As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we spent our second day in Costa Rica on an “adventure tour”. It remains one of the best days ever- full of unanticipated challenges, and unforgettable experiences.
Much like excursions offered on cruises, there are numerous opportunities for side trips/adventures offered through the typical booking sites (how Rabbit booked ours), and the resort itself. Our resort even had a section of their lobby open to various representatives from different tour companies so that guests could review their options, check on their bookings, and make any changes/additional plans. (We ended up spending time with our chosen company’s representative to make sure that our resort change didn’t mean we’d be left behind!).
Rabbit chose our excursion and kept it mostly a secret from me until we arrived in Costa Rica (he knew that it was going to be a bit out of my comfort zone… but specializes in surprises and definitely nailed it!). There were several similar tours we noticed (zip lining seems to be a popular activity in Costa Rica) but I have to believe that ours was the best. Hacienda Guachipelin was very well-managed, offering a variety of activities and excellent guides throughout. Also included was our delicious lunch (I’m a sucker for a “free meal”, which provided a great sampling of local cuisine- more authentic than our resort fare – and even more delicious).
Our Hacienda Guachipelin Day Pass Included:
Tubing down Class III Rapids
Lunch at the Hotel Guachipelin
Canopy (and canyon) Zip Line tour
Ride out to the hot springs and mud bath
I believe that the order of your day is customizable and/or could vary depending on where/when you book. I’m biased by having not experienced it any other way… but I think the order of operations we got to enjoy was perfect.
The horseback rides were a great way to ease into the day, and got us just warm enough to look forward to a splash in the rapids. Guided by authentic Costa Rican “cowboys”, fitted with helmets, and atop our new companions we set off through the somewhat rugged landscape. Though we followed a trail, it was far from routine – I was surprised at the hilly and rocky nature of the landscape as we paraded along to our checkpoint. Our horses knew the way, and were pretty well behaved (there’s always one show off in the group!). The coordination was wonderful- we got to the end of our trail and met our next group of guides for our tubing adventure- leaving our horses and cowboys behind for the next group.
Tubing was a natural next-step. We arrived after a short bus ride to a small checkpoint and changing area, where we were advised to change (if we weren’t prepared already) and set aside anything we were worried would get wet. Thankfully, Rabbit and I had invested in waterproof phone cases ahead of our trip, so we were able to capture the action as we went along! After carrying our tubes down a rather steep (but roped off and safe) trail, we set off for our ride! The rapids were excellent- you could tell the guides had plenty of experience and knew the ride by heart- often jumping ahead of each other, or staying behind to make sure that everyone made it through the tight squeezes, help to right ourselves if we flipped over (which happened to several in our group!), and kept us all moving together. The water wasn’t too cold, and provided just the right level of refreshment after our horseback ride. Relaxing in some moments, and definitely thrilling in others- the tubing was a really great time!
Next, we turned in our tubes for a seat on the bus back to the hacienda for lunch. Situated in an indoor/outdoor dining area offering beautiful views of the surrounding area, lunch was delicious! A buffet of various meats, salads, local specialties, and dessert (just to make sure you had enough energy to keep going). It was the perfect intermission. Our tour group took their seats with their immediate parties, and some guests of the hacienda/other tour groups dropped in- but the dining room remained comfortable, and there was no shortage of food (which was being prepared fresh as supply dwindled). There was a second location downstairs/close to where we dined which offered a cash bar for those interested- though I could not imagine wanting to imbibe during the tour!
Once we were fully rested, and bellies comfortably full… it was time to check in for our zip lining adventure. Having never been zip lining before… I’m not sure what I expected. However, I will share- that it completely exceeded my expectations and wildest dreams! After coming together with our group and our many tour guides (it seemed like a 1:2 ratio of guest:guide) for a safety demonstration, we were each fitted with our safety harness which was then inspected as we gathered. Once we were all ready, we huddled with one of our guides for an overview of the course… this is when it got real. Our guide explained that the first line was the longest, and then we would have a few shorter ones within the canopy as we made our way to the canyon. Yup. He then explained that towards the end, there would be a ‘Tarzan swing” where each of us would need to strap onto the line, and swing across the canyon to make it to the next perch. I have a feeling that no one really saw that one coming… there was a collective gasp, and quiet moment as we all looked at our partners, and contemplated what that meant. We were given the opportunity to opt out at that time, I believe… which none of us did. (Partially likely to the fact that we didn’t realllllyyy know what lay ahead). Now – I am not ashamed to admit… standing on that first perch, strapping in, and seeing the treetops far below my feet – I almost quit. I remember wanting to back down, but being told (by Rabbit and our guide) that it was going to be great, and (per Rabbit’s previous experience) I’d get used to it – since it really was just easy, smooth sailing. So, I took a deep breath, went against my typical cautious inner voice, and zipped. They were right. Once you got over the initial realization that you were high in the air hanging by a cord – it was beautiful. I tried to relax and enjoy the ride- already looking forward to the next.
After a few relaxed rides through the canopy, we arrived at the canyon… and started to get a glimpse at the humor of our guides- and the real adventure of our tour. I will honestly admit that I do not remember each run through… but I can share a few of the highlights – like sitting on a slide perched high in the canyon, and being told to “go” (slide down) realizing the feeling of weightlessness before the line caught – with the simultaneous joke from the guide behind yelling “oops!! don’t go!!” as you swung forward, stopping just before the canyon wall. He did not do that to everyone… by this point the guides had a good sense of each of us – who would have been paralyzed, and who (after a couple seconds) would laugh heartily. As we proceeded through the canyon, it seemed that the perches got smaller… and higher. At one point, we were grouped on a perch and given the opportunity to rappel down the cliff as we waited for everyone to arrive. Rappelling down was a great time- and the closest I’ve ever been to really rock climbing. (It was just enough to toss in and enjoy without adding too much muscle fatigue to the mix). Once we were all together, we started through the more challenging lines- including the Tarzan swing… which – even if you were lucky enough to likely make it over the first time you swung – they sent you out for an encore just to make sure you got the full experience.
When all was said and done, I think the zip line portion was beyond what either of us would have signed up for had we known the nitty-gritty in advance… BUT… it was something that both of us loved and would definitely recommend. (And… I know that at least I would do it again!).
Once we got used to having both feet firmly planted on the ground again, we had a chance to see a little bit of the grounds of the hacienda (and sit atop oxen!) before catching our ride to the hot springs and mud bath… set off of the main path along a beautiful trail, both were must-do’s. The areas were a little more crowded than I had hoped (and more populated than our tour groups themselves), but we still enjoyed some relaxing moments. *Word of warning- the mud stains, so be judicious when applying with the provided paintbrushes – there is a natural shower to get under to rinse off once your skin feels rejuvenated, and a few different hot spring pools to choose from when you’re ready to sit back and relax. Once we felt calm and rested, we returned for our ride back to our resort… and a quick nap!
That night, we took a short trip to one of the popular beaches to get a sense of Costa Rica outside the resort – explore the local hot spots, and of course- a gift shop or two. It was a nice change of pace, but not particularly lively. We headed back to our resort for a very solid night’s sleep. It would be nice to explore more of the country and the local spots – perhaps if we return.
I would highly recommend the tours by Hacienda Guachipelin – the guides were fabulous, the tours were well-coordinated, and the grounds were beautiful… it was a great experience all-around, and has left me craving another extreme vacation experience!