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R i c a

The Adventure Catalog

2009 - 2010

C o s t a

cool adventures

• Mambo Combo • Rafting • Canyoneering • Horseback riding • Mountain Biking • Voluntourism Single day & Multi-day trips Family vacations

Lava!Jungle! Beach!

Special Report: Adventure Connection $ave Money! $ave Time! Look for us on:

  Desafio Adventure Company

Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna Monteverde Playa Samara


4 Desafío Adventure School 6 What is Canyoneering? 8 A Day in the Life of a Typical Adventure Guide 9 Fresh Flavors from the Desafío Kitchen 10 Rafting on the Beautiful Río Balsa 11 Río Toro Class 3-4 Full-Day Rafting 12 Be a Costa Rican Cowboy! 13 Family Fun in La Fortuna 14 Voluntourism at Proyecto Asís 16 Arenal’s Shangri La 17 La Fortuna/Arenal Quick Facts 18 The Story of Toucan Maps 20 Getting Married in La Fortuna 21 Getting Down-To-Earth 22 “The Challenge” of Desafío A dventure Company 22 Wanderlusting Kitty and Crusading Animal Lovers in La Fortuna 23 Desafio Adventure Culture

The Desafío Adventure Catalog 24 Adventure Connection: $ave Money--$ave Time! 26 River Operation 28 Canyoneering Operation 29 Beach Activities at Playa Samara & Playa Carrillo 29 Volunteering & Sustainable Tourism 30 Nature & Adventure Tours 31 Package Tours and Reservation Policies 32 Adventurous Entrepreneur 34 Client Comments 35 Map of La Fortuna

Desafio Adventure Company is Costa Rica´s premier one-stop-shop for adventure travel. We´ll take you to the land of raging, tropical rivers, active volcanoes, deep, jungle canyons and isolated beaches. Our all-inclusive active vacations include high-quality tours such as canyoneering, rafting, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, surfing, bird watching, as well as conservation and voluntourism programs.

Behind the Central Church, La Fortuna San Carlos, Costa Rica TEL: (506) 2479-9464 FAX: (506) 2479-9463 Call Toll Free US & Canada 1-886-210-0052

Please pass this magazine on for others to enjoy. This magazine is recyclable. Please dispose of it adequately. Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved. No use may be made of materials contained herein without expressed written consent. For inquiries contact us at

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This magazine is written, designed and printed in Costa Rica. Printed by / Impreso por Impresión Comercial, La Nación S.A.


t’s a late Saturday afternoon in downtown La Fortuna at the base of one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The Arenal volcano is clear, outlined by the lofty clouds and a descending sun. Our favorite watering hole is starting to fill up. The Don Rufino restaurant sets the perfect background to catch up with renowned photographer, Thornton Cohen. “TJ” is on assignment for Frommer’s guidebook getting some pretty radical images of the Arenal Volcano Area. “TJ” resides on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast and owns photography and production companies out of Tamarindo www. He’s settling in for the night as he takes a deep gulp of his Flor de Caña rum and tonic. “This is NOT a photogenic town – at all,” the charismatic Cohen reflects. Suresh and I nod in agreement. “It’s a good thing there are other things around here to shoot.” He picks up his digital Canon mega-lens camera and we scan through his days’ work. The visuals astound – bungee jump at dusk, the behemoth Arenal Volcano from every possible angle, the secret swimming hole, happy, joyful children, abundant flora and fauna. At that moment I thought to myself – whoa… there are so many other ways to look at our community. The problem is we often just see it through our tourism lenses. And so, as Suresh and I challenged ourselves to put together this 32-page magazine you’re about to read, we wanted to do something different. That’s always been Suresh’s approach to business at Desafío Adventure Company: being on the cutting edge of adventure tourism, opening new markets and inventing new things. Cohen started philosophizing on our Desafío Adventure Travel magazine venture: “You know what, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. You have to make people either love or hate your magazine. Provoke them.” Suresh stirred his Cuba Libre and eyed up his yuca al mojo.

Thornton Cohen

Thoughts From The People Who Put This Together Suresh offered a bite to our new Brit companion. With a smirk and a grin, Cohen replied “I hate vegetables. Greens are for smoking, not eating…” It made for a little chuckle. “Look, your biggest challenge is content – make a connection with the people who are reading -- the world is a visual place these days – it’s got to be visual.” So Suresh and I have tried to make this magazine visual. We hope you like the photos. TJ nabbed the fun cover shot of Suresh with his new red kayak overlooking Lake Arenal and the volcano and this one of the two of us. It may seem simple, but putting together a magazine/ catalogue is a huge endeavor – getting the right shots, including good writing (in English when living in a Spanish-speaking country) and just basically coming up with a new concept for marketing. Our intent is to highlight some of the great things you can do in our favorite areas of Costa Rica and we got some friends to help out with some of the articles (Thank you Gretchen & Justin Hamel, Ray & Sue Krueger Koplin, Alvaro del Castillo, Janet Ellis, Juan Sostheim, Ciany Devoto, Juliana Madrigal -- you guys are great!). We’re going with the theme: “Lava, Jungle, Beach” – which happens to be one of our favorite package tours. You visit La Fortuna at the base of the Arenal Volcano, for the “Lava” part – Monteverde cloud forests for the “Jungle” and Playa Sámara/Playa Carrillo for the “Beach” part. And none of this could have happened without the magical graphics work of Andrés Madrigal and the editing prowess of Peter Majerle of the shiny and brilliant Costa Rica Traveler Magazine. We’re forever indebted to the two of you for really pulling this off! With this magazine, enjoy your journey to see lava, hike through the jungle and relax on the beach and much more… Your friends, Suresh and Christine Krishnan DESAFIO ADVENTURE COMPANY

Desafio Adventure Company


Desafío Adventure School


esafío Adventure Company joined forces with longtime adventure guide Daniel Arguedas Quesada to help develop the first public-private initiative to train a whole new generation of rafting guides in Costa Rica. The new guides will be certified by the government through the National Teaching Institute (INA.) Arguedas is a well-known, world-class adventure racer and competes in numerous marathons, triathlons and eco-challenge-style races, as well as competing internationally in rafting competitions. INA is the government agency in charge of technical training after high school. Considering tourism is such an important part of the Costa Rican economy, INA has developed a lot of projects geared toward educating those wishing to get into tourism. This year marked the first year INA created a public-private program to train rafting guides – the first program of its kind in Central America. “We wanted to put together a thorough curriculum of courses based on discipline and teamwork,” Suresh Krishnan, owner of Desafío Adventure Company said. Krishnan and Arguedas are convinced that being a river guide is not just knowing how to go down rivers, but rather knowing how to be a leader. “We knew we needed to train a bunch of young people to be leaders who can manage whatever situation, including working under extreme pressure, maintaining control safely and responsibly, without forgetting to have fun,” Arguedas said. In the mid-1980s, foreigners started to arrive to Costa Rica looking for a combination of nature and adventure activities – hence the adventure tourism industry was born in Costa Rica. Whitewater rafting gets the credit for being the original adventure tour and in Costa Rica, the mountainous terrain, big water rivers and exuberant natural scenery has made it the ideal rafting destination. Today La Fortuna, at the base of the active Arenal Volcano, has become one of the

most-recognized adventure destinations in Latin America. The Arenal Volcano is the major attraction, but there are numerous adventure activities to do, including some of the best rafting in the region. The easy-going and picturesque class 2-3 Río Balsa and the exciting class 3-4 Río Toro are visited by thousands of visitors each year. But to be able to run safe trips, the guides have to be well-prepared through technical training and practice.

Teaching makes perfect And that’s where Krishnan ran into problems. “We have great rivers and plenty of people who want to go rafting, but not many qualified guides.” Arguedas focused his training on strength, agility and overall technique. “The idea is that these guys learn how to prevent problems and run safe trips,” Arguedas said. Krishnan served 6 years in the US military and wanted to make sure the students understood the importance of being disciplined. “Camaraderie, perseverance, courage and humility are the important characteristics of the professionals that work on the river should have,” Arguedas said. “All of that starts with discipline.” So Arguedas had his group of 16 students doing push-ups, going on arduous uphill runs and testing one another to see who were becoming the most physically fit and skilled. For Arguedas, the hands-on experience is the most-important part of his teaching. “The best way to learn is to do,” Arguedas said. “To be a good rafting guide, you have to feel confident about what you are doing.” Arguedas created situations for his students where they had to take a step back and analyze the situation and figure out how they should react. “We learned how to encounter every type of situation,” student Diego Alberto Acuña

Viquez said. “We even had written exams in the middle of the river, and practiced emergency situations to make us understand exactly what it feels like to be a tourist in a stressful situation. That’s something I’ll never forget,” Acuña said. Although it may seem strange, Arguedas is convinced there is no such thing as ‘common sense.’ “You actually have to teach people common sense in order to able to know what to do in unexpected situations, especially when dealing with Mother Nature,” Arguedas said. Arguedas taught his students how to “read” the river and understand various river characteristics. They also practiced hard, paddled down river many times, flipped the boats, did practice rescues and much more. In the end, Arguedas, Krishnan and the staff at INA were impressed with the results of the Desafio Adventure School. “We were pushed to the limit every day – both physically and mentally,” Acuña said. “Each of us had to learn how to persevere and understand that simply taking a boat down the river is not what it means to be a river guide. The most important thing is to enjoy the river – the moment we no longer enjoy the river is the moment we should no longer be guiding,” Acuña said.

Not a Typical Day on the River The raft guide students were really put to the test and en-

All About Daniel Arguedas Quesada From a very young age, Daniel Arguedas Quesada growing up in Paraíso de Cartago realized he could combine his love of nature with outdoors activities. As the years went on, he also noticed he had a special talent for teaching. Arguedas, now 38, earned his bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management and is a member of an elite group of adventurers: one of the first, official rafting guides in Costa Rica. “It was really crazy back then in the eighties! We were invited to learn how to be guides by some North Americans who first came down to start rafting companies,” Arguedas recalled. Arguedas pointed out that he’s frustrated to see how the rafting industry has changed in the past 15 years. “There are now a lot of unscrupulous companies

dured very long, hard days of training. A typical day on the river started at 7:00am and ended at 4:00pm. They then had to finish the night by going to their other courses, such as geography, ethics, natural history from 5:00pm until 9:00pm. The entire rafting guide certification process took over 6 months. The Desafío Adventure School started out with 20 students, but a few dropped out along the way and ended up graduating a new generation of 16 die-hard raft guides, all of which have since become employed as guides. “The truth is, we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we signed up,” student Marvin José López Martínez said. “But as we went along, we really learned the essence of teamwork! If one of us failed, we all failed – we built friendships for life!” López said.

What we learned “Our instructor Daniel Arguedas couldn’t have been better. He helped us gain the self-confidence needed to be professional guides. After all, we have the life of our clients in our hands,” Jonathon Rodriguez, a student who is now an employee of Desafío Adventure Company said. “Plus the backing Desafío Adventure Company gave us through the use of their installations and high-quality gear made all the difference.”

that simply want to get his experience as rafting rich off of rafting and instructor, he smiles end up paying their with his great big grin guides very little money and says he’s satisfied and tend to hire poorly and proud of what his trained and very young group accomplished. guides,” Arguedas said. “Not only did they learn from me, but I also That’s why learned a lot from my Arguedas was intrigued students.” by the idea of the “If there is INA-certified Desafío one thing I hope my Adventure school and Arguedas featured here with his students took away from wanted to be a part of family: His wife Ciany, Ariel age 10, the Desafio Adventure creating a group of the Zoe age 2 and their dog Manolo. School is that being a best river guides in the rafting guide is more than just going down country. rivers – that you have to respect the river, But he knew it wasn’t going to admire the nature around you and mostbe easy. “I knew that in order to train these guys, I needed them to respect me,” importantly, really enjoy what you’re doing Arguedas said. – only then can you make sure others have When you talk to Arguedas about a good time, as well!” Arguedas said.

