By: Greg Reeser
My favorite tour is the Desafio Gravity Falls Extreme Combo because it includes three of the most fun activities there are to do in Costa Rica (canyoneering, mountain biking, and rafting).
What better way to start this combo tour off than with Gravity Falls? This gorgeous canyon in the middle of the rainforest reminds me of movie scenes from the past (take your pick of Jurassic Park, Romancing the Stone, or the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark) and besides it’s incredible beauty, the fact that you won’t see any other humans (except the others doing the tour with you, of course) make it a really special place. To get down into the canyon you need to do a 140 foot rappel next to a roaring waterfall, probably not your cup of tea if you have a fear of heights, but if you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping experience in the jungle, this is it. Then it’s time for a series of six jumps into the crystal-clear, bubbling waters of the Rio La Danta as you make your way down the canyon. Some of the guides like to do a mid-air flip when they jump and if you like, they’ll show you how to do it, too (don’t worry, the life jacket you’ll be wearing will help mitigate the sting if you end up landing on your belly). Half way down the canyon you’ll do an aided climb of about 30 meters up the canyon wall before rappelling back down to the riverbed. This is followed by a Tarzan swing and a few technical jumps before you reach the final, biggest, jump of 25 feet. If you’ve already got some cliff jumping experience this will be one of the highlights of the tour and if you’re more of a newbie, it’s better to jump as soon as you get to cliff’s edge (the longer you stand and look at the distance the more likely you will chicken out). Now it’s time to leave the canyon but before you get on the bikes you’ll have the chance to fuel up with some delicious tropical fruits.
There are few places as peaceful as the Costa Rican countryside and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the ride from Gravity Falls to the river is listening to the sounds of the birds as you ride. And who knows, you may pass a friendly campesino along the way (wave at her/him, I guarantee they’ll wave back).
Growing up in the Western United States, I’ve always associated a clear mountain river with ice cold, hand-numbing water, but (even though the Rio Balsa has some of the clearest, purest water you’ll see—and it comes straight from the mountains!) surprise surprise, it’s 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which means no need for wetsuits and no chattering teeth. One of the best aspects of the upper section of the Rio Balsa is that it is very continuous (i.e. the rapids are close together) so the action never stops. The lower section of the river is flatter and the rapids are further apart but it also gives you more of a chance to spot wildlife as you go (I’ll never forget the time I saw a Sunbittern, one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful birds nesting in a tree on the bank of the Rio Balsa).
Three tours in one day is pretty tough to beat, and if those three tours are canyoneering, mountain biking, and rafting in the Costa Rican rainforest, it’s a no-brainer. The Gravity Falls Extreme Combo is the best tour in Costa Rica, maybe even one of the best in the world.
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