It is said in Costa Rica that the best “all-terrain vehicle” for navigating the country is a horse. Costa Ricans love horses and their riding traditions – their equestrian roots coming from the Spanish who brought horses with them to Central America in the 16th century.
The northwestern province of Guanacaste is the heart and soul of Costa Rica’s equestrian life. Here, vast rolling plains, towering volcanoes and mountains, and a sunny, dry and hot climate of the dry tropical forest create perfect ranching conditions. For generations, Guanacaste has been dedicated to working the land, and cattle and horse ranching. Even though the region’s main economic activity is now tourism, the traditions of “sabanero” (cowboy) folklore, customs, music and dance are deeply rooted.
In the golden savanna at the base of the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, Hacienda Guachipelin Hotel is a working horse and cattle ranch, in addition to being an active eco-tourism hotel. In the 19th century, the immense Hacienda ranch once stretched from the tip of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Since 1975, Tomás Batalla Esquivel, a renowned cattle rancher and purebred Spanish horse breeder, has been keeping the ranching legacy alive with his family.
Today, the property measures nearly 3,400 acres and includes conservation areas for tropical dry forest and endangered native tree species. Hacienda Guachipelin offers seven different horseback riding tours riding the trusty ranch horses on scenic forest trails to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park or waterfalls or natural thermal springs. There is even a “Cowboy for a Day” tour, where you help out the real ranch cowboys in the stables and corral, milk cows, saddle and ready the horses, and ride out to herd cattle or other horses.
For an authentic experience of Guanacaste culture, and an active vacation at the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, Hacienda Guachipelín Hotel is an ideal place to stay. The first-class ecotourism lodge offers thrilling canopy ziplines, canyoning, waterfall rappelling, river tubing, horseback riding, nature trails, mountain biking and thermal springs.
Article by Shannon Farley