Desafio Adventure Company



AndrĂŠs Madrigal


What is


anyoneering is a new sport which is becoming increasingly popular in Costa Rica. Canyoneering is defined as rappelling using technical mountain-climbing gear, hiking and downclimbing in a river canyon.

It’s equivalent to a class 3-4 river for rafting – it’s like the Río Toro of canyoneering! In most parts of the world, canyoneering is done in mountain canyons with flowing water. In the US, descending wet mountain canyons is sometimes referred to as canyoneering, while descending non-flowing desert canyons is often referred to as canyoning. Much of the canyoning done in the US occurs in the dry slot canyons carved in the sandstone found around the Colorado Plateau. Outside the Colorado Plateau, in upper sections of flowing river canyons, there are numerous wet-canyon canyoneering opportunities. Here in Costa Rica, we continue to explore new canyons. It’s not uncommon for members of the rafting community to become canyoneering enthusiasts and instead of going downriver, they start searching upriver to go canyoneering! And recently the owners of Desafío,

Suresh and Christine, encountered one of the coolest canyoneering excursions – the “Jumping Canyon.” The Jumping Canyon can be chosen as a private, full-day excursion. This canyon is deep in the mountainside with think jungle all around. To set out on the expedition, we require you have some rappelling and canyoneering experience. There is a fairly intense hike to get to the first waterfall – we will rappel about a 30-foot waterfall and follow along the river bed and descend approximately 10 other waterfalls by jumping from one deep pool to the next. This is an unforgettable journey into deep wilderness – push your limits of adventure! Just go ahead and… Jump!

Desafio Adventure Company

Andrés Madrigal

3=Intermediate Canyoneering B=Mostly Wet Surfaces R=Partly Risky Descents II=Activity is done in half-day

Thornton Cohen

The sport got its start with early European mountain climbers using specialized climbing gear to rappel down and the sport quickly spread throughout the world and is all the rage in the American Southwest, such as in and around Zion National Park in Utah. According to members of the US-based American Canyoneering Association, the Lost Canyon Adventures canyoneering site has a rating of “3BRII”:


Andrés Madrigal

A Day in the Life of a Typical Adventure Guide:

Spotlight on Alejandro Hernández Q: What’s the most important thing in your life right now?

Alejandro is head guide of the Lost Canyon Adventures canyoneering team for Desafío Adventure Company. Q: When did you know you wanted to be an adventure guide with Desafío Adventure Company? A: I was studying to be general tourist guide at the government- sponsored I.N.A. and I did my final internship with Desafio to get my degree. When I finished, a couple months later a Desafio manager called me and said “Hey, Alejandro! Why don’t you come and work with us in The Lost Canyon as a canyoneering guide?” and I said “Yeah! I was waiting for your call…” It was a great day! I was very happy they called. Q: So, how long have you worked for Desafío? A: I have worked here nearly two years and have been happy to take on more responsibility along the way. I first I started as a belay guide, three months later I was the Lead Guide, and six months later I was the Head Guide. I was recently promoted as the canyoneering manager. Q: Where do you live? A: I live in Aguas Zarcas. It’s a mediumsized town 50 km east of La Fortuna. It’s far away from here especially if you are driving like I do every day. I spend about 35 minutes on my motorcycle per day. I do enjoy the feel of the wind on my face when I drive it.

A: The most important thing for me right now is my baby. His name is Alejandro Jr. He just turned one: he’s my son, he’s my friend, he’s my life! Q: How do you start your day? A: Well… my day starts at 4:45am. I take a quick shower. I consider myself a fairly religious person so I pray every morning and put my life in God’s hands. Then I eat breakfast (gallo pinto and eggs – the breakfast of Tico champions!) and I’m on way out the door to go work by 5:45am. I get to Desafio at 6:20am because I like to be sure that everything is ready in my department.

ence I show them how to do it, and if they have more experience than I do, I find I sometimes learn new things from them. It’s exciting to see how popular canyoneering is getting – some people have amazing stories of the places they have been canyoneering. And when we have kids on our trips, I enjoy that a lot because it’s fun to watch them undergo a whole new experience in what is usually a completely new environment for them – we get them extra wet – it’s so cute -- I love the kids! Q: Tell us about a typical end of the day for you? A: My day finishes when I’m sure that everything went ok. We undergo an inspection of the gear and my guide staff to see

Q: What happens when you get to work?

how the operation went. I then review all of

A: There’s a lot to think about when you’re putting an adventure tour together. So the first thing is I greet everyone in the office (we have a great group of people we work with) and I double check if I have all my staff at the office on time. I then check on what kind of day we have ahead of us – how many people on each trip – we run three to four canyoneering trips per day which means a lot or coordination with my cook staff, drivers, guides and maintenance workers in the canyon.

the client comment forms. I then take my motorcycle and go back home. When I get there, Alejandro Jr. is waiting for me! Q: What do you do when you’re not working?? A: Actually, I have my own business (video games for local kids in my community – it keeps them out of trouble.) So, when I’m not working in Desafio, I check on how my business is doing – and even play a few video games as a stress reliever!

Q: What kind of clients go on your can-

Q: What are your goals for the future?

yoneering tours?

A: I want to become one of the best adven-

A: We have all kinds – everything from young kids to older people. Some are pretty inexperienced and others are long-time canyoneering enthusiasts. It’s a funny combination because if they don’t have experi-

ture guides in Costa Rica and use my skills to go explore many places around the world. Also help Desafio strive to be the best adventure company in Costa Rica! And maybe to have my own canyon…

From our Kitchen to Yours:


Fresh Flavors from the Desafío Kitchen

ooking for tourists happened by accident. We didn’t mean to become famous for the lunches we serve after our tours – it just happened. Really. I remember several years ago we launched a new tour kayaking and rafting down the picturesque Río Arenal during the rainy season. The best thing is that the tour ended right at our house. When we first started running the tour, Suresh and I thought it would be fun to try out some of his mother’s natural and yummy fusion Costa Rican-Indian recipes to serve to our clients. Suresh and I were there everyday personally cutting up fresh veggies and spices and putting out an all-you-can eat spread for the handful of clients on our tours. We thought it would be a more-unique touch compared to the usual rice and beans while eating out at a restaurant after a tour. We then found some nice young ladies to help us out in the kitchen and honestly they have taken the cooking to a whole new level of local cuisine. We are happy clients come away raving about our food on our tours. Not only do we do home-cooked meals Green plantains for our Río Toro and Río Balsa rafting tours, but if you do canyoneering, mountain biking and safari floats, you’ll likely be treated to our fresh, flavorful buffet. Wanna know what’s cooking? Yuca One of the many things that sets Desafío Adventure Company apart is our attention to detail for our home-cooked meals. We strive to only use the freshest ingredients right from our garden and our cooks have been trained to incorporate healthy cooking techniques for all of our delicious meals. We go beyond the usual “Casado” or “Married” meal -- the traditional rice and beans with a choice of meat which Tico families typically serve for lunch and dinner. You might have a chance to try the following yummy recipes after a fun day with us or try these recipes at home, too!: Picadillo de Plátano (Zesty Plantain Appetizer) What you’ll need:

• 2 medium-sized green plantains diced into cubes • 3 cloves garlic minced • 1 medium onion minced • 3 tablespoons olive oil • 1/4 cup red bell pepper diced • 5 medium sized mushrooms, diced • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro • 2 small tomatoes • 1 cup water • 3 tablespoons Costa Rica “Salsa Lizano” (if you can’t find it back home, you can almost get a similar flavor with 3 tablespoons fresh tamarindo and dash of soy sauce) • salt & pepper to taste Here’s how to make it: Green plantain: Be sure that the green plantains have been refrigerated overnight to make them easier to peel. To peel them, cut it along one side lengthwise. Loosen the skin with the knife. Using your thumb, peel the skin off. Dice the plantains into cubes. Let them soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Add the onions, garlic peppers and cilantro in a large sauté pan at medium heat. Sauté for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes, Salsa Lizano, plantains (drained) and salt/pepper. Stir this until the plantains are well-seasoned. Add the mushrooms and 1 cup of water. Cook covered over low or medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This healthy appetizer serves 4. Fried Yuca You’ve probably seen this curious potato-like tuber vegetable all around Costa Rica, especially near the Arenal Volcano. You can spot fields full of the tall, thin stalks everywhere – we dig it up and ship it off to Miami where they call it “cassava.” In India, it’s called tapioca and here, we call it yuca. Look out French fries – here comes Yuca Frita! What you’ll need: • 4 medium-sized yuca • ¼ cup plive oil • 4 clove of garlic finely chopped • Salt Here’s how to make it: • To peel yuca: cut a long slot along the side and peeling using the side of the knife.

Reyna del Socorro

• Cut in pieces 3 to 5 inches long. • Optional: allow to sit in water for about 1 hour to release some of the starch. • Boil with salt, until soft. Avoid over cooking. • Drain water. • Heat the oil and garlic in a skillet, add yuca. • Salt lightly. Beef Tomato Vegetable Stew Even though I’m a vegetarian, I can appreciate good beef -- especially when the cows that produce the beef come from local farmers that haven’t been porked up with nasty chemicals and hormones. I’ve heard people mention the beef in Costa Rica has a different flavor – in fact USDA-grade beef is said to taste sweeter because the cows eat hyper-sweet corn and grains while our cows are mostly grass-fed, giving the meat a distinct, natural flavor. What you’ll need: • 1 kilo shredded beef • 5 cloves of garlic • 2 plump red pepper • 2 medium-sized white onions • 3 large juicy tomatoes • ½ cup olive oil • A handful of fresh cilantro • 4 stalks of celery • 1 diced large chayote, 2 diced potatoes and 2 large diced carrots Here’s how to make it: • Chop up the red pepper, onion, 2 garlic cloves and onions and throw them in a large pot with the olive oil. • Cook thoroughly. • Remove from heat. • Add the shredded beef. • Add the 3 diced tomatoes and 2 tbsp of vinegar • Cook until tomatoes are soft. • Add the cilantro, celery, chayote, potatoes and carrots. • Cook until vegetables are tender.

Desafio Adventure Company


Rafting on the Beautiful Río Balsa


The best class 2-3 rafting closest to the Arenal Volcano!

hallenge yourself as you paddle through fun & safe rolling and toucans. This unique river trip is the best way to combine advenrapids with names like “Morning Coffee” & “Rock around ture and nature. the Croc” and then play around in tranquil river pools in an At the end of your fun day on the river, you’ll finish at our isolated rainforest river canyon! private exit with changing rooms and a bufYou will arrive at our private entrance “This experience was a treasure filled fet of fresh tropical fruit. From there you’ll where your professional, experienced bilinwith knowledge & lots of excitement! be taken to the home of Suresh and Christine gual guides will give you a safety talk and We would recommend to everyone!” alongside the pristine Río Arenal for a delicious home-cooked meal. paddling instructions. You’ll be fitted with -- Hutch and Bobbi Hutchinson, USA Ask about our shuttle service from your lifejackets, helmets & then you’re off for San José to La Fortuna with rafting on the a two-hour journey of over 30 continuous roller-coaster rapids on our special way called the Adventure Connection! Save Time!! Save Money!! Departs daily: 11:00pm (varies according to hotel location) “Mono Loco” section. Includes: guides & safety kayaker, tropical fruit, famous Desafío Hopefully you’ll get to lunch and an exclusive, small-group tour experience. What to bring: see lots of wildlife like monkeys, sloths and tropical birds a big smile, a sense of adventure, clothes to get wet in, secure shoes including osprey, oropendola & dry clothes for after the trip (recommended for ages 10 to 55).


Río Toro Class 3-4 Full-Day Rafting


Your trip includes professionally qualified bilingual guides, he adrenaline-packed Río Toro explodes with a series of transportation, tropical fruit, lunch, safety kayaker and an unforgetover 45 continuous class 3-4 rapids – you’ll paddle three hours through unexplored, tropical wilderness in a deep table day on the river! canyon with waterfalls, exotic animals and Rafters should be between 13 to 55 years tropical birds. old, and in good physical condition. Rafting expe“Don’t leave Costa Rica without When you arrive at the river, our rience is not necessary but rafters should be able rafting the Rio Toro!!” expert guides will thoroughly explain all to swim. You should bring secure shoes and a -Brian Shelling, Ottawa safety information and provide you with a change of dry clothes. high-quality Pro-Tec helmet, Carlisle padThe mighty Río Toro is the closest class 3-4 river to the Arenal Volcano. You’ll spend more time on the dle and ExtraSport life jacket. Now the excitement begins! river than on the road! You will be navigating the river through exciting rapids with names like Morning Coffee, Piña Colada and the Devil’s Departs from La Fortuna daily: 8:30am (schedule varies deElbow – for your best day in Costa Rica! pending on hotel location) At the end, you’ll have a break of refreshing, tropical fruit. What to bring: a big smile, You’ll then get a delicious traditional Costa Rican lunch. a sense of adventure, clothes We return to La Fortuna and the Arenal area between 3:30 to get wet in, secure shoes & and 4:00 PM. The Río Toro is only one hour from La Fortuna, dry clothes for after the trip. making it much closer than the Sarapiquí River.

CLASS I No significant waves. No obstacles. CLASS II Easy. Rapids with regular waves, clear passages and wide channels. CLASS III Moderately difficult. Irregular waves, often narrow channels, maneuvering to avoid obstacles required. CLASS IV Difficult. Complex channels with many significant obstacles to be avoided. Precise maneuvering is required. CLASS V Extremely difficult. Long violent rapids, often following each other almost without interruption.

TEL: (506) 2479-9464

Desafio Adventure Company


One of the Top 10 Things to do on Vacation – Horseback Riding in Costa Rica

Be a Costa Rican Cowboy! By Janet Ellis


osta Rica is cowboy country! The culture is steeped in its riding traditions and horseback riding has been a way of life for Costa Ricans for centuries. Even with the increase of motorized transport, there are still many farms and trails that are only accessible by horseback. Costa Ricans take great pride in their horsemanship and horses are used for everything from farm work, tourism, topes (famous Costa Rican horse parades) and for competing. Horseback riding tours offer excellent opportunities for bird-watching and getting close to wildlife. The biodiversity in Costa Rica is enormous and includes lakes and rivers to cloud forests and volcanoes. Its varied topography makes it the perfect home to small mammals, countless birds and butterflies, orchids and other plants and much more! My favorite places to ride is Monteverde and La Fortuna. Monteverde offers cooler weather, great mountain views and a variety of landscapes and trails, plus very few insects and La Fortuna for the great views of the volcano! Although the vision of galloping along the sands is always romantically fixed in people’s minds, riding solely at the beach and in the lowlands can be hot, humid and buggy. The quality of horse riding in Monteverde is higher than in most places; the weather being cooler makes it easier to keep the horses free of some of the diseases associated with hotter and humid climates.

Of course, not all riding experiences are the same and it depends on the quality of your horse and guide. Horse Trek Monteverde booked through Desafio Adventure Company is well-known for their high standards and the owner, Marvin Anchia, claims to have started riding before he was born because his mom used to ride when she was pregnant! By age 8, he was training horses on his father’s farm and his love of horses led to a lifetime of breeding and working with these amazing animals. Anyone who has had the privilege to see Marvin with his horses will soon appreciate the special skills he has with his mounts. Marvin also has the advantage of eagle eyes for spotting wildlife! Horseback riding vacations are becoming increasingly popular worldwide and the 8-day ‘Trails of the Campesinos’ offers the best of the mountain rides, plus visits to waterfalls, cloud forest, river swims, coffee plantations and working ranches and much more. And if you can’t resist that romantic gallop on the beach, Horse Trek Monteverde offers a wonderful 3-day beach extension. The 8-day horseback ride package also offers optional activities such as canopy tours, rafting and canyoneering. If you just want to ride for a couple of hours there are many other options available in Monteverde, La Fortuna and Playa Samara.

Horseback tour options LA FORTUNA: * Horseback ride to the La Fortuna Waterfall * Galloping and trotting at the base of the Arenal Volcano MONTEVERDE: * Up in the Clouds Ride * Farm and Forest ride at Sunset overlooking the

Nicoya Peninsula * Ride to the San Luis Waterfall PLAYA SAMARA: * Farm ride near the Barra Honda National Park * From the hills to the beach by horse ADVENTURE CONNECTION: Horseback between La Fortuna and Monteverde

Read more about horseback riding tours:




Liberia San Ramón ALAJUELA


By/Por Juliana Madrigal Liberia



Liberia CAVERNAS DE VENADO Arenal/La Fortuna Kinkajou. Martilla. (Potos


few days ago my parents took my friend Ximena and me to La CAHUITA MANUEL PUERTO VIEJO ANTONIO Fortuna in San Carlos. It was a great trip. We checked out Arenal Volcano, which is always in view, and of course went to the hot Golfito Drake Bay springs. We also took a rafting trip on the Peñas Blancas River, where for Corcovado Natl. Park Puerto Jiménez two hours we saw everything: trees of all kinds and sizes, monkeys, iguanas, kids playing on the edge of the river, even cows and horses. When we were on the river, Ximena and I weren’t afraid because we had life jackets. We even paddled! Our guide Santos and our driver Tomate were really cool, Rincón de Liberia Liberia Sarapiquí la Vieja too. At the end of the trip we had lunch at Desafio Adventure’s restaurant, Liberia which was perfect because we were starving. The food was delicious, just let Ximena tell you: she ate all the tortillas. Costa Ballena Golfito In the afternoon we went to the Asis Project’s animal refuge. They take care of animals that have been hurt or can’t fend for themselves. We saw wild boars (cover your nose, because they really stink! But they were nice), clownish monkeys, dogs, cats, caymans, ducks, birds, super friendly parakeets (see Liberia ARENAL Liberia Liberia the kinkajous, which I photo). I especially liked La Fortuna hadn’t seen before. They’re really sweet! We definitely loved La Fortuna!

Punta Leona, Herradura, Jacó, Esterillos


Costa Ballena






Andrés Madrigal




Arenal/La Fortuna




Dota Golfito


Tamarindo Avellana





Juliana / Ximena

Desafio Adventure Company Liberia




Andrés Madrigal



Andrés Madrigal

Family Fun in La Fortuna




A New Type of All-Inclusive Holiday:

Voluntourism at Proyecto Asís Animal Rescue Shelter and Environmental Education Center


ot everyone is into the all-inclusive week at the beach apall means, get yourself to Costa Rica.” proach to their precious holiday time. Travel styles are One of the most-well-established and rewarding voluntourism options near the Arenal Volcano is the Proyecto Asís Animal changing and what we’ve seen lately is a refreshing shift Rescue Shelter. The project has been specializing in environmental toward what is being termed “voluntourism” – tourists who want to education programs for local youth and the rescue and rehabilitation combine volunteer work with seeing the sights. of wild animals since 1994 when retired veterinarian Jaime del CasEven the mainstream media have gotten wind of this new tillo and his son Alvaro opened the center based on the philosophies of kind of vacation – ABC’s Morning News host Kate Snow did an interesting story that appeared on ABC Morning Saint Frances de Asís: building a bond between News in March of 2009 about traveling to Costa humans and nature. Rica on a budget. “The idea of Proyecto Asís is to give As Snow found out, Costa Rica is an our little grain of sand toward the conservation ideal destination for all kinds of budgets – there of our planet through environmental education is something for everyone. Snow’s volunteer acprograms directed toward elementary schools tivities took place in the Osa Peninsula, at the in our community and that our foreign volunteers get a true cultural immersion when they southern tip of Costa Rica. help participate in the programs along the way,” “The first thing you need to know about Alvaro del Castillo explains. a voluntourism vacation is that it’s not for eryone.” Snow painted houses in exchange for Del Castillo says he never wanted his discounted lodging. She paid just $39 a night for a jungle bungalow project to depend solely on donations and has always looked for ways and three meals a day. to be self-sufficient. “We can’t say to the monkeys in our project, But she also points out, “if you enjoy the sounds of the ‘sorry, but we have no bananas today.’” For that reason, the father and thickest nature and love the thought of jumping into a waterfall in son team decided to develop volunteer, cultural immersion programs a dense tropical forest or zip-lining above the tree canopy, then by for foreign visitors and a Spanish language program.


The motto of the volunteer project is to “Share – Serve – and schools located in San Pedro La Pelona had no green recreational arLearn” by participating directly in keeping the animals fed and healthy eas or play ground equipment. With the help of 16 volunteers, Proyecto Asís and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest taught the 105 children during the rehabilitation process. There are a few monkeys, dozens of of the small school the importance of the three “Rs” – Reduce, Reuse tropical birds, caymans, Perla the White-lipped Peccary and the showand Recycle, planted trees and plants, created a plant nursery, painted stealer: Benjamin the Kinkajou. the school roof, played games and The volunteers live with broke out a piñata to celebrate local families in “homestays.” The What University of Notre Dame Says About their successful day. families are compensated for being the Proyecto Asis Experience A young volunteer who hosts to the volunteers. participated in the activity said “I “Without a doubt, the exAugust 20, 2008 perience of living with a rural famam amazed at how little it takes to Dear Alvaro, ily, adapting to very basic accombring happiness to a small school. We are embarking on a new tradition for the University modations and going without the Everyone should have the opporof Notre Dame Alumni Association – a yearly family service trip tunity to give back to the comlittle luxuries is the perfect way for with Proyecto Asis! You have certainly earned our confidence. The munity, like we did today. It is so volunteers to experience the ‘real’ service opportunities were the right length and provided ample vafulfilling.” Costa Rica,” explains del Castillo. riety. The families really felt they made a difference. The parents are In addition, Proyecto Asís In addition, Proyecto Asís so happy that their children made a contribution and have come to has established educational prohas established a very close workappreciate all the blessings in their lives. Some times you need to ing relationship with the non-profit grams with important institutions get away from home to realize how much you really have. We will Monteverde Conservation League such as Notre Dame and Texas carry with us the beauty of the rainforest, the kindness of the monwhich manages the Children’s A&M Universities. For three keys, and, of course, the amazing hospitality of our host families. Eternal Rainforest. The Children’s years in a row, groups of veteriEven people who were hesitant to learn Spanish are now commitnarian students from Texas A&M Eternal Rainforest is comprised ted to learning more Spanish back home. What a compliment to stay for 10 days at homestays in of 54,000 acres of protected rainyour Spanish program. Thank you for taking such good care of us. forest and is now one of the most the Arenal Volcano area as part of There is no other program like yours in the world! important biological corridors in their course study called “SpanMuch gratitude, ish for Animal Science.” They get Central America, stretching along Kathleen M. Sullivan, PhD hands-on experience by visiting the continental divide between the University of Notre Dame local dairy farms and even particiarea of the Arenal Volcano and the Alumni Association pate in a day-long neutering and cloud forests of Monteverde. This spaying campaign for stray cats protected land is filled with some and dogs. of the highest levels of biodiversity But it’s not all work. During their stay, volunteers can choose on the planet. from a wide variety of adventure and nature activities such as rafting Proyecto Asís works together with the Children’s Eternal and canyoneering and take advantage of weekend escapes up to MonRainforest on environmental education programs and rescuing animals that have been confiscated in illegal hunting incidents. teverde and to the beach. This year Proyecto Asís along with the help of the forest “Our goal?” asks del Castillo. “To continue working on environmental conservation to achieve true integrity between humans and rangers from the Children’s Eternal Rainforest have gone into local Mother Nature.” A lofty goal, but something worth volunteering for. schools to do environmental education activities. One of the local

Desafio Adventure Company



Rancho Margot Arenal’s Shangri La

lmost six years ago, my children and I visited Costa Rica for the first time. On the second night we arrived without reservations to a village, not shown on any map and named El Castillo. The next morning, while my children were still asleep I crept out of the cabin we had rented and was confronted with one of the most beautiful sceneries I had seen in my life. Lake Arenal was like a mirror surrounded by lush green forest, and Arenal Volcano was perfectly clear. I thought I had found the perfect spot to retire and I looked up at the sky as if to ask for a sign when the volcano suddenly erupted and a perfect mushroom cloud came from its crater. I took this to be my personal message and that same morning on a horseback riding tour began looking for land. After several failed attempts to locate a large parcel of land we came over a mountain top and saw a gorgeous valley with a large river flowing through it. It was love at first sight. It instantly made me think of John Hilton’s mystical village of Shangri La. During my university studies I read a book by B.F. Skinner called Walden Two. This book stuck with me for almost forty years and it became the inspiration for my dream of creating a self-sufficient rural community. In honor of my deceased mother, I decided to name my community Rancho Margot. April 2004, we began development. During the first three


years, the tourists that got lost in the area and accidentally landed at the ranch were greeted by construction all over the fields. The villagers and inhabitants of the neighboring towns surely thought that I was crazy. Nothing of what I was doing seemed to make sense to them, but since I was paying their salaries they happily toiled away following my sketches on every napkin and piece of paper I could find. Rancho Margot is a living sculpture, an ever-changing work in progress. As a community it is taking on a life of it’s own. From the moment tourists enter the ranch they become enchanted by their surroundings. Rancho Margot does not impose itself on the landscape. On the contrary, Rancho Margot is part of the natural beauty and richness that is Costa Rica. All over Costa Rica there are beautiful projects, developed with passion and love. Rancho Margot is one of these. However, this is not where Rancho Margot stops; this is where Rancho Margot begins. From the first shovel of dirt to the last brick, Rancho Margot has been build by local laborers and craftsmen. Doors and windows are a product of our own wood shop. All the wood used in Rancho Margot comes from sustainably harvested trees. The hand-made tiled roofs are recycled. The village of El Castillo was integrated into our development from the start and Rancho

Andrés Madrigal

La Fortuna//Arenal


he town around Arenal Volcano, the spectacular centerpiece of this popular region, has developed into one of the country’s most interesting towns. Interesting family-run restaurants and hotels have popped up in the area, and an organized improvement association has turned the central park into a veritable oasis. The volcano, though, still takes center stage. Among the most active in the world, Arenal offers a daily pyrotechnics show that attracts visitors from around the globe. The perfect cone, is a Costa Rican icon and has thrilled visitors since it became active in 1968. Nearby Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve is a great stop for nature lovers (especially birdwatchers), and other attractions include the La Fortuna Waterfall, Venado Caves, and myriad adventure activities. Lake Arenal is another important nearby destination. There are boat cruises, wind surfing, fishing and more available on Costa Rica’s largest body of water.

Location: North-central Costa Rica. Drive time from San Jose is 3.5 hours. A flight from San Jose takes around 20 minutes (www. What to bring: Don’t forget your sense of adventure. The Arenal area has become a true adventure destination, with world-class rafting, canyoning, canopy tours and great hiking. Liberia Liberia Weather: La Fortuna is a warm ARENAL VENADO CAVES lowland area. Evenings get pleasantly Arenal/La Fortuna MONTEVERDE cool. The rainy season extends from May SAMARA to November.

Don’t miss: The waterfall. This cascade makes for a great half-day tripGolfito (, and you can swim in the cold pool at the fall’s base (just don’t swim directly under the falls!).




Margot has become an enormous influence in the area. The local hotels were barely visited. Today they have expanded and enjoy high occupancy rates. The local elementary school has been renovated and a secondary school has been added. Children who wished to go to school in La Fortuna receive daily free transport from Rancho Margot. Three years ago Rancho Margot began giving daily English classes in the local school and today at the initiative of Rancho Margot, El Castillo is the only public school in Costa Rica where DINADECO has approved and funded a bilingual environmental education program. Environmental education, security and protection of the flora and fauna are always high on the priority list. Rancho Margot signed an agreement in 2005 with the Conservation League of Monteverde and funded four forest rangers for a period of two years to protect the area from illegal hunting and poaching. To this day, Rancho Margot keeps guards, continually is involved in operatives in the lake and mountain and donates room, board, transport and logistic support to the Children’s Eternal Forest, the national police and the Minaet (The Ministry of the Environment). Security and communication have improved in El Castillo due to the donation by Rancho Margot of a shortwave frequency and repeater for the use of local businesses and participating local neighbors. Rancho Margot installed a wildlife rescue center were we have treated and released animals brought to us by the local authorities. Animals that cannot be reintroduced are kept far from tourists and given large areas to reproduce and develop their native instincts. Currently we are reintroducing several young deer born on Rancho Margot as well as a Margay transferred by us to another rescue center for special training. Reforestation is part of the culture at Rancho Margot. Thousands of native trees have been planted on our property. Rancho Margot has donated and continues to donate thousands of almond trees to private persons and area businesses in a long-term effort to reintroduce the green Macaw driven away by years of deforestation. Liberia Liberia The true purpose of Rancho Margot is to MONTEVERDE educate and inspire. More than twenty San university Ramón ALAJUELA groups from all over have visited and continue to visit our installations. This is part of a continuing process to develop long-term relationships of cooperation and Golfito accreditation with both national Golfito and international entities. Liberia




CAVERNAS DE VENADO Arenal/La Fortuna Desafio Adventure



You do what?

The Story of Toucan Maps


ou do What?” is the predictable response when Sue or I tell anyone that, after years training as biochemists, we ended up making maps of Costa Rica to pay the bills. After a post doc in New York we wanted to return to our northern Colorado hometown where our best job prospects were at the university. Somehow the professor’s life cycle of writing grants to train graduate students to do research to get more data to write more grants didn’t sound appealing. So we decided to try something completely different. Sue and I were captivated by Costa Rica a decade earlier bicycling around the country on our Luna de Miel (honeymoon). We returned regularly and learned so much about travel there that our first thought was “we could write a guidebook!” If a product is going to be successful it should fill an unmet need and unfortunately for us the guidebook idea several good ones existed. However, after thousands of kilometers on our bikes getting lost frequently we knew there was need for a good map of Costa Rica. The existing maps all reflected the poor quality of the available data. After searching high and low for better information we decided that the only way to know for sure was to go see for ourselves. We thought we two can simply travel the country collecting data in person and Toucan Maps was born. Later we learned that we weren’t the first mappers to decide that it wasn’t acceptable to trust the veracity of data and seeing for yourself even has a name. Among cartographers it’s know as “ground truthing,” and we do it each year when we visit Costa Rica for a couple of months to gather gps data and other information for updates to ensure the map is current. After hearing this people inevitably enviously ask “So do you spend all your time hanging out on the beach and hiking in rainforests?” While we do have fun, it’s hard work and sometimes it can actually be stressful. In March we were exploring an unnamed stretch of road that parallels route 826 closer to the Río General. We had information that work was progressing to improve it from a rugged rutted track into a good gravel road complete with bridges and culverts. We left the Pan American highway north of Palmar around lunch time and were encouraged by the graders and other equipment working near Terraba. We figured we’d reach the pavement at Aguila south of Pejibaye in an hour or so and would rejoin the highway well before dark. As the sun started to dip towards the coastal ranges we had


left the improved road far behind. Much too far to consider retreating and as we were pushed sideways along the gravel bottom of the third and deepest ford yet on the Río Las Pilas we wondered exactly how much it would cost to replace a nice mid-sized SUV. It was getting late and we were crawling along with four wheel drive engaged knowing we couldn’t proceed either direction on this route after dark. We hadn’t seen another vehicle all afternoon and were starting to look around for a likely place to park for the night. Road construction had started from both ends of the route we were following and would eventually meet somewhere in between but the long abandoned gray, weathered church we’d just passed was not a good sign that we were nearing civilization. Fortunately for us the northern road crew was making faster progress than the southern and few nervous kilometers later we rounded a corner to find a bulldozer and line of heavy dump trucks dotting the side of the wide smooth highly improved road to Aguila. An hour later in the bar of a comfortable San Isidro hotel we clinked our Imperial bottles together in a toast to the night we didn’t have to spend in the car. We noted in our update file to keep the current 4WD required designation on the map. Ground truthing expeditions teach us a lot more than where the pavement is appearing or disappearing (unlike in most places, Costa Rican roads actually sometimes actually get “de-paved”), which river fords have been spanned by bridges and how the new highways from Colón to Orotina and along the central Pacific coast are progressing. We also learn a lot about travel and discover great hotels, restaurants, parks, reserves and adventure activities. In 2008, with a couple of editions of the printed map under our belt, we started to think about ways to get all of that other information in the hands of tourists and travelers. About the same time we met Beatrice Blake, the author of the first guidebook for Costa Rica, “The New Key.” She’s always innovated and helped create the travel style that would grow to be called eco-tourism. She’s currently busy defining the emerging community conservation concept. As an information pioneer she was thrilled when we suggested converting the New Key into a geocoded interactive internet application for planning travel. A few months ago we introduced “Your Trip” on MapCR. com where website visitors can browse the only street-level Google

map of Costa Rica (Google didn’t have the data so we generated a set of over 70,000 custom tiles), read informative reviews and comments from The New Key and Toucan Maps for thousands of hotels and attractions, see what’s nearby then simply click to add their favorites to their trip. Of course when the trip plan is complete it can be printed out with a custom map of the locations, itinerary and contact information. We’re working to expand digital delivery of Toucan’s Costa Rica maps and directory information to geo-enabled cell phone and mobile device formats. Soon Ticos and visitors will enjoy the convenience of accessing restaurant recommendations and other information in the location specific manner that’s become commonplace elsewhere. So whether you come across our toucan logo in your glove box, on your computer or the phone you rented for your trip we hope you have a better picture of the journey that brought that map to you. Enjoy your travels.

Desafio Adventure Company


Getting Married in La Fortuna


t was the morning of February 7, 2009. I awoke to the primitive sound of a howler monkey in the distance and numerous delightful birds singing their morning songs. The air was thick with the smell of tropical flowers after an overnight shower. The day was finally here. We had been anticipating the arrival for a year, though it now felt like it came overnight. It all began on a fateful evening in February, 2008. We were with our family at a magical place in Barú, Costa Rica. It had taken us over three hours of extreme hiking to reach the cave, but it was well worth it. The cave itself was a mystical and spiritual place that has been visited by humans for hundreds, if not thousands of years, proven by the artifacts that the current caretakers had discovered. The cave has a sitting area, row of beds, a fully functioning kitchen and bathrooms with shower stalls. It had been naturally carved out of an enormous rock which has an actively running waterfall pouring over the front. We spent the afternoon exploring and rappelling followed by a great dinner that was prepared by the friendly guides. After sharing stories with our family about the adventurous day, we decided to take a walk to a special place where the moonlight was glimmering off of the waterfall in an enchanting way. Then it happened. He dropped to one knee and before I could catch my breath, I was already nodding in agreement that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. We knew that our wedding would be the most important day of our lives, so we wanted to plan something that would truly capture the essence of our love for one another. At the same time, we had to work within a reasonable budget due to the economy. We have family and friends all over the United States, so anywhere we chose would mean that most of them would have to fly a considerable distance as well as arrange for a rental car and accommodations for a few nights. The idea occurred to us that if we had our wedding in Costa Rica, we would be able to achieve an incredible ambiance


in a naturally intimate setting. It just made sense, as we both love the country. There was already a need for our loved ones to travel, and the fares to Costa Rica are very reasonable when reserved in advance. We decided we wanted to be married near Arenal Volcano. It only made sense, as La Fortuna is also considered by many to be the Adventure Capital of Central America. We wanted this to be not only wedding, but a window of time that we could all look back on as the experience of a lifetime. We chose to hold our ceremony at the Arenal Lodge, located near La Fortuna. We had stayed there in the past, and fell in love with the simplicity and feel of this eco lodge. We also fell in love with the scenery. The lodge is perched on the top of a gently rolling hill, which is located in the middle of a 2,000acre private rain forest reserve. The views are spectacular to the majestic Arenal Volcano, where lava can be seen in the evening! Setting the gears in motion was easier than we thought. We had traveled to Costa Rica in the past and we knew who to ask for help. Our requests were not only greeted positively, but with great enthusiasm. We enlisted the expertise and help of our friend Christine Krishnan, who along with her husband Suresh, owns Desafio Adventure Company in La Fortuna. Within a day, Christine sent us recommendations about where to go for many of the supplies and services that we needed for our ceremony. She also provided us with great tour rates for all of our guests. This included my fiancées “bachelor party” which was a private Canyoneering and Whitewater Rafting day of adventure!!! We began contacting the various businesses that Christine recommended. We felt we were in great hands. We also looked at it from a practical point of view. While we wanted to play an integral role in the planning of our wedding, we also realized the benefit of working with a professional wedding planning service

that could represent us in Costa Rica. We enlisted the help of Our Costa Rica Wedding for this. The representatives from Our Costa Rica Wedding worked closely with Christine to ensure that our wedding went perfectly. We reserved all of the rooms for our guests at Arenal Lodge for the three days around our chosen date of February 7, 2009. They brought in a florist named Giuli Cox, who took the natural beauty of Arenal Lodge and transformed it into our very own Garden of Eden! Giuli also played a central role in the coordination of our wedding day – we cannot thank her enough for making it so magical. Nearly all of our guests took the opportunity to combine our wedding with their own vacations. Most spent 3 or 4 days in La Fortuna combining our wedding with adventure tours provided by Desafio. Then many of our guests spent a few days relaxing at various beach destinations. In the end, they all saved money by combining our wedding with their own vacations – leaving with priceless memories. I still wake with the memories fresh from that wonderful morning. It was 11:30 am when my Daddy took me by the arm to walk down the aisle…. Pura Vida!  Gretchen Hamel Special thanks to: Christine Krishnan - Desafio Adventure Company; Meghan Meehan & Ryan Cox – Our Costa Rica Wedding; Alan & Giuli Cox; Jennifer Seltzer; Nathaniel Corn – Balance Photography; Christopher Felber – Café Vienna; Anna Vargas; Elvis Porris – Wandering Guitarist; Mario Cruz – DJ, Jose from Tiliran – Bride’s Hair, Lisa Angstrom – Bride’s Makeup, Lisa Dunne – Maid of Honor & Wedding Nazi, The entire staff at Arenal Lodge who combined to make our wedding day absolutely perfect. To plan your wedding in Costa Rica contact:

Getting Down-ToEarth


admit it. I have a vice. I am a coffee addict. And when I say addict, I mean I’m not just a one-cup in the morning kind of coffee drinker – to get my fix – we’re talking “chain-drinking” – cup after cup after glorious cup. I savor it. I worship it. For me the sun won’t come out if I don’t get my coffee. The best part of my day: walking into our office and getting a big whiff of that coffee brewing. Fresh and steamy hot. And I’m picky about my coffee. That first cup of the day has to be piping, tongue-burning, throat-scorching hot. And my coffee has to be DownTo-Earth. Why Down-To-Earth? Well, let me count the ways… • Down-To-Earth coffee is grown in the hills of the Tarrazú region. This high-altitude area produces some of the richest, highest-quality gourmet beans in Costa Rica. • Growers receive the fairtrade value for their harvest and hard work. • The coffee is grown with no harmful chemical additives. • Down-To-Earth donates 10% of its web sales to various volunteer projects, such as its work with the Boruca indigenous reservation in the South Pacific of Costa Rica. The people of the reservation are famous for their intricate and colorful Boruca masks, but have been long forgotten by the Costa Rican government and other local institutions. DownTo-Earth volunteers help with various educational and health services for the

Boruca. One of the most important programs is teaching English so the artisans can communicate with their clients and the pre-school-aged children can pick up the language from an early age. • Down-To-Earth is locally-owned by coffee entrepreneur Matias Zeledón. Zeledón's enthusiasm for his company and commitment to doing things right is actually reason enough to buy his coffee. He has a store right in downtown La Fortuna. • It’s a great name for a coffee with a great slogan: Down-To-Earth Coffee: Started by Nature, Finished by Hand! So, don’t try to fool me with any other brand. I can tell the difference just by the smell of the brew. Sweet, bold, yet mellow. And black. It has to be black. No sugar, no milk. And once I make it through my first cup and go for seconds, thirds, fourths… don’t you dare take my cup away – it can be cold, slightly lifeless and I will still relish in that final sip. Costa Rica is famous the world over for its coffee. Costa Rica is a world leader in the production and export of gourmet coffee. There are many brands out there, but don’t just take my word for it – do your own taste test – go ahead and try that other fancy brand. You’ll see what I mean. You, too, might get your own coffee vice.

Desafio Adventure Company


“The Challenge” of Desafío Adventure Company


he word “Desafío” means challenge in Spanish, so it is our “Desafío” to continue to keep our business on the cutting edge of adventure and sustainable tourism. We do so by maintaining the highest level of safety in all of our operations with a minimum impact on our natural environment and try to exceed our client expectations by making sure everyone has “Serious Fun!” Some of the things we’re really proud of: • Voted #1 in for what to do in La Fortuna! • Voted "Best Tour Operator in Central America” since 2004 for one of the world’s top adventure companies GAP

Adventures (www. We operate a large part of the adventure activities for GAP Adventures. One of GAP Adventure’s most-popular tours is called the “Costa Rican Adventure,” which ranks #6 of the top-25 adventure tours in the world according to National Geographic Adventure Magazine. • Desafío Adventure Company was chosen as the first-ever government-certified adventure school in Central America to train rafting guides.

• “Extreme Makeover” and “Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches” worked with us to film some of the best tours near the Arenal Volcano. • Desafío Adventure Company also hosted National Geographic's "Are We There Yet World Adventures" TV program geared toward the children TV viewing market • MTV's The Real World from Austin did our inflatable kayaking on the Arenal River – Suresh’s famous quote: “We have soft rocks in Costa Rica…”

Desafío is the Green Choice We’re considered a socially and environmentally-responsible company through our community activities such as our “No Child Without Christmas” and Easter Egg Hunt, sponsoring spay and neutering campaigns, tree planting and river clean-ups, plus our clients love to help raise money for our projects with the Proyecto Asís Animal Rescue Center and Luna Nueva Organic Farm.

Wanderlusting Kitty and Crusading Animal Lovers in La Fortuna


recent GAP Adventures tour through Costa Rica had a special addition to the group – a cute little furry calico kitten that tour leader Angie Harms found while she and her group were visiting Rara Avis. “It was so skinny and lonely, shivering in a corner. I didn’t have the heart to just let it whither away without food or anything,” Harms said. “The poor thing was so hungry. I decided to take him along with us on our tour and my passengers and I named it ‘Walter.’” So Harms became the surrogate mother, nursing the poor little thing back to health. Before Walter became too much of a wanderluster, Harms decided to give her up for adoption. When she arrived to La Fortuna, Greg Reeser of Desafío Adventure Company decided the little Walter would make the perfect addition to his home. “My daughter Sofie had been wanting a kitten for a long time now,” Reeser said. “I was more than happy to help out Angie. And Sofie fell in love with her new kitty immediately.” It’s hard to know why Walter was abandoned. Although Costa Rica has a pretty good culture of taking care or personal, household pets, there are still plenty of stray dogs and cats that wander the streets and rapidly reproduce.


San José-based SASY! (Stop Animal Suffering Yes!) is a non-profit organization dedicated to spaying and neutering cats and dogs, promoting animal welfare and educating pet owners about animal care. SASY! was founded to obtain and distribute funding to raise awareness of animal abuse and neglect and support the tireless efforts of the many groups and individuals who are working diligently to make life better for animals in Costa Rica. SASY! reports that there thousands of homeless cats and dogs in Costa Rica. Many of them are unhealthy and pose a public health threat. “It’s funny how the local street dogs can pick out the foreign tourists,” Teresa Barquero Montero, principal organizer of bi-monthly spay and neutering campaigns in the popular tourist destination at the base of the Arenal Volcano. “The dogs know that foreigners have a soft spot for animals, so they follow the tourists around hoping for scraps,” Barquero said. “In fact, I’ve even seen some tourists fall in love with a stray and actually make the proper arrangements to have it shipped back home with them,” Barquero said. Nearly 40 stray dogs and cats were spayed or neutered during a recent commu-

nity campaign organized by the charismatic Barquero. For each campaign, she invites Veterinarian Carlos Moncada from Heredia to perform the operations at a discounted rate. Several pet owners also participated by bringing their animals in and sharing in the costs of the surgery by donating c5,000 each. “We still need to learn a lot more about proper pat care. Spaying and neutering is the first step,” Barquero said. This year the local pro-animal crusader received very welcomed funds from SASY! to help with the costs incurred in rounding up the strays. “They should put up a plaque for Teresa,” said Melissa Solís Varela, a local supporter of the spaying and neutering campaign. “She’s done so much to help clean up this town and prevent the over population of strays.” So whether you’re a stray cat like Walter or a household dog in La Fortuna, there’s someone looking out for you!

What sets us apart is our Desafío Adventure Culture Truth be told, it’s hard to not have a good time in Costa Rica – our beautiful country is filled with gorgeous, deep tropical jungles, active volcanoes, raging rivers and mesmerizing white sandy beaches. But to have a truly amazing vacation, it really comes down to your experiences on the activities you do while you’re here. We know that you’ll go back home and you might not remember the name of the river you went rafting on or even the name of the company you went with, but chances are, you’ll remember the name of your guide. That’s why we only employ the best guides in Costa Rica!

Our guides know we have two rules: 1) Be Safe! and 2) Have fun! And to have good guides, you have to have excellent labor standards. Our policy is to have all of our guide staff on our payroll full-time with us to guarantee safe, high-quality tours. In addition, we encourage our staff to stay fit and actively participate in athletic activities such as the Desafío Raft Racing Team: “Hijos del Volcán,” ocean and lake outrigger Bulo Racers, our own Paddle Festival and many of our staff are regular biking and paddling enthusiasts. You’ll often see our adventure guides practicing their kayak rolls at our secret swimming hole or working up a sweat on long distance runs. Here in Costa Rica, adventure is not just a seasonal thing – we are lucky to have raging rivers and lush jungles all-yearlong! Our company has created its own adventure culture here in the town of La Fortuna. Aside from our daily work of going down rivers and descending canyons, we all try to stay fit.

Desafio Adventure Company


Our all-inclusive active vacations include hotel arrangements, transport and high-quality tours such as canyoneering, rafting, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, surfing, bird watching, as well as conservation and voluntourism programs.

ADVENTURE CONNECTION Planes, Trains and Automobiles All Over Costa Rica Adventure Connection – $ave Money--$ave Time! Private Vans -- Flights – Car Rentals

DOMESTIC FLIGHTS Wanna get there fast? There are several options for domestic flights throughout the country making for a scenic and time-saving form of transport.

If you’re looking for a good deal, take the Adventure Connection! The best way to save money and save time is to use our Adventure Connection so you can connect to the best places throughout Costa Rica doing a fun adventure on the way!

