I arrive at the new Liberia International Airport after a quick 2.5-hour flight from Miami to Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The former military airstrip turned civilian airport is giving travelers access to this once remote region. A burgeoning destination of Costa Rica’s northern territory is now within easy reach for adventure-seekers.
The country’s driest province, Guanacaste differs from other southern provinces’ volcanic parks and lush jungles. Nonetheless, it’s spectacular for eco-adventures, and the area of Rincon de la Vieja boasts an active volcano, natural hot springs, hiking trails, rivers, waterfalls, stunning coastal views, and beaches.
The 45-minute drive north on the Pan-American Highway en route to Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin allots some time to get to know my car-mates and inquire about the pura vida mindset I’d heard so much about.
Costa Ricans call it “pura vida,” meaning “pure life” and plenty of life; the saying transcends peace, tranquility, purpose, and adventure. Nick, editor at a surf magazine and fellow traveler, reminisces about past surfing trips to Costa Rica, then offers up advice: “It’s a lifestyle, a relaxed way of life you’ll get into.”
Our van pulls into Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin within Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Immediately, I’m greeted by two panting dingo-looking dogs, a musician playing the marimba, and smiling Fernando, the hotel’s diplomat, who hands us each a Guaro Sour before we can even make it to the front desk for check-in. “Pura vida,” he smiles.
A former private hacienda, the property sits on 55 acres of national land. Rooms are simple and spacious with modern amenities. Beautiful gardens and walkways lead to horse stables, a restaurant, and a bar area with views. More than a hotel, it’s also base camp for horseback riding, tubing, canopy tours, cowboy-for-a-day tours, butterfly watching – all accessible from Adventure Tours Company, situated on site.
Wanting to waste no time in my search for pura vida, I explore the area; a trip to Rio Negro’s thermal waters complete with mini-canopy bridge walk and mud bath, wrapping up with a soak in hot springs next to a beautiful cascading waterfall, makes for a good start.
A guided tour with Panchita the horse lends to a scenic ride on ranch trails winding up to the Chorreras Waterfall for a dip in nature’s crystal blue swimming pool fed by the Rio Blanco.
A quick change back at the hacienda, and it’s a short walk to the “adventure center” to be fitted with harness and hard hat for a canopy tour. Twelve zip lines wind magically through cayenne-colored canyons above Rio Negro’s rapids, one line creating a fantastical bungee swing between platforms worthy of Tarzan jungle calls. A heart-thumping ferrata rappel, best experienced upside-down, drops marvelously to the river below, flanked by rock climbing walls to be scaled for a final canyon ascent at tour’s end.
Pure adrenaline. Pura vida.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin: Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
U.S./Canada call toll-free: 888-730-3840
What to Do:
Adventure Tours Company: Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica