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Friday, June 21, 2024

Cañon de la Vieja Lodge delivers on the river

RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA, Guanacaste — After floating 3km down the Río Colorado, hitting the sauna and having my body painted in volcanic mud, I heard a sound overhead and looked up to see a woman gliding by on a zipline.

Ah, Costa Rica.

Hot springs at Cañon de la Vieja Lodge, viewed from a zipline.
(Courtesy of Diego Ortiz/Cañon de la Vieja Lodge)

Once the mud dried I jumped in the river to wash it off, then slid into one of the hot pools at the Cañon de la Vieja Lodge spa.

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Some deep relaxation awaits visitors to this hotel, starting with how to get here — it’s just 8km from Liberia on a paved road. The price is nice, too: $105 for two people, taxes and breakfast included.

Pools at the spa range from hot to lukewarm to cool.
(Courtesy of Diego Ortiz/Cañon de la Vieja Lodge)

Even the rafting was relaxing, navigating the Class I and II rapids in a two-person inflatable boat with Luis Silva, 25. The water level was low because of the season, but there was a fun waterfall, about a meter high, and a couple of good rapids, including one called “The Foot Breaker.”

I’d call it adventure lite, but sometimes a relaxing adventure feels just right.

Running a rapid on the Río Colorado.
(Courtesy of Diego Ortiz/Cañon de la Vieja Lodge)

Wait, I spoke too soon! The next morning I went on the canopy tour, and Erin Shackleton, 30, of Menomonie, Wisconsin, was weeping in terror before the first zipline.

One of the guides comforted her with great compassion and said he would take her with him on a tandem ride. She dried her tears and agreed.

(Courtesy of Diego Ortiz/Cañon de la Vieja Lodge)

After the first cable she said, “I hate it.” After the second cable, she said, “It’s bearable.” But by the third she was doing it on her own.

She told me afterward that she was seriously freaked out at first because she’s terrified of heights. But as the tour progressed, it got much better.

Climbing a rock wall.
(Courtesy of Cindy Díaz/Cañon de la Vieja Lodge)

“I liked how they went with me the first couple times, and then I could go on my own,” Erin said. “It’s OK, I can do it now. I like it better than I thought I would.”

I thought the ziplining was lots of fun and very pretty, as the cables (up to 250m long) crossed the scenic river several times. But I didn’t find it very scary. The hanging bridge, though — those things scare the hell out of me.

Rappelling down the rock wall.
(Courtesy of Cindy Díaz/Cañon de la Vieja Lodge)

Many of the lodges in the Rincón de la Vieja area offer tubing, horseback riding, ziplining, hot springs and spa services, but this one is unusual in offering rafting. And the ease of getting here is a big point in its favor.

Rooms are air-conditioned (but there’s no TV, in case you care) and are located in duplexes along a U-shaped road surrounding the big swimming pool, which has a nice swim-up bar.

Horseback riding.
(Courtesy of Cindy Díaz/Cañon de la Vieja Lodge)


Getting there: Drive 5km northwest of Liberia on Highway 1, turn right on the road to Curubandé and the Pailas sector of Rincón de la Vieja National Park, and drive 3km farther.
Rates: $105 double, tax and breakfast included.
What to bring: Swimsuit and shoes or sandals for ziplining and rafting.
For more info:

Contact Karl Kahler at



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