Travel Articles

Julie’s Costa Rica Horse Riding Adventure

By Equitrekking Travel's Preferred Travel Agent Julie Snyder

Having been an adventure travel agent for many years, it is amazing that I hadn't been to Costa Rica before now, but I hadn't. Now that I have experienced this adventurer's paradise, I really can't believe it took me this long.

We had a late flight in, so our host, Esteban, recommended we bunk at Vista del Valle for the night, only twenty minutes from the San Jose Airport.  Twenty minutes... but light years away!  We stayed in the Mona Lisa, our own individual hut with a king bed complete with mosquito netting. The net was romantic, but we didn't see any mosquitoes!  

The Mona Lisa was perched on a cliff overlooking a gorgeous valley and had an outdoor shower, and the whole resort seemed environmentally conscious.  After a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of eggs, tortillas, beans, fruit and great coffee, we took a lovely hike down to a pristine waterfall, past meadows where horses grazed (just seeing them made me ready to ride) and along a babbling stream. Soon Esteban was there to drive us to the start of the riding tour. 

The first day Esteban spent much time "outfitting" us so we got paired with the right horse.  I knew as soon as I got on Piñata that she was the girl for me.  Not the prettiest mare;  she was an Appaloosa with a white face full of freckles, but  she was a nice size for me and peppy.  Piñata and I went through about ten minutes of her not liking my English riding style (they ride in Spanish saddles there) and then - voila- she had me figured out, and she was a gem from then on.  Smart and sweet with her smooth Paso Fino gait, Piñata was the dream horse.

My husband Dave is a not a rider other than the odd trail ride he has taken with me when we are on vacation (he's a good sport.)  Esteban put him on Loc Rollo, a four year old gelding that I thought might be too young for Dave's experience, but he was a perfect gentleman and calm as could be.

The plantation ride is right at Esteban's ranch.  He owns beautiful and expansive property, and he took us across rivers, past pineapple plantations, through sugar cane fields, through villages (with happy smiling children playing soccer), up hills and across a main road to park our horses for lunch.  The cassoullete the restaurant was serving was fabulous!  Esteban asked if we wanted to go on after lunch, but we had ridden pretty vigorously about three hours on our first day, so we declined. That day's experience put us in mind of what it must have been like to ride here in the 1800's.  We were in a slower, more relaxed place. 

After we took the horses back to the barn, we went back to our new home for the week, the Tilijari, where we found a huge pool, hot tub and comfortable accommodations.  The restaurant lounge area is open air with big Adirondack chairs to relax in.

The following days were a mixture of a fabulous cloud forest ride (think Switzerland), chasing a good view of the Arenal Volcano at night with our incredible guide, Roger Davis, hiking the Rio Celeste Forest, riding at the base of the Arenal Volcano, and sightseeing.

The Rio Celeste Hike was a fabulous scenic trek up a trail to a beautiful waterfall and turquoise blue lake. It was gorgeous, a great workout, and all the while Roger was educating us on Costa Rican history and rainforest facts. I would never venture into the rainforest without someone like Roger. He took an actual machete with him, not for killing critters, but to chop up newly fallen trees, branches and bushes to clear the path.

Roger took us to two different hot springs on two different days after our daily activities to soothe our aching muscles.  Being a bit of a hot spring connoisseur (we ski out west often where they are abundant),  I excepted the inevitable rotten egg smell that comes with sulfur springs.  Not in Costa Rica, where the springs are formed of volcanic rock.  One spring we tried was more of a locals' favorite, more rustic, and another was fancier and private.  We loved both, but actually preferred the local's favorite, and at both refreshing drinks were served to us. 

Between riding and sightseeing in Costa Rica, we saw three different species of monkeys, a sloth, many crocodiles, and a multitude of bird species, including the Jesus bird (you guessed it - they walk on water).  The wildlife, the scenery, the volcanoes, and most of all, the riding, added up to one of the most adventurous vacations I have ever had the pleasure to experience!

Learn more about this Costa Rica equestrian vacation- The Best of Costa Rica on Horseback.