Things To Do in Costa Rica: Waterfall Rappelling at 100 Feet

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!

Things To Do in Costa Rica: 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.

Things To Do in Costa Rica: 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.

Costa Rican Beach, Things To Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Things To Do

Things To Do in Costa Rica: Horseback Riding on the Beach

“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”.

Cape Matapalo, Costa Rica, King Louie Waterfall, Things To Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Things To Do

It was not so easy and I guess I kind of skipped over that “100 foot” part!

Things To Do in Costa Rica: Rappelling a 100-Foot Waterfall

First, we rode horseback thru the great outdoors, winding our way thru 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 thru the forest and went right thru 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.

Cape Matapalo, Costa Rica, King Louie Waterfall, Things To Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Things To Do

Things To Do in Costa Rica: 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!

Cape Matapalo, Costa Rica, King Louie Waterfall, Things To Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Things To Do

Things To Do in Costa Rica: Now It Was My Turn

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.

Things To Do in Costa Rica: 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 their 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.

Cape Matapalo, Costa Rica, King Louie Waterfall, Things To Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Things To Do

Things To Do in Costa Rica: Would I Do It 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.

Cape Matapalo, Costa Rica, King Louie Waterfall, Things To Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Things To Do

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 things to do!

Want to learn more about Costa Rica? Hop on over to True Nomads and read Justin Carmack’s article about the 10 Best Beached in Costa Rica

Cape Matapalo, Costa Rica, King Louie Waterfall, Things To Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Things To Do

Recommended Reading About Costa Rica:

Top 7 Places For Wildlife in Costa Rica National Parks

Close Your Eyes and Imagine Stunning Blue Costa Rica

A Yoga Retreat Blue Osa, Costa Rica

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!

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  1. Brianna September 14, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I absolutely loved my time in the Osa, I can’t wait to go back!

    • Cacinda Maloney September 15, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Me too! This was just one of the adventures I had there!

  2. Jo September 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Wow, that waterfall is amazing! You’re so brave to abseil down it, I’d be terrified! Especially if I slipped in the cave like you did.

    • Cacinda Maloney September 15, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      It was a crazy moment in my life, that is for sure!

  3. Jean | Holy Smithereens September 14, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    This looks exciting! I haven’t done rappelling but I understand what you mean — the effort to get there (the not so fun part) outweighs the fun and easiest part – going down. I’d love to try it once though to see if I’d want to do it again 🙂 But good on you for finishing and completing the entire activity!

    • Cacinda Maloney September 15, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Yes, I don’t like to quit! But I am getting older, so need to keep my health in mind! Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Tamara Gruber September 19, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Sounds amazing, except for the spider and pulling yourself back up. You would hope after the adrenaline rush of rappelling you could walk out if there. I had my first experience rappelling after rock climbing recently and it is hard to trust and just let go.

    • Cacinda Maloney September 20, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Scary is more the word that comes to mind for me!! But I did it!

  5. Felix October 2, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Very nice article about Matapalo area! Pura Vida!

  6. […] rock formations inside, where you can swim and just hang out and have fun.  Remember when I rappelled in Costa Rica down that 100 foot waterfall?  Well, this is no where near as scary, and much more fun than that […]

  7. Michelle October 13, 2014 at 8:20 am

    What amazing pictures!!

    And I wouldn’t repel down that. I’d watch though!

    • Cacinda Maloney October 13, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Ha, ha, ha getting old isn’t for wussies is right!

  8. Bodynsoil October 13, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I’m proud of you for completing the challenge, even when you really didn’t want too do it. The waterfall does sound scary to do, I would have enjoyed the horseback ride however.

    • Cacinda Maloney October 13, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      I hope I am an older appreciated person at work! ha ha! Thanks, it was challenging.

  9. Donna Hull October 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Oh my. My idea of adventure is when I’m empowered by the accomplishment. It sounds like this adventure went beyond your threshold of enjoyment, but could for you for trying. This is one jungle experience that I’ll be passing on.

    • Cacinda Maloney October 17, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Yes me too! Won’t do that again!

  10. Get Your Heart Pumping with these Adventure Packed Vacation Destinations - January 22, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    […] to nothing from the environment. If you’re a do­gooder, with a passion for adventure, then Costa Rica will provide you with an unforgettable experience. Imagine rappelling 100 ­feet down a waterfall, […]

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    […] – first time to ever visit a yoga retreat at Blue Osa in Costa Rica and the first time I have ever repelled down a 100 foot waterfall, which I will never do […]

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