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Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge & Reserve
Reviewed January 1, 2012

If you want the genuine 'out there' rain forest experience then this is the place to go. The four hour tractor ride in should give a good idea of what you are in for! The accommodations are very rustic and provide just enough cover to keep the weather out but do not keep all the tropical life outside! The food and field tours are great. On hikes, this is no place for gentle strolls on manicured trails. Trails are slashed out of the rainforest and are muddy and slippery. A two night stay is minimum and may be all you need to see the area and get a feel for this fantastic locale.

  • Stayed: December 2011
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Thank Beasleyboy1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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35 - 41 of 63 reviews

Reviewed November 8, 2011

Rara Avis is unique and has some amazing pluses, as mentioned in other reviews - the extraordinary journey there up the mountain and through the rainforest, the amazing setting, the beautiful (and cold) waterfall and pool, the feeling that you really are lost in the jungle, a quite special history. Also the accommodation is really pretty good and the food, though simple was very tasty and there was lots of it.

For people looking for something that is as close to 'back to nature' as a modern family is likely to want to get, this could be perfect. But be aware of some other things:
- the tractor journey is really hard going, we walked the last section which was better but meant we arrived soaking wet, and there is no way you can dry any clothes at Rara Avis.
- you can go on trails on your own but this is rainforest and there are dangers. On a walk with Nelson we came across a 'fer de lance' snake lying on our path. Nelson was leading, saw it and cut us a path around it, but if we had been on our own I think we would have just trodden on it and, well I might not be here to write this review...
- Nelson is very knowledgeable and a real scientist, but not a very enthusiastic guide. He seemed to me rather depressed (to be honest). One sensed that he was carrying the whole venture on his back and it was getting him down - he really wanted to be doing his research, especially into butterflies. You are walking behind him on narrow trails through the rainforest, he doesn't talk too much and goes quite fast, so you don't see that much of the fauna.
- No electricity, this is part of the charm but it does limit your evenings rather.

  • Stayed: August 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank Gogoud
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 27, 2011

Let me start by saying that Rara Avis is not for everyone. It is a wonderful place, but is not easy to reach and definitely is not a 5-star hotel. However, if you look for an authentic experience in a real tropical rainforest, this is the place. All of this is clearly explained in their webpage.
The trip starts at the village of “Las Horquetas”, where you choose your rubber boots (pick a pair, trust me, your hiking boots will NOT be enough), and board the “Chapulín”, that takes you to the lodge. It's a cart for about 12 people pulled by a tractor. The trip takes about 3 hours (15 km, so about 5 km/h) and is *not* comfortable. The views are beautiful, but be prepared to be shaken like a cocktail all the way up. You'll be amazed at some of the places the driver has to negotiate. You can do the last 3 km on foot if you want.
The lodge itself is a picturesque, bit run-down, two-story, wooden building. The rooms are spartan but clean. Two or three beds/bunks in each. The bathrooms (at least when I was there: August 2010) were not too clean. Both the bathtub and the sink were old, with rusty faucets, and missing the metal ring around the sinkhole, a bit disgusting. The bathtub didn't drain very well, so you have a shower with your feet in a couple of inches of dirty water. The hot water is quite irregular, sometimes there is, but never lasts very long (in any room, we were a group of 11 and everybody said the same). The room had a little balcony with a hammock. Pretty nice.
The meals were all quite good: typical Costa Rican dishes (gallopinto always included, of course), tasty and abundant. They are served in a separate structure, like a very big hut with half-walls, open to the surroundings, where you can see some of the animals that frequent the premises (like coatís) while you eat. There are a number of bird-feeders hanging around so you can see plenty of hummingbirds all the time.
No electricity in the hotel, but there is in the “dining room”, not many outlets though, you may have to wait your turn.
The real attraction of Rara Avis are the excursions around the lodge, of course. You can go alone, but is really much better if you join one of the guided trips. You will see more, and of course, learn much more. Two of the three guides we met were researches doing their field work there, the other was the manager, and they knew their stuff very well. You are in the middle of a real, well preserved rainforest. It's the real thing. The paths are always very muddy and usually steep, but it's worth it. The waterfall, a few minutes away, is quite spectacular, and you can swim in it provided there is no risk of flood (quite cold water, though). Nice place to go to relax after a walk.
In short: a bit rough trip in (and out), and not many niceties but really a wonderful place.

