Don’t waste your precious vacation days on ho-hum places and doing the same old kinds of things. Instead, make 2019 your year for new and exciting travel experiences with a Costa Rica adventure vacation.
There is no place on earth exactly like Costa Rica. Its fantastic mountains, volcanoes, rainforests, beaches, and breathtaking natural beauty are so popular it’s why nearly 2.5 million people have visited Costa Rica so far in 2018. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t find uncrowded places off the beaten path that are full of exhilarating adventures.
The active Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, is one of those places. It’s a destination full of wonders – rare tropical dry forest, national parks and conservation areas, wild rivers, beautiful waterfalls, golden savannas, and exotic wildlife like monkeys, armadillos, coatis, and more than 300 kinds of birds. Mostly sunny, warm weather makes Guanacaste a great destination for adventure vacations in Costa Rica.
And you don’t have to be a daredevil or a twenty-something to go. If you’re healthy, young at heart and energetic, we have an adventure vacation for you.
“Hacienda Guachipelin is an excellent hotel for visitors to Costa Rica. There are so many activities available at the Adventure Center and it is located right by the Rincon de la Vieja National Park! The guides were exceptional, and the activities were fun! Overall – my family loved this part of our vacation the most,” wrote a guest from Massachusetts on TripAdvisor.
It’s a good New Year’s goal to try something new every day. You can easily do that at Hacienda Guachipelin with exciting zip lining, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, waterfall rappelling and river tubing tours. The Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is just as thrilling. When was the last time you hiked past bubbling volcanic mud pits and steaming fumaroles, saw monkeys swinging in the trees, or soaked in natural hot springs?
Guanacaste is a great year-round destination for adventures in Costa Rica. The mostly sunny, warm weather makes it an amazing playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The exotic dry tropical forest and rugged terrain around Hacienda Guachipelin, at the foot of the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, is one of the best places for zip lining, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, waterfall rappelling and river tubing. The active volcano gives the bonus of natural hot springs. Hacienda Guachipelin’s Adventure Center is open daily for both hotel guests and day visitors.
Going on a Costa Rica zip line tour is possibly one of the most exhilarating things you can do. Soaring through the air over breathtaking landscapes will have your adrenaline pumping. The Canyon Canopy Tour at Hacienda Guachipelin uses professional safety harnesses and equipment, traversing steel cables that can support at least 5,000 lbs. of weight. More than only zip lines, the Canyon Canopy Tour includes rock climbing, a controlled rappel, Tarzan swings and hanging bridges.
Fulfill your cowboy or cowgirl dreams on a fun horseback ride along scenic forest trails on Hacienda Guachipelin’s ranch. Six different horseback riding tours go to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, waterfalls and natural hot springs. You can also try a “Cowboy for a Day” tour.
Splash through the watery rollercoaster of the Rio Negro (Black River) rapids on a river tubing adventure. You ride in a big inflatable river tube along the narrow and shallow river, and adventure guides accompany tour participants to keep everyone safe.
The exhilarating adventure of Hacienda Guachipelin’s Waterfalls Canyoning Tour has you rappel down a powerful, gushing waterfall and finish with a splash into the pool below.
Experience thrilling mountain bike tours at Hacienda Guachipelin riding trails through the rugged terrain by the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. It’s the only mountain bike tour in Costa Rica on an active volcano. Singletrack trails and dirt roads lead you through beautiful forest and to waterfalls.
Hacienda Guachipelin also offers new electric power-assisted mountain bikes to open the sport of mountain biking to everyone. You still have to pedal and do physical exercise to put an electric bike in motion, because the motor only kicks in once you start pedaling. Then you can set the level of power assistance that you want.
Always wanted to hike by a live volcano? You can do that in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park by Hacienda Guachipelin. The Las Pailas (“The Cauldrons”) loop trail takes you 2.5 miles (3.5 km) through unique dry tropical forest and shows off the awesome power of the live Rincon de la Vieja Volcano with steaming fumaroles, mini-geysers, bubbling volcanic mud pits, and sulfur-smelling hot springs.
