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“Amazing rainforest experience!!!!”

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Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge & Reserve
Reviewed July 2, 2012

Rara Avis is a place to learn, is a place to experience nature, is a place to see species that are unique in the world and can be found only in Costa Rica's rainforest.
If you are expecting hamburgers, TV or internet service, this is definitely not the place for you.
Rara Avis is about nature conservation, rubber boots (they lend up to 11.5 US), muddy trails in the middle of the jungle, traditional Costa Rican food and guided tours full of knowledge.
The ride on tractor or horseback is long and you need to make sure you are prepared with water and comfortable clothes. You also need to make sure you can and like walking in slippery trails and you don't have back problems.
Bring with you only the necessary baggage (you can leave what you don't need in their office in Horquetas), specially, don't forget a light jacket, warm clothes for the night, insect repellent, cash and enough socks.
Beds are a bit uncomfortable but it feels better when you listen the sounds of the live forest (again, if you don't like the sounds of the animals like frogs and birds, this is not the place for you). Spending time in the hammocks is also a good option.
Nelson is very knowledgeable and there are plenty of books and guides available in the hotel so you can learn about the wildlife. I specially enjoyed the night walk.
Read all of the information available in their website and make sure this hotel is the right choice for you.
If you want to live a real rainforest adventure, Rara Avis may be what you are looking for.

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with friends
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2  Thank Anai A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 3, 2012

Rara Avis is a very out of the way place, the tractor ride itself is an adventure just to get up to the top of the mountain. Visited Rara Avis with a G adventures tour, an since we were the only guests there at that time, we were upgraded to the main lodge, which includes a room with a couple beds and private bath. The main lodge is what is pictured as their main picture on TripAdvisor. Our original budget accommodations would have been a bunkhouse back in the muddy forest, complete with bunk beds for multiple people and plenty of creepy crawly critters to keep you company at night, and a shared bathroom. Well I was very happy to have been upgraded after getting violent horrible food poisoning from dinner, I would not have survived the night without a private bath. The tractor trip down the mountain the following day battling my illness was also memorable. But aside from that, the night hike was fun as well as bird watching, and the waterfalls were beautiful. The hummingbirds come to visit at breakfast and its very relaxing just to sit in the lodge and listen to the sounds of the forest. f you're staying here, pay a bit extra and get the private room, stay away from the bunks.

Room Tip: Do not stay in the bunks if you can help it. Stay in the main lodge with a private room/bath.
  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank minniglobetrekkergal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 26, 2012

If I come back: I would ride a horse or walk up and let the tractor just take the luggage. If you are not fit you should not go at all, it is really not everymans place. Rather raw, it is cold in the night, so be sure you take warm things with you. Wet things will stay wet. Leave anything you really don't need back at the office. It will only be in your way. Read the information and the reviews carefully before you go to be sure not to spoil your experience! Being well prepared this place may be lovely. I missed long socks and dry things in general.
We had 2 Nights. The first day we had sunny weather and could swim in the waterfall nearby. Cold but nice..We were shown around a little bit and that was nice. As it got dark and you saw all the stars the place almost turned magic. We had moonlight too so you can imagine...
I would insist on taking the trail I want to do: we had a trainee, a very cute, tiny young girl, looking at us with sad dog begging eyes so we took a 2-hours walk instead of 5-hours as she just had done the 5-hours and did'nt want to do that again. She did'nt speak many words of english, which is really a "no go". I can not understand why they send her out with paying guests?! If you asked her she did'nt know anything eighther. I liked her slow way of walking though, you don't disturb the wildlife and have better chanses to see animals (no, during the walk we did'nt, but still...). Also: moving slowely allows you to see more than where to put your feet. Letting tourists playing Tarzan hanging in the lianas was awful stupid, especially as birds were yelling in the treetops, probably the babybirds were shooked out of their nests. But some people just don't know how stupid they should behave, what can one do? After this walk it started to rain and we were "stuck". It rained til the next day, nonstop.
The stuff was very friendly. The food was great. We had meatballs almost as good as my mothers are. And she is from Sweden and its a national dish there!
The room is rustical with short and very unconfortable beds. The first night was horrible, the second night we used the mattresses from the other beds in our room, then it was ok. The hammok was unusable (hanging down to the floor) but we did'nt care.
Booking was no trouble. The management arranged a driver that picked us up in San Jose, he was perfect on time and turned out to be a very, very friendly, caring person but also a safe and confortable driver. On our way back he even saved our lives being observant as a truck got aquaplaning and ...
This was a great experience. Not cosy, not confortable, but very, very special. We are truly glad to have been able to visit Rara Avis.

  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Petra_Johannes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 12, 2012

We spent 2 nights at Rara Avis as part of G Adventures tour. Four-hour tractor ride is gruelling and barely made it at some places. Not good for people with large feet since didn't have boots larger than size 11. Very crude cabins a distance from dining room, with short bunk beds; no lights; shared bathroom; terrible temperature control on shower; no place to put glasses, flashlight, etc. inside mosquito net (pitch black at night); critters inside cabins. My son fell from top of bunk bed ladder and scraped both arms when bee/wasp startled him--we had already killed one large spider, scared away a second and caught and taken a bee outside. Another guy scraped both legs at swimming hole which lacked sufficient hand holds/rails. Limited medical supplies. Difficult trails with lots of rain and mud. Tours were interesting (seeing venomous snakes including Fer-de-Lance right beside path) and Nelson was very knowledgeable but more plants than animals. Meals were mediocre. Last day forced to eat breakfast at 5:30AM and leave by 6AM because apparently tractor had to pick up others--left couple of things behind packing up in the dark.