THE RAPPEL & SURF >> Costa Rica is the perfect place to try rappelling in waterfalls in the morning, fly to the beach and go surfing in the afternoon! We like Paradise Air and their fleet of planes and unique domestic routes all over Costa Rica

Here’s just a few of our Adventure Connection options: San José >> Rafting Río Toro Class 3-4 >> Arenal Volcano San José >> Rafting Río Balsa Class 2-3 >> Arenal Volcano Arenal Volcano >> Boat >> Horseback Riding >> Monteverde Arenal Volcano >> Boat >> Mountain Biking >> Monteverde Monteverde >> Transport to Playa Samara >> Surf Lessons or Sea Kayaking Guanacaste >> Arenal Volcano >> Lost Canyon Canyoneering

CAR RENTALS There are several very good options for car rentals if you’re brave enough to try driving on our windy and in some cases, bumpy, pot-hole ridden roads. We personally like the good people at VAMOS-RENT-A-CAR who have a special niche of older-model cars for rent at discounted prices. And remember, we can customize your trips all over Costa Rica – including transport, hotel accommodations and fun activities. info@

ADVENTURE CONNECTION! • San José >> Arenal Volcano: Raft the Beautiful Río Balsa Class 2-3

• San José >> Arenal Volcano: Raft the Mighty Río Toro Class 3-4 Includes: transport San José; drop-off La Fortuna, lunch, professional guides, private entrance & exit Van>>Boat>>Van Transfer La Fortuna-Monteverde and Private Transportation Van-Boat-Van Boat transfer La Fortuna-Monteverde or vice versa (Includes: ground transport, boat transfer) Ask about our Monteverde 1-day tour!

Thornton Cohen

The Desafío Adventure Catalog

Try Desafio Adventure Company as your one-stopshop for adventure travel. If you want to go rafting on our beautiful, tropical rivers, become awed by our breathtaking volcanoes and explore our deep, jungle canyons and isolated beaches, we can help you organize your most-memorable vacation!

PRIVATE TRANSPORT Travel in the most-modern, comfortable fleet of vehicles in La Fortuna! Travel by PRIVATE transport and shuttle in one of our brand new vehicles with friendly drivers.

Great prices for popular routes (up to 8 pax): From: San José (airport or city) La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano Liberia Airport Monteverde La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano


To: La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano Monteverde via boat transfer Playa Samara/Carrillo Arenal Volcano Guanacaste Manuel Antonio

The Desafío Mountain Bike Adventure Connection


eople who love to ride mountain bikes can now do so as a means of transport up to Monteverde. Have an adventure on the way to your next destination, as a part of the innovative Desafío Adventure Connection. We have two riding options, depending on your adventure level: The first and more intense ride is about three hours long, or about 25 miles. We’ll start at the Lake Arenal Dam where you drop off your luggage with Captain Marquez, our boat driver. From there we ride past the rural community of El Castillo until we get to the pristine Caño Negro Rriver that runs alongside Rancho Margot. From here we do a technical river crossing and continue riding through rolling hills along the edge of picture-perfect Lake Arenal until we get to the small town of Río Chiquito. We also offer, a slightly moreexpensive, but shortened, 15-mile ride that includes a boat ride across the Lake Arenal to the mid-way point.

Thornton Cohen

Bicycling as a means of transport between La Fortuna and Monteverde This man-made lake is the second-largest lake in Central America. To get from one side of the lake to the other by land, there are several bridgeless river crossings. The scenery is a combination of secondary rainforest, farmland and great views of the lake and volcano. Your eagle-eyed bike guide will help point out some of the local wildlife indigenous to the area, such as wild boar, sloths, toucans, oropendolas and iguanas. Upon arrival to Río Chiquito, you will be reunited with your luggage and Freddy, our driver, will drive you in his mini-van the remaining 1.5 hours up the steep, gravel roads to your hotel in

Save $$$ -- Save Time!

Do an adventure on the way to your next destination!

Monteverde. We also have an office up in Monteverde should you need any advice on what else to do in the area. This is a truly adventurous ride – the terrain is rugged, the scenery is incredible but this is the perfect way to travel between La Fortuna and Monteverde. Departs: 7:30am – private trips available (Departure varies depending upon hotel location) Duration: about 5 hours (2.5 – 3 hours by bike) Includes: Certified guides who bring extra gear and bikes in case of mechanical malfunctions; suspension mountain bike; helmet; transport to/ from your hotel in the La Fortuna area and Monteverde; sag vehicle in case a rider gets tired. Recommended for ages 13-55 in good physical condition. What to bring: Secure, closed-toe shoes; comfortable clothes; insect repellent; sunblock and a sense of adventure!

Desafio Adventure Company


The Desafío Adventure Catalog

RIVER OPERATION Rafting Río Balsa Class 2-3 Half-day river trip with great blend of nature & adventure – perfect for first-timers & families! Includes: transport, delicious lunch, professional guides, private entrance & exit Rafting Río Toro Class 3-4 Full-day–full of adrenaline! 45continuous rapids! Don’t miss this famous river! Includes: delicious lunch, transport, professional guides, private entrance & exit

ALSO AVAILABLE: • Rio Tenorio Class 2-3 • Rio Puerto Viejo Class 2-3 • Safari Float on the Corobici River • Rio Pacuare Class 3-4

Safari Float on the lovely Peñas Blancas River for wildlife viewing – very family friendly Includes: transport, naturalist guide, snack

Frequently asked questions about rafting Q: What is the best time of year to go whitewater rafting?

Q: What certifications does Desafio Adventure Company have?

A: Our rafting season runs year long. We receive the highest rainfall in Costa Rica here in the Northern Zone and it is not uncommon to get hot sun and rain in the same day. Our rivers are fed by volcanic mountain ranges and pristine watersheds and are dam-controlled, so we do not have low-water problems like other areas of Costa Rica during the dry season. The dams release the water to produce electricity for San José and the release times work out perfectly for our raft trips. We only cancel in extremely adverse conditions, but can easily offer to exchange rafting for another adventure option, such as our Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoneering tour. Rain or shine, we’ll be running our adventure trips.

A: Overall, Costa Rica has excellent safety standards for the rafting industry. All of our Desafío guides are certified by the Costa Rican government in swiftwater rescue, first aid and CPR techniques. All of our trips have a senior Head Guide and safety kayaker. Most importantly, rafting in Costa Rica is year-round and our adventure guides are permanent full-time employees of Desafio Adventure Company. We oppose companies who pay their guides on a per trip basis, which often causes guides to make unwise decisions to run a river in high water or dangerous conditions because they know they will only get paid if they run the river that day. Many of our guides have graduated from the government-certified


Desafío Adventure School, where they learned to provide our clients with additional information on nature, culture, and history of Costa Rica and the rivers we run. We are proud of our staff and we know you will enjoy this fine group of people.

yon gorges with waterfalls and lush jungle where we often see sloths, monkeys and tropical birds, such as toucans and the Montezuma Oropendula. Q: Where do I meet you?

A: We have 2 rules at Desafío: 1) Be Safe! 2) Have Fun! We have emergency plans, safety procedures and established helicopter landing areas for every river we run. We carry cellular phones for use in select areas of the river (radios do not work in our river canyons.)

A: We are located in downtown La Fortuna, at the base of the Arenal Volcano, right behind the central church in a three-story building with a big sign outside that says “Desafio Adventure Company.” We provide free pick-ups from your hotel in the La Fortuna hotel zone (please ask for our pick-up times) or you can jump on our Adventure Connection to do rafting from San José on your way to the Arenal Volcano.

Q: Will I see wildlife?

Q: What do I have to bring?

A: Wildlife is abundant in Costa Rica! We do our rafting in deep-can-

A: Bring comfortable clothes to get wet in, secure shoes, water-

Q: What safety precautions are taken?

proof suntan lotion and a change of clothes. We provide all of your rafting gear, professional, bilingual guides, safety kayaker, round-trip transport, delicious lunch and towel. Q: What kind of previous experience do I need? Do I need to know how to swim? A: No previous rafting experience is required. Even though knowing how to swim is recommended, it’s not necessary as all of our guests are outfitted with ExtraSport Class-IV life jackets at all times on the water. Before anyone gets on the river our guides check

on land, especially getting into and out of the boats. Q: What if I get hurt? A: We are the industry leader and carry a $1-million insurance policy. We are equipped to handle emergency first aid in case of illness or accident. We will provide aid and arrange evacuation when the Head Guide deems necessary or desirable. Costs of specialized means of evacuation, such as helicopters, and medical care beyond immediate first aid are the financial responsibility of the ill or injured person.

Q: What happens on a typical rafting trip? A: Your trip begins when you meet the trip leader at your designated rendezvous place and time. He or she will collect your receipts or vouchers. En route to the river, your guide will brief you about your trip and have you sign our Waiver Forms. Once we reach the “put in,” you will receive your safety briefing - a vital 20- to 30-minute discussion about how to be safe on the water. We will then carry our rafts to the river. You’ll be assigned a boat and a boat captain and jump in! Our sturdy Star 13-ft self-bailing rafts typically seat up to six people and a guide. Your boat captain will give you further instructions on how to paddle once you are afloat and give you time to practice following the commands. Then you’ll head on down the river for about 2-2 ½ hours, for your best day in Costa Rica! We’ll cut up some tropical fruit at the end at our private take out where you can change into your dry clothes and then head to our River House for an all-you-can-eat, delicious lunch with many vegetarian options. You will also be asked to fill out our Client Comment forms to provide valuable and important feedback to Desafío Management. Q: Is there a chance of falling out of the raft?

everyone’s personal flotation devices (PFDs) to make sure that they fit properly, are appropriate for their body weight, and are adjusted correctly. Q: What about tips or gratuities? A: All of our employees are paid for their services and do not expect a tip, but if you feel your raft guide, cook, or driver has made your trip especially enjoyable, tipping is a nice way of expressing thanks and is certainly appreciated! Q: Is rafting dangerous? A: Rafting is thrilling, exciting, wet, wild and unbelievably fun! However, as with all adventure sports, there is inherent risk involved. That risk contributes to the excitement, and is one of the reasons people enjoy rafting so much. Our guides are trained to minimize and manage risks, and, statistically, you’re safer in a raft than in a car in Costa Rica. The most common injury on most rafting trips is sunburn, and most other injuries occur

Q: Which river is best for me? A: First-time rafters and families with younger children love our beautiful class 2-3 Río Balsa. Rafters who are confident in the water, healthy, and feel adventurous, jump right into our Class 3-4 Río Toro river without previous experience. Guides will make sure you are trained in safety and paddling instructions.

A: Believe it or not, some people love falling out of the boat. It’s exciting. But sometimes it can be disorienting and a little overwhelming. Many people have taken multiple trips and never fall out. It’s all a part of rafting. We have a safety kayaker that goes down to help out, just in case! If you follow your guide’s instructions, your “swim” could be the most exciting part of your trip and a great story to tell your friends afterwards! Q: Can I bring my camera? A: We don’t recommend bringing

cameras on trips. We have helped some of our raft guides develop their own photography businesses. Didier Alfaro and Jairo Espinoza descend the river in their kayaks to get very personalized shots whose photo CDs you can purchase after your trip. Q: What kind of equipment do you use? A: We use top-of-the-line Star 13-ft self-bailing rafts equipped with grab lines and foot stirrups for your safety, Pro-Tec helmets, ExtraSport lifejackets and Carlisle paddles. Q: Are restroom facilities available at the river? A: We have the advantage over most rafting companies because we have private entrances and exits for our river operations equipped with restrooms or changing rooms. Facilities are not available on the river. In this case, you will commune with nature in the purest form. Q: Are the owners active adventurers? A: Suresh and Christine Krishnan have been working in the outdoors most of their adult lives. In 1992, Suresh was invited to become a raft guide in the Pacuare River and later moved to the Arenal Volcano area where he pioneered rafting by exploring rivers with his own kayak. We call the legendary Suresh the “Gangsta Kayaker.” You’ll still see him out there exploring new canyons and rivers and enjoying his surf kayak in the ocean waves from time to time. Christine met Suresh in 2001 when she was leading a GAP Adventures group all the way through Central America from Mexico down to Costa Rica. Upon arriving to La Fortuna the group wanted to go rafting with Desafío and a year later, Suresh and Christine were married and live on the banks of the Río Arenal, next to their future surf wave.