You can enjoy beautiful and relaxing volcanic hot springs at two locations at Hacienda Guachipelin. The Rio Negro (“Black River”) hot springs have 10 man-made pools that capture the steaming mineral-rich water heated naturally by the largest volcano in Guanacaste.
Along the banks of the bubbling Colorado River, the Simbiosis Spa features pools of thermo-mineral water, a wood-heated sauna, and facilities for massages and spa treatments like warm, healing, volcanic mud baths.
One Day Adventure Pass
Go for the ultimate adventure vacation buzz by combining several of the best Costa Rica adventure tours on the One Day Adventure Pass at Hacienda Guachipelin.
Few things beat Costa Rica zip line tours. Soaring through the air over breathtaking landscapes – your adrenaline pumping – is possibly one of the most exhilarating things you can do.
Costa Rica is renowned for the beauty of its forests, its impressive volcanoes and dazzling beaches. But have you tried seeing the scenery from a bird’s eye view? Combine it all on a zip line adventure tour.
In brief, a zip line consists of a pulley fixed to a cable – usually either stainless steel or the newer, more ecological carbon fiber cables. The user is connected to the pulley with a safety harness and safety line, and is propelled by gravity from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable. Zip-lines come in many forms – short and low to the ground, long and hundreds of feet high, spanning deep chasms or rivers, or strung through the middle of the forest tree canopy using platforms hung in the trees.
Tree to tree zip lines were originally invented in Costa Rica. In 1974, U.S. biologist Donald Perry pioneered the new method for climbing into and moving around the Costa Rica rainforest canopy without having to return to the ground to study each new tree. It is in the rainforest treetops where more than 40 percent of all life on Earth exists.
The first commercial zip line adventure tour ever came into being in Costa Rica in 1997, and has taken off to become a billion-dollar global industry. Now, you can take zip line vacations all over the country and across the world.
The Canyon Canopy Tour at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin by the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is probably one of my all-time favorite Costa Rica zip line tours. Designed and built by Costa Rican architect Jose Manuel Pizarro, owner of the Costa Rica zip line company Linea Vertical, the distinctive tour is much more than zip lines.
Incredibly fun and full of adrenaline-charged moments, you fly high above the dry tropical forest and back and forth between narrow stone canyon walls over the White River (Rio Blanco) on seven zip lines. In the middle of the tour, there is an optional controlled 20-meter (65-foot) rappel down into the river canyon; and then two routes on a natural rock climbing wall to come back up. You get to cross three hanging bridges and have fun on two Tarzan swings. And finally, there are three “via ferrata” traverses and climbs. Overall, you travel to 21 platforms on the whole guided zip line adventure tour, which takes about 90 minutes to two hours to complete.
The spectacular scenery alone is worth going on the tour. You are deep in the dry tropical forest – a unique ecosystem in Central America – by the active Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. If you’re lucky, you may spot a sloth, monkey or toucan up close. The tour starts off with the longest zip line, crossing a wide canyon high above the trees. A few more zip lines later and suddenly you are in a narrow, densely forested, rock canyon above the rushing White River. Simply beautiful!
Hacienda Guachipelin operates some of the best adventure travel vacations in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Their Adventure Center is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for both hotel guests and day visitors.
Costa Rica is a colorful country, especially when it’s about birds: definitely a birdwatchers paradise. With over 900 species of birds, Costa Rica is one of the world’s top destinations for birding.
The Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is replete with birdwatching opportunities due to its diverse ecosystems. Over 300 different species have been identified in the area, including the Spectacled Owl, the Curassow and the Montezuma Oropendola.
Beautiful bird shot in Hacienda Guachipelin.
Article by Ana Laura González
While exploring the expansive 3,400-acre ranch, be sure to visit the look-out point for amazing 360-degree panoramas of the Rincón de la Vieja and Santa Maria volcanoes, Guanacaste plains, and the Pacific coastline. The sunsets are spectacular!
