Rain splashed across our faces, almost blinding us as we crossed over waterfalls and cleared trees at 50 feet in the air. The feeling was akin to sticking one’s head out of a car window in the middle of a rainstorm.
Except, here, our whole bodies were immersed. Our clothes clung to our bodies, every last thread soaked. But the rain didn’t matter so much; all of us were still smiling.
We had just passed over 10 waterfalls, gliding on a wire from one platform to the next. Some of the falls we could reach down and touch with our fingers, and others we paused over, suspended in the air, as the water crashed and swirled below our feet.
The rain waited until we were at the 23rd of 25 platforms. But, when it came, it added a whole new element.
“This has been incredible, rain and all,” said a man harnessed to a tree next to me, who was touring the country with a singles group. “By far, the coolest thing we have done,” said a woman on the same tour.
The canopy experience is just one facet of the adventure hotel Barbara and Dietmar Maier began stitching together – almost by accident – 15 years ago.
The couple came from Germany with plans to retire in the hills above Miramar, near the Central Pacific port city of Puntarenas. As they were putting up the frame of their new home on an undeveloped lot about 15 minutes from town, people stopped by and askedfor a room. The Maiers looked at each other and thought, why not? So they added a handful of guest rooms to their new home.
As horse lovers, they began accumulating a stable of Andalusians and Arabians and offering tours to their guests. They added canopy lines over their property, as well as a climbing wall. And, step by step, Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo took shape.
“This was not what I had in mind when I came here,” said Barbara, who had envisioned a relaxing retirement, surrounded by the patchwork of farms and the pockets of trees that cover the enveloping valley. “But I couldn’t be happier.”
Watching the guests come in, drenched from the rain with smiles on their faces, she added, “It gives me a sense of satisfaction.”
Like the hotel, the 11-waterfall canopy tour came about at the suggestion of someone else.
Close to eight years ago, Dietmar took a few friends on a hike to a series of waterfalls that cascaded down the mountainside less than a mile from the Maiers’ home. His friend turned to him and said, “Dietmar, you should really take advantage of this. It’s beautiful.”
That was the beginning of the 25-platform canopy tour that now draws large groups from cruise ships and claims to be the only canopy experience in the country that passes over waterfalls.
The most recent addition to the hotel is a 33-element ropes course, in the highest branches of a nearby grove. A relatively new concept in Costa Rica, the course combines rope swings, knotted ladders and suspended beams, which are intended to encourage teamwork, risk-taking and trust. The Maiers hope to attract businesses looking for daylong team-building retreats.
Other activities include a night canopy tour, an ATVFunPark, horseback riding and cloud forest tours.
The hotel itself overlooks the valley, with distant views of the Gulf of Nicoya. The rooms are simple but clean and comfortable. Barbara acknowledges it’s not the hotel amenities that draw people here.
“We are a mountain hotel. We aren’t a luxury hotel,” she said, adding that the rooms and the restaurant simply provide guests an accessible way to take advantage of the tours. Offering a slew of package deals, the Maiers encourage guests to try as many of the activities as possible in a two- to three-day stay.
“We live on the edge of the world,” Barbara said. “Two weeks doesn’t make sense here, but three days? Yes.”
Depending on which activities a guest selects from the menu of options, those three days could be exhausting. Guests may not leave Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo feeling refreshed or rested, but they can carry away the satisfaction of having done something thrilling, as well as some pretty special mental images.
Remember the hotel’s advice to incoming guests: “Make sure you bring bug repellent, comfortable clothes, closed-toe shoes and an eagerness to experience activities unique to the country.”
Getting There, Rates, Info
From San José, take the west toward Puntarenas. At the Barranca intersection, before Puntarenas, turn right toward Miramar. Drive 12 km up into the mountains; Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo will be on the left. The trip takes about two hours.
toward Puntarenas. At the Barranca intersection, before Puntarenas, turn right toward Miramar. Drive 12 km up into the mountains; Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo will be on the left. The trip takes about two hours.
Rooms cost between $52 and $140, and can be combined with any of the tours for a discounted price. Depending on room category, amenities may include TV, minibar, wireless Internet, coffeemaker, fridge and ocean views. The Gold Package (one of three available) includes a room, three-course dinner, continental breakfast and any of the tours for $122 per person, double occupancy, and up. Individual tours range in price from $45 for a horseback tour or high ropes course to $89 for the canopy tour over 11 waterfalls.
For more information, visit Vista Golfo’s extensive Web site at www.adventureparkcostarica.com,or call 2639-8303 or 8382-3312.