In the north of the country we find the ranching region of Guanacaste, where breeding the local Costa Rican Criollo is both a passion and a long-standing tradition of the region. Here we have a based stay where both riders and non-riders alike will enjoy the relaxed environment on the 50 acre family-owned ranch, an oasis of giant tropical trees and dry forest flora and fauna and a short distance from the beach. Wake to monkeys calling from the trees and horses nickering in the pastures.
Additionally, from November to July, you are offered the opportunity to join groups of local riders and enjoy a traditional fiesta including a colourful horse parade and a reception for riders, including music, food, dancing and prizes; this is a real highlight of the holiday and not to be missed. Accommodation is in delightfully presented, self-contained apartments, all ensuite, with a boutique feel to them. Many of the much-loved horses were bred on the ranch.
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Arrive at Liberia Airport (LIR) and transfer to the ranch located just minutes from the beautiful Pacific beaches of Guanancaste. In the late afternoon you will have a ranch orientation and a Criollo horse demonstration of the beautiful Spanish Criollo horses of Costa Rica, known for their noble temperament and comfort. If there is time you will have a short ride through Rancho Cartagena and the back roads to the village of Portegolpe, stopping off for a cold drink at a local cantina before returning to the ranch at sunset. Dinner at the ranch or local restaurant with your hosts. Itinerary depends on arrival times.
After breakfast, you will leave for the small town of Tempate, riding along the old Spanish Trail, the same trails used by the Spanish Conquistadors, riding along large haciendas and through the beautiful Guanacaste countryside. Look out for monkeys, tropical birds and the dry tropical vegetation on this back country trail. Stop off for cold drinks in the old ranching town of Tempate, then remount and ride over the coastal hills on the old Spanish Trail. Arrive at the beach for photos and lunch at a favourite beach restaurant. After lunch return to the ranch for a dip in the pool and relax before dinner at the ranch. In the afternoon there is an optional Natural Horsemanship option.
After breakfast you will be taken to the beautiful Hacienda Roble and mount your well trained criollo ranch horse for a cowboy experience. Ride around the large working cattle ranch exploring the wetlands and seeing a variety of birds and crocodiles with your wildlife guide. For those with adventure in their hearts there is the option to take a canopy zip line tour. After lunch at the ranch in the late afternoon, continue riding through the gorgeous ranch country to the small village of Lorena for your evening meal at a popular cantina stop, where you can sample a real taste of Guanacaste. Return to the ranch at sunset.
Today grab a cup of Costa Rican coffee or juice before your breakfast ride. This ride is along oxcart trails passing through wooded countryside, ranches and small villages typical of the region. Along the way look out for Howler monkeys and pass the colourful town of Portegolpe. When you arrive back at the ranch and have tied your horse up, it is time for a typical Tico breakfast, cooked over lena - firewood. The afternoon is free for you to go to the beach or choose one of the other tours available. At Tamarindo beach you can swim, surf, shop and have dinner on your own at sunset. You will then be picked up by arrangement. Dinner by arrangement.
After breakfast the resident trainer will give a demonstration on Natural Horsemanship, training one of the young horses. Later your horse will be loaded onto the truck and transported to the small village of Garita where you will rendezvous. The ride today will be along backroads through giant trees of the dry tropical forest reserve, looking for Howler monkeys along the way. You will stop off at Peurto Viejo for a cold drink, before continuing to the beautiful white sandy beaches of Peurto Viejo, Conchal and Brasilito. There will be time to play in the water and take photos at the end of the beach ride. Take a walk or a swim before lunch/dinner. Times today depend on tides.
After breakfast riding today depends on departure times. Return to the airport or your next destination.
Fiesta Season (November 20-May 1)
In the evening you have the option to go to one of the colorful local fiestas to see the famous bull riding and cowboys showing off their lasso skills on quick, well trained, criollo horses and sample local food and drinks. Participate or watch Tope horse parades and fiestas available most Sundays during the fiesta season. Minimum 2 riders Maximum weight 215lbs.
Days may vary depending on arrival times, fiestas and weather. Add days with an additional all day ride or overnight at the beach, optional trips to Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud forest, Granada Nicaragua, National Parks, or Natural Horsemanship Training.
Granada, Nicaragua – 2 day/1 night with guided tour to Nicaragua featuring Catalina, Masaya Market, an active volcano and the beautifully restored colonial town of Granada on Lake Nicaragua. City Tour and accomodations at an historic colonial hotel.
Monteverde Cloud Forest and Santa Elena – add 2-3 nights in Monteverde of the most famous cloud forests in the world. Perfect for birdwatching, guided hikes, hummingbird experience, and choice of horseback riding tours.