Q: I have a family with young children. Can they go rafting? A: We have special family trips available, especially on the Río Balsa recommended for ages 10-55. We can also offer the lower section of the Río Balsa that has fewer rapids for a less-challenging class-2 rafting experience. In addition, we run a safari float class-1 trip on the Río Peñas Blancas for children as young as three years of age which offers great wildlife viewing and a slow easy-going pace for youngsters.

Desafio Adventure Company


AN AMAZING TOUR! Rappel tropical waterfalls, hike & down-climb in an isolated jungle canyon Includes: transport in 4x4, topquality gear, professional guides, delicious lunch, Government/SETENA-approved site

Andrés Madrigal

Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoneering

Your guides will start off with a thorough safety talk to explain important rappelling and down-climbing techniques. You will be provided high-quality technical climbing gear such as a harness, helmet, gloves and you will get to practice your first descent on a mini 15-foot waterfall, just to get the hang of things. Take a deep breath! And there you are, on a sturdy, government-approved platform looking down into the depths of a massive 150-foot waterfall. You’ll rappel down for the thrill

Are you ready to go… BIG!?!   Canyoneering is a brand new sport that’s “Great tour, great scenery of a lifetime! becoming very popular the world over! Here, near the Make your way along the river bed by Arenal Volcano, our rugged, mountainous terrain is and felt like a true virgin down-climbing and rappelling a series of about ideal for incredible canyoneering options and huge, adventure in the jungle!” six waterfalls that get gradually bigger and… breathtaking waterfalls! BIGGER!   --Jeffrey Gomez, This is a unique, multi-sport adventure that We save the best waterfall for last… you’ll combines rappelling, down-climbing and river tracing in Florida, USA finish with a 200-foot guided rappel at the end! a deep, tropical canyon.   Our Lost Canyon Adventure is an experience of This adventure is perfect for those looking to experience the thrill of a lifetime – go where very few have had the privilege to roam! descending breath-taking waterfalls in a deep, jungle canyon while Imagine yourself in the midst of thick rainforest at the top taking in the beauty of the rainforest!   of a magical canyon full of tropical waterfalls with surprises each   step of the way.   Recommended for ages 13-55 in good physical condition. Prepare to get wet! If you are interested in organizing specialized Canyoneering Expeditions and Customized Package Tours to various parts of Costa Rica, contact us at

Mambo Combo Rappel & Raft Lost Canyon Aventures Canyoneering + Rio Balsa


ake the most of your limited vacation time! Combine the exciting Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoneering and Rafting on the Beautiful Río Balsa – For a full-day of pure adrenaline… you’ll get to rappel, down-climb amazing waterfalls and river trace along a pristine, rainforest canyon and then go rafting on the beautiful class 2-3 Río Balsa. This is the perfect blend of whitewater and wildlife, fun, rolling rapids and vibrant jungle. We guarantee more wildlife than any other rafting trip in Costa Rica! You’ll finish off this funfilled day with a delicious lunch. This unique tour includes the Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoneering, rafting on the Río Balsa and a delicious, homecooked lunch.


“Best thing I have EVER done!” – Jeroen Zyistra, Holland

Andrés Madrigal

The Desafío Adventure Catalog


“A lot fun! I felt very safe, the scenery was beautiful, lunch was delicious and the guides were great!” – Jill Anderson, Toronto

BEACH ACTIVITIES at Playa Samara & Playa Carrillo

ferent sizes of fish, starfish, snails and other forms of life associated with the coral reef. Available by Boat or by Kayak. We offer highquality snorkel gear to make the experience more enjoyable. Duration 2:30 hour by boat, 3:30 by sea kayak

• Dolphin Tours On this tour, you will be able to watch Cetaceans (dolphins) in their natural habitat -- Dolphin tours are available all year. On occasion we can see Humpback whales in our route from the North Pacific between December to April and then from the South Pacific between July-October. • Snorkeling Tour Explore coral reefs near the coast – we call them "rainforests of the sea" where you can enjoy the variety of dif-

Wildlife Refuge Beach Camaronal to watch nesting turtles

At sea: • River (class I) or mangroves • Kayaking and Snorkeling from beach to beach. • Kayak Fishing • Horseback Riding and nature viewing and hiking to see monkeys,birds, butterflies, waterfalls and more Surrounded by dry forest and spectacular views... Go to other beaches Inside the mountains

Between June and December are night walks the Lora turtle is the most frequent finding. Available all nights during these months. Massive Nesting in Ostional National Park available just over 4 days per month depending on the movements of the moon first quarter, from July-November.

VOLUNTEERING and SUSTAINABLE TOURISM • Volunteering at Proyecto Asís Great opportunity to help out this grassroots environmental education center – take care of rescued animals & other hands-on volunteer projects Includes: snack, transport

Andrés Madrigal

• Surf School This is your opportunity to learn to surf! Expert surfer guides will get you to stand on a board – guaranteed!

• Nesting Turtles This evening-expedition takes you along the trails of the turtles on the beach and if we’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch them as they nest. This is one of the most impressive experiences of nature. We will choose from one of the following locations:

• Sea Kayak Trips and Kayak Rio Ora/Camaronal Beach: We organize different kayak trips – all are safe and fun and no experience necessary.

• Community, Culture & Conservation Learn about local green projects: AMURECI, Proyecto Asís & Finca Luna Nueva Includes: transport, guide, delicious organic lunch.

Desafio Adventure Company


• Venado Cave Spelunking (Includes: transport, guide, helmet, flashlight, entrance)

Costa Rica is considered the second-most important destination for adventure tourism in the world, right behind New Zealand. But you couldn’t do many adventure activities like rafting, canyoneering, hiking, safari floats and more if it weren’t for the abundance of nature we have here. Our tours combine the best of nature and adventure in Costa Rica.

• Hanging Bridges over the tree-top canopy Includes: transport, entrance & guide

• Liquid Lava Volcano Hike & Baldí Hot Springs (Includes: transport, guide, trail & Baldí hot springs) • Cerro Chato Extreme Volcano Hike (Includes: transport, guide, snack, trail entrance and La Fortuna Waterfall entrance) • Birdwatching with naturalist guide or Rainforest Mysteries at Finca Luna Nueva Includes: transport, guide, trail entrances • Rainforest Mysteries Tour at Finca Luna Nueva Start with a welcome fruit drink to get to learn about Luna Nueva. We then head out on an all-access Interpretive Rainforest hike. You’ll get a chance to taste the local harvests of fresh vegetables and herbs and learn about medicinal plants and sustainable agriculture. We finish up with lunch a visit to the Finca Luna Nueva gift shop and Arenal volcano viewing. • Kayak on Lake Arenal Paddle on the picturesque Lake Arenal for the perfect photo-taking opportunity (Includes: transport, kayak equipment, naturalist guide, snack) • Mountain Bike Tours (Local and up to Monteverde) (Includes: transport, suspension bike, helmet, guide, moderate-level tour on back roads around La Fortuna, water, snack)

• Caño Negro You’ll do a peaceful boat ride in an area unsurpassed in natural beauty – wildlife guaranteed! (Includes: transport, naturalist guide, boat tour, snack) • ATV Four-wheel adventure! Includes: transport, ATV & guide • Canopy Tours We like to work with Arenal Paraíso with 15 platforms, views of the volcano & great service! Includes: transport & guide.

Cerro Chato Extreme Hike This very intense 5-6 hour hike takes you straight up through lush rain forest to the crater of the extinct volcano Cerro Chato. Once you arrive at the crater, you can then “boulder” your way down, climbing over big rocks as you descend to the aqua-green lagoon. Take some photos, a quick breather and prepare to hike your way back out and down to the base of this beautiful mountain. And… if you have enough energy left, once you’ve accomplished the extreme part, take your time to hike down to the base of the 150-ft La Fortuna waterfall to cool off in the rushing tropical waters. Recommended only for people in very good shape and willing to hike in extreme conditions. Includes: bilingual naturalist guide, transport & snack. Waterfall entrance. What to bring: hiking boots, water, sunscreen, insect repellent and rain gear. Departs: 7:30am Duration: approx. 5-6 hours total.

Get 6x1!

DESAFIO NATURE COMBINATION TOUR A Full Day of Visiting the Natural Hot Spots of La Fortuna 1) Eco-Center Danaus • We start out with a visit to a private reserve to see an amazing collection of butterflies and other wildlife and tropical gardens 2) Lost Canyon Waterfall • We then take a fun 4x4 ride up a country road – at the top of the canyon, we hike down to the base of one of the largest waterfalls in the Northern Zone 3) All You Can Eat Delicious Homemade Lunch • We then hike back up about 20 minutes to enjoy a delicious home made lunch with vegetarian options available. 4) Visit and Hike the Arenal Volcano • This tour would not be complete without a visit to the Arenal Volcano to do an easy-going hike along the base of this active volcano 5) The Springs Resort & Spa • Now’s the time to relax in a series of hot springs with swim-up bars and isolated areas pools and waterfalls 6) Buffet Dinner at The Spring’s Resort & Spa • This is some of the best food you will have in Costa Rica – enjoy!


Find out why Costa Rica is like no other place on Earth! You’ll learn about Costa Rica´s natural history as you spot a variety of butterflies such as the Blue Morpho, Monarchs, Swallow-Tails, and many more. Along the way, the variety of tropical, ornamental and medicinal plants will amaze you. This is a bird watcher’s heaven. And it’s not unusual to spot some sloths or even an elusive Kinkajou! From there we get to go where few people have the privilege to visit – the Lost Canyon Waterfall. We head by 4x4 up a bumpy country road. Your naturalist guide will hike with you to the base of some beautiful waterfalls – you can even go for a swim in the deep cool pools. It’s about a 20-minute hike back up and we take our time and learn about more of the flora and fauna in this beautiful jungle canyon. It’s lunch time! Enjoy an All You Can Eat natural homemade lunch (vegetarians love this meal, too!) right in the canyon with great views of the volcano and rainforest.

It’s time to enjoy the quintessential reason you came to La Fortuna – a visit to the Arenal Volcano! You’ll have a front-row seat to one of the most active volcanoes in the world as you take a guided hike through secondary and primary rainforest. You’ll get close enough to even feel the rumble of the mountain. And to finish off your day, we head to the luxurious hot springs of The Springs Resort & Spa. Spend your time lounging around in the beautiful tropical gardens and swim-up bar with an amazing view of the volcano. Enjoy a plentiful buffet. We take you back to your hotel when you’re ready to go. What to bring: Secure shoes for hiking; clothing to get wet in; towel; bug repellent; camera; binoculars and sunscreen. Includes: Friendly naturalist guide; all entrances as per itinerary; hotel transfer and 4x4 adventure on country roads; lunch and dinner. Departs: 8:00am Duration: 14 hours

Andrés Madrigal

The Desafío Adventure Catalog


Package Tours

Pure Adrenaline Tour If adrenaline is your thing, this tour is for you!! 7-nights, 8-days of non-stop full-on adventure! We'll take you rafting, canyoneering, hiking at the base of the Arenal Volcano and finishing up

Weekend Warrior These trying financial times have created a new trend in vacation choices – many people now opt for short, compact travel junkets and compress as much activity into the limited time they have on their holidays. Few places in the world are a short flight from the US and Canada where you can truly get away from it all to find yourself in the midst of lush rainforest, tropical rivers, active volcanoes and spectacular white sandy beaches. Costa Rica’s proximity to major hubs and last-minute affordable airfare deals on most airlines and charter flights, has made it an appealing place for thrill seekers on tight schedules. This is the new breed of weekend warrior – adventurers who can’t be away from the office for long, but need a quick fix of adrenaline.

