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How Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin Began

Thriving cattle and horse ranch to award-winning eco-adventure hotel – discover the many faces of Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin over the years.

Article by Shannon Farley

Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja Volcano in 1982 was a remote, wild place.

Jose Tomas Batalla, owner of Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin, remembers what it was like back then when tourists first started visiting the area. Thanks to a Lonely Planet travel guide writer that year, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano suddenly jumped in popularity.

Only 9 years prior, the largest volcano in the Guanacaste province had been declared the country’s eighth national park. Now, Rincon de la Vieja was being publicized as a place to hike through wildlife-filled forest, climb an active volcano, swim in pristine waterfalls, and soak in undiscovered natural hot springs.

The problem was that getting there wasn’t so easy. The closest decent-sized town was Liberia – capital of the Guanacaste province – 16 miles away. Back then, approximately 91% of Costa Rica’s roads were dirt or gravel, and the way to Rincon de la Vieja crossed a few streams besides being rugged. What today is a 35-minute drive, in 1982 would take four to five hours. Hotels in the area didn’t exist. Hacienda Guachipelin at that time was a large cattle and horse ranch owned by the Batalla family.

“Tourists would arrive at our ranch sometimes in the late afternoon. They would ask if they could stay overnight to visit the national park and volcano the next day,” said Batalla. “This started happening a lot.”

As the number of visitors to Rincon de la Vieja grew, the Batalla family naturally progressed into the hospitality business.

“Our family prepared a few guest rooms, and over time built a few more. Until, finally in 1985 we opened Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin.”

The hotel’s exceptional location bordering the Las Pailas section of the Rincón de la Vieja National Park has made it a top place to visit ever since.

The ranch itself dates back to 1880, with a rich history of Guanacaste’s cowboy traditions.

“For over 100 years, our land has been a flourishing ranch, spreading across 3,460 acres (1400 hectares) of golden savanna and dry tropical forest at the base of the mighty Rincon de la Vieja Volcano,” said Batalla.

Batalla’s father, Tomás Batalla Esquivel, a renowned Costa Rican cattle rancher and purebred Spanish horse breeder, had acquired the property in 1975. Since then, two generations of the Batalla family have loved and worked this ranch land.

Hacienda Guachipelin still keeps about 220 head of Brahman cattle and related breeds for beef and milk production. They have around 90 Costa Rican horses for ranch work and horseback riding tours, and 12 Spanish breeding mares and stallions. In the mornings, you can see the ranch hands milking the cows (fresh milk is brought to the hotel kitchen daily) and working with the horses in the corrals by the Reception area. They raise chickens and turkeys, and grow fruit trees along with vegetables and herbs, which hotel guests enjoy in fresh, homegrown meals in the hotel restaurant.

Over the decades, Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin has expanded to continue accommodating guests, but one thing hasn’t changed. The award-winning hotel still offers comfortable accommodations for travelers to relax after a day of adventures by the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano.

Summed up Batalla: “At Hacienda Guachipelin, most of all, we want people to have an authentic experience of being in Guanacaste and Costa Rica.”