From volcanoes and endless beaches to rainforests, jungles, national parks, and awe-inspiring wildlife, Costa Rica really does seem to have it all. So you can imagine when I heard about a 110-foot rappel down gorgeous King Louie Waterfall that, of course, I wanted to make that one of my things to do in Costa Rica when I arrived there. Even though I was actually going to a yoga retreat, I knew I needed a bit of excitement. Stay tuned as you read about one adventure I won’t soon forget!
Waterfall Rappelling at 100 Feet!
Steadying himself, he took one step onto the wet, slippery rock on top of the falls and slipped. He then took another step and slipped again. My heart dropped and my stomach began to feel queasy. I watched him intently as he tried to make his way to the harness to get himself strapped in. Nothing stood between him and the edge of the black lava rock near the 100-foot drop. I was terrified, as my turn was coming up shortly. He eventually made his way out across the volcanic rock surface and got strapped in around his waist with one safety line and one pulley system line and began to disappear beyond my view. One by one, I watched as each person before me began the terrifying walk across the rock, only to slowly watch them disappear below my view. I could hear the rushing water down below, but could not see anything beyond my vision.
Horseback Riding on the Beach
This day started out pretty much like any other adventure. I found myself in rural Costa Rica near the Osa Peninsula. The others on the trip mentioned something about a waterfall and rappelling… in the same sentence and at the time, I didn’t think much of it.
“Sure”, I thought, “a little horseback riding, a short hike and rappelling down a waterfall.” “Sounds fun”.
“WHAT?” I am thinking now in my head after my return.
The brochure made it sound so simple:
“Hike up and around a series of waterfalls nestled in lush rainforest, leading to King Louie Waterfall in Matapalo. At the top of the falls, you will get harnessed in and rappel down a 100-foot waterfall that we call “the Cathedral”.
It was not so easy and I guess I kind of skipped over that “100 foot” part!
First, we rode horseback in the great outdoors, winding our way through the thick and bushy forest. There was some sort of path in this lush rainforest, but my horse was hesitant the entire ride and didn’t really like making the path up through the thick forest, that had slick mud puddles, rocks and steep crevices in the dirt path that the prior rains had made.
We encountered giant lizards, hawks, spider monkeys, humongous spiders with double webs, and even wild horses. At one point, my horse even took an alternative path, which was through the forest and went right through a giant double webbed spiderweb. The giant spider dangled on his nose and then clung to her eyelash as the horse shook her head to get it off. It was at that point that I was getting ready to jump off if that giant spider came any closer to me.
Welcome to the Jungle!
One thing I learned from this trip is how unforgiving the jungle can be. With each step my cream-colored horse made, we went deeper and deeper into the rainforest. Finally, after over an hour, we arrived at the hitching spot for the horses, demounted and continued on our trek on foot. We had about another twenty to thirty minutes of uphill hiking until we reached the starting point of King Louie Waterfall, the spot where “the point of no return” really began! Actually, I guess I could have not rappelled, but just couldn’t imagine turning around after I had gone this far, plus the embarrassment of peer pressure was too much for me to bear!
Now It Was My Turn to Rappel
I made my way to the slippery rock, after watching several people before me I knew what I needed to do. I chose the left side of the rock to begin. I had on a pair of old Tevas and hoped I had enough grip and sure footing to make it out over the edge. Shockingly, I never slipped and made it out the spot walking backward to the spot where I need to be harnessed in. Once strapped up, I began to squat to sit and lean backward and made my way down the backside of the rock, which is, in essence, the top of the waterfall. This is maneuver is counterintuitive. Once I started rappelling, I realized soon enough that the only way is down and so I began the descent.
Going Down a Slippery Slope
As I attempt to go down, rappelling is just the opposite of anything that is instinctual. Leaning back, pushing off with your feet and hanging on for dear life, as your right-hand pulls up, you go down. Pull by pull, I finally made it down about 40 feet, where they had previously warned us that there was a “hole” in the waterfall.
It was at this point that the waterfall split into two streams and there was a cave in between them. Not even thinking at this point, with my next push off, I slipped right inside of the cave and somehow while dangling on the rope got myself turned around and was now facing the waterfall from the inside. Yikes!
Honestly, all I could think about was getting out of there and so I tried with all my might to get my body turned around and pushed off against anything I could find and soon I was turned back around and on my way down the ascent. Slowly, but surely, I eventually landed my feet on solid rocky ground in rushing water up to my waist, but I had made it. I could not get unhooked fast enough and was ready to join the others across the flowing river at the meet spot.
Would I Do This 100 Foot Waterfall Rappel Again?
No. Not since I now know that the horse ride was over an hour just to get there, the hike took 20-30 minutes and that was just to make it to the spot. And then the terrifying experience to rappel down a 100-foot wet cliff, no thank you.
Upon the return, I had to do everything in reverse, except to get out of the deep canyon where the waterfall landed and the river was, I had to pull myself up, hand by hand, over a rope to get to the trail, pulling my body weight to the top. This was an experience of a lifetime, but one I do not wish to repeat.
Others thought it was “exhilarating”, but for me, “terrifying” would be the word that comes to mind!
Waterfall rappelling. Have you been? Would you do it? This is just one of Costa Rica’s things to do!
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Disclosure: This excursion was a part of a press trip that was taken with Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and you, too, can have such an exhilarating or terrifying experience if you so wish!