Rainmaker Conservation Project: Unspoiled Nature Near Manuel Antonio

Last Updated: October 4, 2019

Everyone knows about Manuel Antonio’s famed national park, but if you’re looking for something more off-the-beaten path, there’s another great option. Rainmaker Conservation Project located just outside Quepos is a private nature reserve with hiking trails, hanging bridges, waterfalls, and tons of birds and wildlife. Below are our tips for exploring Rainmaker on a day trip from Manuel Antonio or Quepos.

Rainmaker Conservation Project | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

History of Rainmaker Conservation Project

Before we share the details of planning your visit to Rainmaker Conservation Project, it is worth hearing about the project’s fascinating history that spans 25 years.

Sometime around 1990, a farmer named Don Victor Fallas needed some cash so was looking to sell a portion of his land near Parrita. A Costa Rican named Mauricio Gutierrez entered the picture and agreed to purchase 200 hectares (500 acres) on behalf of the company the Body Shop, which wanted the farmland to grow products for use in their cosmetics. Don Victor also owned a large amount of primary rainforest on a nearby mountain. Though he needed to sell it because of his debt, he wanted to find someone who would keep it preserved. Mauricio shared a similar vision and agreed to buy 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of the forest in his own name, thinking the pristine land could be valuable in a future tourism business.

Just as the paperwork was being finalized, Mauricio died tragically in an accident when he fell into a waterfall on the property while trying to save a child. With no buyer, the deal was about to fall through when Mauricio’s wife, Ann Gutierrez from the US, stepped in. She didn’t have the cash upfront but somehow got Don Victor to agree to a five-year mortgage. The only problem was that Don Victor wanted $100,000 as a down payment—and he wanted it in a week. The story then goes back to the Body Shop. Ann contacted Gordon Roddick, co-founder of the cosmetics giant, who agreed to lend her $100,000 for the down payment, and the deal went through.

Today the land is completely paid off and preserved. If it hadn’t been for Ann and her children Alessandra and Mick stepping in, the land probably would have been turned into a lumberyard. Apparently the bank that owned the property was in talks with a Japanese wood company that was set to buy the land if Don Victor defaulted on his loan. After visiting the property and seeing for ourselves how special it is, we can really appreciate Ann, Alessandra, and Mick’s efforts to keep Mauricio’s vision of conservation alive.

What to Expect on Your Visit to Rainmaker Conservation Project

The Trails

Rainmaker Conservation Project has a 2.5 km (1.5 mile) trail system that passes waterfalls and runs alongside a beautiful winding river. The tract of land is primary rainforest, meaning that it has never been cut down. The old growth trees and topography of the reserve create spectacular, majestic views that are hard to match. We’ve done a lot of hiking in Costa Rica and found Rainmaker to have some of the best views around. The way the trees tower along the mountain creates almost a wall of rich, green forest.

Thick Jungle at Rainmaker Reserve | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

In terms of difficulty, the main loop is moderate and suitable for most people, though there are some areas that are steeper and slippery. Short loops off the main trail are more difficult and climb farther up the mountain to a lookout and series of suspension bridges. These hanging bridges are suspended high above the ground, giving you a unique vantage point from which to observe the rainforest. They are narrow and rickety, so if you’re afraid of heights, you might want to skip them.

Hanging Bridge at Rainmaker Reserve | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Just outside the area where you buy your tickets is a large sign with the trail map detailing where the hanging bridges are located and the best spots for swimming. Click here to view a photo we have taken of the map.

The Wildlife

Because it is a bit out of the way, Rainmaker sees a lot less foot traffic than the often busy Manuel Antonio National Park. This means that you’re more likely to have the trails all to yourself and see more wildlife. More than half the plants and animals that live in Costa Rica can be spotted at Rainmaker. On our visits, we have seen a green and black poison dart frog, whiptail lizard, and several kinds of butterflies including a glass-winged variety. We’ve also seen lots of birds, including the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Blue-crowned Manakin, Black-throated Trogon, and Baird’s Trogon.

Clearwinged Mimic Butterfly | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Planning Your Visit to Rainmaker Conservation Project

Self-Guided vs. Guided Tours

You can easily just show up, pay the admission fee ($20 per person), and do a self-guided hike of the reserve. Going with a knowledgeable guide can be very beneficial, though, so that you see more birds and wildlife. The rainforest at Rainmaker is really thick so it can be hard to spot much on your own. If you’d like to go with a guide, we work with one who used to do tours for the reserve so he is extremely knowledgeable.

