Both regular procedures and trail access inside Rincon de la Vieja National Park have changed since Covid-19. This timely update is a supplement to our many blogs and articles related to travel in Costa Rica and in particular, Rincon de la Vieja. The United Nations (UN) and some of its specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes Costa Rica as having among the lowest Covid-19 infections rates world-wide. However, Covid-19 has affected the normal operations of most activities in Costa Rica and the National Parks are no different. Significant changes have been instituted by the National Park’s operators, SINAC (the National System of Conservation Areas) and MINAE (the Ministry of Environment and Energy)
Hiking Rincon de la Vieja Sectors and Trails
The two main Trails in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park that lead to the Craters are the Las Pailas Trail on the Pacific Side and the Santa Maria Trail on the Caribbean slope.
Las Pailas Sector- Trail Changes
Some of the changes that visitors will note are Covid-19 related yet others are as a result of volcanic instability. Below is an outline of changes that may not yet be mentioned in other available information but has been officially instituted.
One of the main differences is the limitation on hiking in the National Parks. For some there has been a total lockdown and yet others have had routes changed to provide everything but a real crater close-up.
Below is a map illustrating the hiking routes through the Rincon de La Vieja National Park and identifying the routes that are open to visitors. Additionally, the rules for visiting have been altered slightly. Entrance fees now have to be prepaid and reservations made at least 24 hours in advance (see details below).
Traditionally, the two Trails in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park were the Las Pailas Trail and the Santa Maria Trail, both connected visitors to the main craters.
Complications arose with the volcanic instability of the Rincon de la Vieja Crater, for a long time, since 2011, the volcano has emitted minor eruptions of gas and mud but no lava. As recently as 8th September 2020, at 5:59 a.m. an eruption shot a plume 500 m above the crater’s rim. The Trail sections leading to the craters are all, relatively, steep and challenging; so the loose terrains when wetted by normal rainfall become too dangerous to permit hiking to the summit.
Combined with the above the Covid-19 Pandemic Rincon de la Vieja National Park has revised the Park’s operations; as outlined below-
They have allowed hiking on the Las Pailas Circular Trail only; it is open and safe for visitors.
Las Pailas -Circular Trail
The Las Pailas Circular Trail offers a safe route to view and experience the volcanic features of the region. This section of the Las Pailas Sector, known as the ‘Las Pailas Circular Trail’, is operational, safe, and welcoming visitors (at the time of writing this Blog- September 2020). However, there are changes in how the Park operates.
Warning- Any information to the contrary may be in need of updating; do your research carefully.
Las Pailas -Sector Regulations
The new regulations governing visitation and entry to the Las Pailas Sector of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park are below. This information has been issued by the Guanacaste Conservation Area (ACG); it was first published on 06 July, 2020, and updated 07 August, 2020.
Las Pailas -Entrance Fees
Charges:Adults ¢1,130Adult USD 16.55*
Children¢ 500Children USD 5.65*
*These rates include a VAT since 31st August, 202, (SINCA Law on the strengthening of Public Finances No. 9635)
Las Pailas Sector- Bookings
Make sure to have a credit or debit card ready when making these arrangements.
Las Pailas Visitor Information
- Visitors are invited to read, complete, and submit the online form detailing group size and plans inside the Park.
- The data collected is used to properly manage and organize the Park.
- Social Distancing’ is to be maintained at all times.
- The daily limit on visitors using the Circular Trail is 100 persons. The charges quoted above
- Must accompany reservations (prepayment).
- Before entering the Las Pailas Park, their Rangers will perform temperature checks and enquire if anyone has displayed any symptoms of the Covid-19.
Las Pailas Sector-Services Available
Further the Park stipulateions- “Before entering the trail, the visitor must download and review the information on the Pailas Sector, as well as the measures against COVID-19 indicated in the application available for mobile phones and on the Guanacaste Conservation Area website- https://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/noticias/noticias-programa-de-ecoturismo/4968-protocolos-y-medidas-de-higiene-que-se-tomaran-para-la-apertura-del-sector-pailas-parque-nacional-rincon-de-la-vieja
Information is available in Costa Rica using a QR code located on different sites in Costa Rica and at the Pailas Sector Visitor Center.” –courtesy of ACG
- Come to the Visitors Center located near the Ranger Station.
- Some Hiking Trails are open but all Crater Trails are closed.
- There is potable water and sanitary services at the Pailas Ranger Station.
- There is a presence of security provided by the Park Rangers on site.
- There is no public telephone but cellular phones do work.
- Camping is not permitted in this Sector.
- Cooking is only allowed on designated grills and must be fueled by gas or charcoal.
Some Blogs and Articles related to Visiting Costa Rica and Rincon de la Vieja
For updates, assistance, and information on Covid-19, regarding tours and stays at Blue River Resort & Hot Springs, which is located at Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica visit:
Santa Maria Trail Availability -CLOSED
All Tours to the Rincon de la Vieja volcano craters and other Sectors have already been suspended because of mild volcanic activity detected in the area.
When discussing environmental issues and areas related to them we frequently refer to SINAC. A brief explanation of SINAC follows-
The National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) of Costa Rica integrally manages the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife, forest resources, protected wild areas, hydrographic basins and water systems, in coordination with other institutions and actors of society, for the well-being of current and future generations.