain season.
During our trek we saw various fumaroles and hot mud pots – which if you have never seen be prepared for an awful smell that comes from them, something like rotten eggs, caused by the sulphur!
After our trek we headed back to the hot springs and paid another $10 each to visit a small hot spring complex with 6 or so pools of thermal water ranging from 37 to 41 degrees C.
Included in the price is also the option of a mud treatment where you are given a pot of the clay like mud from the volcano and a paint brush. Once you have “painted” yourself with volcanic mud you chill out for 10 – 15 minutes until it dries. When you feel like your skin is cracking you are ready to rinse and dip in the thermal pools again.
I have to say the treatment is fantastic for the skin, it left it feeling silky soft for 4 days afterwards and it is also a very relaxing experience to just sit in the thermal pools.
For the $10 and no time restrictions, the hot springs option is very good value and lockers and towels are also provided for free!