Costa Rica’s Savegre River Trek is a must-do for anyone who wants to *really* get off the beaten path in Central America.
Without any other tourists and only a handful of locals in sight, we spent four days following the Savegre River through cloud forest and farmland, completely in awe of the beauty around us.
Accompanied by our Intrepid leader Ed, and Luis, a local farmer who knows this area better than anyone (and who prefers to trek in gumboots), we set out from our lodge near San Gerardo De Dota and follow the Savegre River towards the Pacific Coast. Starting off in the cloud forest, we follow the gumboot-clad Luis along the narrow track, crossing streams and climbing over the occasional tree that didn’t survive the last storm.
After a few hours, we find an abandoned hut where Luis has stashed a few of his wife’s homemade snacks for the group. He tells us he does the first days hike twice, walking to meet us early in the morning, and then trekking back with us.
We have a short rest, and then we’re back on our feet, this time following an old dirt road through farmland, namely (my personal favourite) coffee plantations. After a few more hours of trekking we arrive at a beautiful waterfall where we have lunch: tortillas with beans, rice and cheese – a meal we’ll become accustomed to over the coming days. While most of the group find a quiet place to lie down and relax, a couple of us are brave enough to take a dip in the waterfall’s freezing waters.
From lunch, it’s a short walk to our first guesthouse, where we’re greeted with smiles and freshly brewed coffee (grown by our hosts). The rooms here are simple, but the setting couldn’t be better; we look out across the lush valley below and reflect on the first 16 kilometres of our hike. We spend the afternoon relaxing and playing cards before tucking into more home-grown food for dinner, including the best guacamole anyone in our group had ever had. It was humbling to see just how proud our hosts were of the food they had prepared.
The following morning, we feast on a breakfast of hot coffee, pancakes and fresh fruit before saying goodbye to our hosts. Today’s trek starts with a steep climb along a dirt road as we make our way back into the cloud forest. Most of today’s trekking is downhill, and it’s hard work; recent rain has made the track slippery, and navigating puddles, roots and rocks becomes pretty challenging for everyone in the group. We end up walking around 17 kilometres, most of which is through the beautiful trees of the cloud forest. Tonight’s guesthouse is a little more basic than our first stop, but the scenery is just as stunning.
Once again, we’re greeted by our hosts with fresh coffee and snacks and, after we’ve dried off and changed into some clean clothes, Luis pulls a couple of bottles of Chilean wine from his backpack for the group to share. It’s a nice surprise that goes down very well after a challenging day of walking.
By morning the rain has cleared (for now, at least) and trekking is easy going. We cover almost eight kilometres in no time, and reach our lunch point – a guesthouse on the banks of the river – just as the rain comes back. After lunching on chicken, salad, beans, rice and fried cheese (yum), we cross the river, two at a time, in a basket pulled by Luis and Ed. The stormy weather seems to have passed, and we start the long, tough climb up to tonight’s guesthouse. We get there just as the sun is going down, having covered 12 kilometres. To our surprise – and delight – there’s a small bar onsite, where we relax with a couple of beers before dinner (beers are around $3 AUD).
In the morning, we’re greeted to a stunning view of the valley below as we start the last day of our trek. Today’s 15-kilometre hike is pretty easy, as we follow the local roads; there are a couple of challenging climbs to get the heart racing, but the stunning scenery out to the Pacific, across valleys and mountains, makes it all worthwhile. Luis points out our lodge for tonight from the road and, for the final time, we follow him back into the forest for the last section of the trek. The first hot shower after four days of trekking is bliss, as is taking off our hiking boots, relaxing, and reflecting on an amazing few days in Costa Rica.
Your ultimate Savegre River trek packing list
- A medium-sized 30-litre backpack – your main luggage is given to your driver and taken to the end point of the trek (so you won’t have access to it until the trek has finished)
- Hiking boots, that have been worn in (we don’t recommend trekking in sneakers)
- Good socks
- Sneakers or flip flops, for wearing at the guesthouses
- Quick-dry T shirts and shorts – it’s good to pack two outfits; one you can trek in during the day (that may get wet) and a warmer outfit
- A light rain jacket and pants
- A light jumper/sweater for the evenings
- A pair of thermals – it can get quite chilly at night, especially on the first night, where you sleep at 2,000 metres above sea level
- A quick-dry towel
- A hat
- Sunscreen and bug spray (for obvious reasons!)
- A one-litre water bottle – you can refill at waterfalls along the trek
- Snacks – you won’t need much, just a few bags of nuts and a box of muesli bars. One of the highlights of the trek is the amazing food in the guesthouses along the way, but you’ll want a few nibbles in your pocket
A few other important details
- You don’t need a sleeping bag
- Trekking poles are recommended – you won’t have time to buy them in San Jose, so it’s a good idea to bring them from home
- There are quite a few river crossings…
- … so it’s a good idea to have a few ziplock bags in your backpack to keep things dry
- THERE IS NO HOT WATER. We recommend packing some wet wipes in case it’s too cold to shower
- Most of the guesthouses will cater for dietary requirements. Let your agent know when you’re booking
- You’ll most likely have your own room some nights, but be prepared to share (depending on group size)
- You’ll be accompanied by an Intrepid leader and a local leader for the whole trek
This is a brilliant trek for anyone wanting to get off the beaten path and really experience Costa Rica. There’s no Wifi, no phone service, and, in some cases, no electricity, so it’s a true chance to reconnect with nature and the world around you. Make sure your hiking boots are worn in, and you’ve done a few backpack practice packs.
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All images by Tom Svensen.