Chasin’ Waterfalls

Chasin’ Waterfalls
Featured Writers: KATIE AND ERIN

Both Erin and Katie loved this particular Costa Rican adventure so much that they couldn’t agree who would get to write the post.  So they opted for the third-person introduction, while the blue font that follows was written by Erin and the green font was written by Katie.  Look out, TLC!  We’re chasing some waterfalls, whether you like it or not.

On our last Monday in Costa Rica, we spent five hours navigating an assortment of buses west to stay overnight in La Fortuna, a quaint town with clean streets, high-end restaurants, unique arts and crafts shops, and jacked-up tourist prices tucked cozily in the looming shadow of Arenal Volcano.  La Fortuna’s cooler climate, lush tropical vegetation, and proximity to a large number of waterfalls, whitewater rapids, and the aforementioned volcano have made it a well-established hotspot for tourists seeking tales of daring outdoor adventure to take home with them, which is precisely why we were there.  On the enthusiastic recommendation of Aaron and Becs, our friends, hosts, tour guides, and all-around upstanding citizens (ok, they were our bosses, too, but that didn’t influence the description, promise), we’d come here determined to try our luck at waterfall rappelling.

We arrived in La Fortuna in the early afternoon, checked into Gringo Pete’s, a clean, charming and ridonkulously cheap (hello, $4!) hostel recommended by a backpacking Canadian couple we met, and then proceeded to semi-stalk, on the bus ride there.  After dropping our bags off, we spent the rest of the day walking around and window-shopping before making our way to the Lava Lounge to talk with the restaurant’s California-bred owner, Scott, over a couple of industrial-strength piña coladas.  Aaron and Becs had met Scott a few years ago when they were in town for their first rappelling experience and had asked us to stop by and drop off some hot sauce to him.

Fortunately for us, Scott happened to be good friends with Cynthia, the lovely owner of Pure Trek, one of the two companies that offered rappelling in the area.  So when we mentioned to Scott our plans to go rappelling the next morning with her slightly cheaper competitor,  he phoned Cynthia on the spot and she proceeded to make us a counter-offer we couldn’t refuse.  So Pure Trek it was!

[Editor’s Note: Yes, I admit that, at the time, it was all about the Benjamins.  However, having done my post-trip research since then, I now see that our reasons for choosing Pure Trek should have been:

(a) their commitment to safety.  Their slightly higher price tag covers the cost of regular equipment change-outs and safety upgrades; and

(b) the fact that their belaying technique provides customers a more authentic rappelling experience than the standard zipline style used by most other rappelling companies.

Thus, even though we ended up choosing wisely, it was for incredibly unwise financial reasons.  So don’t be stupid like us and try to scrimp on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, mmkay?]

Next morning arrived right on time, and the bus came to whisk us off on our adventure, which started with a 20-minute drive out of town and then a 15-minute putter up a steep and winding dirt road in an off-road Jeep.

The view from the dirt road.  I could live there.

This being the rainy off-season, our group was small and intimate, consisting of only three other American tourists and five Pure Trek employees.  Our guides were Ticos who spoke English very well and exuded an air of confidence and outdoor prowess befitting their Teva sandals; if they had no idea what they were doing, they at least put on a really good show otherwise.  And it didn’t hurt that every single one of them was cheek-pinchingly adorable.

At the top of the hill, we stopped at a small outpost station where we proceeded to trade in whatever remaining cool points we had for ginormous helmets and underwear made of seatbelts.

Safety first; fashion, an extremely distant second.

From there, we locked our valuables in the truck and descended down a rocky, yet well-maintained, trail into what felt like the beating heart of the jungle.  Even though it was only a five-minute walk, it truly felt like we were the first explorers ever to set foot there—everywhere you looked were palm leaves the size of Volkswagens and thick, tangled vines in a thousand variations of green competing ruthlessly for the sun.

In fact, we were in such awe of our primal surroundings that we almost forgot what why we were there in the first place.  And that little nugget of awareness came back to us just about the time we approached the edge of the 175-foot waterfall.

While the rest of the staff efficiently went about ensuring all the safety measures and belays were in place, our main guide briefed us on how to properly hold the ropes and position our feet so as to preserve our knees and faces in case we wanted to use them at a later date.

And then the time came for us to demonstrate our listening comprehension skills.

Despite the abundance of safety ropes snugly attached to you, it’s still a somewhat terrifying feeling to take that first backward step off the edge of the platform and let yourself dangle in midair, contemplating the 175 feet of nothing standing between the bottoms of your sneakers and the ground.

But just as quickly as that fluttery-stomach feeling came, it went and the experience was no longer awesomely terrifying but just awesome.  While that first waterfall was by far the tallest, each of the three subsequent ones we rappelled down presented different terrain challenges to keep you entertained, as well as new opportunities for our playful guides to keep themselvesentertained by dunking us in frothing 60-degree water.  The little scamps.

What’s that?  You want me to hold you right in the middle of the fall while my friend takes pictures of you gulping down mouthfuls of river water like a large-mouth bass?

