by Steve Jermanok
Not far from the monkeys and sloths of Manuel Antonio National Park, yet far away from the touristy feel of Quepos is one of the most unique lodgings in Costa Rica. Drive inland on the country’s typical rutted roads, through fields of African palm trees, and your reward is the wonderful Rafiki Safari Lodge. Nestled deep in the verdant mountainside, the South African-born owners have created an upscale safari-style lodge like the ones found around South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The lodge is perched on a hilltop, surrounded by 842 acres of jungle and little else.
The owners fell in love with the grounds and its potential to create a wildlife sanctuary. Toucans and monkeys can be spotted on the property, and the large mammal, the tapir, is being reintroduced. In essence, they hope to create their own private game reserve in Central America. As soon as you arrive on the grounds, you’re lost in the sounds of the jungle and far removed from the woes of modernity. This is a place to lose yourself in the environs and truly savor the pura vida, “the good life.”
Our Editor Loves
- Surrounded by wildlife and jungle
- Eco-friendly resort
- Rafting and kayaking
- Horse Back Riding
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The 10 luxury tents were imported from South Africa and work well in the jungle. The large windows keep fresh air flowing through while the canvas walls keep the insects and other undesirables out. All of the tents are spacious, sleeping four comfortably with a double bed and two single beds, and a big outdoor patio to rock away the hours gazing at the mountains. Bathrooms are modern, with solar hot water for the showers. There are electrical outlets and lights in the tents, just don't expect a sterile hotel room with some commercial print on the walls. This is an eco-lodge, immersed deep in the forest, a place where the sounds of the jungle surround you.
All rooms are in close proximity to the restaurant in the main lodge building, which is nice at night when you're walking back under the stars. A flashlight is handed out to each family to make sure you can see where you're going.
There is a Family Tent available, which can accommodate up to five people and is set a little further away from the other tents. Along with the same amenities as the other tents, this unit includes its own private splash pool perfect for younger kids.
We traveled in Costa Rica with a 4x4 roof tent Hilux and camped at this lodge. Our staying has been amazing. The lodge and campsite are located in an exceptionally beautiful site, surrounded by a lushus jungle and ideal for diving into wild nature and bird watching. Our two young girls loved it too. The campsite is fabulous and has good bathrooms and showers and covered dining area, on a bluff overlooking a river. We also took the Aqua Hiking and it was absolutely fantastic ! Including the gorgeous lunch we had in top of the hill and the delicious dinner we had on arrival at the lodge; manager and staff absolutely great, including the guide of the hiking. Highly recommended!
We spent six days at Rafiki lodge and beach camp. The first four days were at the lodge where we hiked to waterfalls, rode horses and white water rafted. These were all great fun in their own right but made all the more memorable by the very enthusiastic and knowledgable guides. We left, feeling way more educated in the wonders of the diverse jungle ecosystem as well as the environmental challenges it faces. The great thing is that by staying at Rafikis you are directly helping this cause - conservation through tourism.
In and around the camp the kids loved the water slide - properly fast. The food is fantastic, best boerewors for a long time, not your typical Costa Rican fair! All the staff are super. Watch out for the dangerously addictive Tijuana Gunsmoke!
If you have an extra day to two you must do the kayak down the river and through mangrove swamps to stay at the beach camp. The zip lining organised at the beach camp was the best we did in a month in Costa Rica. We had the afternoon at Manuel Antonio then back to beach camp - lovely and calm after busy Manuel Antonio.
We had such an amazing time at Rafikis and it was great for the whole family! Pura Vida.
Upon your arrival, the children will be giddy from the site of the swift moving waterslide. The homemade slide works brilliantly, rocketing you 100 feet from the restaurant down below to the small pool of cold water that waits. It's a blast! The owner's sense of whimsy extends to the level grounds surrounding the pool, where they've set up a Frisbee golf course. A solar heated Jacuzzi can also be found off the main lodge.
Rafting and Kayaking
But you didn't come here to just hang out on property. Take a nature hike from Rafiki to the tumultuous Sevegre River that offers one of the best whitewater rafting experiences in the country. You'll plunge over rapids, bounce from rock to rock, and descend down mellow stretches of the waterway and jump overboard for a dip. The sounds of the toucan guide you down the river and you can spot other birds like great blue herons.
Horseback Riding and Hiking
There is ideal terrain for horseback riding and Rafiki is happy to oblige, setting you up with a local guide and horses for a morning or afternoon ride. They try to visit small villages where horseback riding is the only form of transportation, crossing rivers and visiting hidden waterfalls along the way. Nature hikes are also popular at Rafiki. Led by a naturalist, you'll be sucked into the greenery, learning the flora and fauna of the jungle. If you're fortunate, you'll also spot some of the 300 species of birds found in this portion of Costa Rica, including toucans, mot-mots, and trogans.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Only a 30 kilometer or one-hour drive to Manuel Antonio, the hotel can also set you up on a day tour of the National Park for a little monkey business and lounging on the sublime beaches. They can also arrange a deep-sea fishing excursion out of Quepos to hook marlins, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, and other trophy fish. This is Costa Rica, so a world of adventure is always around the corner.
Lekker Bar and Grill
Meals, which are included in your rate, are served in a large thatched hut with open windows in the main lodge building. A breakfast full of Costa Rica's amazingly delicious fruit is available every morning and lunch is provided in-house or on a Rafiki tour.
People tend to lounge in the restaurant area about an hour before dinner and have a mojito or beer while swinging in the hammock. The atmosphere is very chilled here in the hot jungle. The entrees, however, are best compared to a meal at one of the finest restaurants in San Jose. The menu is limited and guests usually have a choice of two main dish options for dinner as well as a vegetarian option. But don't let the limit menu fool you, you will not be disappointed no matter the choice. Grilled mahi mahi, no doubt caught that morning, is moist and tender off the grill. Or choose the South African sausage, part of a large braai or barbecue, washed down with a good Chilean wine.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The Boshoffs are a wonderful family who go out of their way to accommodate their guests. Thus, the reason why Rafiki is a favorite stopover of international outfitters. All you have to do is ask and your wish is granted. You can also arrange most of your adventures prior to arrival.
The Art of Smart Timing
If you can delay your trip until early May, prices will be reduced and you'll have the same dry weather Costa Rica had all winter. Mid-May is the start of the rainy season when it tends to shower for an hour daily every late afternoon. This is the start of what locals call the green season. The rains continue well into October and November, where they tend to be longer, more powerful storms.
Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose is a little more than three hours away and Daniel Oduber QuirÃ³s International Airport is about five hours away. The lodge can provide transportation from Quepos to the lodge for a fee. Quepos is about about an hour away.
If you plan to drive to the lodge yourself, a 4x4 vehicle is recommended but not required. The lodge can provide transportation from Quepos to the lodge for a fee. Quepos is about about an hour away.
For Mom and Dad
This is not a location where you're going to drive off-property to a restaurant three blocks away. Your only getaway from the kids might be a horseback jaunt into the mountains while the resort babysits the children for an hour or two. Otherwise, it's family time all the time.