If you are man (or woman) enough to brave a steep two hour cliff-hugging horseback ride, a half hour slippery, muddy hike through the forest and a 100 foot rappel down King Louis Waterfall at Matapalo, then I have the perfect excursion for you. While staying at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa in Costa Rica there was an opportunity to venture off the serene property for a little bit of adventure that involved all of the aforementioned.
And when I say a ‘little bit of an adventure” I actually mean an experience that could potentially make a grown man cry.
A small group of daring travel writers were picked up from confines of our peaceful lodging and driven to a desolate farm. Macaws flew overhead as we entered onto the property that was home to the horses that would be taking us to the waterfall.
This should be nice, a tranquil horseback ride through the Costa Rican forest.
Photo Credit: Anna Kate at Crazy in the Rain
The hour long ride began with flat land, where you could enjoy listening to the howler monkeys in the distant trees and fascinate at the dragonflies hovering over shallow puddles. But, as the ride continued so did the incline. The rocky, steepness had me death gripping the saddle and praying my horse was sure footed.
At times the narrow path had a frightening unfenced drop to one side and at other times the trail was so slender that you had to be sure to guide your horse straight in the middle or risk being pinned up against a tree, or even worse, barbed wire.
I was grateful when we had reached the end of the ride.
We parked our ponies and were informed that we needed to go the rest of the way uphill on foot. The hike was more narrow than the path we had just left. The muddy ground made it hard to not lose traction and now I was hoping I would be just as sure-footed as my horse. I walked to the left, closest to the trees and furthest from the edge where plummeting down the mountain was not on my itinerary.
This was already an insane adventure and I hadn’t even seen the waterfall yet.
Once we all safely arrived to the top, our guide put a harness on and gave us brief rappelling instructions. The one male in the group volunteered to go first, which was good because we would have nominated him anyway. He walked backwards on the rock ledge and immediately slipped, falling on his butt. We all gasped. He got back up and started to descend again, this time successfully.
The guide hooked me up to two ropes, claiming one was a safety rope. That made me feel…safe. I turned around backwards on the tip of the rocks to get into ready position and instantly fell.
At least it wasn’t all the way down the waterfall. The safety rope worked in my opinion.
It took a couple of minutes to catch my balance and be in proper position to start my rappel. Then I slowly let myself down the waterfall making sure to keep my legs wide and find perfect pockets in the rocks to use for my steps.
HOLY CRAP! I was rappelling down a waterfall.
Feeling slightly more confident, when I was about halfway down I tried to do a photogenic pose for my friend who was taking pictures at the bottom. Bad idea. I lost my balance and flew to the right side of the falls, a place where water gushed over me. I took a couple steps back to the left, got my footing and carried on. There would be no more posing until me feet were on the ground.
Photo Credit: Anna Kate at Crazy in the Rain
It took about ten minutes to rappel the hundred feet down and I sat at the bottom feeling triumphant.
But, the adventure wasn’t over yet.
We needed to to get out from the bottom of the falls and that was going to require climbing up a steep mountain using only a thick rope, one reminiscent of junior high gym class. Ugh.
Then, there was the hike back to the horses and another hour ride back to the stable. Double ugh.
Once we arrived to the stable I opted to ride back to the Osa Yoga Retreat in the open flat bed of a pick-up truck. I had already put my life at danger so many times today, why not add this to the list.
. . . Check it Off Your Bucket List . . .
Costa Rica is a Central American country bordered by Panama and Nicaragua, plus the coasts of the Caribbean and Pacific. The Osa Peninsula is the rugged southwestern headland that has the Pacific Ocean to the west and Golfo Dulce to the east. It is a primitive haven of about five thousand where the rain forests are pristine, many of the streets are unnamed and white-faced capuchins swing in the trees.
The Osa Peninsula can be reached by plane via Costa Rica’s capital city of San José, The daily flights to Puerto Jimenez airport takes roughly 45 minutes. My flight was with Nature Air (www.natureair.com) who is known as the world’s first carbon neutral airline, reducing their carbon footprint to zero. Alternatively, you can fly with Sansa Air (www.flysansa.com). It is also possible to drive from San Jose, by renting a car with Solid Car Rental (www.solidcarrental.com), the trip would take about 6-8 hours. Taking a bus can be tricky if you speak absolutely no Spanish and are not an experienced traveler, but it can be done. Transportes Blanco Lobo offers a daily bus service from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez, the main town in the Osa Peninsula. The cost is currently $13 and departs from the intersection of Calle 12 and Avenidas 7/9 Blanco Lobo Station at 8:00am and 12:00pm (tel. 2257-4121).
How to Visit:
You will be able to book this excursion through some hotels or do it directly with Everday Adventures (psychotours.com). They will take you on a hike up a series of waterfalls, once at the top you will be instructed on how to tackle the rappel down two waterfalls (one 45 feet and the second 100ft). A heart pumping bucket list experience! They also offer a fun tree climb where you will scale up the trunk of a 200-foot strangler fig. The combo package for both adventures is $130, totally worth the 5-6 hours of adrenaline.