Other overnight tours or stays at Arenal Volcano, Flamingo Beach, Tamarindo Beach or a variety of mountain or volcano lodges.
Estancias and Beaches - Uruguay
The ultimate south American experience! Explore working estancias, tropical palm groves, protected wetlands, beaches, shipwrecks and the chance to see wonderful marine life such as dolphins, whales and seals. For those confident in walk, trot and canter.
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
All the horses are well trained and much loved, most are 'gaited' offering an exceptionally smooth ride. They have a noble character and are very willing and forward going. They range between 14hh and 16hh. The riding style is relaxed with neck-reining and light contact at all times The riding pace is varied; walk, trot, and canter based on riders experience and desires.
On this ride you will cover country roads, back trails, beaches and coastal mountains. Your guides, Esteban and Kay, are bilingual professional guides and naturalists. Additional lessons and training are available by arrangement
Riders must have a secure seat at walk trot and canter and be comfortable riding over varied terrain. You can expect to ride for 2-5 hrs a day. There is a mounting block available at the ranch and help can be given out on trail, no walking beside horses is required although some experience over steep/rough terrain is needed. An adventurous nature is recommended to enjoy the exciting riding and spectacular sights.
Minimum riding age 7 years.
Weight limit: 210lb for beginner riders, 225lb by arrangement for experienced riders
The weight limit for this ride is 210 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodations on the ranch is in a private cabins or 'casitas', or beach hotel for extended beach rides. These rooms have Queen, double and single beds with high quality linens, private verandah, storage space, garden porch, outside bar with wifi. They all enjoy Ranch and forest views. There is a splash pool for a refreshing dip after a ride, and you will be able to relax in the peaceful surroundings with a host of natural sounds such as birds and monkeys.
Breakfasts are delicious and plentiful offering an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, free range eggs and various cold meats. Sample menu: Full ranch breakfast daily with many fresh tropical fruits and juices, home made breads, free range eggs as you wish, breakfast meats, oatmeal, special French toast, typical Costa Rican breakfast, yoghurt, or other special dishes.
Other meals offer a choice of salads, pastas, fresh fish, chicken or shrimp and rice, or others by arrangement. Some meal will be taken out at local restaurants – riders order from menu. Coffee, tea and juices are available all day. Wine, spirits and sodas are available for purchase.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request. It is recommended that when travelling to Costa Rica your passport is valid for at least 6 months, otherwise you may be refused entry.
British nationals do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica and can stay as visitors for six months.
The British Embassy in Costa Rica can be found at British Embassy, Apartado 815-1007, Edificio Centro Colón, (Piso/floor 11), San José. Telephone: (506) 258 2025. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Costa Rican representation in the U.K can be found at Flat 1, 14 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3LH. Telephone: (020) 7706 8844. Email: email@example.com.
The Foreign and Commonwealth office also provides travel advice on their excellent we site at www.fco.gov.uk
This part of Costa Rica has 3 distinct seasons - the dry season December to the end of April (no rain), the Green season (occasional rains May through September (usually no problems for riding) and the rainy season, late September to mid November (heavy rains, but depends on the year).
At Unicorn Trails, the health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance.
There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and precautions must be taken. Rabies can also be a problem and any animal bites should be attended to immediately.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org. The department of health gives advice on www.dh.gov.uk
Riders should not have health concerns that limit their riding and must be aware that this a tropical country with higher temperatures than they may be accustomed to. No vacinations are needed in this area. Bring personal medications, other needs available at pharmacies near by.
The electricity in Costa Rica runs at 120V and a frequency of 60Hz as in the USA. Your appliances may need an adaptor as well as a plug converter, check before you go.
Wifi is available in the main house or garden porch. A computer is also available for email or Skype for international calls or video calls. Some phones work in country, check with carriers. Don’t forget you camera and battery charger or extra batteries.
Comfortable light weight riding clothes and casual wear, closed shoes, long trousers, light rain/wind proof gear are needed in rainy season, mosquito repellant, sunscreen, hat, and camera and battery charger. Some sizes of riding helmets are available (not compulsory if over 17). Binoculars are handy, guide books are available.
This is a 6 day/5 night programme available November to September with any day start dates. No departures in October.