Here is some information about the tour through his company. All tours are private, meaning that they are only with your group/family.

Information About Private Guided Tours

Cost

$75 per person adults; $55 per person children ages 6-11; kids under 6 are free.

Includes

2 hours of hiking, 1 hour to swim in the natural pools, private bilingual naturalist guide, round-trip transportation from your hotel in the Manuel Antonio-Quepos area, entrance fee, typical Costa Rican lunch served at the reserve, and water.

Offered

8:00 a.m. pickup time

Duration

5.5 hours (approximate, including transportation time)

How to Book a Private Guided Tour

Contact us through our Tour Booking Service page or email us at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com with your preferred date, the number of people in your party (adults and children), and hotel if you would like transportation. We bill through PayPal and take care of all PayPal fees so the price is the same as if you booked directly through the company. Once your reservation is confirmed, we will send you a confirmation document with all the details.

What to Wear/Bring

  • Hiking boots or sturdy sneakers as the trail is often muddy and slippery
  • Bathing suit and towel for swimming in the natural pools
  • Plenty of water
  • Insect repellent, especially if you’re visiting during the rainy season (May through November)

Hours

Rainmaker is open daily 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Lunch

Lunch can be purchased at the small restaurant onsite for $7 per person. It’s a typical Costa Rican casado.

Directions to Rainmaker Conservation Project

Rainmaker is located about 20 minutes off the Costanera highway, Route 34, in the village of San Rafael Norte near the town of Parrita. There is a sign for Rainmaker at the turnoff on Route 34. The road leading to the reserve is rough dirt, however, they are in the process of paving sections of it right now (September 2019). Four-wheel drive is not required but would be useful during the rainy season.

Because the reserve is quite far off the main road (about 7 km), we don’t recommend taking the bus and walking the rest of the way from the highway.

Rainmaker Conservation Project is a great place to spend a few hours if you’re visiting the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area. Not only will you take in some beautiful scenery and see interesting plants and animals, but you’ll get to experience a special part of Costa Rica that was almost lost.

Last Updated: October 4, 2019

Have you visited Rainmaker? What did you think?

Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:

7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do Near Manuel Antonio: Check out these ideas for more lesser known activities in the Manuel Antonio area.

Manuel Antonio Restaurant Guide: With over 75 restaurants, it can be hard to sort through the options. Read our updated guide to get the best meals in town.

Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge: Another great nature reserve is Hacienda Baru, about 45 minutes south of Manuel Antonio in Dominical. This private reserve never gets too busy and has lots of wildlife and excellent birding.

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La Paz Waterfall Gardens: Wildlife Up Close
A Catamaran Cruise in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio Catamaran Cruise
Hanging Bridge at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
The Famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Wilson Botanical Garden in Costa Rica
Wilson Botanical Garden at Las Cruces Biological Station

32 Comments

  1. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    What an awesome capture of the Glass-Winged Butterfly. That’s a shot worthy of a NatGeo Magazine cover. Do you suggest going with a Guide or go self-guided?

    Great post.

    1. Wow, thanks Carey. Not sure it’s that good but we’ll take it 🙂 Most people do the hike self-guided. The trail is well marked so you can’t really get lost. They don’t give out trail maps but you can take a photo of it when you get there or print out this one we took if you want to be safe. Of course, some people prefer a guide so that they can learn more about the plants and animals, but it’s not a necessity.

  2. Great post! The Rainmaker Conservation Project and Perro Vida Brewery are being added to my list of things to experience when we head down to Manuel Antonio area. Do you guys recommend a self guided or guided tour?

    1. Hi Valerie, you guys have been in CR for a while so I’d say you don’t need one. There are some fun ATV tours that stop there though if you wanted to get a couple of activities in at once. It’s beautiful backcountry- would be fun to explore on an ATV. Have fun if you go and make sure to message the guys at Perro Vida beforehand (Facebook worked for us) to make sure they’re around.

  3. Jenn and Matt how’d we miss this??? We did Quepos for 1 month and loved it! Cool to know Rainmaker is just around the block because if it’s like MA but with less folks it is paradise indeed. MA was amazing since you saw wildlife everywhere; we spotted 7 sloths during our few hours there. I mean the tour guides with telescopes spotted 7 sloths 😉

    Keep on inspiring guys!

