The water is torture that makes us a little masochistic for the first few minutes. Little by little, though, it convinces the body that this temperature is right, that it’s all part of the deal we tacitly signed when we stepped onto the tractor that let us off at these waters that heat Rincón de la Vieja’s internal fire.
We share the tractor with 30 others and a driver that pilots this mechanical animal with an almost supernatural power. So much so that, at the end of the 20-minute ride, he backs down the hill sans mirrors with the same ease as someone parking a motorcycle in an empty lot.
The three-kilometer trip on the tractor is almost a tradition at Buena Vista Lodge. The hotel opened its doors 27 years ago with five cabins, a restaurant, and a lot of land that was once the Ocampo Fernández family’s cattle ranch. This family still owns the 450-hectare property.
“The price of cattle dropped a lot in the recession. This affected all ranchers in the province, and owners saw tourism as a way out,” says Jose Luis Bustos, the hotel’s host (concierge). Nearly three decades later they have 76 rooms, a lake, three restaurants, a coffee shop, a souvenir shop, and 102 employees.
It’s 4:30 pm on the last Sunday in May. The views of a cattle ranch disappear shortly after the tractor takes off. We pass through a dense, foggy forest that we’ll explore tomorrow on hanging bridges. The path is moist, and the scent of wet earth is more than an aroma: it’s a feeling, a longing.
The guys who work there, all Guanacastecans, tell us that the usual trip starts by entering the sauna, getting a hot mud treatment, showering, and dipping in the pools, starting at the hottest and ending at the coolest.
Time slows in the sauna and we are steeped in minerals that push us outside. I don’t last more than five minutes, but they were five blessed minutes. The next step is the mud, which is nice and hot and is careful with my skin, almost caressing it until it adheres to the pores. Getting it off later is another matter.
Twenty minutes later I’m lulled by water headed by Rincón de la Vieja’s insides. The howler monkeys begin to sing at sundown, and I drink a glass of white wine. This is what people mean when they talk about indulging themselves.
- Location: 31 kilometers from Liberia, in the foothills of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano.
- Type of road: paved the first 20 kilometers and gravel the rest of the way.
- Type of vehicle: A vehicle with high clearance is recommended.
- Cost for the one-day hot spring tour: $35
- Lodging costs: between $70 and $105
- Web: buenavistalodgecr.com