Rincon de la Vieja is not amongst the most visited national parks in Costa Rica which is the reason discerning adventurers head here to enjoy horseback riding adventures away from the crowds. Although the park (and whole Guanacaste region) are becoming more popular thanks to the extension of the Liberia International Airport, this is still a side of the country not everyone gets to experience.
If you’re after a quieter and more immersive wilderness experience on your next adventure vacation in Costa Rica, and simply wish to share your spoils with fewer people on horseback, consider Rincon De la Vieja an exceptional choice.
Overview of Rincon de la Vieja – Best Way to Visit
This stunning park is merely 16 miles north-east of the town of Liberia and its airport, taking as little as an hour’s drive to reach with no traffic. That means you can enjoy a horseback riding tour here even if you’re simply passing through and transiting to other Costa Rican provinces – a day off either before or after your flight is all you need to at least get a taste of this beautiful Guanacaste highlight.
Rincon de la Vieja comprises 35,000 acres of sensational wilderness, comprising the arresting Rincon de la Vieja Volcano (one of only two active volcanoes in the country) as well as the slightly taller Santa Maria Volcano, and a bevy of natural hot springs and mud baths, gorgeous waterfalls and unspoiled jungles and forests, all inhabited by a wide array of exotic wildlife.
The park is easy to explore on foot given the well-maintained trails but there’s no denying you can see and do more when you visit on a horseback riding tour, especially on a hot summer’s day.
Given the remoteness and relative isolation of the park, visits are difficult to organize independently – everyone stays in a lodge or resort nearby and most will simply organize their transfers and excursions directly through their accommodation. Even if you have a rental car or can book out a taxi for an entire day, it’s unarguably easier and more enjoyable to visit on an organised tour. With a local guide to show you around and private transport at your beck and call, everything is infinitely more enjoyable.
Which is probably why our horseback riding tours to Rincon de la Vieja are so very popular!
The park is open 8am to 3pm, six days a week (closed on Mondays) and boasts two entrances: one at Santa Maria and one at Las Pailas. Entry fee is USD $15 at time of writing.
The two entrances offer quite distinct experiences, with Las Pailas (on the Pacific side) home to hot springs and mud pools and being much drier, and the Caribbean entrance (Santa Maria) showcasing much more luscious wilderness and, usually, a higher chance of rain.
Please note that although Rincon de la Vieja Volcano has not erupted for thousands of years, small signs of (smokey) life were visible in 2011 and, as a precaution, hikes to the rim have not been allowed since. Expect warm temps all year (ranging between 80 and 90 F) with much drier and hotter conditions on the Las Pailas side and more rain yet slightly cooler temps on the Santa Maria side.
Wildlife & wilderness of Rincon de la Vieja
The dense and pristine forests of Rincon hide a stunning array of creatures, among them three distinct species of monkeys (howler, white-faced and spider), three species of wild cats (jaguars, ocelots and pumas), as well as armadillos, tapirs, an impressive array of tropical snakes and other reptiles and nearly 300 species of exotic birds, among them owls, falcons and plenty of beautifully colorful parrots.
The wilderness here is quite unique and varied, part of the reason the park was nationalised and protected in the early 1970s. The rich fertile volcanic soil nourishes both dry and rain forests, with rare flora in abundance.
Overview of Rincon de la Vieja tours
Horseback riding in Rincon de la Vieja is one of the most popular inclusions in our adventure tours of Guanacaste. Not only is horseback riding perfect if you want to explore the luscious national park without the need to hike, but it’s an activity that’s at the very heart of local culture – stepping into the shoes of a Tico cowboy or girl is a fantastic way to enjoy a cultural experience and a superlative excursion in nature to boot.
Plus, Rincon boasts sublime waterfalls you can actually swim in so what better way to hit an adventure trifecta than by horseback riding, wildlife-spotting and waterfall swimming all on the same excursion?!
Horseback ride to Oropendola Waterfall – This lesser-visited waterfall would have to rate as one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful secret gems and most standard horseback riding tours will take you here. Oropendola is a gorgeous 82-foot cascade that creates a turquoise pool at its base, in which you can swim. On a leisurely, hour-long ride, you’ll meander through the tropical dry forests of the Las Pailas side of the park, reaching the canyon and the very top of the falls. A quick hike down will see you reach the base and that marvelous natural pool. You’ll have plenty of time to frolic in the refreshing waters of the Rio Bianco – expect the excursion to take between 2.5 and 3 hours.