What’s that?  You want me to hold you right there while your face takes a tsunami-force shower?

By the end of the morning, our little group had pretty much gotten the hang of rappelling and needed the belayers below to keep us from smashing ourselves against the rock wall only a few times.

Soaking wet and a little tired (in a really, really good way) from navigating jungle canyons spider-man style, we thought our Pure Trek experience was over, but our guides piled us into the vehicle and trucked us back down the mountain to the Pure Trek oasis.  It was really a resort-like compound, but I call it an oasis with its cozy lodge, open-air restaurant, and the most beautiful restroom we’d seen in Costa Rica.

Erin and I were thrilled to take a nice, hot shower in the spa-like facility complete with towels, shampoo, conditioner, and even body lotion.

That’s it.  I’m moving in.

We felt invigorated and refreshed after our showers, but we also felt something else…  HUNGRY.

Apparently physical exercise does that to people.  Who knew?

We walked through the lush garden to the open-air dining area where Pure Trek’s chefs had an authentic Tico lunch waiting for us.

A hot plate of rice with chicken and black beans and a wonderful salad (sorry, no picture – did I mention we were hungry?) was brought to our table.  We were able to relax with a glass of fresh pineapple juice and watch a slideshow of the professional photos taken of our rappelling adventure on a monitor in the corner.

After our completely satisfying lunch, we were escorted back through the garden to the main lodge, where hot Costa Rican coffee awaited us.

The space was incredibly inviting and relaxing.  We were waiting for our transportation back to our hostel in town (provided by Pure Trek), but it hardly felt like waiting – we didn’t want to leave!

This experience truly was one of the most outstanding highlights of our trip.  Thanks to Aaron and Becs for telling us about it, Scott at Lava Lounge for setting us straight on where we should go, and Cynthia and the guides from Pure Trek for showing us a completely amazing time.

It’s gonna be hard to top this one…


Submissions to

With 500,00 hits and 13,000 followers in less than 6 months, I’ve decided to start outsourcing some of my posts and I’m accepting submissions!

Submit your travel posts and bucket list adventures along with photography to Bucket List Publications at [email protected]. All authors/photographers whose articles are chosen for publication will receive publication at, a link to their blog, and a link on my Facebook page Lesley Carter – has an average of 200,000 views a month, 13,000 followers, and around 10,000 readers a day!

Please submit articles on the following subjects:

Top Ten
Extreme Adventures

Articles should include at least 3 pictures and up to 10. Pictures should be sent as jpeg attachments rather than embedded in a word file. Maximum size per email is 10mb so if you’re sending many large photos you can use multiple emails.

Your submissions do not need to be original posts. You can submit already published works as long as they are your own content. I do ask that all submissions are in Microsoft Word format and all photos are sent as jpeg attachmentsPlease title your submissions with one of the above listed categories. 

Remember to include your name and a link to your blog at the top of the text. 

Send submissions to [email protected].

I’ll start posting submissions on Friday, January 20th, 2012 and post regularly on the weekends.

Thank you and I look forward to reading your Bucket List Publications!

45 thoughts on “Chasin’ Waterfalls

  1. Wow! i would love to lead a life like you do… minus the waterfall/mountain adventures… i am deathly afraid of heights, but I am enjoying your view from up there! I hope to be able to travel at least half as much as you do, while meeting new and hopefully exciting people. Everyone has a story to tell


    • You are easily one of the most interesting people I’ve run in to. You live life to it’s fullest and I admire that greatly. This looks like a lot of fun. We do a lot of this kind of thing, but not in such an exotic location. Very cool!


  2. The first time I went to Costa Rica I went on a horseback excursion to the Narayana Waterfall – somewhere between Quepos and Dominical, I think… an amazing trek through the jungle down into a canyon, stopping on the way for a Tico breakfast to die for, then back in the saddle to the waterfall. Our two guides stripped and climbed and put on an exquisite performance of diving and somersaulting down the falls. We swam in the cool clear pool and some also climbed. On our way back up we stopped again to eat a delicious meal and play with the Mackaws, Capuchins and various other wildlife. Other than my horse wanting to scrape me off on a boulder and have me tumble a thousand feet below, it was an exhilarating and satisfying experience. The hospitality, as you described, makes you just want to put down your bags and stay! Thanks for a wonderful adventure.


  3. I agree, I could easily move right in there! My father and my daughter, at separate times, both for a combination of business and pleasure, have enjoyed many of these same types of scenes and experiences in the wonderful forest preserves of Costa Rica. I still receive coffees on subscriptions they started for me while they were there. Fantatic photos and wonderful physical fitness, you two!


  4. Awesome!!! Your blog site makes me itch to travel so badly! I will be going to Puerto Rico in 13 days, so maybe I will submit a post to your site! Thanks for liking my blog and hope to work with you in the future 🙂


  5. I would love to submit to this blog, but what exactly do you mean by “Top Ten Destinations?” Are those the top ten places the writer would like to visit, the top ten destinations designated on the site, or what? Please let me know.


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