  • Stayed: October 2010, traveled with friends
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2  Thank ElFranjo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 24, 2011

This was our second trip to Costa Rica in two years! We wanted an authentic rainforest experience and we got it at Rara Avis! If you have older kids or teen-agers, this is a perfect place to go/stay. I am not an avid camper so I was a bit worried by earlier posts on this site. Rara Avis, while rustic, is super clean. I did not find a bug or rodent in our room during our two-night stay, which is pretty amazing. We flew into San Jose Airport and stayed at Hacienda La Isla Lodge in Las Horquetas the night before we went to Rara Avis. I would highly recommend this! It is about 5 min drive away. You have to get to RA office early in morning and there is usually only one tractor ride into the forest and one tractor ride out per day so you don't want to miss it! We opted for the horses on the way to RA instead of the tractor. I highly recommend this! I am deathly afraid of horses but they provide helmets and gentle horses plus a horse guide. Our horse guide was Kenneth, a real Costa Rican cowboy and super nice--although he could barely speak English but still managed to communicate well. Be prepared for a bouncy 3 hour trot to El Plastico, where you get off the horses and can go to bathroom and get something to drink. DO NOT TAKE ANY BACKPACKS WITH YOU! Super uncomfortable and not needed. Your luggage can ride up with tractor. We made the mistake of taking our backpacks and they slapped up and down on our backs all the way to El Plastico. El Plastico is actually a real biologist lab and we encountered a team there studying jaguars! (They knew they were in the forest but hadn't seen any yet.) From El Plastico, you hike a difficult (especially with backpacks) but beautiful trail through rugged rainforest to Rara Avis. It should take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. A nature guide will meet you at El Plastico and take you to RA. Nelson was our nature guide and I wasn't all that impressed by him. Maybe it was our fault for taking all those heavy backpacks and being close to 50 years old and SLOW! However, what is the point of a nature guide if he barely talks to you and tells you what you are looking at? He rushed on ahead of us and only occassionally stopped for us to catch our breath. Keep in mind, you are wearing golashes, walking in extremely wet/muddy conditions, and surrounded by plants/bugs/snakes that may not be too friendly. However, it is beautiful (like out of Indiana Jones) and there was an approaching storm so I know he was in a rush. When you arrive, you will be served a delicious lunch and beverages of your choice--they even have wine and beer (although the beer isn't very cold but you won't care at that point). The cook was awesome and super friendly. She was a like "MacGyver" in the kitchen! So remote but always fresh, authentic Costa Rican food. You can bring your own wine but bubble wrap it and leave it on the tractor! Don't carry it with you. The location is a clearing in a rainforest with a short walk to a beautiful, double waterfall. Be sure to go on the hike that takes you to the overlook--it takes your breath away! There are coatimundis all over the place in the morning. We had a second floor room with a hammock on the veranda. Our room was totally clean but rustic. Nice, hot shower. No electricity but Jose, another nature guide, gave us a rechargeable light each night at dinner for our room. Jose is the perfect nature guide for us older folks and kids. He is very patient in explaining everything you see and leads the easier hikes. He does both day and night hikes. If you want more challenging hikes, ask for Nelson. That is the other thing about Rara Avis; it is a hikers paradise. There are many hiking trails that range in difficulty levels and distance. Some trails are all day trails. The rainforest is closer to the Caribbean side so you will see different wild life than Manual Antonio, for example. We saw eyelash vipers, a nine banded armadillo, golden orb spiders, kinkajou (looks a bit like a monkey but with a face like a bear), and, of course, the coatimundis. On the way back, we took the tractor. Just as the tractor arrived at Rara Avis, a big rain storm started! Quite an experience. The tractor was covered so we stayed dry. It was as bumpy of a ride as they say in earlier posts. The ride is a amazing, especially in a storm. Water is pouring in little streams off the sides of the "road". The forest is lush. There are parts of the road that you think the driver surely won't attempt, with boulders and narrow walls, but you make it through somehow. We got a flat tire on the way back in the tractor but this must happen often. The driver changed that tire so fast! I guess there are some serious wimps out there who think a bumpy tractor ride is frightening. It is uncomfortable, for sure! I wouldn't let it deter me from going to Rara Avis, though!

Room Tip: I would get a second floor room to avoid the likelihood of bugs and rodents sharing it. Also the se...
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  • Stayed: June 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank travelmom121162
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 28, 2011

We are adventurous boomers who love birding and wildlife. Although the birds in Rara Avis are hard to find, we saw new ones and had a great time with Nelson, our guide. Don't let the tractor ride discourage you from going. We find it enchanting. Be sure to bring a book for those raining afternoons, although there are always lots of people from around the world to talk to. The guided walks were informative and somewhat challenging. The local Costa Rican food is great and there are hot showers! Rustic, but with all the amenities one could want so far from civilization.