On request all year round (except October)
Costa Rica Birds - Raymond Leung
Costa Rica - A Journey through nature - Adrian Hepworth
Costa Rica Culture and Traditions - Jack Donnelly
Costa Rica - History, Travel and Tourism - Samuel Ash
Full day tour to Granada, Nicaragua, Arenal Volcano and hotsprings, and 1/2 - 2 day Yoga/Spa Experience, as well as add on days. Immerse yourself in the beautiful nature and wildlife of Costa Rica by hiking, enjoying island cruises, bird watching and rain forest tours to name but just a few activities. More activities which can be booked on site include: yoga, spa, National Park tours, Turtles Tour, Canopy Tours, rafting, Zip-Line Tour, kayaking, sport fishing, sailing, crocodile and mangrove swamp tours.
This area of Costa Rica is the dry tropical forest ecosystem and contains rich biodiversity of tropical plants, birds, butterflies, insects and mammals. The ranch is an oasis of large tropical trees and lush pastures with tropical birds and howler monkeys in the trees. The ranch is located just 15 minutes from the Pacific ocean and an hour and a half from the spectacular volcanic mountain range with its own set of interesting wild life and vegetation.
Costa Rica's climate and geography are great for supporting a wide variety of wildlife. Sometimes known as the "biological crossroads" of the world, Costa Rica's inhabitants are made up of more than 500,000 species of animal.
Ecotourism is one of Costa Rica’s primary economic resources, and the country's butterflies add a lot to that. They bring life to rainforests, not only with the diversity in colour, but with the magnificence of the flowers that they help pollinate.
Birds of Costa Rica
Although Costa Rica is a small country, it is in the birdrich neotropical region, and has a huge number of species for its area. 894 bird species have been recorded in the country (including Cocos Island), with seven endemics. 19 species are globally threatened. Costa Rica's national bird is the ubiquitous Clay-colored Robin.
Some common butterflies and moths in Costa Rica include:
Green Page Moth
Costa Rica is a tranquil haven of democracy – known as the ‘Switzerland of Central America’. It has no army, excellent hospitals, well-educated people and a great respect for human rights. This little country, roughly the size of Scotland, has an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. There is a great deal to explore in Costa Rica; from active volcanoes to palm-fringed beaches. Twelve percent of the land has been set aside as national reserves to protect the astonishing number of plants, birds, reptiles, insects and mammals.
Ticos, as the Costa Ricans are known, are a friendly, helpful and tolerant people. They favor moderation, and therefore have managed to avoid the political fanaticism of their neighbors.
Manuel Antonio National Park
With the establishment of Manuel Antonio National Park in 1972, the people of Costa Rica decided to preserve, for future generations, one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse areas in the world. Although it is the country's smallest national park, the stunning beauty and diversity of wildlife in its 683 hectares is unequaled. Manuel Antonio contains a charming combination of rain forest, beaches and coral reefs. The beaches are the most beautiful in the country, lined with lush forest, and the snorkeling is excellent. The forest is home for sloths, iguanas, the rare and adorable squirrel monkeys and millions of colorful little crabs. And the trail that winds around Punta Catedral offers some spectacular views.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Santa Elena Reserve is one of the first community managed reserves in the country. With the help of Youth Challenge International, a Canadian Non-profit Organization, the Costa Rican government, and the Santa Elena Community, the Reserve officially opened in March 1992. The philosophy of the Reserve is unique in that long term sustainability is not only a concern of the Reserve, but of the community as a whole. Proceeds from entrance fees, guided tours and the souvenir shop are either reinvested in the management of the reserve or are channeled to a local high school to help upgrade technology, and fund courses in environmental education, biology, agriculture, languages and tourism. In using the Reserve as a natural classroom, students and teachers harness an unlimited educational resource that can be used for anything from studying tropical plant ecology to leading tours. Conservation efforts in the area are concentrating on establishing forest corridors radiating from the central conservation area down to lower altitudes as many of the forest fauna, such as the Resplendent Quetzal, American Pumas, Jaguars, Ocelots, and Red Brocket Deer require large territories in which to forage and breed.
Costa Rica is a tranquil haven of democracy – known as the ‘Switzerland of Central America’. It has no army, excellent hospitals, well-educated people and a great respect for human rights. In 1948 Costa Rica was the first country in the modern world to abolish its army. In that tradition, efforts to establish the University for Peace began at the United Nations under the leadership of the President of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Carazo.
This little country, roughly the size of Scotland, has an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. There is a great deal to explore in Costa Rica; from active volcanoes to palm-fringed beaches. Twelve percent of the land has been set aside as national reserves to protect the astonishing number of plants, birds, reptiles, insects and mammals.
Ticos, as the Costa Ricans are known, are a friendly, helpful and tolerant people. They favour moderation, and therefore have managed to avoid the political fanaticism of their neighbors.
Costa Rica is six hours behind GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.