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Froggies and Fumaroles: Hiking Costa Rica's Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park

December 22, 2011 at 3:55 PM | by | ()

Have you got a spare three or four hours? If you were in Costa Rica right now, those could be spent hiking around a volcano and petting frogs. Sure, everyone knows the giant Arenal volcano towards the center of the Central American country, but Costa Rica has six other active volcanoes, one of which is Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, located in the Guanacaste province and within its own National Park.

Rincón de la Vieja is serious business as far as volcanoes go. Heading up to its top rim and caldera is no longer allowed (too risky!) but local, experienced guides can easily lead you on a several-hour hike to spot fumaroles (steam vents), bubbly muddy water cauldrons, cute froggies and waterfalls so clear and cool you'd think it was Norway instead.

So here's what happened between us and this volcano: we had an afternoon flight back to New York from Liberia, CR, on JetBlue's new direct route. What could we do with that whole empty morning before heading to the airport? Hot springs? Horseback riding? Canyoneering? Ziplining? Milking cows? But we had already done all this! That left facing the volcano on foot.

Our guide grew up in the shadow of the volcano, walking the hiking routes before they were hardly as trod as they are now, and they're still pretty wild. Though our city slicker shoes slipped in the mud and we tripped over everything from the tangled roots of "strangling trees" to volcanic boulders crossing trickling streams, he was patient and quick to offer a stabilizing hand to grasp. Though it's a breathtaking hike through several levels of the forest, it is definitely for an active person who can keep up a good hiking pace.

How to hike Rincón de la Vieja National Park: There's all sorts of hike lengths available, even overnight horse treks. Take the Panamerican Highway to Rincón de la Vieja National Park, and continue down a bumpy road to the Hacienda Guachipelin, an eco-resort and working Hacienda with its own Adventure Tours depot. Prices depend on hike length and group size, but start at $25 per person.

The volcano, seen from the distance of Hacienda Guachipelin

Disclosure: We zipped down to Costa Rica as guests of JetBlue and the Costa Rica Tourism Board, but rest assured that all opinions and all photos are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]

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