Costa RicaCosta Rica

Cowboys and Horseback Rides

Cowboys and Horseback Rides

Cowboys and Horseback Rides

Destination: Arenal

"The world changes and the cowboys change" 

read more close

Alex wore a blue plaid button down shirt tucked into his jeans, a baseball cap and black canvas shoes with spurs. For the last 18 years, he's worked as a tour guide showing visitors the beauty of Arenal's volcano and river valley.

Together with a couple of bankers from London and a school headmaster from South Carolina, we mounted our quarter horses and rode into the river valley. 

On the trail, Alex gave us the first lesson.  The trick to riding is to relax and move with the horse, don't straighten your back, he said, "Tequila helps." 

We rode down into the valley then turned to follow the river. A mile downriver we came to a small waterfall. It cascaded down the hillside and over a cliff feeding into the river.  After snapping a few pictures, we headed back to a break in the woods and crossed into the water. The horses seemed to enjoy the coolness, bowing their heads to take sips from the current flowing up past their knees.

Farther up the river, we found a sandy shore. We dismounted and tied up our horses beside a cluster of palm trees. We walked down to the river's edge to put our hands in the cool waters.

In the meantime, Alex prepared an impromptu fishing lesson. He pulled down a handful of wild coconuts roughly the size of large acorns from the palms and smashed them on the rocks. He peeled off the coarse skins revealing the soft white flesh inside. Using a pocket-knife, he cut the coconut into pieces and gave us each a taste.

Then, from underneath a rock, Alex procured a flattened-water bottle wrapped in fishing line. He added a piece of coconut flesh to the end of the hook and flung it into the river – no rod, no weight, just a fishing line, hook and bait. He immediately hooked and reeled in a rainbow trout, which he proudly displayed for a picture and threw back into the river.

Afterwards, we each took a turn. Alex showed us how to wrap the fishing line around the fingers of our left hand, while using our right hand to fling the end of the hook into the water. While none of us were as skilled as Alex, we each managed a perfect cast.  The school headmaster even hooked his own trout.

Back up the Mountain

As the sun began to set over the river valley, we mounted up and started the ride back to the stables. We rode single file up the side of the mountain. Every once in a while, Alex stopped to show us peculiarities of the forest; sap from a rubber tree, the flowers of the durable Balsa tree and the call of a toucan.

Then we galloped. Two by two, we bounced up and down on our horses charging up the mountain. Every 100 yards we stopped to catch our breath (and our balance), then started up again until we reached the top.

Back at the Stables

After we got off the horses, Alex took us to a nearby stable. He opened a wooden door and called out into the dim light. A colt, only two months old, reared its head and clumsily walked toward the cowboy. Petting the young horse Alex told us, "The world changes and the cowboys change."

The colt nibbled at his shirt while I asked for his email for the blog. He just laughed and said cowboys "don't have emails."

Cowboys and Horseback Rides in Pictures

Best Hotel Deals in Costa Rica!

Get up to 30% off Hotels & Resorts worldwide compared to other major booking sites like Expedia and Priceline with our exclusive pricing ...