Rappelling down King Louis Waterfall is an adventure that is absolutely not for the faint at heart, you will be doing it at your own risk and safety measures seem mediocre. But, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will never forget. You can book this daring excursion while staying at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa. Website | Tours Available
Spanish is the official language, though English is widely understood.
Costa Rican colón, US dollars are widely accepted.
Plug Type A/B, 120v. Most outlets are the same as the two-prong American-style, though some will not include a spot for the third prong. So your 3-prong devices may need an adapter, though you shouldn’t need a converter.
When to Go:
The Osa Peninsula consistently sees average daytime temperatures between the high 70s to low 80s throughout the year, though there are two seasons; dry and wet. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season (mid-November to late April) when the rainfall is very limited. Though this time is also the peak tourist season, the Osa Peninsula doesn’t draw the same crowds as the mainland, so you will still be able to enjoy lounging on the nearly empty beaches and hiking barren rain forests. Wet season is from May to mid-November, and during the peak months (September and October) the rainfall may prevent you from traveling to the more remote parts of the area, especially when the potholed dirt roads become challenging even for the most rugged sports utility vehicle. If you are looking for a bit of a bargain, traveling off-season in early May or November may be your best bet. The rains will have just started or ended during these months and retreats may offer discounted rates.
The Osa Peninsula is a remote location and has very limited transportation choices while there. Some hotels will provide shuttle service from the Puerto Jimenez airstrip to the lodging and excursion operators will offer pick-up/drop-off services (fees may apply). Between spending time at the retreat and the extra tours your time should be pretty well filled up. But, if you have an interest in exploring on your own it will require either renting a car, hiring a driver or catching a ride in one of the few taxis.
Where to Stay:
If you’re visiting the Osa Peninsula on a very special ocassion spend the night in Drakes Bay stay at the luxury eco-resort Copa de Arbol Beach and Rainforest Resort set amongst the tropical rainforest (from $633). For something a little more reasonably priced and still very nice try Iguana Lodge (from $92). If you need a night in San Jose before catching your early flight home, try Adventure Inn (from $94) who includes an all-you-can-eat breakfast and a free shuttle to the SJO International airport. If you want to do a little exploring in the city, enjoy a night at the historic Grano del Oro (from $167) or Aranjuez Hotel (from $46), just a short walk from the city center.
Where to Eat:
Head to the coastal town of Puerto Jimenez and indulge in the ceviche at the oceanfront Marisqueria Corcovado (www.marisqueriacorcovado.com). Or opt for a taste of Italy with a thin-crust, wood-fired pie at PizzaMail.it (piazza central; 506 2735 5483). For a special treat head north to Drake’s Bay for a meal of fish tacos and tuna at Gringo Curt’s Seafood (Agujitas de Drake;506 6198 5899). If you spend extra days in San Jose try Ram Luna (www.restauranteramluna.com) for Tierra Tica (Typical Night) where every Wednesday and Thursday evening you can not only eat traditional casado, but also listen to marimba music and see authentic Costa Rican folk dancing.
- Spend a few hours meeting the inhabitants at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary (osawildlife.org), a center focused on rehabilitation. There will be opportunities for have contact with the animals, whether it be feeding a sloth playing with a monkey or petting a porcupine.
- Take a tour through a traditional cacao plantation at Finca Kobo (fincakobo.com; $32). See the different species and taste the fresh fruit from a chocolate tree.
- Hike amongst the monkeys and toucans at Corcovado National Park (corcovadoguide.com). With over 100,000 acres of tropical rain forest there are many picturesque trails to choose from.
- Take a guided kayaking tour through the Mangroves with Aventuras Tropicales (aventurastropicales.com; $45). The paddle will take you through the Preciosa Platanares Wildlife Refuge to learn about the ecosystem through your experiences with nature.
- Americans are not required to get a visa to enter Costa Rica, though they do need one upon exit. It can be purchased at the airport and the cost is $26 per traveler.
- If you only learn a few Spanish words before you go, make sure that two of them are “pura vida”, as it is worked into almost every paragraph, if not sentence. This literally translates to “pure life”, but it goes beyond this definition. It is really a way of life in the Costa Rican culture, encompassing a mindset of not sweating the small stuff, letting go of what you cannot control and understanding there are many people in worse positions than yourself.
- The Osa Peninsula is a rural area, so don’t expect to be able to get your morning triple shot latte at Starbucks — this is part of the charm.
- If you rent a car, be cautious while driving because the dirt roads can be filled with potholes and there are virtually no street signs.
- If you forget anything, make sure it is not bug repellant! The tropical, humid climate attracts many little pesky bugs that would love to eat you for dinner.
- Costa Rica is another country where the strength of the sun can be deceiving, so bring lots of sunscreen.