    Ryan

    1. It’s easy to miss, Ryan. Not a ton of people know about it, which is a big part of why it’s so awesome. Rainmaker doesn’t see as many monkeys as Manuel Antonio for some reason and we didn’t see any sloths, but it had some other really interesting wildlife that we’ve never run into during our many visits to MA National Park…the poison dart frog, glass-winged butterfly and Blue Morpo butterfly, and rarer birds like manakins and trogons that you can only find in Costa Rica’s S. Pacific Coast and in Panama.

  4. Gracias!
    The information is appreciated and I will save it when preparing for my trip to Costa Rica. I would appreciate some information on how the natives live in Costa Rica since I might be interested in spending many months there being a retired person.

    Buenos dias

  5. Hi – this sounds great! Are you able to get there by local bus or do you need to take a txi or shuttle? We do not have a car and are staying at Hostel Plinio near MA.

    1. Hi Taryn, It would be tough to take a bus the whole way because Rainmaker is a little off the beaten path. You would have to go from Manuel Antonio to the bus station in Quepos then take a bus going towards Parrita. Rainmaker is quite far off the main road so the bus could drop you off at the end and you could try and grab a ride from someone, but this road is a small dirt road that isn’t very busy. A taxi from Manuel Antonio is definitely easier.

      1. Hi Matt and Jenn,

        We won’t have a car when we stay in Quepos coming May. What bus number to take to get close to the Rainmaker Project and where to get off? How far of a walk on the unnamed road once getting off the bus? How much will it cost to take a taxi from Quepos? Sounds like a nice place off the beaten path.

        Thanks for all the great info,
        Shan

        1. Hi Shan, You would be better off getting a cab because it’s too long to walk from the main road, even if you like walking. Not sure of the exact price, but if the cab waited for you while you hiked so that you could get a ride back, it would probably cost around $50. If you go by bus, you would need one going north. The Parrita bus runs regularly (Parrita is the town just north of Rainmaker). The buses don’t always have numbers. They go more by destination name- you will see signs on the front of the bus. Just ask the driver to let you off at the road for Rainmaker/San Rafael Norte. Another idea is to head south to Hacienda Baru. This is a little farther (near Dominical) but it’s still off the beaten path and the bus ride is much more direct. Here’s a blog post we wrote with more info: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/hacienda-baru-wildlife-refuge/

  6. My wife and I have been admiring all of your posts so I thought it only fitting we make a comment on one of them. We’re staying in Quepos and have a car rented. We’re just curious how long would you give yourself, including driving there, to do the full hike, pools, etc.? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Kirsten, We’d say to give yourselves half a day just so you’re not rushed. You can do it faster, but that will give you plenty of time for the hike and to relax in the pools for as long as you want. We appreciate you reading our site. Hope you both enjoy your visit!

      1. Hi
        Love your site.
        Heading to CR in ’17 February.
        We will be leaving the Lake Arenal area and heading ?
        That’s just it, there are sooo many places.
        Would you recommend the Rainmaker over say the San Gerardo de Dota area?
        Interested in seeing the most wildlife I can!
        Thanks

        1. Hi Kelly, We hear you on there being so many choices. Here are some differences to help narrow things. San Gerardo de Dota is really unique because it’s the cloud forest, but you’re more likely to see birds there than animals, which are harder to spot. San Gerardo is remote, and if you went to Rainmaker, you would probably stay in Manuel Antonio, which will be busy in February. Manuel Antonio does have a lot of wildlife though. If you’re looking for something less busy but still with wildlife, you could look at Dominical or Uvita. Follow the links we gave for more info about each place. Good luck with the planning and if you want any help, feel free to contact us about our itinerary service.

  7. Hello!

    I am currently living in Costa Rica and I have found this wonderful post. I am interested in going to Rainmaker Conservation but do not have a car. I am wondering if you know of a way for me to get there through public transportation.

