A private overnight adventure in the rainforest!

Explore the most pristine rain and cloud forests of the Arenal region while you follow ancient trails just wide enough for you to walk. Venture from the Atlantic slope to the Pacific slope while crossing rivers, drinking from natural crystalline streams, and walking through primary and secondary forests that change in altitude by 800-meters.

Big Forest Hike Photo Gallery

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RECOMMENDED 2014 & 2016

“The adventurous folks at La Gavilana Herbs & Art offer a two-day ‘extreme hike’ of the Big Forest trail between El Castillo and San Gerardo (near Santa Elena).”

Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

The Big Forest Hike is for serious adventurers. It requires a minimum of one overnight stay in the middle of the rainforest. The hike crosses raging rivers and climbs steep mountains.

Forest fog BFHThe Big Forest Hike originates from La Gavilana Herbs & Art, just 45-minutes from La Fortuna center in the small town of El Millón, just above the town of El Castillo. The Big Forest Hike starts promptly at 1:00pm in our office by signing a waiver and release form and meeting with your bilingual guide.

The Big Forest Hike involves hiking both in the forest for the majority of the trip and on country gravel roads. For an additional charge the road can be traveled in a vehicle or on horse. Your first day of hiking will be brief as you travel from La Gavilana Herbs & Art to the Gavilana Base Camp (where you will spend the night), approximately 2 hours in total.

The hike becomes BIG on day two when you immerse yourself in the rivers, vegetation and sounds of nature and hike 800-meters in altitude. You will cross 22 streams and rivers before arriving to the Vertiente Pacifica. You will soon arrive at a subsistence farm run by Maximo, an old timer with Lilo la gata, deep in the forest, where he provides lunch. After lunch, the Big Forest Hike is officially over and you are then free to pass on to Santa Elena and Monteverde, or return to El Castillo.

This is a strenuous hike through wilderness landscape. Maximo’s farm and the trail to it is a sort of unique jungle mirage recommended in both the 2014 and 2016 Lonely Planet. Note that the price LP published is our price per person but for groups of more then three people LP does not discern.

It is important to be conscious of snakes that are often well camouflaged, making reaching into foliage dangerous.

GUIDED ONLY! Groups up to 8 recommended.

Also we highly recommended that you treat yourself with spa, hot springs, massage etc. after the whole event as you will appreciate it more than ever before. If returning to El Castillo, we recommend a stop at Pizza John pizzeria. They have delicious homemade pizza and ice cream.

BFH happy campers1 Person: $220.00

2 – 3 Persons: $150.00/person

4 – 6 Persons: $130.00/person


Full payment due at time of booking via PayPal or credit card. Cancellation more than 7 days before date of tour forfeits 50% of amount paid. Cancellation within one week of tour start date forfeits full amount paid.

The Big Forest Hike must always be reserved in advance.


Your jungle guide, Mikey!

Your jungle guide, Mikey!

What’s Included?

  • English Speaking Guide

  • Accommodation at Gavilana Base Camp with Dinner & Breakfast

  • Tents and Bedding Provided at Gavilana Base Camp

  • Shared Kitchen for Communal Cooking at Base Camp

  • Shared Bathroom and Shower with Hot Water at Base Camp

  • Use of Firewood at Base Camp

  • Guided Hike to Maximo’s Farm on Day Two

  • Lunch Prepared by Maximo

  • Access to Solar Powered Charging for Phones & Flashlights

Bring jungle gear of your standard. High tech, state of the art gadgets for some, others bare foot, shirtless, with a stick and a towel. Up in the cloud forest it can get cold fast, hypothermia is not a myth, be ready for possible sudden change in temperature. You’ll be crossing rivers and streams, you will be looked for by many insects that will locate you by your sweat, you’ll get wet and dirty and very possibly see snakes and other wild critters. Chances of getting rained on are 50/50. Bring shoes you have already proved to be comfortable.

One small bottle for water is enough, every flowing body of water you’ll be crossing is delicious drinking water released by the matrix of the forest, very healthy for drinking.

Strongly recommend to bring SEALED package with one set of clothing to sleep in dry and a repellent or mosquito net if you are not interested to get visits from friendly and not as friendly insects.

Return to Base Camp: If you’re wishing to return to El Castillo, our guide can accompany you back to Base Camp after lunch and then you can continue to El Castillo on your own. Alternately, if you wish to stay another night at Gavilana Base Camp this is available at an extra cost.

San Gerardo Biological Station: Continue hiking (without a guide) on a forest road for 40-minutes to the San Gerardo Biological Station of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (http://www.acmcr.org/) where overnight lodging is available. From the San Gerardo Biological Station you are approximately 3.5km from the parking lot of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, where you can obtain a shuttle to downtown Santa Elena for approximately 1,000 colones ($2) per person.

All aspects of this route must be organized by the traveller.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve: Continue hiking (without a guide) on a well-marked trail and then onto a public gravel road for approximately 3-hours in total. From the reserve, you can obtain a shuttle to downtown Santa Elena for approximately 1,000 colones ($2) per person.

All aspects of this route must be organized by the traveller.

Here’s What Past Hikers Have To Say

“The Big Forest Hike is an extraordinary experience

and the highlight of my trip to Costa Rica.

Before meeting up with Tomas and our guide Miguel, we had visited the hanging bridges park at Arenal. What a contrast! Where the hanging bridges was crowded with loud visitors shuffling over the concrete paths as fast as they could, the Big Forest Hike took us deep into Costa Rica’s rain forests where we were able to take our time and enjoy the solitude of being in the real wilderness.”

– Arran, February 2016

Took the big forest hike and loved it. Some really great hiking. The first day is a good workout. The finca is beautiful. Get up early and walk the open areas to watch the birds. Really the best way to see them. I’m glad I did it. You will be too.
Vernon, March 2015
We had a great time on the hike–it was definitely the most memorable part of our trip to Costa Rica. As strenuous as advertised but our guide, Rudolfo, was really helpful and did what he could to make it easier. Maximo’s was great–excellent food and amazing location. Worth the effort to get there. I recommend bringing comfortable shoes and expect to get wet and muddy.
Nathan, February 2015
My husband and I really enjoyed the camp and big forest hike. It was the perfect rugged mountain experience!
Jessica, December 2015
A very friendly welcome from everyone at La Gavilana – a cup of coffee and a bag of goodies appropriate for the hike. John, the hippy dude, and his dog Buddy walked us up to Tomas’ farm to meet Miguel, our guide for the next 2 days. We had a great hike through the forest to stay at Maximo’s farm for the night and then on to Santa Elena the next day. Miguel was a great guide, giving as much information as we wanted and Maximo was very friendly – it was great to meet a real, old time Costa Rican.
Krestin, March 2016
This is a special hike. If you are looking for something challenging, rewarding and ultimately an opportunity to really disconnect this is an amazing hike. In the 1.5 days I was gone, I didn’t see another person other than the guide Miguel and Maximo, who lives on a small farm in the middle of the rain forest where you spend the night. You are walking through untouched primary rain forest. Miguel the guide is great, very knowledgable about the flora and fauna and speaks very good English.
David, December 2015