It was over a year ago that we visited Rara Avis, but after reading the "not for tourists" review, I thought I should present a different viewpoint.
We spent two weeks in CR over Christmas of 2005, and Rara Avis was probably the highlight, especially for our children (8 & 10).
Rara Avis makes no bones about the fact that the tractor ride is uncomfortable, and that the facilities are rustic and lack electricity. If you are not used to camping, or at least budget travel, and are more comfortable in a place with all "mod cons", this is definitely not the place for you.
The tractor ride in took 3 hours, and it was a very long 3 hours! On the way in, the staff saw the children and recommended that we ride all the way in. On the way out, however, we walked the first hour with a guide, and it was much better that way. The less time on the tractor, the better! After it was over, it seemed like just a fun part of the adventure, but at the time it was pretty uncomfortable!
We were able to go on several guided hikes -- one the afternoon we arrived, one the next morning, and on a night hike with all the guides and guests. We also went on a couple of hikes on our own, or with other guests. Of course it is always best to go with a guide, because you see more. The guides do seem a little overworked, and my one suggestion would be to add one or two more guides, but the trails are well marked and it is no problem to hike independently.
The rainforest was wonderful, of course; we saw a lot of birds and plants. But the highlight in the nature department came when one of the guides knocked on our door at 6:30 a.m. to tell us that there was a tapir outside the dining hall. We had certainly not expected to see one of those!
Swimming at Rara Avis happens in a beautiful waterfall. Our guide told us ahead of time that the water was cold, but we didn't really listen because we're used to pretty cold water at our cottage in Canada. It was absolutely freezing! But a great way to cool off after a hike.
Of course the food involved a lot of rice and beans; that is a staple in CR. The food was simple and delicious. It was served family style at long tables in the dining hall, and we met people from several different countries when everyone gathered for meals. In the late afternoons, people tended to wander down to the dining hall to look up the plants and creatures they had seen that day in the nature guides provided, and to talk or play cards over a few drinks. After some intitial shyness, all the kids there ended up exploring and playing games together.
The Waterfall Lodge was rustic, and the beds were certainly not plush, to say the least, but it was very peaceful and there was absolutely no insect problem at all. (Everything was screened in.)
If you are considering Rara Avis, you should first think hard about what kind of traveller you are. It is not true that you have to be a researcher to enjoy Rara Avis. But you do have to be a certain type of traveller. If you are comfortable with the idea of no electricity and rustic lodgings, are interested in nature and used to getting out hiking, you will probably love it. If you are more the plush hotel type, I'd check out a different rainforest lodge. There are plenty to choose from in CR.
- 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