  • Stayed: July 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank rpcvtraveler75
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 11, 2011

My partner and I stayed at Rara Avis in the Waterfall Lodge for 3 nights. Our transportation was entirely by tractor-pulled cart, and it was just ridiculously bumpy, particularly on the way in. The second part of the ride is bumpy because the road is extremely bad, but the first part was just silly and could easily have been done in a jeep instead of a cart that jumped around even on the paved road. We have been in a TukTuk on bad roads in Cambodia and thought we had an idea what bumpy means, but this was a new level of bumpiness.
The lodge itself is comfortable, the food is good, and guided hikes are offered. While the rainforest is cool, the trails are so muddy and rough that we mostly saw our feet while hiking - if we tried to look up we slipped or stumbled. While the roughness might be part of the rainforest experience, I believe that more in terms of animal sightings or experience of the forest can be gotten out of some less adventurous rainforest trips.
In sum, tit simply did not add up to the fairly steep price and the bad ride for me. It was certainly an experience, but I would not do it again.

  • Stayed: March 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank ps345
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 25, 2010

This must be one of the most authentic rain forest retreats that you’ll find. About an 1.5 hours drive from San Jose you have to get to Las Horquetas to pick up some wellies and wrap your bags in bin bags to protect them from what’s to come. The journey then begins. The lodge is 15km away, but to get to it is like a world away. The only way to get there (unless you rent a horse from a local) is to get taken up in the trailer pulled by a tractor. This takes about 4 hours along a very bumpy track that you even wonder whether the tractor will make it – at one point we had to get out while the tractor got pulled up a steep slope. This journey is not for the faint hearted and on the way back down we and our bags got completely soaked – but that was part of the fun. As its so cut off you really need two days here at least. We stayed three but could easily have stayed longer.

The ride up gives you your first glimpse of pristine virgin rainforest with velvet and feathery leaves of various patterns and textures. The final few kilometres you can get out and walk up to the lodge and the guide points out frogs and snakes and identifies trees and flowers. The forest gets thicker and deeper and then you come to a grassed clearing where the wooden lodge of Rara Avis sits.

You really are in the middle of the rainforest here, completely cut off in a pristine green wilderness. The ethos of this place is to conserve the rainforest in a truly natural environment. There is no electricity, no mod cons, the rooms are basic but clean with hammocks on private balconies, there’s no need to lock the rooms and a convivial atmosphere is encouraged with communal eating in the main lodge building. The food is plentiful and there’s an honesty bar. When you’re not walking around the forest you watch in amazement at the hand sized butterflies and moths in the butterfly house, look at the orchids in the orchid house, swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall or play football, Guests Vs the Rara Avis team or just hang out chatting to guests whilst trying to photograph hummingbirds or bats at the feeders or just relax to the sounds of the forest in your hammock!

The naturalists are knowledgeable and friendly, especially Wilberth, and the lodge is even used for biological research, with much more of an array of flora and fauna than we saw in any of the other rainforests we stayed at, including stained glass palms – only found at Rara Avis, walking palms, 250 year old mahogany tree, bromeliads, leafcutter and bullet ants, eyelash vipers, frogs smaller that a 1pence piece, coati’s and loads of birds. There are walkways through the forest but again these aren’t like the cleared wide pathways in other rainforests reserves such as Monte Verde. They are natural and very muddy (hence the need for wellies) and on one walk our guide was having to hack his way through the forest with a machete – this was a truly magical and authentic rainforest experience and nothing compared at the other places we stayed at in Costa Rica.

It’s not for the faint hearted though – this is a truly wild experience where you feel at one with nature.

  • Stayed: December 2007, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Samkirk9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge & Reserve

Address: Horquetas 1000, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Heredia > Sarapiqui > Horquetas
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 5 Specialty Lodging in Horquetas
Price Range: $177 - $201 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 18
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Rara Avis introduced the concept of ecotourism as a conservation tool to the region in 1983, in which nature-based tourism is now the second largest industry. We preserve 12km2 and 20km of trails, we guarantee you the most authentique and unique experience on Costa Rica rainforest. The lodge is designed to maintain the feeling of being deep and isolated in the forest, while offering basic but comfortable rooms and excellent traditional food. We maintain the sense of the real Costa Rica of many years ago, while offering daily guided walks in which our resident guides explain how the rainforest works. In good weather it is possible to swim at the base of our pristine waterfalls. Other guests simply prefer relax in hammocks on the private balconies of their rooms. This a place for serious naturalists and those who like to have a learning experience on the rainforest. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge And Reserve
Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge & Reserve Hotel Braulio Carrillo National Park
Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge & Reserve Costa Rica/Sarapiqui - Horquetas

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