Horseback Riding has been one of Costa Rica’s most common tour options for decades. They are fun and worth doing but I’ve recently discovered how the adventure can be taken to the next level.
Before I explain how, let me give you some of my personal history and what common horse tours in Costa Rica entail. Prior to moving to the Osa Peninsula, I spent 3 months exploring Costa Rica with a rental car. I went on horseback riding tours in La Fortuna, Monteverde and Tortuguero. During my 10 years living on the Osa Peninsula, I’m pretty sure that I have also experienced all of the horseback tours found in this area.
The normal Costa Rican horseback tour looks like this- The tourist meets with their guide and horses. The tour begins on a gravel road towards a jungle trail. Riders are guided a short distance into the jungle where the horses are left tied up. The group hikes a short distance until they reach a river or stream with a waterfall. A swim is usually encouraged and a snack is then offered. After returning for the horses, the tour continues on a gravel road to a family farm so that the tourists can see how local farmers live. If there is an ocean nearby a beach run may be offered.
This tour structure has been satisfying customers for as long as Costa Rica has had tourism. I too obviously enjoyed it or I would have stopped going on these tours years ago. My latest discovery is better in so many ways. I’ll first describe the downsides of other tour options, and then I’ll explain how our new adventure is structured.
1. Horses are most enjoyable when they are also useful. Only small children enjoy riding a horse in circles. To me, riding on a gravel road is not fun. There is normally little to no shade, and every time an automobile passes the group gets to experience the clouds of dust that trail behind them. Additionally, horses do not enjoy walking on gravel roads (nor through rocky streams). They can deal with the discomfort but I have recently found that this is why the horses always seem excited when they know that the tour is almost over. Sometimes it’s even necessary to fight the horses desire to run back home. I doubt that anyone wants to think that the horse was unhappy during their special adventure.
2. People say that they travel to Costa Rica to experience nature. Sadly, the gravel roads of Costa Rica are littered with dogs. Dogs chase off all wildlife except for birds. My point is that during normal tours, the horseback riding bit is the part where the least amount of wildlife can be discovered.
3. The family farm section of Costa Rican horseback tours is normally the part that gets the best reviews. I think that this is because people want to know how the horses live. So how can this experience be improved? That information will be revealed shortly.
I can proudly say that our newest tour option has provided us with yet another chance to offer what GringoCurt.com is known to produce- The maximum opportunity to experience the very best that Costa Rica has to offer.
Here is what we recommend:
At noon, a taxi will pick up the group and take them as far into the jungle as Drake Bay gravel roads go. There, the guide and horses are introduced and the adventure begins into the deepest jungles of Costa Rica.
I have spent a lot of time hiking through various jungles. Until I did this tour, I never realized how much I was missing. While walking on jungle trails it is absolutely necessary to watch where I put my feet. Not only to avoid stepping on venomous snakes, but also because I don’t want to trip over random vines or accidentally step in deep mud. I had never been riding on primary jungle trails before, and what I instantly noticed was that instead of paying so much attention to my feet, I was more easily able to enjoy the scenery as it passed me by. David Attenborough says that over 80% of rainforest life exists in the trees. It’s very difficult to pay attention to the canopy above while constantly looking at your feet.
On these trails, other humans are rarely experienced and there are no dogs. The jungle which surrounds the trail system is comparable to that found at the San Pedrillo Ranger Station. In fact, the trails of the San Pedrillo Ranger Station of Corcovado National Park are connected to the trails of this tour, and groups can horseback right up to the border of the park.
Even though 4-5 hours on a horse can cover a lot of ground, you would never be able cover all of the trails in one trip. This is an activity that can be experienced multiple times, while continuously finding new biodiversity. The experience is like traveling back in time, before the evolution of humans. Giant ancient trees covered in mosses, orchids and various other symbiotic organisms are found throughout the adventure. This activity also provides plenty of opportunity to visit waterfalls and the farm.
The family which cares for these horses lives a little closer to Drake Bay town, but the farm in which the horses reside is located deep in the jungle. There are a couple of shanty shacks on the property and about 20 horses. I have never experienced Costa Rican horses with owners who took such good care of them. They are happy, healthy, clean and bugless. The gate is left open on the farm- giving me the impression that they really like being there. With so many horses, you may even get the chance to observe young colts. The horses seem to love their owner as he is always greeted upon arrival- almost as if to say “Can we come too?!”
At the end of the ride, the tour returns to the beach closest to the gravel road’s end. From here, there is the option to run the horses along the beach, or perhaps drink a cold beer at a remote sunset bar. There is a perfect view of Cano Island and the colors can be breathtaking- whether you choose to watch the sunset from the bar, or from the deserted and romantic beach. Once the light show is over and dark approaches, a taxi will appear to take you directly back to your hotel.