It was our first full day in Costa Rica and we were already diving into exciting adventures with our guide Hector and a few locals from the village. Arienne and I were on an 8-day mission with Visit Costa Rica to find out what makes this destination the happiest country in the world. In Turrialba, it means absorbing yourself into nature and wildlife! I didn’t mind the early morning wake-up today because it meant saddling up for horseback riding in the countryside of Turrialba. Keep reading to see my packing list at the end of this post.
Jana, who helps run the eco-lodge we were staying at, often takes her son on these trails so a horse ride in the valley is one of her favourite hobbies when she’s not working.
Turrialba is a small town of only 30,000 people. The area is mainly agricultural but it’s also surrounded by high mountains for climbing, winding trails for hiking, and the Central Valley for breathtaking views. We couldn’t help but want to capture this view. If we looked closely we could catch a glimpse of the famous Turrialba volcano in the distance.
Meet my horse Balazo. He’s 9 years old so we did have a little trouble keeping up with the pack. This is me smiling because behind us is a sugarcane field and sugarcane is used to make rum! No, you can’t get intoxicated by sniffing. I tried.
I couldn’t believe how many coffee plantations we strolled by along our route in the valley. Hector tells us Turrialba is home to the richest coffee in all of Costa Rica because of its high altitude. The best, most flavourful coffee is grown here at 1000-1200 metres of elevation and we happened to be visiting right in the middle of harvest season!
After a few kilometres and a bumpy ride we stopped at a one of the highest peaks (a.k.a Balazo’s break to sip on water and refuel on grass)
Manrique and Lervin care for the horses daily. Sometimes they take them on leisurely strolls, other times they use them for forest treks – horses have a much smaller eco-footprint in rainforests than motor vehicles and on the farm, they compact soil much more sustainably than tractors.
Back at the stable, Manrique and Lervin prepare the horses to bathe.
I could tell Jana had a special relationship with her horses.
Dinamita loved having her photo taken (and I loved that her name means Dynamite)! She was posing like a model for every shot – but I think she was excited for her headshot on my blog.
What to Pack When You Go Horseback Riding:
Long pants (unless you like whiplash on bare skin, horses take you through trees and shrubs without a care in the world)
Insect repellent (horses are a magnet for bugs!)
Camera (make sure it’s tethered! I almost lost mine along the way but Hector was the best guide ever and turned back to find it!)
Costa Rica is ranked the happiest country in the world by the New Economics Foundation’s 2013 Happy Planet Index, based on human well-being and environmental impact or low ecological footprint that causes the least amount of permanent damage to the planet and impact on future generations.
I was guest of Visit Costa Rica on assignment for their Gifts of Happiness campaign but all opinions expressed are my own.