Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a beautiful park in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. There are trails for any kind of hiker, so you can enjoy Rincon de la Vieja National Park regardless of your experience level.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is home to La Cangreja waterfall, which is the main reason that I decided to visit. This is one of the few waterfalls in Costa Rica that requires a significant hike to reach, so it’s a little bit less photographed and not as busy as some other areas.
I visited the Las Palais sector of Rincón de la Vieja National Park. There are other entrances, but this one is the closest to Liberia and it’s how you reach La Cangreja waterfall! Make a full day of visiting Rincón de la Vieja National Park by hiking both of the trails there. Each trail is a super different experience!
Hiking in Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Getting to Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is only 30 minutes from Liberia, and an hour from Coco or Hermosa. Coming from Coco or Hermosa, take the 21 in to Liberia. Turn left at the intersection with a Taco Bell, KFC, and McDonald’s on the corner to head North on Route 1.
Watch for signs to turn right towards Rincon de la Vieja National Park. On the GPS, this road is actually marked as unpaved road. If you reach an small plaza with a supermarket and a few other shops, you’ve gone too far. A GPS is a really good idea for this drive!
Once you’re on the unpaved road, you will drive for a couple minutes before you pass through a very small community. The unpaved road continues afterwards.
The last stretch of the drive Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a little more than unpaved – it’s very bumpy, so go slow and be careful!
Rincon de la Vieja National Park Information
Rincón de la Vieja National is open from 8AM to 4PM, Tuesday to Sunday. The park is closed on Monday. If you want to hike to La Cangreja Waterfall, or the other waterfall in Rincón de la Vieja, the last entry to this trail is 12PM. This is to give you enough time to do the hike and back before the park closes.
There are two fees to pay when you go hiking in Rincón de la Vieja. The first is a toll 1,000 CR per person, for entry to the road that leads to Rincón de la Vieja National Park. This price is of as of January 2019. I always suggest bringing a little bit of extra cash with you when travelling in Costa Rica – I didn’t find information about this tool anywhere online so it was a surprise but because we had change, so we were all set!
There is a $15 USD entry fee to Rincón de la Vieja National Park for non-residents. There is no additional fee for parking at the visitors centre.
When to Visit
The waterfalls in Rincón de la Vieja National Park are more powerful part way into and nearing the end of the rainy season, but all the rain can also make the trails slick and muddy so bring appropriate footwear.
January is considered dry season in Costa Rica, but the rainy season will has just ended so the waterfalls are still very powerful. Getting towards summer months (May – August) except the waterfalls to be reduced somewhat.
There are very nice washrooms at the visitor centre at the park entrance, which you will have access to after paying your admission fee.
The visitors centre also has several water fountains to refill your water bottles!
It’s good to know a few park rules before you go, mainly so you don’t pack extra stuff. There is no swimming at the waterfall, and it is monitored to ensure this. Disappointing, but now you won’t bring unnecessary swimsuits and towels!
There’s also no hiking up to the volcano permitted, at least for now. That hiking trail has been closed for a while due to Volcan is activity.
Traditional hiking trail rules apply: stay on the path, don’t touch the wildlife.
Hiking to La Cangreja Waterfall
Here’s how to get to La Cangreja Waterfall! It took hours of searching for me to figure this out originally, so writing this blog post was high-priority. Many of you are looking for this beautiful waterfall too!
La Cangreja waterfall can be reached by a 2 hour hike in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It’s not a pull-over, hop out of the car and take pictures waterfall. You’ve gotta work for it!
The trail to La Cangreja waterfall is well-marked (it’s the orange trail, starting sign is shown in the photo above). It is not an easy trail. The first hour of the hike is in the trees. The ground is uneven, but it’s a pretty low level of difficulty. Nearing the end of the shaded section, you will reach a fork in the road. Go left for La Cangreja, right for Escondidas. I only visited La Cangreja, so I can’t speak to Escondidas!
On the second hour, you are exposed to the elements. The terrain changes entirely, to something almost resembling a savanna. It’s very dry, very hot, and hard to believe that you’re still in Costa Rica!
The continues like this right up until just before the La Cangreja waterfall. The last small stretch is a little treacherous. It’s a very steep downhill, with lots of rocks and roots. If you’re not comfortable with some climbing, or have any mobility limitations, then I wouldn’t recommend this hike because making it to the waterfall would be very difficult.
Once you do make it to the waterfall, it’s an incredible sight! The water below La Cangreja waterfall is incredibly blue. I thought the photos that I saw before going were edited to look brighter and more blue – it’s not editing, the water really is that blue!
Here are some photos of what to expect on the hike!
Hiking La Palais Trail
The La Palais Trail is a one hour walking trail with lots to see! La Palais Trail is an easy, 3km loop made up of board walks, some stairs, and flat walking trails. If you’re not a seasoned hiker but you still want a an adventure in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, this trail is a great option. Or, do this walk after the waterfall trail.
When you’ve returned from La Cangreja, take a break to rest and hydrate at the visitors centre. You can use the washrooms and water fountains without exiting the park.
La Palais Trail has 6 view points, where you will see natural hot springs and volcanic activity. Depending on what way the wind blows, expect to get a very strong whiff of sulphur at a couple of the view points as you go around the loop. Admittedly, not a great smell – but the naturally boiling water is very cool to see! One of the stops is a small waterfall, so if you decided not to hike the waterfall trail to La Cangreja, you still get to see a waterfall!
Watch out for wildlife while you’re making your way around the La Palais loop! We saw a couple of monkeys on our way. It’s not common to see wildlife in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, but if you move slowly and don’t make too much noise then it is possible.