    Thank you,
    Morgan

  8. Hi Jenn and Matt! Love your blog, and have been referring to it for a lot of trip planning. We are flying out to Costa Rican on January 7th, and heading down to Manuel Antonio for the week! I am very interested in visiting Rainmaker Park. The only thing is we won’t have a car. Can you give insight on the cheapest ways for two people to get there and back? Is there any public transportation we could utilize or only taxis? Are you familiar with costs roundtrip?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Carley, That’s exciting that you’re coming to Manuel Antonio so soon! Hope you enjoy it. We answered your question about inexpensive ways to get to Rainmaker for someone already. Please go back to the comment section of the post and look for the thread starting with Taryn on January 12, 2016. That should tell you everything you need.

  9. Hi Jenn and Matt! So happy I found your website, it is packed with great information about CR. We are planning a honeymoon/adventure 7 day trip in Oct ’17. On our list of things to do are: hiking, wildlife spotting, whitewater rafting, beaches. Is this a busy month for tourists? Any recommendations re: rafting (the more adventurous the better!)? Thanks! ~P&S

    1. Hi Priya, October is one of the slowest months of the year for tourism because of rainy season. Not sure where you are planning to visit, but there is really good whitewater rafting out of Manuel Antonio. The Savegre River has fun Class II-III rapids and the scenery is beautiful tropical rainforest. We work with an awesome rafting company out of Manuel Antonio. Let us know if you would like us to help book a rafting trip when you have figured out your itinerary.

  10. Hi Jenn and Matt! Quick question. My fiance and I are staying in Manual Antonio for four days this upcoming week and wanted to visit both Rainmaker and Nuayaca Waterfalls. I read in the comment section of your Nuayaca Waterfall blog that you recommend renting a 4×4 for a day trip to Nuayaca from Manuel Antonio. Would it be a good idea for us to rent the car for two days, one for Nuayaca and the other for Rainmaker?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Anastassia, Yes, that would make a lot of sense as these attractions are more off-the-beaten path and easier to access from Manuel Antonio with a rental car. We do recommend 4×4 for reaching the trailhead at the Nauyaca. Be sure to check out our rental car discount for the car. Adobe Rent a Car does have an office in Quepos, near Manuel Antonio.

  11. Hi, my boyfriend and I will be going to Costa Rica at the start of May and we are spending 3 days in Manuel Antonio. Prior to this we will be spending 1 and a half days at La Paz. So of the things we want to see/do while in the area are animals, waterfalls, hanging bridges, ziplining, and a boat tour. We have the boat tour and zip line picked out. And we plan to go to Manuel Antonio National Park (as well as La Paz animal sanctuary and water fall gardens). But we are tight on money and time and won’t have a rental car. So my question is… would you recommend Rainmakers or Los Campensionos in order for us to fufill what we’d like from our trip as well as save time and money.

    1. Hi Dianna, You need a rental car for both Rainmaker and Los Campesinos so if you want to do either, renting a car for the day is best. You could arrange a guided tour instead, which would include transportation, or hire a taxi to take you, but this would still cost a lot more than just renting a car for the day out of Quepos/Manuel Antonio. Rainmaker seems like the experience you are looking for and it is accessible with a regular sedan (non-4×4), which would save you some money. Los Campesinos is much farther away and you need a 4×4 for that. If you decide to rent a car, the company that we work with, Adobe Rent a Car, has an office in Quepos and could deliver the car to your hotel for free the day that you need it. Here’s a link to our rental car discount page with more information.

  12. We will be arriving in San Jose and staying in MA for 8 days. My grand daughter wants to see the hanging bridges. Would the Rainmaker be the best? Also, I was doing some research and saw a cable car that went over the trees holding about 10 people. I cant find the site and would like to know if you know about this? Thank you. Its our first time there and we have a ffriend that has been there several time that will be with us for the first couple of days.

    1. Hi Jo, In the Manuel Antonio area, yes, Rainmaker is the best option for hanging bridges.

      For the cable car, maybe you are thinking of the tram ride at Rainforeat Adventures near Jaco? Jaco is about 1 hour away so possible as a day trip.

  13. The guy at the entrance ruined the experience . He was rude and arrogant with an attitude. He had to be quite motivated to do this with happy tourists on vacation that just want to pay and go on a hike!

    We tried their draft local beer after the hike. He charged us 6usd per glass! What a fraud!

    I would not recommend this place even if invited. They don’t deserve our business.

    20usd for 2km of trails not maintained? Big tourist trap. We ´ve done hiking across all national parks in costa rica on this trip and on some private reserve as well… they were all cheaper and better maintained.

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