Casy asked Janet (Dev’s mom) and I (Jazz and Ginger’s mom) to share a little about our riding vacation in early February to Costa Rica. We flew into Liberia, rented a car and drove about an hour to a little village on the Pacific coast called Playa Junquillal (hoon-kee-al).
Janet had been there before and arranged our trip with Erika a German transplant to Costa Rica for 16 years (www.paradiseriding.com) Susan, our guide, was from Switzerland and spoke English, Spanish, and German. Each day we rode for about 6 hours, including lunch. We had the same horses every day. I rode a nice quiet bay with a floppy ear called Bugs Bunny and Janet’s horse, Fandango, was a frisky grey. They were criollo, the local breed, and somewhere around 14 – 15 hands.
The first day we rode along the beach to the north. We rode through Playa Junquillal, Playa Blanca (white sand), Playa Negra (black sand) and Playa Avellana (pink sand). There was no one on the beach in Playa Junquillal and Playa Blanca so once we were acquainted with our horses we did a nice gallop along the beach. The saddles were endurance ones and the horses’ trot and canter were so comfortable – even I could sit to them. Playa Negra and Avellana are big surfing beaches, so we rode along the beach watching the surfers catching waves and wiping out. In Avellana we rode through a little estuary and went onto to the road to stop for lunch-fresh mahi mahi the fisherman caught that morning! We went to a restaurant, tied up the horses up to a tree, gave them some water and their treats - bananas.
After lunch we saddled back up and rode through the towns. The highlight was seeing the howling monkeys at a creek along the side of the road. We were lucky and saw a baby monkey that looked pretty young – only 5 inches or so. ( The howling monkeys make this incredible noise – the first night it was a little unnerving.)
The second day we rode inland into the hills. Since most of the roads around the area are unpaved, we rode on the roads. We saw some of the indigenous trees such as guancaste (also the name of the province we were in) that are huge and grow in clearings, acacia, and a wide variety of papaya trees. We stopped for lunch at this lady’s farm where she grows and cooks all the food herself- some of the chickens lost their buddies for our lunch. She had picnic tables and chairs and the some of the locals stopped by for lunch as well. The food was delicious, but surprisingly enough, it was not spicy. On our way back, we saw two kids riding a horse back to school – no saddle, books tied with a piece of string hanging over their shoulder.
When we got back, I think all 3 of us were pretty sore. Thank goodness the next day was a day off from riding. Janet and I went zip lining and boogie boarding.
Thursday was our last day of riding. We rode along the beach to the south. The beaches were absolutely deserted and we had some incredible views of crashing waves on volcanic mountains. We passed a few fishing villages and noticed a few families out on the rocks harvesting some type of scallops or mollusks from the ocean. This ride had quite a bit of cantering along the beach – we went about 30 kilometers in 4 hours. Portions of the ride included going over rocks and the horses were amazingly sure-footed. Throughout the rides Janet and I noticed how incredible the horses were. They handled all sorts of terrain so well – deep sand, packed sand, up steep hills / trails, rocks, waves, trucks, motorcycles, cows, and even other free roaming horses. This ride ended with lunch at a restaurant and the horses were trailered back home. Interestingly enough, the trailer is just a pick up truck with a large enclosed bed. They back the truck up to a hilly area and the horses just walk on. They thought it was funny that we have trailers with ramps and even $150 coconut fiber pads for the horses to walk onto the trailer. Lunch again was amazing - they’re very much into the organic, local food movement and everything is incredibly fresh.
The rest of vacation was spent snorkeling and boogie boarding at the beach. Hotel was terrific and in a location with infinity pool and hot tub. Local bars were really fun with people from all over the world. If anyone is interested stop by and talk to us. --Rica