by Jim Damalas
When you read each and every guest comment regarding Costa Rica, year after year, what’s still the most highly rated tour we have ever produced and offered in Costa Rica mountain adventures continues to be the most authentic of concepts. It’s our guided Santa Juana Rural Mountain Adventure Tour. I remember when my friend and colleague, Hugo Arias, took me up to see a farm, in my search to find a natural waterfall. After hacking our way through the jungle and nearly falling off a cliff, it turned out the “waterfall” was missing the water.
Costa Rica mountain adventures
However as destiny would have it, we stopped further up the mountain ridge of Fila Chonta, overlooking the panoramic vistas of the mountain range of Talamanca and the impressive coastline of Manuel Antonio. There, in a tiny farm village (pop. 38), named after Joan of Arc or Santa Juana, where we stopped for a empanada and warm beer looking across from the tiny family soda, was the “Oasis” of a hilltop surrounded by lush tropical jungle that became my own farm retreat and involvement in a village community with a tour idea that has now employed members of several local families and brought back sons and daughters to work with us in rural tourism.
We combined Rural and Agro Tourism to offer guests, from around the world, a truly authentic Costa Rica mountain adventures experiences that highlights all that’s typical in the farm village culture and lifestyle reflected in many similar villages that are now challenged by the modern dictates of a developing nation whose population has left the fields to join the masses in the cities and tourist resorts promoted by the tourist industry.
What I began to realize, after what was originally my weekend hobby with my casita and farming efforts, was the positive feedback from both friends, as well as the clients, who experienced our guided rural Costa Rica mountain adventures tours. Everyone, including the locals, were literally blown away by the tranquil atmosphere and warm and inviting charm of the local lifestyle surrounded by lush mountain landscapes.
The feedback became the most consistent and highly praised tour experience for visitors from every background, including Costa Ricans who re-discovered their rural heritage. Just the 4 x 4 county road to get there was an adventure, and the village ladies who prepared the country breakfast and Campesino lunches felt were treated like chefs with all the comments and generous tips they received. That was no different with the Nature Guides, Horse Wranglers and the villagers who baited the hooks to go fishing in the Tilapia ponds. The welcoming vibrations came across pure and simple to every guest the village made to feel at home.
I am happy to say that another benefit has been the thousands of native trees we’ve been able to plant and care for, along with the conservation efforts to protect the flora, fauna and watershed, added to the self esteem and awareness that’s brought a dormant village back to life again as part of the rural and agro tourism that’s been brought to Santa Juana and other areas of Costa Rica, by discovering the genuine hospitality that is at the roots of many of us who one time were farmers on the new frontiers.