Rock Climbing in Costa Rica isn’t well known, but it should be. I first ventured to the Cachí climbing wall with an Outward Bound staff trip. We were dropped off just after dark, igniting our headlamps and trusting that the treacherously steep hill would lead us to something more relaxing than the whitewater we had just kayaked. Our body’s were exhausted and we were in auto-drive, ready to pitch camp and pass out. What happened instead was a 20-minute walk deeper and deeper into the river valley which ended at a perfectly cleared campsite set under a massive rock overhang. Two tents awaited us, along with potable water, and firewood stacked next to a stone fireplace. We tested our outdoor skills by attempting to build a fire with damp twigs, which after substantial effort grew large enough to roast marshmallows for a dinner of s’mores. Exhausted, we retired to the tents which to our delight, were not outfitted with the half-inch sleeping pads we were expecting but rather, full bed-sized, squishy mattresses with fresh sheets and pillows. If was a blissful way to end the day, but as the rain began to fall we prepared for an uncomfortable night. In the morning, the jungle light filtered through the canopy and illuminated our first full view of what would be our playground for the day. A massive wall of jagged grey rock lined the campsites and guides were already setting ropes and laying out gear. The climbing was excellent, and since that trip it has become my go-to place for not only climbing, but also premium camping, and a perfect escape from the bustle of the city (without driving too far).
Rock climbing in Costa Rica has grown in popularity over the past few years, but for now the Cachí climbing wall is still a well-kept secret among locals and avid climbers. Located just outside of Cartago, the basalt walls are perfect for nearly all levels of climbers, offering routes from 5.6, ranging all the way up to 5.13b. Because of a substantial overhang, it’s possible to climb after a big rain, and on weekdays it’s possible to have several routes to yourself. There are guides and employees trained to belay, as well as helmets, harnesses and shoes to rent but you can bring your own as well. For use of the gear, the price is ₡10,000 ($20) per day but those who come with their own gear can get a day of climbing in for the affordable price of ₡5,000 ($10).
The small swimming hole located down a path from the climbing wall is a perfect place to cool off between climbs, or simply take in the setting around you. Big enough for a few, the “posa” is deep enough to completely submerge your body and has several raised areas for sitting along the edge. Sun-drenched rocks allow you to warm up after dipping into the crystalline, but chilly water and small fish swirl around in the turquoise pools. Other wildlife like lizards, birds and butterflies are abundant in the surrounding gardens. A rancho offers a place to pack a picnic, crack open a few Imperial beers (bring your own), and chat with friends by the river. The best part? No extra entrance fee – enjoy the swimming hole at your leisure as part of the climbing or camping price.
Although it’s an easy day trip, I would fully recommend spending the night at the wall. At ₡5,000 ($10) per night, it’s an affordable and enjoyable way to get out into nature while sleeping at the base of a great climbing wall. Each camp site is equipped with firewood, potable water – enough to wash the dishes, brush your teeth and make a couple batches of ginger tea in my experience! – and a fire starter if requested. Tents are set up in advance with full, comfortable mattresses and clean sheets, and access to the swimming hole is included in the price. Bring your own coolers, food, and pots for cooking as the fire pits are well maintained and separate grills are on site. If you would rather a wood roof rather than a rock one overhead, there is also a small rustic cabin – complete with a recycled glass bottle wall – available for rent (sleeps up to 8 people).
Directions & Getting There
A lot of Cachi’s charm comes from the fact that it’s family owned. For more info contact Vidal Quirós at 8867-8259 (Spanish only) or via email at email@example.com or on Facebook.
The road leading down to the wall is steep so four-wheel drive is highly recommended. It is located 3 kilometers from the Cachí hydroelectric dam off the left side of Route 225 between the small towns of Urasca and San Jerónimo. The entrance is on the left side, marked by a small sign.
If you decide to visit the Cachí wall, I would love to hear about it!