Room Tip: Accomodations might be better in larger lodge.
  • Stayed: December 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank Stephen96
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 7, 2012

Rara Avis is a great idea that does not live up to expectations. We were very excited in planning our first-ever trip to Costa Rica, but we were the most excited about Rara Avis. We are avid hikers and tent campers, happiest “out in the boonies” seeing wildlife and wilderness, avoiding cities and touristy places, and we are supporters of the concept of ecotourism. So, naturally, we thought Rara Avis would be the pinnacle of our trip and scheduled ourselves to stay 3 days. We ended up seeing fewer birds and less wildlife here than any other place we visited in Costa Rica (other than the obliging coati that patrolled the lodging/eating area several times each day). Perhaps wildlife is hard to see, or scarce because of poaching, but there is no question that a huge part of the problem is the lack of a good guide for those hikes. Although I think he might know a lot (about orchids), Nelson has been doing what he is doing too long and does not want to be doing it. His guided hikes are forced marches, along very muddy, slippery trails where you have to watch your booted feet all the time (the wood slabs used as pavers are extremely slick and a lot of work for the staff to replace –every 6 months, according to Nelson – so pavers like Monteverde has would be much more effective). Nelson rarely stops to point out any birds or wildlife. If he does, then he only tells the first few people in line and marches on, so that people at the back don’t know what he stopped for (there are a few exceptions, such as his bullet ant stop). If people are falling or having trouble getting out of a mud hole, the other hikers are helping them up, while Nelson marches on. We enjoy birding, and there were definitely great birds around, but we had more help with birding from one of the maintenance staff people who saw us trying to see and identify birds around the buildings and came to help us.

We had hoped to stay in the cheaper lodging options, but because they were full we had to stay in the most expensive part of the hotel (the Waterfall Lodge) –luckily, I guess. Somewhat “run-down” is a good description of the place, with the sink about ready to come off the wall. Since we are accustomed to tent camping, though, “rustic” features were not a problem for us. The second floor rooms have balconies with hammocks, which was nice. The food was good. It rained several times every day, as one would expect – one can just read a book or play cards with people you meet there during those intervals, which never lasted terribly long. The forest and the double waterfall are really lovely (amazing to be able to swim in a natural pool under a gorgeous waterfall in the jungle!). As everyone says, the road out is incredibly rough – you wouldn’t think a tractor could possibly make it (it doesn’t help that the tractor driver spins his wheels when he is starting to get stuck, which digs the trenches deeper) – and it’s rather sad because most of the ride is through deforested areas (thank goodness Rara Avis is protected).

We have thought that perhaps we ought to write to the absentee owner of Rara Avis to warn him that his important experiment into ecotourism may be in jeopardy. It was an adventure, fun in many ways for us and our high school aged kids, and we definitely enjoyed seeing the rainforest and being far from the tourist centers, but it was really disappointing in terms of the tropical rainforest ecology we had hoped to learn about, and the birds and wildlife we hoped the guide could show and tell us about. If I could not find another tropical rainforest experience in Costa Rica, I would probably do it again. But I would look for an alternative first.

Room Tip: Probably best to stay in the Waterfall Lodge, as people staying in the cheaper lodging locations com...
  • Stayed: July 2011, traveled with family
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2  Thank pvtn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 2, 2012

The tractor ride is as gruelling as they say and the novelty soon wears off. The walk in from the last stop at Plastico has a 600ft. elevation gain and is wet and slippery. The guide was impressed that a lady my age made it!!!The comments in a recent review about Nelson, the guide at the lodge, were absolutley correct.The guide is in reality the research scientist on site, but instead he is leading tours in great haste with no dialogue or chance to look around . He seems to have to do almost everything there.

The property is in disrepair. We were with our daughter husband and grandchildren so stayed at the Riversedgel cabin. It is described as a brief walk from the lodge, but is a full 12 minute walk on slippery mud in pitch darness through the jungle. The battery for the electric light needed to be replaced as it no longer charged. This meant not only no light at all, but no hot water. When we went below to check the propane tank, the rotted steps broke. The screens were torn away and I lay in bed in the morning and watched the bats return from their night hunting and roost beside the open screen. The gaping holes in the wall meant the building could host anything smaller that a coati.

Don't get me wrong. It is truly a wonderful chance to see the rainforest without a tourist approach to it. However, if the owners do not get some more help for Nelson and spend some money on repairs, I couldn't recommend the experience. We were booked for 4 nights and forfeted half of our payment and left after 2 nights. We too ran into a fer-de lance on the night hike, but this time Nelson was not the one to spot it. It was frightening to think of the potential as the young children had just walked by.

We have done a significant amount of backcountry hiking and skiing so are not expecting 5 star wilderness experiences. But this place has been seriously neglected. I was surprised that in such a remote place that the guide carried nothing in the way of first aid or a 2-way radio.

I would say try Turtle Beach Hotel at Tortuguero instead to see rainforest and creatures.

Room Tip: If you have your heart set on going anyhow, go the the main lodge and stay on the upper floor.
  • Stayed: December 2011, traveled with family
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2  Thank barb_ken
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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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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: $176 - $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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