Beautiful rock formation inside Venado Caves, Alajuela
Beautiful rock formation inside Venado Caves, Alajuela

Some people come to Costa Rica for the sun-drenched coastlines, but if you're like me, you may be more interested in what's underground! I know what you're thinking - a tree frog that prefers down below to the tree tops? Well, you haven't seen these caves yet! One of my dearest memories of traveling through Costa Rica was when I hopped all the way up the Arenal Volcano National Park and then down into the northern lowlands where the mystical Venado Caves sit. For a little tree frog like me, I can easily hop along the 2,700-meter stretch of limestone to visit some of my friends: crickets, monochrome frogs and spiders! However, humans have to duck through small crevices, repel down waterfalls and squeeze between rock formations trust me, it's like nothing you've ever seen before.

Way out in Venado Caves, Alajuela
Way out in Venado Caves, Alajuela

Get one with the Earth

Although the caves date back millions of years, they were only discovered by hunters in 1942. Today, human travelers can access about half of the caverns. I've hopped my way through the other half to find very narrow and hard-to-navigate tunnels. The rooms open to travelers are named after the things they resemble, like The Baths, The Papaya and The Altar. You'll enter into the cave at a mossy green area where a small stream flows outward, and within seconds you're cascaded into the dark abyss. The glow of your flashlight will help guide you through the tunnels, as your feet splash through the gently flowing stream. It's as heavenly as it sounds.

Javi the Frog with guide inside Venado Caves, Alajuela
Javi the Frog with guide inside Venado Caves, Alajuela

Geared up with your helmet, flashlight and rubber shoes, you can head into the darkness of the Venado Caves. When you're planning what you'd like to do in Costa Rica, chances are you're looking forward to experiencing nature first-hand, but in these caves, you'll be closer than ever! Large spiders and bats populate the cave, but you'll get used to their company quickly. Tours usually take about 1.5 hours, but guides can customize your tour if you're a little uncomfortable with being in damp, tight spaces for that long. However, most people admit that, once you're in there, the time will fly!

When you're traveling through the 12 chambers of the Venado Caves, you're literally beneath the Earth's surface! Formed by tectonic shifting and an underground river that still flows, the Venado Caves feature stalactites that almost drip from the cave ceiling like icicles and stalagmites that emerge from the ground floor - sometimes they even meet together to form large, columns.

Javi the Frog in La Papaya, stalactites and stalagmites formation
Javi the Frog in La Papaya, stalactites and stalagmites formation

Venturing through the rooms

El Parto, which means of The Birth, is for the most adventurous of climbers because it includes a very tight tunnel that you have to wiggle yourself through.As a tiny frog, I even found myself feeling a little stuffy on the way. However, once you've made your way through, you'll be just seconds from the awe-inspiring room, The Altar, which encompasses a stunning a natural "staircase". Through the rest of the adventure, you can shimmy through streams and tunnels, and you'll also encounter a cooling waterfall.

You'll get a bit dirty, and maybe come out with a few bumps and bruises, but that's adventure! Once you reach the bright, white sun, you'll have traveled through millions of years of geologic formation - when was the last time you could say you experienced that?

Flying bats with Javi the Frog inside Venado Caves
Flying bats with Javi the Frog inside Venado Caves
Tourist holding Javi the Forg in Venado Caves
Tourist holding Javi the Forg in Venado Caves