HIKING

Hiking and Camping on your Costa Rica holiday

Trails for nature, trails for exercise, trails for spectacular views

One kind of hiking — where the mission is to see the waterfalls, and birds, and lizards and other critters, and stay cool and hot at the same time. Shown here is one of Serendipity's private hiking places near Turrialba.

One kind of hiking — where the mission is to see the waterfalls, and birds, and lizards and other critters, and stay cool and hot at the same time.
Shown here is one of Serendipity’s private hiking places near Turrialba.

Hiking has a different meaning for different people, and before we design a hiking experience for you, we need to know what you are expecting. Here are some things to think about.

Conventional hikes

The National Parks offer established hiking routes. Since the idea of rainforest hiking is to see the rainforest, and preserve it as well, these hikes are laid out and marked by the park service, and in many instances the routes are “improved” — paving stones so you don’t sink in mud, steps and handrails so you don’t need to go hand-over-hand.

In any of the National Parks and private parks you are not permitted to wander off the trail, as that creates ecological damage. This style of hiking is usually 2-5 hours and travels in a loop. Along the way there will be sign posted points of interest. The type of animals you will see is determined by how many people are using the same trails, and how quiet you can stand while waiting. By the way, some National Parks allow camping in regulated camping areas accessible by car. None of the National Parks allow real penetration for jungle camping in pristine wilderness.

Naturalist hikes

Cloud forests are surreal — the misty air and giant, pre-jurassic ferns take your senses to another era, millions of years ago.

Cloud forests are surreal — the misty air and giant, pre-jurassic ferns take your senses to another era, millions of years ago.

Then there’s another style of hiking — the pure joy of walking slowly, standing still, and looking and seeing wonderful things. The sense of hurry drops away and the goal is purely to savor the surroundings. These hikes can be very short distances — perhaps 2 kilometers in a silent cloud forest — and take five hours to absorb everything there is to see, smell, hear, and sense.

Cloud forests demand this type of intimacy, and hiking in a cloud forest is closer to tip-toeing than walking. There’s a serenity here that defies the outer world. You’re enveloped by the dense vegetation and thick fog.

By the way, Monteverde is the most famous cloud forest, and certainly the most visited “nature” area in our small country. Because of its tourism popularity, Monteverde is referred to as the “crowd forest” by local Costa Ricans. Serendipity has selected instead several private cloud forests, which have their own unique cloud forest ecosystems but without busloads of people.

Rugged hikes (bushwhacking)

Hiking the Indigenous lands requires machetes and walking sticks and a true sense of pioneer spirit

Hiking the Indigenous lands requires machetes and walking sticks and a true sense of pioneer spirit

Some of the more interesting hikes Serendipity Adventures offers as part of your holiday are on preserves, both Indigenous lands (our Cabecar Trail is one such hike) and on national preserves (as opposed to National Parks). These hikes follow trails used by native people, or by animals (believe it or not, big cats follow the same route followed by people since it is the easiest route). When our local guide tells us “it’s two hours hike from here” he means two hours at Indian speed, or about five hours at white man speed. Even the very fit amongst our guides finds it impossible to keep up with the local leader, a real trail blazer. Fortunately we can slow up the leader in front of us by asking, politely, to whack the trail clear with the machete. While very agreeable to do the whacking, but they sometimes forget the height difference — often a foot or more for our guides and guests than for our local leader. So the overgrowth also slows down our progress. These hikes are rugged, unimproved, often slippery, and are more classically Hollywood in the drama of the terrain and flora and fauna. There will be fewer animals on this style hike than in the National Parks, because, even though there are fewer people, there’s nonetheless a lot of noise whacking with machetes.

This is the “top of the world” — the rim of the crater of an active volcano.

This is the “top of the world” — the rim of the crater of an active volcano.

Hurrah! We made it!

And then there’s “purposeful” hiking — to reach a vista, to vanquish a mountain, to look down on the world. With the jungle all around you, it is, as they say, a matter of not seeing the forest for the trees. But when you hike to the top of the world (or at least the top of the one of our volcanoes) you have a view of lushness, and sometimes even a view of two oceans (Atlantic and Pacific). And there’s always the sense of conquest to reward you.

So, when we design your holiday trip, let us know what you mean by hiking.