Costa RicaCosta Rica

Hiking the Savegre Waterfall and Tolomuco

Destination: San Gerardo de Dota

Dearly clinging to a rope, I scrabbled over moss-laden rocks and slippery tree roots, trying not to tumble down the side of a mountain. I skittered along the waterfall trail and envisioned myself on the often gruesome Discovery Channel program "I Shouldn't Be Alive". But on second thought, I remembered the scenarios always involved two hikers -- with one person unharmed and able to look for help.

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Excluding the single treacherous portion, the serpentine path to the Savegre waterfall proved a pleasure to hike. It was my final morning in San Gerardo de Dota, and I intended to make the most of it. The two-kilometer trail meandered under thickets of cypress and pine, interspersed with rolling hills draped in wild flowers. I crossed the river on a sturdy suspension bridge, breathing in the cool, peaty air.

Towering some 30 meters, the pristine Savegre waterfall was a fairy-tale vision. Clear waters crashed over boulders, sending a fine mist into the air. On my way back to the lodge, the blue sky faded behind thick clouds as a soft rain began. The steep road out of San Gerardo is notoriously slick in the rainy season, and my 4WD saved the day on one particularly muddy section.

I slowly climbed out of the valley and continued south on Cerro de la Muerte, crossing the Interamericana's highest point at 3,491 meters above sea level. The mist cleared and the rains let up as the highway gradually threaded down the mountain. My home for the next two evenings was just an hour up the road, at Km 118. I was visiting the tranquil mountain retreat of Bosque del Tolomuco, a lovely B&B run by Lise and Rolf Zersch.

Located 8.5 miles north of San Isidro, the retreat frequently attracts travelers en route to the South Pacific Coast from San Jose (or vice versa). The lodge is named after the clever tayra, or tree otter, that inhabits the surrounding forest, where a series of well-marked trails offer incredible views of the Talamanca Mountains.

It was obvious from the start that Lise and Rolf love what they do. The five spacious cabins and main house at Bosque del Tolomuco were built over several years with painstaking attention to details. My cabin overlooked the pool, gardens and orchid gallery where Rolf cultivated a few dazzling species.

The grounds were green and lush, with fragrant lemon trees - a rarity in Costa Rica - growing on a hillside behind the cabins. Gourmet dinners, prepared by Lise with a little advance notice, are shared family-style in their communal dining area where guests gather to swap stories and socialize over a glass of wine.

While enjoying a dinner of spiced shrimp and vegetables over pasta, I savored a glass of Rolf's handcrafted grape-blackberry wine. The flavor was robust with just a hint of berry, a colossal success for homemade vintage! I appreciated the effort, as my fiance and I had tried our hand at making beer (a winner) and cheese (total disaster) at home using various kits.

The evening passed with great food and conversation along with multiple glasses of Rolf's red wine. By 10 p.m., we were all ready for sleep. I thanked my gregarious hosts and nipped out to my cabin, anticipating a restful night's sleep.

Hiking the Savegre Waterfall and Tolomuco in Pictures

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