Rincon de la Vieja is home of hundreds of these amazing species, if you are a bird lover, this is your paradise. At Hacienda Guachipelin you’ll be able to enjoy an early morning bird-watching walk through the hotel’s lush gardens of native trees and exotic flowers, and see what other wildlife you can spot.
A Long-tailed Manakin roaming the dry forest at Hacienda Guachipelin.
Hacienda Guachipelin has everything a bird lover wants. During our nature tours, you’ll enjoy the sounds of nature and get to see beautiful species of birds. In the hiking tours to the waterfalls hidden in the area, you’ll experience a true nature immersion.
Beautiful blue colors of a Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes Lucidus) at Hacienda Guachipelín.
The dry forest is full of wildlife and unique species. The perfect place to enjoy wildlife and bird watching is in the hotel lush gardens of native trees and exotic flowers around the rooms. Come to explore these birds paradise yourself, you’ll never regret it.
Oxcarts may be used all over the world, but the oxcarts in Costa Rica are famous for their bright colors and rich decorations. Find out the story behind the tradition and how Costa Rica’s oxcarts got their colors.
Once the main form of transportation across a mountainous country that depended on agriculture for its survival, oxcarts in Costa Rica today are mostly used for celebrations and are considered a traditional and cultural icon in the country.
The colorfully-painted wooden oxcarts (called carretas in Spanish), their teams of matched oxen, and their oxcart drivers are known around the world. In 2005, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) proclaimed Costa Rica’s vibrantly painted, traditional oxcarts to be an Intangible World Cultural Heritage. Since 1988, the oxcart has been the National Labor Symbol for Costa Rica.
Oxcarts are not only used in Costa Rica but in many rural areas around the world. However, the Costa Rican kind are famous for their unique and colorful painted designs on the cart, wheels and oxen yoke that include geometric patterns, flowers, animals, landscapes, and even sometimes portraits.
No two oxcarts in Costa Rica are painted exactly the same. The fine art of oxcart painting has been passed down in families from generation to generation, especially in the Central Valley town of Sarchi – located west of San Jose. In that town’s central park, you can also see the “World’s Largest Oxcart” – built in 2006.
It was in Sarchi that the tradition of painting oxcarts in Costa Rica all began.
The Story Behind the Tradition
Originally, Spanish colonizers to Costa Rica brought oxcarts to be used for transportation and farm work. But their original European design of spoked wheels kept getting stuck and breaking in the rugged, muddy Costa Rican terrain. So, during the mid-19th century, a new design based on the indigenous Aztec disc was incorporated into a solid wood wheel bound by a metal ring that could cut through mud without getting stuck.
Dating from about 1840, oxcarts were used to transport coffee beans, sugar cane, corn and other goods from Costa Rica’s Central Valley over the mountains to the Pacific Coast port of Puntarenas or the Caribbean port of Limon for export. The journey would take 10 to 20 days crossing jungle-covered mountains, rivers, swamps and beaches. Now you can drive that same route in a little over an hour to the Pacific and in about two hours to the Caribbean.
The earliest oxcarts in Costa Rica were simple and functional plain wood. The tradition of painting and decorating oxcarts started in the early 20th century at the Joaquin Chaverri Oxcart Factory, which began in 1902 in the artisan town of Sarchi. Farms near Sarchi have been producing some of the country’s best coffee beans for over 100 years. The demand for oxen-pulled carts was born of the need for a sturdy way to transport this precious cargo to the coastal ports.
The story, handed down in the family of Joaquin Chaverri, says that Joaquin decided to beautify his oxcart to take his family on outings in the cart on Sundays. He painted his first oxcart bright orange because that was the only color he had available, according to his family. Orange and red have since become known as the most traditional colors for cart painting. Joaquin used powdered pigment mixed with linseed oil to deeply soak into the wood, making it more durable and long-lasting.
The designs and colors in the decorations are based on Costa Rican plants and flowers. Curlicues, for instance, are modeled after chayote (squash) and ayote (pumpkin) vines. The iconic star shapes on the wheels were inspired by spear tips. The Chaverri family tells that Joaquin wanted the designs to be different from any other kind of art at the time. Not having any ready-made brushes, he fashioned them from dogs’ hair.
