What’s that in the sky? Is it a bird? No, too big. Is it a plane? Use your depth perception and a little bit of logic: If you’re in Parque Aventura Río Barranca, the likelihood is that it’s a tourist doing the “Superman flight” on one of the ziplines.
The park, which opened in November in the Pacific-slope town of Esparza, has a kilometer and a half of cables for adrenaline junkies in need of a new locale. In addition to rappelling, ATV tours and zipline runs, the aforementioned flight puts the customer flat on his or her belly, overlooking the forest, a river and a rock quarry, hurtling forward in the Man of Steel’s signature pose to the scream of the cables and rush of the wind.
“It is … fabulous to be on the line. It feels like you are really flying when you’re doing the Superman,” said Luis “Fifel” Araya, a guide at the park.
The area is gorgeous. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old, and birds, iguanas, crocodiles and snakes patrol the forests and the river. The one blemish is the river itself, which fell into the hands of a local developer and is being dug up as a source for stone.
Río Barranca is in a convenient spot on the Inter-American Highway, 40 minutes from the cruise ship hub in the Pacific port of Puntarenas and within easy access of San José, the northwestern province of Guanacaste, north-central Costa Rica’s Arenal region and Manuel Antonio, on the central Pacific coast.
“We are the only canopy tour that is right in front of the … highway,” said Peter Guevara, general manager of the park. “That’s something very convenient for our clients.”
Despite the wild opportunities offered at Río Barranca to get the heart pumping, Guevara and the youthful, energetic staff maintain strict safety standards. The equipment is brand-new, as may be expected from a young park, and the lines function on a double-pulley, double-stainless steel cable system to prevent accidents. Guevara claims that his park is one of a handful in Costa Rica that follows this rigorous standard.
“We’re a very safe team,” Araya said. “It’s good to experience adventure with professional guides who are safe.”
Guevara, a onetime Libertarian legislator from Puntarenas, grew up on the property and inherited all of it except the river from his father. His brother, former presidential candidate Otto Guevara, will be running for president again in the next election as a Libertarian. But Peter Guevara said he didn’t feel right working in politics, and envisions much bigger things in the private sector.
“I studied architecture … as an architect, I love to create,” he said. “In politics, it depends not only on your enthusiasm or your energy; it depends on many actors.”
Guevara plans to expand the property to offer a much wider range of activities, including a serpentarium, butterfly exhibit and hiking through dry forest. On his already developed land, he envisions a hotel, water park and possibly a retirement community.
Whatever he ends up building, he is clearly thinking big, and hoping for involvement from third parties.
“We have the place, we have the forest, but we don’t have the know-how,” Guevara said about the possible expansions. “We have almost 90 acres … 25 percent is primary forest, 75 percent is secondary forest. We are planning to (expand) in the near future – a serpentarium, or crocodiles and iguanas, a butterfly garden – not only as an attraction but as an education tool.”
The environment plays prominently in his vision. The park was recently made a member of the Costa Rican Private Nature Reserve Network, and Guevara hopes to increase the environmental feasibility of his venture. He hopes to get involved with the Blue Flag program, which recognizes eco-friendliness in beaches, communities and reserves in the country. He also hopes to earn the Costa Rican Tourism Board’s Certificate for Sustainable Tourism.
Having grown up in Esparza, Guevara aims to provide employment to area residents; his entire staff is comprised of young locals, many with degrees in tourism.
“Esparza is now on the tourism map in Costa Rica,” he said. “I (am satisfied) with (many things) about the project. One of my main satisfactions is that a dream came true … people in the area can work … improve their English and their knowledge and (their skills) in dealing with people.”
Araya is a perfect example. Parque Aventura Río Barranca is his first employer.With the expansions that may be forthcoming, others are sure to follow in his footsteps.
Getting There, Rates, Info
Buses to Esparza leave San José from the Empresarios Unidos bus station on Avenida 10. The bus, headed to Puntarenas, cruises along the highway for two hours and deposits you in Esparza, where, if you have called ahead, you will be met by one of the guides in a company vehicle. Five minutes later, the guides are fitting you for gear and tightening your helmet.
Rates are $45 for two hours of ziplining; $60 for ziplining and two rappels or two Superman flights; $80 for two hours of ATV rental; $105 for two hours of ATV rental and an hour and a half of ziplining; and $120 for a full, five-hour day including all of the above. Minimum ages are 3 to zipline, 8 to rappel or be a passenger on an ATV, and 16 to drive an ATV.
For information, call 2663-5321 or 2635-5858, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.canopyparqueaventura.co