Rincón Las Pailas

Curubande, Costa Rica

Text©Beatrice Blake-New Key to Costa Rica

A 124-acre wonderland of pits of boiling water; vapor geysers that stain the rocks around them red, green, and yellow because of the iron, copper, and sulfur in the steam; minivolcanoes that emerge spontaneously, last a few days or weeks, then dry out, leaving a conical pile of mud; fumaroles, which are deep holes that emit billows of sulfurous vapor; and seven bubbling pots of gray mud called the Sala de Belleza (Beauty Salon).

Face masks made from this smooth glop are supposed to have rejuvenating and refreshing powers, but the Park Service no longer allows you to reach in and pull out a stick covered with the mud because too many beauty-seekers have been scalded.

Albergue Rincón de La Vieja or Hacienda Guachipelín, on the way to Rincón, Buenavista Lodge, and Hotel Borínquen, north of the park, have access to warm volcanic mud that you can rub all over your body, let dry in the sun, and wash off for smooth, soft skin.

Note: In Las Pailas, the dry, crusty earth around the mudpots is brittle and thin in some places; unsafe areas are clearly marked. Be sure to stay away from any area that has warning signs and fences, and don’t believe anyone who tells you about “shortcuts” off the marked trails. Sulfur fumes can cause bad headaches for some.

The Río Blanco forms a lovely swimming hole that’s reachable by following a path to the left, about 100 meters beyond the ranger station. At the ranger station you can get a map that shows you how to get to Catarata La Cangreja (5.1 kilometers), a 75-foot waterfall with a gorgeous blue-green pool at its base, and Cataratas Escondidas (4.3 kilometers). You can see two of the waterfalls from the rim of a canyon, and can reach a third by walking along a creek.

Note: Signs along streams and pools in the park state that the water is drinkable (agua potable), but that refers to the concentration of minerals in the water and not to the absence of bacteria. We have heard of people getting severe intestinal upsets from these streams.

The park is great for hiking. The trails are not too steep and are dry most of the year. Unlike the slippery, muddy cloud forests and rainforests, Rincón is a transitional area between dry forest and cloud forest. The trails get a bit muddy only at higher altitudes, right before the forest gives way to rocky, windblown volcanic terrain.If you want to hike to the volcano’s craters, and Von Seebach peak, 7.3 kilometers from the ranger station, start out by 10 a.m. in order to be back by nightfall. If you’d like to go at a more relaxed pace, it’s best to camp overnight. March and April are the best months for this, but it is always wise to bring rain gear, warm clothes, several changes of clothing wrapped in plastic, good hiking boots, a waterproof tent, and a compass.

Note: It’s a good idea to hire a guide from a local hotel or tour company if you are going to the craters because the paths are not clearly marked in the rocky terrain near the top, and thick mists come up frequently. If you go without a guide, the Park Service recommends that you turn back when you emerge from the forest to the barren crater area if you see that the crater is obscured by clouds. In the dry season, the dried lava flows at the top can be extremely windy. It is tempting to walk closer to the edge than you should. But note that the crater’s edge is made of gravel and ash, which can give way in a miniature landslide, taking you with it, toward the lake of boiling acid, 200 meters down. You can contact guides through the park administration.

Open daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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phone: (506)2695-5598

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Recommended Near Rincón Las Pailas

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Nearby Activities & Attractions

Nearby Hotels & Lodges

Rincón de la Vieja Lodge
Hacienda Guachipelín
El Sol Verde Lodge and Campground
Buena Vista Lodge and Adventure Center

The nearest town is Curubande, 8.6 km away and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport airport is 28.1 km.

Please note that distances for nearby hotels, attractions, activites & other points of interest are in a straight line. Distances by road may be significantly longer!

The approximate gps map coordinates of Rincón Las Pailas are latitude 10.773, longitude -85.3499. (exact GPS coordinates are accurate to within a few meters, gps data labeled approximate is within a few hundred meters)