Boy sits on edge of small natural pool with grassland and jungle behind him in the distance

A family trip to Rafiki Safari Lodge, Costa Rica (2024)

This place was more than just accommodation and definitely deserves a blog post to itself! If you’re planning a family trip to Costa Rica then Rafiki Safari Lodge is definitely one to consider adding to you holiday itinerary.

There is a whole page in the Lonely Planet dedicated to Rafiki Safari Lodge, and from the first time I read it I knew this was something I wanted us to splurge on during our stay in Costa Rica.

My Mum was also totally on-board with this plan, so we booked two nights here (which was as much as we could afford to be honest – more on costs further down!). If you want to get away from it all and be completely immersed in the flora and fauna of Costa Rica, then a family trip to Rafiki should be right up at the top of your Costa Rica list.

Where is Rafiki Safari Lodge?

Rafiki Safari Lodge is a 600+ hectare private reserve, 30km inland from Manuel Antonio, situated on the Savegre River. It’s in a glorious spot – there is nothing for miles around and the views out over the river and the jungle are amazing.

There is no public transport to Rafiki – your only options really are driving or in a private shuttle.

If you’re driving, be aware that there is a long stretch of the road that is unpaved and VERY uneven and winding – it’s not a drive for the faint-hearted!

We opted instead for a private shuttle, which Rafiki organised for us at a cost of US$95 return for the five of us. The shuttle from Manuel Antonio took around one hour (and around the same back to Quepos on departure).

How much does it cost to stay at Rafiki Safari Lodge?

This really was a complete treat on our itinerary, coming in much, much more expensive than anywhere else we stayed.

In low season, a tent with double occupancy is £140/US$180 per night. In total we paid £290 per night for the five of us – a huge £170 a night more than the next most expensive spot on our Costa Rica trip! We stayed in two safari tents (as the maximum occupancy for one tent is four).

Breakfast is included (and its delicious and there is lots of it!). Lunch and dinner are not included in the rates – but as there is nowhere else anywhere near the lodge to get food it’s pretty much a given that you’ll be eating all your meals here!

Dinner came in at around $18-21 per person depending on what we chose from the daily menu; we did manage to take enough snacks and bread/jam to see us through so we didn’t need to pay for lunch (as we were on such a tight budget).

What to expect at Rafiki Safari Lodge

Rafiki is based around a huge communal covered deck space, with a bar and kitchen. Each of the safari tents are based within a very short walk from this space. The views extend for miles across the Savegre river valley and are really spectacular. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in this space for everyone staying at the lodge.

Two women and a young boy look out from a high wooden deck across the jungle and hills of the Savegre river valley

The food is pretty fab – there was a breakfast buffet on one of the days (when they had a large group in) and a menu to order from on the other morning (when it was just us and one other couple staying). There were eggs, pancakes, rice and beans, toast, cereal, fruit…pretty much everything you could want! The food at dinner was also really, really good – especially the delicious homemade pineapple and chocolate cakes. For dinner there are typically 3-4 options to choose from as a main – dishes on offer during our stay included chicken parmigiana, pasta, BBQ ribs, pork steak and macaroni cheese. There were simple options that appealed to the kids too!

On our first night there was a HUGE thunderstorm that went on for hours, and pretty much the heaviest rain imaginable. We ate dinner under the thatched lodge while the thunder boomed and lightning flashed all around us. The lights under the thatched roof has attracted quite a lot of insects, which in turn had drawn in the bats, which swooped all round overhead. We saw red-eyed tree frogs, a giant toad, a glass frog and a pretty big hairy spider on the railings round the edge of the lodge.

To say it was atmospheric would be an understatement!

What are the tents like at Rafiki Safari Lodge?

The rooms themselves at Rafiki are safari tents on decked platforms; both of ours overlooked a pond towards the back of the site. They have huge decks with rocking chairs and tables where you can sit and watch the wildlife (and the pouring rain!). 

