The first company in the world to offer aerial tram tours through 1,200 acres of dense jungle without cutting down any trees, Rainforest Adventures takes groups to five natural parks for idyllic rides through wildlife reserves high up among the tree canopies.
The Costa Rica-based company operates in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Dominica and the two Costa Rican coasts—the Pacific and the Atlantic. For a sneak peak of our upcoming Sept/Oct issue focusing on sustainability, we conducted a Q+A with general manager Eugenia Solano. From mountain hikes, lunch in the middle of the rainforest, whitewater rafting and tours to see exotic wildlife, groups here will experience one of the world’s most complex and varied ecosystems.
Add to that lots of adrenaline, says Eugenia.
Q: What is Rainforest Adventures’ central mission?
ES: What we do is offer experiences to groups in the middle of the rainforest. What we provide is not just tours. We provide experiences because part of our mission is to show why it is important to preserve the rainforest. And we want everyone to take something with them. We show them how we recycle; we show them how we employ people from our communities. We show them that we only use organic foods. We try to show them that it is not as hard as everybody thinks to be sustainable these days.
Q: What kinds of activities are available to groups?
ES: Our main attraction is the aerial tram, through which groups travel through the rainforest. We have special theme activities and parties that we do for incentive groups or groups that would like to do something different. What we have here in Costa Rica is very unique. We have the Rainforest Encounter. Actors dress up like animals that you find in the middle of the forest. They tattoo their entire bodies and they appear throughout the day in the middle of activities, cocktail hours or beautiful dinners. We complement that with live music. We have a local group that does music that is electronic but with an indigenous combination. It’s very unique.
We also have a Treasure Hunt. The idea is that groups answer a few questions, and at the end, we have a nice celebration with the winning group. We also have a very nice activity with butterflies. Each person has the opportunity to free a butterfly. We can do a lot of things in the middle of the rainforest.
We also have the Ecopass. It includes the aerial tram, which is a tour of about one hour and 10 minutes, six to eight passengers per gondola plus a guide, and the ziplining and canopy tours. It’s a full day of activities that groups can do. We have what we call Rainforest Restaurants too. They are also located in the middle of the rainforest, so they are open air restaurants for groups of up to 110 seated. The waiters dress up from time to time, so it creates a very unique and different atmosphere. We offer local dishes like yellow rice, black beans, sweet plantains, a very typical dish with vanilla and sugar—they are delicious—and different fruits of the season: watermelon, papaya, pineapple, melon, and of course coffee, which is a signature in our country. And we have local fresh juices with fruits only found in the area, like soursop, called guanabana. We like to be very natural and Costa Rican.
Q: What can groups learn in Costa Rica about sustainability?
ES: We participated with the Costa Rican Tourism Board for the Certification for Sustainable Tourism. And we obtained five stars, the highest rate, because we combine preserving the rainforest with activities that are carbon neutral because we mitigate all the pollution that we create. Everything groups do is related to the rainforest and everything we use is from the surrounding areas. All the guides, everybody comes from the local area. It doesn’t matter if it’s a group of 100 people, everybody learns because each group is divided into groups of six persons on the Atlantic tram, or into groups of eight in the Pacific, and each group has one naturalist guide. All of our guides are Costa Rican and most of them have been working with us since the beginning.
Q: What’s the main difference between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts?
ES: The main difference is the ecosystem. The Atlantic side is a very dense rainforest. On the Pacific side, it’s the combination of rain and dry forest. The Atlantic is 50 minutes away from San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, and the Pacific is an hour and 40 minutes away. Groups usually go to one or the other because most groups stay only one night in San Jose.
The Atlantic is the most popular. It is the pioneer with seventeen years of operation. The Pacific has been open eight years. I love both because each has a unique soul. Each one is different. The Pacific is great because on the way up, you take the tram and you can see the Pacific Coast, and you can come back on the zip liner. On the Atlantic side, you will see a very dense and diverse rainforest that has been featured on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
Q: What kind of feedback do you get from groups?
ES: Groups look more for the adventure, they’re into the adrenaline, so they usually ask for the zipline, the tram or hiking. They look for exercise, for exciting activities. We also have a teambuilding activity that we do on the Altantic side, a combination of ziplines with water rafting. We partner with Aguas Bravas, 10 minutes away from the property, and we do whitewater rafting with them at the Chirripo River.
Q: Anything else?
ES: We are a company that has never had any accidents. We are very conscious about the safety of our passengers. We are certified internationally with the aerial tram and the zip line. It’s not a requirement in Costa Rica but we wanted to certify our tram and ziplines so we meet international standards.