The people we came in contact with in Las Horquetas and at Rara Avis
were wonderful –without exception — from the neighbor, Florita, who
helped us out when no one was in the office, to Clarita, who got us
going on our journey up to the lodge, to Diego who guided us in with
the horses, to Reimer, our naturalist guide, to Maria del Carmen and
her daughter Ana – who fed us delicious meals and taught us things
about life in Costa Rica. Our time with these generous, wise, and
kind people was a highlight of our trip to Costa Rica.
All of that said, we CANNOT recommend Rara Avis as a place to go to in
its current condition. The facilities have been sorely neglected by
the owners, the place is not sufficiently staffed, and staff are not
sufficiently compensated for their work. We applaud Rara Avis’
original vision to create an enterprise that provides good jobs and
benefits for local people, but Rara Avis is simply not living up to
this vision anymore. Rara Avis can’t continue to ride on the
coat-tails of its past.
– The daily cost to stay at Rara Avis supposed to include a guided
walk after breakfast and lunch. However, due to under-staffing, the
guide was busy taking guests to and from the horse drop-off spot and
as a result could not lead both of these walks.
– There is no one to make repairs, and the place clearly needs a
regular maintenance person. For example, the morning we left the
water went out and there was no one around to fix it. Buildings are in
disrepair and need some significant attention. We were going to stay
the first night in one of the casitas – but the door-latch had broken
so that there was no way to keep the door shut. As a result, a puma
had been entering the cabin. There was puma excrement and vomit all
over the floor and one of the bed frames. Impressive and disgusting,
– There is NO working refrigerator/freezer – which leaves significant
concerns about food safety.
– Most disturbing of all — the cook and cleaning staff are paid less
than minimum wage and receive no benefits. While we were paying over
$100 a night, the two people who did all the cooking, cleaning and
laundry (washing all sheets, towels and blankets by hand) were being
paid a mere 6000 colones a day (less than $12 a day) for being on duty
for 14 -16 hours a day. The minimum wage in Costa Rica is 1000
colones per hour, with over-time pay for more than 8 hours of work.
(We got this information as a result of asking a lot of questions).
We chose to stay at Rara Avis in part because of its stated commitment
to provide good jobs with benefits for local community members — but
this is clearly no longer a reality.
– The sleeping quarters for staff are absolutely shoddy – doors with
gaping holes that animals can easily crawl though, missing and broken
window screens, lack of any natural light (unlike the guest rooms)
(and this we saw only because we walked by the staff sleeping area on
our way to wash out some of our clothes).
– The trail to lodge is in awful condition. It’s incredibly muddy,
deeply gutted and dicey. It’s much too easy to fall on this trail.
– Animals regularly get into the area where the clean dishes are kept,
so that must be washed every morning.
Rara Avis needs to revive its original vision and commitments. This
must include a new investment of resources. Repairs need to be made to
existing buildings, broken equipment needs to be replaced, staff need
to be fairly compensated, more staff need to be hired (guides, for
example, need to be available to guide; someone else needs to be
available to fetch guests from the horse drop-off point and to make
ongoing repairs). Without these changes, I’m sorry to say, Rara Avis
doesn’t deserve your patronage.
Rara Avis must have been an incredible place in its heyday. We paid
more to stay there than we did for any other lodging during our 3-week
trip to Costa Rica. We wanted to support their work. At this point,
however, it isn’t clear at all what that work is. We left wondering
what we were supporting; we left feeling deceived. We can only only
hope that the owners will find a way to put in the resources that are
needed to make Rara Avis once again the place it has the potential to