When the practice of painting oxcarts in Costa Rica spread, different regions – and sometimes even individual families – developed their own particular design and color scheme. At one time, it was said that you could tell where a farmer was from just by looking at how his oxcart was painted.
Oftentimes, oxcarts were a family’s only means of transport, and they served as a symbol of social status. Very elaborately painted carts meant the owner was wealthy and had the money to pay a talented painter. Each oxcart also was designed to make its own “music,” a unique chime produced by a metal ring striking the hubnut of the wheel as the cart bumped along.
Once the oxcart became a source of pride for people, greater care was taken when crafting them like selecting the highest-quality wood. Eventually, contests were held to award the “most creative and inspiring oxcart designs” – a practice that continues today.
Costa Rican Oxcarts in Modern Times
Although trucks, tractors and other motorized vehicles have mostly replaced oxcarts in Costa Rica in everyday life, some farmers still stick to the old ways by using them during harvest season or when places are too rough for modern vehicles. Oxcarts in Costa Rica remain strong symbols of the country’s rural past and still feature prominently in parades, festivals, and other celebrations.
The Hacienda Guachipelin ranch in Costa Rica in the early 1900’s was a wild place next to the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. A 1917 natural history book unveils a piece of hidden history about Hacienda Guachipelin.
Discovering old historic documents about a place is like finding hidden treasure in a forgotten attic or cellar.
That’s how it was for Jose Tomas Batalla, owner of Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin, when a colleague sent him the online link to a 1917 book entitled A Year of Costa Rican Natural History. Written by the husband and wife scientific team of Amelia Smith Calvert, Sometime Fellow in Biology from Bryn Mawr College, and Philip Powell Calvert, Professor of Zoology at the University of Pennsylvania and Editor of Entomological News, the 577-page book describes a long account of the Calverts’ travels and observations of nature in Costa Rica including a visit to Hacienda Guachipelin in Guanacaste.
Also known as semi-deciduous tropical dry broadleaf forest, this delicate life system survives in arid areas with much less water than in the rainforest. With a dry season that lasts approximately eight months, plants and animals have adapted to fit these conditions. Predominantly deciduous trees shed their leaves during the dry season to conserve essential water; and animals require large territories for food supply.
However, despite restrictions in water and resources, the dry tropical forest has the greatest biodiversity after the rainforest and is full of a splendid variety of plants, trees and wildlife.
Trees you will see include Costa Rica’s national tree, the Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), along with dry season flowering trees like the Cortés Amarillo (Tabebuia ochracea) that sports yellow trumpet flowers, and the Malinche Tree (Delonix regia) featuring reddish-orange flowers. Other main dry forest trees include Pochote (Bombacopsis quinata), Guapinol (Hymenaea courbaril), “Indio Desnudo” (Bursera simaruba), and Caoba (Swietenia macrophylla).
Wildlife is plentiful. Rincon de la Vieja is home to 300 bird species, including the White-throated Magpie-Jay (Calocitta formosa), Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus), Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), and the Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa), as well as a host of parrots, parakeets and hummingbirds.
Mammals here include collared peccaries, agoutis, nine-banded armadillos, white-nosed coatis, raccoons, white-tailed deer, pumas, and three species of monkeys (white-faced capuchin, howler and spider).
The Rincon de la Vieja National Park surrounds the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, one of six active volcanoes in Costa Rica (along with another 61 that are dormant or extinct). The giant, 600,000-year-old volcano soars 6,286 feet (1,916 meters) high and its caldera is nine miles (15 km) wide, bridging the Continental Divide.
Hiking in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park on the Las Pailas (“The Cauldrons”) loop trail takes you 2.5 miles (3.5 km) through exotic dry tropical forest. The route also shows off the awesome power of the live volcano with steaming fumaroles, mini-geysers, bubbling volcanic mud pits, and sulfur-smelling hot springs.