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The Only Way I Want to See the World: Community Tourism

Words & Photography by Marco Bollinger

Costa Rica

When we arrived at the Tesoro Verde community center in Los Planes, a small rural tourism cooperative on the outskirts of Drake Bay, the director greeted us and explained that our guide was held up but that he’d sent his son in his stead. This is the kind of thing that happens when traveling amongst locals and these little hiccups are often where most of the magic and adventure comes from.

Adonis, our scheduled guide’s son, is twelve years old. When he was introduced to us he kept his eyes somewhat averted and had an air of humble shyness. He smiled and look down when we asked him how old he was.

He knows a little English which he said he had been teaching himself as he met travelers who visited his community. When we asked if he knew the way to the waterfalls well, he smiled shyly and said yes, that he knew it well, he went often with his father when they could get away from work.
Adonis’ father, Melvin also runs horseback riding treks with their six horses. Adonis explained that he helps his dad after school and on weekends and when they are off they loved to go swim at the waterfall together.

The waterfall turned out to be a relatively short stunning rainforest trek away, roughly 30 minutes from where we parked the car. The final hike down was a little steep but manageable. You arrive at the top of the falls and make your way to the main swimming hole further below. After the hike, the swim was incredibly refreshing. The water is pristine because it flows straight out of Corcovado National Park about a mile away. Melvin, who joined us later in the afternoon said that it was completely safe to drink from the water of the falls themselves.

I easily spent 15 minutes just floating on my back at one end of the pool watching the tropical birds flittering above amongst the tall trees and 100 foot tropical green rock walls that surround the swimming sanctuary.
Arriving at the waterfall Adonis transformed from a shy boy into the excited and energetic 12 year-old that we spent the rest of the afternoon with. He ran around the swimming hole and walls of waterfall with expert agility showing us all of the best places to jump from.

I’m sure that having just arrived from a big city to the middle of nowhere in this amazing rainforest affected my interpretation of this experience a bit, but however you cut it we had an incredible time at waterfall and jumping off rocks with Adonis as if we were all 12 year old again. Refreshing, in all its meanings, is the best word I can use to describe the experience. We were later joined by Melvin, Adonis’ dad who is a very nice and well spoken man, but I definitely felt blessed to have had our unique experience seeing the waterfall and swimming hole through the eyes of happy Costa Rican 12 year-old kid.

This kind of unexpected human connection with a local is one of the greatest treasures of travel and is much of the inspiration behind our desire to help share this kind of community-based travel with the world. Not only does it provide support for small local entrepreneurs in these rural communities, but it’s almost always an unforgettable experience as a traveler. Stay tuned for more little adventures.

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