Reservation Policies

exertion, so you must be in good physical condition without recent surgery, heart condition, pregnancy or injury.

• We recommend you leave your

To make your trip more enjoyable and safe, we’d like to tell you about some of our policies for our exciting

• The recommended ages for our tours

leave items in the bus, as our driver

adventures: • The natural environment of Costa Rica is filled with insects, snakes, crocodiles and a variety of other wildlife, so we may not be held responsible for an encounter with any of the above. • For reasons beyond our control (climate, river levels, etc.), we may change to a more-suitable river or tour with an equal or similar difficulty rating & adventure-appeal. Our Head Guide makes the final decision. We reserve the right to cancel a trip due to unsafe conditions and will only run a tour according to established company policies. We may also cancel any client seen unfit to do a tour for their own safety and/or the safety of clients and guides. • Rafting, canyoneering, horse riding & many of our other adventures involve some inherent risk & physical

Desafío Adventure Company specializes in helping that new breed of weekend warrior make the most of an adventurous long weekend. Our motto is “Experience Water Like Never Before!” We have more paddling options in the Arenal area than anywhere else in Central America. Even if you’re short on time, you can pack in a lot of action because we have everything close by. The Weekend Warrior package tour offers rafting on the class-3-4 Río Toro, class 2-3 Río Balsa, safari floats, volcano hikes, mountain biking, spelunking, bungee jumping and much more, packed into a short amount of time.

Andrés Madrigal

Lava Jungle Beach This is our most-popular 7-night, 8-day, allinclusive package tour - you get a taste of the most-beautiful parts of Costa Rica - La Fortuna at the base of the Arenal Volcano; the exuberant jungles and cloud forests of Monteverde and lots of fun on the gorgeous Pacific beach of Playa Samara - all transport, lodging, some meals and activities included - you won't have to worry about a thing - we take care of everything during your stay with us!

with surf lessons on the beach. Every day is full of Pure Adrenaline!

are as follows: Canyoneering: 13– 55yrs; Río Toro: 13–55yrs; Río Balsa:

valuables; jewelry, camera, passport, etc. in your hotel´s safe. You may also will stay with the vehicle at all times. Desafío Adventure Company & its

10–55yrs; Volcano Hike & Safari Float:

affiliates are not responsible for lost,

6–65 yrs; Cerro Chato Extreme Hike:

broken or stolen items. We have a lost

13–55yrs; Horseback Riding: 8-55yrs;

& found box and will usually keep

and Community, Culture, and Conser-

items for no more than 2 weeks.

vation: any age. For children under 13

• All tours must be prepaid: Prepay-

years of age on our canyoneering tour,

ment can be made in US$, Costa

we can arrange an extra guide at an

Rican colones, credit card via a signed

additional cost at the time of reserva-

credit card authorization form (Visa/

tion. Kids 6-10 receive 20% discount

Mastercard/American Express). Credit

on Desafío tours.

cards are charged once the authori-

• The max. weight limit for whitewater

zation form has been received in our

rafting, canyoneering and horseback

office. Reservation is not confirmed

riding is 200 lbs. We may make an

until we acknowledge receipt of pre-

exception for our canyoneering tour if


your waistline is less than 42-inches.

• Confirmation subject to availability:

• You must wear secure shoes and

Due to our small, personalized tours,

clothing to get wet in. We highly rec-

we cannot guarantee your reservation

ommend closed-shoes for hikes, can-

until we have confirmed receipt of

yoneering and horseback. For rafting

your payment.

tours, we recommend that you know

• We have a 50% administrative fee

how to swim.

Family travel Kids have started to tell their parents they want to go to Costa Rica. They see news reports about our amazing wildlife here, the fun, family-friendly activities and mom and dad have no other option than to give into their children’s demands and make Costa Rica their family vacation destination. Our Costa Rica Eco-Family Adventure is the perfect 11-day get-away for an all-inclusive, high-quality family adventure in Costa Rica.

for same-day cancellations made later

• Clients must not be under the influ-

than 2 hours prior. No refunds for no-

ence of drugs or alcohol.


Desafio Adventure Company


Are you looking to plan an affordable a vacation to Costa Rica? Let us make it easy for you. Here are a few of our favorite package tour ideas that visit some of our favorite places in Costa Rica – all-inclusive vacations perfect for families, newly-weds, Spring Breakers, incentive business tours and much more. And don’t worry about a thing – we take care of organizing and reserving your transportation, your hotel accommodations (based on three price levels: High-end, Midrange and Budget) and all of your activities – plus several of your meals are included when you're doing our exciting tours.


Adventurous Entrepreneur From East-West Magazine August 2006 By Isabelle Gan


hen Suresh Krishnan moved to Costa Rica, he had no idea he would become Central America’s leading pioneer in adventure tourism. He established Desafio Adventure Company in the then little-known town of La Fortuna at the base of the active Arenal Volcano. Today, Krishnan and his wife Christine, oversee the burgeoning company, which also has offices in Monteverde. Desafio operates the pure adrenaline Rio Toro class, a white water rafting tour, which features more than 45 continuous rapids, and the company’s 14-day Costa Rican Adventure tour was recently voted among the top 25 adventure tours in National Geographic magazine. Born in southern India in the town of Kerela, Krishnan’s taste for adventure was apparent at a young age. His family moved to the United States when he was 7 years old and he excelled in athletics, competing in his first full marathon at 14 years old. After high school, he served in the U.S. Army for six years. East West recently visited Krishnan at his company’s new office in La Fortuna to talk about adventure, riding the tourism wave and what Americans should consider before making a life-changing move overseas.

Thornton Cohen

What does Desafio offer? We now offer a wide range of adventure activities from rafting to kayaking to horseback riding, canyoneering (rappelling down tropical waterfalls) and volcano hikes — we're a one-stop shop for trip planning for all of Costa Rica and Central America.


How did you get the idea of going to Costa Rica? I don’t know. I was looking for adventure, I guess. Since Indiana Jones was always my hero, once I left the Army, I decided to study anthropology and I worked at a sea kayaking shop in Long Beach, California. A Costa Rican came into the shop to buy some rafting equipment to start a rafting company in Costa Rica on the Pacuare River on the Caribbean side and asked if I wanted to be a guide. And you ended up staying in Costa Rica for good; how did that happen? By finding a way to make money and actually earn an income. I decided to help the Costa Rican out at a time when Costa Rica was still in diapers for tourism. Things were tough. I didn’t actually get paid. But I met a nice Swedish girl who invited me to La Fortuna, which is at the base of the very active and majestic Arenal Volcano. Once I was there, I thought to myself, “There must be some good rivers around here.” So, I plopped down a map and drew a circle around La Fortuna and started to explore the local rivers on my own with my kayak. I figured out we had some great, world-class rivers basically right in our backyard here in La Fortuna, and it became my goal to put the Arenal area on the map as the premier place to paddle in Central America. Did you speak Spanish when you moved to Costa Rica? If not, how did you learn? No. I knew very little Spanish except "Hola" and "otra cerveza, por favor."

I had to be self-taught so I bought a book and practiced with locals every chance I got. Since I was doing business in a Spanish-speaking country, it was important to learn the language, but more importantly, the culture.

Do you still guide tours? My passion has always been extreme kayaking, so I safety kayak for trips from time to time or guide our canyoneering tours and I love it, but the office keeps me very occupied.

How did you grow your company? Since I was the only adventure company in town, I ended up having to train locals (most of whom came straight off the coffee plantations) to guide class 3-4 rivers. The transition from farming to creating "River Gods" and "Adventure Gurus" has had a big impact on the community. What’s the biggest challenge of running your business? I never thought managing people would be the hardest part of my job, but I now have about 50 employees and my biggest challenge is training middle managers.

In fact, I read somewhere that Costa Rica has the largest population of American expats of anywhere in the world — about 45,000 of us down here! It's a peaceful

Tell me how you started your company. In the beginning it was basically a oneman show — I was the guide, secretary, driver, accountant, plus I needed to grab clients off the street and convince them to go rafting. Eventually I hired more people and often had to offer jobs to foreign raft guides because Costa Rica was so new to the adventure business and didn't have many qualified guides back then.

Costa Rica was like when Ernest Hemmingway went to France in the 1920s — full of adventure, excitement and inspiration.

How do you plan to grow Desafio? What’s in store for the future? I love inventing new adventure tours and always exploring new canyons, rivers, mountains and anything to pump up the adrenaline and keep Desafío Adventure Company on the cutting edge of adventure. One of my biggest goals is to build a permanent kayak surf wave in the river in front of our house and turn our town into the adventure mecca of Latin America. We have so many options here from world-class rivers to a huge, pristine lake, an active volcano, hot springs and much more. In addition, I promised my mom we'd open a natural foods Indian restaurant as well.

country and more developed and safer than anywhere I've seen in Latin America. What’s the best thing about Costa Rica? Costa Rica is an incredible adventure playground — I have been able to do everything from bull riding to doing first descents on local rivers to kayak surfing and then finishing off the day with a nice Cuba Libre, watching the sunset on a beautiful tropical beach with my wife. Do you think you will ever come back to America to live? No, probably not. After six years in the U.S. military and becoming a commissioned officer, although I will always be a die-hard American, I have realized the world is

What’s your advice for Americans who are thinking of moving to Costa Rica?

much bigger than just the United States.

Costa Rica and Central America, in general, is the next frontier. For me, coming to

Learn more about Krishnan and Desafio at

I still find I am too-involved in the day-today operation of the office. It's still such a new business concept down here that it is hard to find well-rounded, capable staff. What are the risks/dangers of your business? Approximately 85 percent of our client base [are] North American travelers. As they say, every time the U.S. sneezes, we catch a cold down here, so the U.S. economy directly affects my business and the tourism industry in general. Costa Rica has been a popular destination for several years and it's a beautiful, enchanting country, but our neighbors Nicaragua and Panama are catching up fast.

Desafio Adventure Company


Client Comments We truly believe that what sets us apart is our highquality tours and excellent staff. Below are some really nice things clients have said about us. Enjoy…

This was one of the greatest comments we have ever received: Dear Suresh and Christine, Betty Ann and I have now settled back into life in Northern Ontario. I wanted to write to first THANK YOU so much for hosting us through a series of your adventures there in La Fortuna. We were most impressed with your operation: what you have accomplished and built is so comprehensive, varied and well organized. Your staff are nothing short of fabulous. They went out of their way to make people feel comfortable. We saw a great respect from you to your employees. You have supported the community by training and hiring local people to develop new skills and work in an area that they want to. You have altered the entire community for the better. Personally, we felt that Desafio was one of the best examples of community economic development we saw in Costa Rica. Warmly, Beth Wild Women Expeditions


Pure Adrenaline Package Tour “We had a great trip. I hope to be back to Costa Rica soon!” Dori Barone, 26 July 2008.

Lava, Beach and Jungle Package Tour “It was one of the best vacations we ever had. We are very happy we booked our tour with Desafio.” Cheryl and Sean Crain, 31 August 2008.

Rafting Rio Toro “Absolute fantastic guide. Wonderful tour. Highly recommendable. Thanks.” Lynn Marie Pepin, 7 December 2008.

Rafting Río Balsa “Marvin was excellent and worked very hard to give us a great adventure! He taught us some Spanish too.

Carlos team did a fabulous job. No complaints would highly recommend Marvin + others again”. Tracy Perusse, 29 December 2008. “Amazing guide, Very helpful and knowledgeable. Loved the experience.” Ana Anghelache, 7 December 2008

Lost Canyon Adventures Canyoneering “Fantastic tour, excellent guides! Thank you for being so calm and professional. It’s been a little bit scary for me but absolutely worth it. Thank you again for that great adventure! You’re really great!”. Larysa, 28 December 2008.

Desafio Adventure Company


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Desafio Adventure Catalog  

Desafio Adventure Catalog

Desafio Adventure Catalog  

Desafio Adventure Catalog