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Adventure at the Hacienda Guachipelin in Costa Rica

Updated on June 19, 2013

If you have adventure in your bones and a trip to Costa Rica on your bucket list, the Hacienda Guachipelin, located in the Rincón de la Vieja National Park, will not disappoint. Here is a place to embrace a natural landscape of waterfalls, canyons, mountains, and volcanoes all in one spot. Let your adrenaline flow and challenge yourself to do things you never imagined.

Beautiful landscape at the Hotel Hacienda Gauchipelin
Beautiful landscape at the Hotel Hacienda Gauchipelin | Source

Traveling to Hacienda Guachipelin

Directions to Hacienda Guachipelin

The adventure begins with the journey. Your options for air travel are to fly into San Jose or the Liberia airport. San Jose is a larger airport with more flight options, but with it you have a lengthy drive that can be quite stressful at times. Liberia is a small airport and likely worth the extra cost to fly into. Either way, you must rent a car. Its better than relying on tour buses and far more adventurous.

First difference for American travelers is that most rental cars are stick shift. Second, road signs are lacking in quantity and accuracy. Third, all signs are in Spanish and distances are noted in kilometers. If coming from San Jose, Highway 1, also known as the Pan American Highway, is Costa Rica's largest road. It is windy, narrow and filled with crazy drivers, especially those on motorcycles. Its all part of the adventure!

Once in Liberia, getting to the Hacienda Guachipelin is not hard, just be sure to watch for signs. About five kilometers north of Liberia take the road that leads to Curabande. After a couple miles the road is no longer paved. Four wheel drive comes in handy and watch out for livestock roaming alongside the road. Keep following the signs all the way to the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin. From Liberia, its a 40 minute drive.

Cows in the road
Cows in the road | Source

Accommodations at the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin

This is a place you come to for the adventure. The Hacienda Guachipelin is not a lavish hotel where you will be pampered. There are no pool boys with fruity drinks. It is simple, but clean accommodations. We stayed in a superior room which had two double beds and was very modest. It was quiet enough to hear all the many sounds of nature instead of cell phones. There is a small pool on property to fill any gaps you may have in your day. There is also wifi in the main office area, but not in the individual rooms.

Like the accommodations, the food is also fairly basic, but true Costarican fare. There are two options for dining: the main restaurant where you can eat buffet style or a la carte, or the downstairs bar restaurant for bar food and sandwiches. My kids did not care for most of the food served, except the pasta. As expected, rice and beans were plentiful, but surprisingly, not fruits.

A fumarole in Las Pailas
A fumarole in Las Pailas | Source
Mud pots in the National Park
Mud pots in the National Park | Source

Exploring Volcanos in Rincón De La Vieja National Park

Make sure to spend an afternoon hiking in the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. This is a 55 square mile park with an awesome contrast of lush vegetation and desert all in one location. The geothermal activity is truly an eye opening experience with two amazingly different micro climates to experience. The park is divided into two parts, the Sector Las Pailas and Sector Santa Maria. In the Las Pailas sector, you witness water pots of boiling mud caused by a volcanic vent called a fumarole. It seems like it is 30 degrees warmer in this part of the park with a micro climate created by heat of the volcano. The contrast in this arid area of the park compared to the Santa Maria forest sector is grand. We traveled from an area with trees eight feet tall to the forest with trees 100 feet tall with expansive root structures that look like trees themselves. Though we visited during the dry season, we came across beautiful small waterfalls that would be massive in the rainy season.

Note, there is a $10 per person fee to enter the park and they only take cash. There are many different trails to choose from for different climbing abilities and attention spans. My family chose the three mile hike. We are active folks who exercise regularly. This hike is quite hilly and seemed more like five miles. Plan your time wisely as the park closes at 3pm. Advice to heed: drink water and lots of it. It is very easy to get dehydrated while climbing through the park. You will need to bring multiple water bottles.

Adventure Tours - Rincon de la vieja

Costa Rican Attractions For Your Bucket List

  1. Rio Negro Tubing Adventure
  2. Waterfalls Canyoning Tour
  3. Zip Line Tour
  4. Horseback Riding
  5. Cowboy for a Day
  6. Tarzan Swing
  7. Suspended Rope Bridges
  8. Rappelling and rock climbing
  9. Hiking to the volcano

The Best Canopy Tour in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is full of zip lines and canopy tours. Zip Lines are full of adventure all by themselves, but what makes this tour special is that it incorporates canyoning, suspended rope bridges, rock climbing, rappelling and even a Tarzan swing. Over the course of 24 platforms, you experience swinging over a canyon and a turbulent river while enjoying a variety of vegetation, exotic birds, reptiles, famous holler monkeys and so much more. It is scary and exhilarating--definitely a bucket list item!

