There are three waterfalls on the slopes of Cerro Pelado that will steal the spotlight today on the famous hill in Cañas.
Our expedition to them begins at the entrance to the town of Jabilla in the area of Cañas, where we meet the person who will be our guide for the next eight hours, Roberto Azofeifa of Adventures Xtreme.
It is the same entrance that leads to the main parking of Cerro Pelado, but for our adventure, we must continue another two kilometers (about 1.25 miles) past that point, to the entrance of a private property that Azofeifa has permission to enter.
From the entrance, we carry a helmet, a harness, gloves and a rope for what awaits us. Like this, we walk about 200 meters (about 650 feet) towards our first shot of adrenaline: a stone wall of about 80 meters (about 260 feet), which is so high that you have to lean back to see the top from the base.
Since it is dry season, we could only see a trickle of water falling between the rocks, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Azofeifa tells us that in rainy season, the wall is covered with a waterfall. The rocks are still moist and the green of the trees that surround the place attest that it is so.
Azofeifa calls it “El Pirata Rojo” (The Red Pirate), in honor of the nickname of a friend with whom he discovered the place.
At this point, our guide makes it very clear that the adventure is just beginning and that if we had more experience in the world of rappelling, we would have descended it. “This is for people who are passionate about nature and extreme sports,” he tells us.
In fact, the main recommendation for anyone who wants to make a tour of this type is to be in medium to expert level physical condition.
We continue about 150 meters (about 500 feet) from The Red Pirate to the place where we can rappel. The distance seems short, but the road is steep and full of leaves that give the sensation of walking on a soapy floor. The key to continuing is to hold on to the roots and tree trunks that abound on the trail.
Once at the top, Cerro Pelado announces that we are in its domain and peaks out in the distance.
Azofeifa tells us that from Monday to Friday, he is a teacher in Tilaran and that he eagerly looks forward to doing this, “what he likes most,” every weekend. Since 1995, he has been exploring the lands near the hill and since March 2018, he has had all the papers in order to do this kind of tour with his business.
Azofeifa keeps quiet and concentrates. Then, he announces outloud to which tree he is going to tie the safety rope that will allow us to descend about 35 meters (about 115 feet) down. He also explains to us the kind of knots that are made in the ropes to attach the harness to them. Azofeifa calls this kind of ritual “perfection.” That’s because nothing can be wrong, since everyone’s life depends on it.
I’m going to test everything myself first,” he tells us with confidence, and descends.
Two more professionals, including someone from Red Cross, always accompany Azofeifa on each expedition that he makes, to double check the equipment and the place.
While waiting for each one’s turn, the sound of the wind between the trees and the cicada bugs remind us that we are in the middle of the forest (along with the quantity of all kinds of mosquitoes).
Now during the descent, you have to put one hand above and another below the knot that is at waist level and that is made with the rope that will take us safely to the floor. Sliding down is slow, controlled, with your feet apart and almost sitting. No force is required, but lack of experience makes your muscles tense with each meter on the way down.
After making it through the first test, we head to another waterfall that is less high. We’ve been on the tour for three hours and there’s still more. That’s why you have to bring at least two liters (half a gallon) of water and some fruit.
This second waterfall is about 20 meters (65 feet) high and is located between two rock walls, like a kind of canyon.
The shade in this place allows us to rest for about 15 minutes to prepare for the final waterfall. Azofeifa calls it “La Escondida” (The Hidden One), although he tells us that people who live in the area usually call it “Las Delicias” (The Delight).
To get to the pool that forms below the waterfall, you have to do an “assisted descent.” Unlike rappelling, here we have to use our hands and feet to hold onto the mountain and be able to descend. In addition, the descent is not vertical, but has a small inclination. In like manner, we are attached to a rope, for safety.
We go down 30 meters (about 100 feet), and the beauty of the landscape makes us keep silent. The power of the waterfall and the pool that it makes below remind us why we wanted to see this unknown face of Cerro Pelado: it’s just us and nature.
“They are places that almost nobody knows about, and when they find out, they support local and rural tourism,” comments Azofeifa, now leaving the mountain.
Editor’s note, December 10, 2021: We called the enterpreneurs to check if they’re currently doing these tours. Nowadays, prices range from ₡10,000 to ₡25,000 (about $15 to $40) per person. If you want to book your trip or have questions, call 8413-1158 or 8661-2312.