A Hidden Thermal River in Costa Rica’s Dry Forest

costa rica thermal river

What is Rio Perdido?

Floating in the river, I close my eyes and let the hot water wash over me, easing all the stress and fatigue from my body and mind. Blue butterflies drift languidly through the air, floating through patches of sunlight that peek through the treetops and make the river water crystal clear and sparkly. Here, deep in the Costa Rican tropical dry forest and removed from much of the world as I know it, is Rio Perdido.
The relatively unknown Rio Perdido is a difficult place to define "“ mostly because it is a project designed to constantly reinvent itself. Located in Guanacaste, Rio Perdido encompasses more than 500 acres of dwarf forest, including a canyon that houses the thermo-mineral river where I fell in love with Costa Rica.

The Hidden Costa Rica River

Costa Rica thermal riverAs my little group of adventurers made the trek to the hot springs, our guide, Gabriel Saragovia, told us the story of how Rio Perdido came to be. Saragovia, who started the project with his father and other partners, knows this canyon like the back of his hand "“ he points out every feature of the area, from all the different types of trees to the exact spots of the river where the thermal springs create ripples as they meet up with cooler waters. The river is so concealed by the forest growing around it, that it actually does not show up on many area maps, and cannot even be seen from a helicopter during the months of the year when the foliage is thickest. It is so well hidden that Saragovia and his partners renamed it Rio Perdido, or Lost River.
As I wander around the property, I'm in awe of both the eclectic mix of activities, and the striking architecture of the main building, with its sustainable and eco-friendly design that complements and melds with the natural beauty of its surroundings. The property includes a spa, a bar and restaurant, three fresh-water swimming pools, and the thermal springs "“ a perfect retreat for the kind of indulgent relaxation that I frequently dream of.

A Haven in the Costa Rica Dry Forest

thermal river in the costa rica dry forestBut Saragovia, a lifelong journeyman and thrill-seeker, aims to make Rio Perdido a world-class adventure destination, and he is well on his way. Currently, options for adventure include aerial canyoning (the "evolution of the canopy tour," as Saragovia referred to it) and a system of trails for advanced mountain biking. In addition, there are plans to offer river sports on the Blanco River, hopefully in the near future.
Plans are also in the works for a small hotel, with 18 bungalows scheduled to open sometime this year. All the construction done on the property is designed to work in conjunction with the environment, causing as little change and leaving as little footprint as possible.

Connecting With the Costa Rica Environment

On the day I visited Rio Perdido, my little tour group made up most of the day's visitors to the reserve. If I had to guess, however, it won't stay that secluded for long. The project has only been open since August of 2012 "“ and once this retreat is discovered by the world, I'm guessing that reservations are going to fill up fast.
But what's truly amazing about Rio Perdido is the feeling that it will never bend to the will of the world "“ by staying small and remaining dedicated to a connection with its amazing natural surroundings, it will offer something that is not only unique, but that truly embodies the spirit of its country and of the environment itself.
My only hope is to get back to that river, where a short hike and a dip in the water somehow managed to make me feel like it was just me and Mother Nature, alone in Costa Rica.

Written By Kelly Rosenfeld
As a child, Kelly Rosenfeld was thoroughly spoiled by parents who took her on yearly vacations and never told her to be a doctor instead of a writer. Today, she holds a degree in English and Creative Writing from UCLA, and has found a way to turn her childhood dreams into reality – in Costa Rica’s thermal river and beyond.