View from a wooden deck over the jungle and a small pond. A tent canopy covers the deck and a rocking chair sits to the left

The tents were pretty huge inside, with massive bathrooms with hot showers. There are also fans in the main bedroom section, bedside lights and several electricity sockets. I’m not going to lie, I love camping but the idea of a bit of canvas being the only thing between us and all the jungle critters had freaked me out a bit before we got there. But nothing appeared to get inside the tents (they are well protected with netting around them) – at least nothing we noticed anyway!

With the fans on the tents were actually quite cool inside. Ours had a double and two singles and there was still plenty of space to move around/unpack.

View from a wooden deck over a small green pond surrounded by trees and bushes

Lying in the dark under the canvas – with the rain pouring down and the deafening noise of the jungle outside – was magical. The canvas is so thick and heavy that it’s pitch black inside the tents, even once the morning sun has risen outside.

The pool at Rafiki Safari Lodge

And the best bit for the boys – from the decked lounge area in the main lodge you can hop on the water slide straight in to the little pool! And this was one fast water slide. We all spent ages going down the slides and being thrown into the water at the bottom. It was a fab spot for cooling off and chilling out.

Boys slidels down water slide towards green natural pool at the bottom
Boy in orange swim gear slides down water slide towards green natural pool at the bottom

What wildlife can you expect to see at Rafiki?

During our time at Rafiki we spotted a whole host of birds (identified through the several bird books available in the communal space at the lodge). These included lots of hummingbirds, toucans, vultures, tanagers and herons.

We spent hours of our stay here sitting on the tent deck watching huge iguanas racing up and down the trees and chasing each other off. We spotted Green Herons hunting by the water’s edge. Plus, to my DELIGHT, we watched a basilisk lizard running on the water. It was like living inside a David Attenborough documentary. At night the place is alive with the sounds of frogs and insects!

Red eyed tree frog sits on a bright green leaf at night
Large tarantula spider sits on a fence post

On our walk along the jungle trail to the back of the lodge we saw armies of leaf-cutting ants and one very hairy tarantula.

In the evenings around the decked bar area we found red-eyed tree frogs, giant toads, a couple of very large spiders and we enjoyed watching the bats swooping above our heads catching insects.

What else is there to do at Rafiki Safari Lodge?

The lodge arrange rafting and horse-riding trips, as well as guided jungle tours. As we had burnt so much cash just on our stay, we didn’t go for any of these. We opted instead to hang out by the pool and take a walk through the jungle trails ourselves. The truth is that it was so sweaty and humid that we all (with possibly the exception of Steve) struggled to hike too far through the jungle! We did do a short trail from the back of the tents – there are much longer versions if you’re not too hot and sweaty.

Young boy with torch crouches down to look at red-eyed tree frog on a wooden deck at night
View out over a small pond during heavy rain. Pond is surrounded by grass, trees and tropical plants

Much of the rest of the time we spent with our binoculars out watching the wildlife from our room decks and from the lodge. There were endless numbers of birds around the lodge deck – the staff put out fruit to attract them to the area.

In the evenings we hunted for bugs and frogs in the dark around the lodge, enjoyed a few soft drinks from the bar and played a lot of Yahtzee and Exploding Kittens. 

Two nights was about right – definitely from a budgeting perspective! But also in terms of things to do at the lodge. We could have done a couple of activities but even then two nights would probably have been enough.

Rafiki Safari Lodge – the verdict

I wanted to make sure our time in Costa Rica included some unique experiences. Sleeping under canvas in the jungle in the middle of nowhere definitely ticked that box! If you – or your kids – love wildlife then this is a brilliant place to get up-close-and-personal with nature. Despite the price tag I would absolutely recommended Rafiki to anyone planning a trip to Costa Rica.

Planning a family trip to Costa Rica?

If you’re considering taking a family trip to Costa Rica, then check out some of our other blog posts for ideas on where to go, what to see and where to stay:

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