What to pack – Make sure you’re wearing closed shoes and long pants for the ride (you’ll be given a safety riding helmet), don’t forget sunscreen and do pack some bug spray as well. If you fancy a swim, bring a towel and wear your swimming costume underneath your clothes, as there won’t be anywhere for you to change once you reach the top of the canyon.
If all this is starting to sound a little too tame for you, adventurous thrill-seeker you, then we have an even better and more exhilarating option: a FULL-ON adventure day in the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano park!
Our Extreme Adventure Full-day Excursion in Rincon De La Vieja
There’s more than one reason National Geographic named us one of the best adventure travel companies on earth – we certainly don’t do things by half-measures. For the thrill-seeker and adventure-lover, we serve up an intense, thrill-filled day in Rincon de la Vieja that includes horseback riding – one we rate among the best we offer.
Want some serious fun? Then how about rappelling down a canyon wall and then rock-climbing back up, flying along no fewer than eight exceptional zip-lines, tackling a horseback ride to the wilder Colorado River, where you’ll jump into inflatable kayaks for a stint of heart-stopping whitewater rafting, before finally relaxing and unwinding in one of the park’s many natural mud pools.
We offer this superb adventure day out complete with private transfers and, of course, our best and most experienced bilingual guides. If it’s an especially adventurous day out in Rincon that you’re after, and a unique horseback ride, this will certainly hit the spot.
Our Rincon de la Vieja Adventure day with horseback ride in Rincon de la Vieja is one of several Tamarindo Activity Options we have on offer. On all our tours, we include private transfers from wherever you happen to be staying, bilingual guides as well as a delectable lunch on our full-day excursions. Travelling to Costa Rica with kids? Just let us know and we can plan a day out the whole family will love.
Here’s some more adventure inspiration for your upcoming visit:
Private surf lesson – Spend a couple of hours on Tamarindo’s world-renowned waves, guided by a professional surfing instructor, and you and go home with a brand-new skill under your belt. We can organize lessons for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers and can plan alternative activities if you’re travelling with friends or family members who don’t wish to surf.
Beach paddle boarding – Easier and undoubtedly more relaxing than surfing, stand-up paddle boarding is one of the most enjoyable activities to be had on Costa Rica’s beaches, lakes, rivers and estuaries. In Tamarindo, you can enjoy the thrills of ocean boarding!
Sport fishing – This is one of Costa Rica’s quietest achievers, an activity that attracts avid anglers from all over the world. Head off into open water with your master fisher-guide, on the lookout for saltfish and marlin (which we’ll release back into the sea) or tuna and mahi-mahi (which we can clean and fillet for you to take back to your lodge).
Tamarindo estuary kayak & walking tour – This 2-hour adventure will see you explore the Tamarindo estuary, home to crocodiles, iguanas, sea birds, howler monkeys and a host of other tropical wildlife, both by boat and on foot.
Sunset cruise – Spend an entire afternoon sailing along the Pacific coastline of Guanacaste and you’ll be in for an exquisite experience. Be on the lookout for sea turtles, dolphins and whales whilst enjoying a delicious cocktail and a wonderful lunch. Next, snorkel and relax as you wait for the most amazing spectacle of all: a Guanacaste sunset!
Turtle nesting tour – Head to Guanacaste between October and March and you can join a night-time turtle nesting tour. The beaches of Tamarindo are among the world’s most important sea turtle nesting sites, attracting hundreds of leatherback turtles during the nesting season. Casting your eyes on this magical spectacle is a truly priceless Costa Rica experience.
At Costa Rica Rios, we don’t just run some of the best-organised adventure tours in the world, we also plan bespoke itineraries and private tours that are designed with your specific interests and needs in mind. No matter where or when you wish to enjoy a horseback ride, be it in Guanacaste, Rincon de la Vieja or any of our other preferred destinations, just let us know and we’ll do our best to make it happen.
Contact us below and let us help you plan the Costa Rica adventure of a lifetime!
Here are a few more guides you may find useful:
- Guide to Costa Rica’s Fabulous Guanacaste Province
- What to Know About Horseback Riding in Costa Rica
- Best Horseback Riding Locations in Costa Rica