Canyoning & Rappelling in Costa Rica
As part of a very fun 10 day vacation to Costa Rica, we went rappelling with Pure Trek Canyoning. What is canyoning you might ask, Webster defines it as follows: the sport of exploring a canyon by engaging in such activities as rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping! We didn't do the rafting, but the rappelling and waterfall jumping was a thrill and a once in a lifetime Costa Rica rainforest experience! We rappelled down 4 cliffs ranging from 45' to 165' and beside and into 3 waterfalls. Wow, what fun!
Pure Trek is a leader in Canyoning and they did the very first descent into the canyon where we were going to do our rappelling. If I'm going to jump off of a 165' cliff, I would prefer to do it with the best and most qualified company, which is why we picked Pure Trek. Plus no experience was necessary and our grand kids over 5 could go with us.
The Pure Trek bus picked us (3 kids - 6, 7, and 8 and 5 adults) up right on time in the hotel lobby, took us around the corner to their headquarters, and fed us a very good and typical Costa Rican meal - chicken, rice, beans, fruit, and juice. I was already pushing the limit after 8 days of stuffing myself on good food, downing way to much beer, and sipping a few too many Pina Coladas. Would the canyoning rope hold me? Would the guide be able to stop me from free falling to the canyon floor? Hmmm. Just to be safe, I left two beans and a spoonful of rice on my plate.
When everyone was done with lunch we jumped back in the shuttle bus for a 20 minute ride to the base of the mountain where we piled into a 4 wheel drive truck and proceeded straight up the mountain on a bumpy twisting and turning dirt road through dense tropical forest with the Arenal Volcano in the background.
25 minutes later we were getting fitted for our gear (gloves, a helmet, rappelling gear, and a rain jacket) followed by a short lesson and safety talk on how to rappel. Seems easy! We are ready to go and it was a short trek to the top of the first waterfall. I've done some climbing walls and rappelled down some 15' cliffs but I wasn't prepared for the first rappel down 165' next to a rushing waterfall - my mouth went dry and my legs started shaking when I looked over the edge of the platform to the bottom of the canyon! Hmmm.
I don't think I was the only one shaking and a little scared and when the guide ask, "who wants to go first" all of us brave adults backed up and our lips are glued shut. The youngest grand kid stepped up to the edge of the platform to take a look and then all three of the grand kids yelled "I do, I do, I do!" So we sent them down first.
So we sent them down first. They were whooping and hollering all the way down - we couldn't see them but we heard them as they went down and when guide yelled "good job" and gave a thumbs up we knew they had made it safely.
Before I went, I volunteered my biggest son-in-law who is 6' 5" to test the line - if he makes it down without breaking the rope or pulling the guide or platform down with him, surely I can make it. It felt like I was carrying an extra 100 pounds after eating some good Costa Rican food for 8 days and consuming a case or two of beer plus several Pina Coladas and Margaritas. Lounging by the pool and sitting in the hammock at the beach all day didn't help with my conditioning!
Eventually, someone pushed me forward (was it my wife hoping to collect on some life insurance?), the guides hooked my up, told me to lean back, and then "go for it!" I did it - I fell backwards, bounced off the cliffs and boulders, swung left and right, caught some drizzle from the waterfall, and finally heard the grand kids yelling "you made it!" What a thrill. I'm ready for the next one!
On subsequent rappels we all got better and more confident as we did some combination of using our legs to push off the cliffs and dropping few feet or yelling "Geranimo" and let ourselves free fall what seemed like 10 feet but was most likely only 5' or so. What a blast. I went from an uncontrolled skid down the cliff to what I thought looked like a Navy Seal leap frogging down a 300' cliff - the pictures and family proved that I wasn't even close to that, it was more like a rock tumbling down a mountain side with a rope attached to it. Oh well, I don't care what they say, I loved it!
On the repel below we went straight down the middle of the waterfall and near the bottom the guide pulled us across to dry land.
The last rappel was the most exciting. As I was doing my best rappel (I hit the cliff only twice) next to a rapidly rushing waterfall, I felt the rope tug me to the right. Oh no - what's up with that? And suddenly I was in the middle of the waterfall in a controlled drop by the guides down the middle of it and into a deep pool at the bottom. Wow, that was fun. The guide high fived me and the first rappellers down were laughing as they congratulated my successful rappel through the middle of a waterfall. And then I got to watch the rest of our family get drenched as the guides did the same thing to them!
The guides had gotten to know all of us and they had decided we were all ready for a good drenching! Speaking of the guides, they were all fantastic - outgoing, friendly, funny, eager to get to know you, fun loving, they always had a smile on their face and loved their job.
All too soon our tour was over and we took a short hike back to an awaiting 4x4 truck. Just hiking the trails was enjoyable with the waterfalls, rushing streams, canyons, dense tropical forests, and wildlife. Some of the wildlife you might see (we didn't) include: snakes, colorful frogs, colorful birds, three toed sloths, and more.
After the ride down the mountain, we returned to Pure Trek Canyoning's home base to change clothes and have some coffee and delicious cookies! An outstanding adventure and a must do if you're in the area.
Pure Trek is an experienced adventure travel company that creates customized tours for travelers visiting Costa Rica and they offer a number of day treks and tours, some of which include: white water rafting, ATV tours, caving, dive and dolphin tours, jet skiing, and hot springs and mud baths. Give them a call.
Return to our Costa Rica Vacation Page to read about the rest of our trip.