One Day in Rincon de la Vieja

One Day Thermal Spring and National Park Itinerary

  • Rio Negro Thermal Springs
  • Rincon de la Vieja National Park (Sector las Pailas)
  • Liberia
  • Dinner at Masala
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Rincon de la Vieja National Park

The active volcano Rincon de la Vieja is 26 km from the city of Liberia. It provides visitors with the opportunity to hike trails past volcanic features and to bath in thermal springs heated by the volcanic activity beneath their feet.

Although there is some accommodation in the area, we found it rather pricey, so chose to stay in Liberia and visit Rincon de la Vieja as a day trip, returning to Liberia for dinner in one of my favourite restaurants (and I’ve tried a few).

Driving ScheduleLiberia to Rincon de la Vieja
Distance26 km
Driving Time40 minutes

The 40 minute drive from Liberia follows Route 1 for 5 km before you have to turn left onto a smaller road. With around 10 km to go, the paved road runs out and some driving on gravel is required. Shortly after, there is a sign saying you have entering private land and must pay 700 colones each (about $1) to continue.

Road to Rincon de la Vieja
Road to Rincon de la Vieja

Rio Negro Thermal Springs

PlaceRio Negro Thermal Springs
Opening Times9-6

We chose to start our trip with a visit to Rio Negro Hot Springs; a series of pools situated along the river, heated by volcanic activity beneath your feet. The springs are open from 9 am and you can book a 1.5 hour slot in advance on their website. We arrived at 9 am, just as the springs opened and as it was quiet, they weren’t bothered about sticking to the 1.5 hour time limit.

Entry to Rio Negro Thermal Pools
Entry to Rio Negro Thermal Pools

The $25 entrance fee gets you a wristband which entitles you to entry to the thermal springs, plus a mud treatment and access to a short trail leading to a series of four small waterfalls. Towels are also provided.

A 400m walk along a trail brings you, via changing rooms, to the pools. There are ten pools which range in temperature from pleasantly warm to f*** me that’s hot.

Rio Negro Thermal Pool
Rio Negro Thermal Pool

There’s also an opportunity to cover yourself in volcanic mud, which is alleged to have therapeutic properties. It’s not as exotic as it sounds – an attendant in wellies hands over half a coconut shell full of mud for us to smother on ourselves, then it’s time to sit on a rock and wait for it to dry…

Volcanic mud treatment
Volcanic mud treatment

Once you have had your fill of relaxing in the pools and covering yourself in mud and a further pool dip to ensure most of the mud is out of your orifices, take a walk along the waterfall trail included in the ticket.

Rio Negro waterfall

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

PlaceRincon de la Vieja National Park
Opening Times8-3 (Tue-Sun)
Price$16.95 (card only)

A 10 minute drive brings you from the thermal springs to the National Park car park. Rincon de la Vieja National Park is divided into two sectors; Sector La Pailas and Sector Santa Maria; due to volcanic activity, only Sector la Pailas is currently open.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Sector Las Pailas

Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Rincon de la Vieja National Park

The most popular trail within this sector of the park is the 3.5 km long Sendero las Pailas. This takes you over a hanging bridge onto a circuit with four viewpoints offering the chance to see various volcanic features. Towards the end, is an optional 5th viewpoint, accessed via a flight of steps, to a seasonal waterfall.

Sendero las Pailas

Note that much of the trail is exposed so it can get very hot (when we went it was 32 degrees and the cafe was closed) so ensure you bring sufficient water – we didn’t!

Hanging Bridge Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Hanging Bridge Rincon de la Vieja National Park

1) Fumarolic Lagoon

Rincon de la Vieja Fumarolic Lagoon

2) Mud Pots

3) Mini Volcano

4) Steam Vents

5) Seasonal Waterfall

We visited during dry season, so the waterfall was a bit underwhelming.


Once you have completed the trail, drive back to Liberia for a wander round the town centre and to have dinner. The focal point of Liberia is the white Central Church of Liberia, which has a Liberia sign in front of it, for that obligatory photo op.

Liberia sign and church
Liberia sign and church

Dinner at Masala

After a long, hot day with plenty of walking, Liberia provides plenty of options to refuel. We decided beer and a curry were called for, so went to Masala for dinner. I chose the palak paneer, which was one of the best curries I’ve ever had – and I used to live in Pakistan, so have eaten a lot of curry!

Palak Paneer and Tamarind Rice from Masala
Palak Paneer and Cumin Rice from Masala

Where to Stay?

We stayed at Hotel Las Espuelas in Liberia. It’s just off the highway, so very convenient if you’re just passing through. The rooms are clean and spacious and the free breakfast was good.

Hotel Las Espuelas room
Hotel Las Espuelas room

The main draw, and a very welcome sight after a hot day or travelling or sightseeing was the large pool.

Hotel Las Espuelas pool
Hotel Las Espuelas pool

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