We’re lucky. We spent more than six months traveling in Costa Rica during our Trans-Americas Journey which meant we had time to explore every nook and cranny in search of the rainforests, wildlife and adventures the country is famous for. If you’re traveling in Costa Rica on a “normal” length vacation (i.e. WAY too short) here’s a travel tip: Rainforest Adventures is a great one-stop shop for all of the above.
Started by biologist Joaquín von der Goltz in 1994, Rainforest Adventures now has two operations in Costa Rica. One is on the Pacific side near the beach town of Jaco and the other is on the Atlantic side surrounded by the Braulio Carillo National Park less than an hour from San Jose.
Between the two properties, Rainforest Adventures currently protects 1,394 acres (565 hectares) of land and the wildlife that lives on it, including endangered scarlet macaws on the Pacific side.
Rainforest creatures at night
You can visit Rainforest Adventures just for the day but the Atlantic operation also has bungalows for overnight guests. We arrived at Rainforest Adventures Atlantic in the early evening and settled into our comfortable room (private bath, hot water, patio) before heading out on a night hike with our guide, Marvin (ask for him, he was excellent).
We barely made a dent in one short trail but we managed to see so many rainforest creatures during our night walk at Rainforest Adventures, including a small possum, three kinds of frogs, one very weird millipede, more types of crickets and grasshoppers than we could keep track of (it’s hard to take notes in the dark) and the star of the show: a blue lasso spider.
This leggy wonder doesn’t spin a traditional web. It spins a lasso instead and the business end of it is actually blue. Amazing, even for an arachnophobe like Karen.
Taking the aerial tram
Rainforest Adventures pioneered a contraption called the aerial tram and variations on the theme–think of it as a tropical gondola–can now be found around the world. The slow-moving tram takes about an hour to travel 1.5 miles (2.6 kilometers) round trip at varying heights above the jungle floor.
It’s a relaxing ride through secondary (which means it’s been cut but is now rebounding nicely) and primary rainforest (which means it’s never been cut), but try not to nap–you don’t want to miss the adorable baby sloths, coasting toucans and ingeniously camouflaged common pootoo birds, all of which we saw from the tram.
Zip lines are for woosies
Anyone can zip line (well, almost anyone) and to prove it we did the 10 cable, 14 platform zip line on the Rainforest Adventures property. Then our guide suggested we cap it off with a doozie. It’s called the AdrenaLine and it spans 2,300 feet (700 meters). That’s nearly half a mile. At it’s highest you’re 200 feet (60 meters) off the ground. You can travel up to 35 miles (55 kilometers) per hour. Eric had a blast. ‘Nuff said.
Ride along during our rainy zip line and AdrenaLine rides at Rainforest Adventures Atlantic in our video, below.
And, yes, even with all that excitement it’s still possible to look around and enjoy your unique POV near the tree tops in the jungle. We even caught a fleeting glimpse of a lesser anteater (aka the Southern tamandua) on the ground below one of the platforms–our first ever spotting of this species. Its black and tan coloring and its size made us think it was a German shepherd for a moment.
At Rainforest Adventures you don’t even have to get on a tram, zip line or dark trail to see wild creatures. We saw red-eyed tree frogs and sloths near the main entrance, bullet ants near the gift shop and we even spotted a rare umbrella bird right from the cafeteria.
In 2012 Rainforest Adventures bought a jungle adventure park near Tulum, Mexico called Hidden Worlds along with its one-of-a-kind roller coaster zip line. We were actually part of the team that test-rode this unique thrill ride, an adventure we won’t forget any time soon.
Read more about travel in Costa Rica