The tours are scheduled and led by a company called Adventure Tours. Most of the guides speak Spanish but there is one leader in each group that speaks enough English to give valuable instructions. The only downside to this tour was the size of our group was much too large. Our family of four was together with 15 other people. While it started out fine, towards the middle be were crammed like sardines onto tiny platforms high in the sky waiting our turn on the zip line. The canopy tour itself was laid out very well and is family friendly, even for the wee little ones, but if you go, take time to ensure you are in a small group.

Working Ranch at Hacienda Gauchipelin
Working Ranch at Hacienda Gauchipelin | Source

Horses, Cowboys and More

Hacienda Gauchipelin is a working ranch complete with horses, cows, dogs and lots of cowboys. You can experience it by being a cowboy for a day and actually working on the ranch. There is also horseback guided tours for the whole family.

Ready for the tube ride at Rio de Negro
Ready for the tube ride at Rio de Negro | Source

Tubing at the Rio Negro

You can choose to take an old yellow school bus for a short ride to the river to board the tubes or arrive via horseback. unless you are a child or need assistance, you do have to carry your tube down a trail to get to the river. The Rio Negro is at the bottom of the Victoria waterfall. It is a beautiful area with a nice, gentle descent down the river in your tube. There are times during the rainy season where the tubing adventure is closed due to the river turning into a more intensive rapid whitewater adventure. During the dry season, this is a much more leisurely float down the river, although there were times when it was easy to catch a rock and flip your tube. Water shoes or Keens are a must for this excursion.

The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica is Not Spring Break

Obviously your personal schedule and your budget dictate the best time to travel. If you are using airline frequent flyer miles, you likely need to book your flights a year in advance. Costa Rica is not an inexpensive place to visit. You need to plan this trip far in advance to budget accordingly.

There is not a bad time to visit Costa Rica, but their climate varies in different times of the year and that may affect some of the activities you choose. May through November is the rainy season. The vegetation is lush and beautiful during this time. Although July is in the middle of this season, it is a short "mini dry" season with temperatures in the low 90s and evening rains to cool you off. December through April is the dry season. Though it is not ideal to vacation with an abundance of rain, Costa Rica in April looks more like a desert than a jungle. February begins the high season for tourism which peaks in April - May. My family traveled in April for spring break. Though we had a great time, it was crowded. In addition, if you are planning on visiting the beaches, the occurrence of the Red Tide during this time is definitely something to take into consideration.

There are benefits to traveling in the rainy season as well as the dry season. Decide which activities on your bucket list you want to do, then plan your trip for an adventure of a lifetime!


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    • LauraGSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      @VirginiaLynne- so glad to hear you are heading to Costa Rica. It is a great place for a family vacation. Lots of river tubing, just make sure you don't go near the end of the dry season. You want to make sure the riverbeds are flowing! A more active river is definitely more fun to tube down.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. Our family is heading to Costa Rica for a trip this summer and it is great to hear about the experiences of other people. I love tubing and didn't know that was possible there.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Liz--you are correct. We found road signs to be not only limited but also incorrect on distances.Its all part of the adventure!

    • profile image

      Liz Walmoth 

      8 years ago

      My husband and I went to Costa Rica last winter and had a great time. We also found out road signs are limited so a good road map is essential. Sounds like you had a great trip--it's a wonderful place to visit.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      The whole family went, hubby too! Thanks for reading. Sounds like you do a bunch of traveling yourself. Its a great world to see!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      8 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      You and the kids, or did Hubby take the photo? I felt as if I was right there touring, hiking, floating, and climbing. You are right, smaller groups are better. Up beautiful interesting.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 

      8 years ago

      I love your travelogue--warm destinations are my favourite vacation spots. I haven't made it yet to Costa Rica, but would like to.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting.

      I would love to visit the islands that are like the Gapapus Islands.

      The jungle is very noisy with the birds and monkeys though


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