Our family (2 adults and kids ages 10, 14, and 14) spent 3 nights at Rafiki Safari Lodge at the end of July 2012. We were on a 3 week tour of Costa Rica and the reviews of Rafiki on tripadvisor convinced us that it was a destination we shouldn’t miss.
Even with our possibly over-inflated expectations, the experience at Rafiki exceeded them. Rafiki is a magical place. Why? Because it’s small and intimate. Guests here are treated like they are being welcomed into a thoughtful, fun-loving community. The lodge is in fact run by an extended family whose ultimate goal is to create a sustainable business not just for themselves but for people in the surrounding villages. The care and joy that the staff at Rafiki bring to the experience is HUGE. The staff is happy to be there. And guests feel it. Rafiki aims to please - if you relax and trust them you will have a great time! And you will make some new friends along the way.
While we were at Rafiki we participated in river rafting. My kids went on the horseback riding to the put in spot and said the horses were very well mannered. They had never rafted before and it was better than any rafting I’ve done on the rivers of Northern California. I was the nervous nelly in the group and all I can say is that the guys who ran the rafting trip get 10 stars for safety. There was enough white water to keep my husband on the edge of his seat too…
We also went on an unforgettable “aqua hike” where we hiked along the edge of a river and climbed up and around over a dozen waterfalls ranging from 8 feet high to 50 feet. We got to swim under most of them. And we got to jump off (that part was optional) one of them! Along the way we learned about the flora and fauna of the jungle. There were lots of natural Tarzan-type swings for the kids to swing on, and a 4 foot wide, 416 foot long, 131 feet high suspension bridge to cross at the end. The entire day felt like we were on an Indian Jones adventure. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure forever!
A few other comments which might be helpful to other travelers. I had a hard time deciding how much of our vacation to spend at Rafiki vs. other parts of Costa Rica. Prior to coming to Rafiki we had spent a week at a beach house in Santa Teresa which was nice (part of a family reunion). We took the taxi boat (highly recommended) from Montezuma to Jaco to get to Quepos and then on to Rafiki. We didn’t go to Manuel Antonio because we were told it was too overrun with tourists. After we left Rafiki we went up to the Arenal/Monteverde area. If I had to do the trip over, I would spend far less time in the Arenal area. The Arenal area offers a lot of interesting, one-off activities for tourist, but in my opinion, it is difficult to experience the real Costa Rica there. And, it is very built up and commercial. There are a few hotels that look like they would have been better situated on the Las Vegas strip. If you are trying to commune with nature, this isn’t really the place. The experience there is much more impersonal, and you’ll find yourself stuck with a bunch of other tourists. ( I would however, make time to see Proyecto Asis and the Tabacon Hot Springs (if not to soak in the hot springs, then at least for the beautiful landscaping – it’s expensive but worth it). Monteverde is an entirely different experience but only for people who take the time to learn about the rainforest and cloud forest ecology. The most fun way to do this in my opinion is to stay on the campus of the University of Georgia where meals, lodging and naturalist-guided activities are all inclusive. OKAY I’m getting too far off track but I would have liked to spend 4 nights or more at Rafiki, 3 nights at U. of Georgia, 4 nights on the beach at Santa Teresa or Montezuma area and 2 nights in Arenal. The next time we travel to Costa Rica I would like to visit the Osa Peninsula and Tortuguerra which we didn’t have time for on this trip.
The bottom line is this: You won’t forget Rafiki – it is a slice of heaven on 900+ pristine acres in the jungle – spend as much time there as possible! Oh yeah – the rooms are great, the gardens are spectacular, the waterslide is a blast, and the food is very good! It is fun for the whole family!