Rincon de Vieja National Park is not at the top of the tourist list in Costa Rica. But it’s still worth visiting for anyone in the country for more than a couple weeks. Only 45 mins northeast of Liberia airport, it’s easily accessible.
My friend Stan and I spent our first day in the national park hiking the shorter, two-hour path. It was mainly forest / jungle so lots of beautiful tree sights, a mini-volcano / hot spring thing, and a mini-waterfall. About an hour and a half into our hike, it started raining. Pouring. Pouring harder than either of us have experienced. We turned around and started backtracking out of the park.
I had an umbrella, Stan had a jacket, but neither was effective for the torrential rains. We hitched a ride back to our hotel with a Dutch couple (we had walked the 4 kilometers to the park) who we also had dinner with later that night.
The next day we walked to the waterfall near our hotel and swam / stood in the little pool area the waterfall created. Obviously, the nature around the waterfall was stunning — green and attractive and large, angled rocks. When our conversation started treading on "how to improve Twitter’s UI" we had to bring ourselves back to nature.
That night, in a heroic attempt, we tried to walk to a neighboring lodge in the national park area to have dinner. The closest hotel was 3.5 kilometers away — most people drive or pay the $5 roundtrip fare for a hotel van to take you. We were feeling adventurous, so we set out at night. We got lost, confused, scared (of some attack dogs at one house we passed, the sole house in the deserted park area), etc etc. Even though we had seen the sign for the other lodge during the day, by night, Stan’s little headlamp couldn’t illuminate stuff enough for us to find our way. So we turned around and began the long, 3.5 km walk back to the hotel. Exhausting.
At dinner, we bumped into yet another Dutch couple, who we chatted with. They wanted someone to talk to, and importantly, start complaining to! They ragged on the hospitality impulse in Costa Rica restaurants, which was pretty funny to listen to. ("The service here is non-existent, it’s a spectacle, it’s ridiculous.") It was true that waiting tables doesn’t seem to be a skill at the staff at this hotel or other restaurants. With the waiter standing in front of us, Stan even told me, "Maybe I’ll get the same thing as you, so they don’t screw up our orders." (The prior night they had brought all of us the wrong dish, forcing the Dutch guy to demand to re-see the menu and compare plates to orders.)
All in all, our first couple days in Rincon de Vieja were fun, filled with nature, rain, and one too-long night walk. Little did we know our real physical challenge would come the next day….