Friday, April 29, 2011

Whitewater Rafting in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica! A Splash of Adrenaline!

I like to periodically share with my readers some of my favorite tour companies in the Quepos & Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica areas. Therefore, as we get ready to enter our “green” season (green=more rain), this means some of the best white water rafting is just ahead on the horizon. I can’t think of a better company to share with you then the great people at Amigos del Rio (“Friends of the River”)!

Offering world class Whitewater Rafting only a short distance from the new Quepos Marina and famous Manuel Antonio Park, Amigos del Rio features challenging whitewater rafting on both the Savegre River (“Wild River”) and the Naranjo River (“Orange River”), with incredible views of rainforests, waterfalls, flora and fauna. Not limited to just rafting, Amigos del Rio guides visitors along the Manuel Antonio coastline for Ocean Kayaking, or choose the unique opportunity to explore the Damas Island Estuary Mangroves as you glide along in your Mangrove Kayak.

Safe, Unique, Reliable and Intense Water Adventures are what Amigos del Rio lives for!

Savegre River Rafting

Beyond the incredible Class II, III & IV rapids, be astounded by the awe-inspiring canyons, waterfalls, and primary rainforests that are an integral part of the beauty of Costa Rica. The Savegre River is truly a magnificent stretch of whitewater, winding through a sparsely inhabited mountain crested valley and offering some of the most exciting rapids and beautiful tropical scenery around. The full day Savegre River Rafting Excursion includes a hike to one of these majestic waterfalls, leaving time for guests to go swimming in the natural waterfall ponds.

Naranjo River Rafting

The Naranjo River drops steeply from the coastal mountain range above Quepos through a beautiful jungle gorge, and takes you on a wild ride all the way to sea level. Passing local farmlands and palm plantations, the river banks team with green jungle and meet the steep canyon walls at sharp 90 degree angles. Even for the advanced rafter, this Class II, III & IV river is an exciting and refreshing rush of adrenaline. For those beginner rafters, our well trained river guides will explain, teach, direct and inspire even the most timid of rafters will want to meet the Whitewater River challenge!

Ocean Kayak Manuel Antonio

Designed for beginner or advanced kayakers, you start with paddling along coastline of Quepos and the offshore islands by ManuelAntonio National Park. Experience the excitement of paddling a kayak in the open ocean, while observing Costa Rica's marine and coastal wonders, such as the nesting grounds of endangered sea birds like the Brown Boobie, as well as sea turtles, fish, dolphins, whales and other seasonal marine life. Sea kayaking is considerably easier than river kayaking, and most trips can be done by guests that have little or no experience, so don’t miss your chance to try this exciting sport!

Mangrove Kayak DamasIsland

This tour will show you nature's unparalleled wonders as you explore an entirely different eco-system just 10 minutes from Manuel Antonio and Quepos. Kayaking (or boating) through the mangrove canals is like a meandering ride through times gone by. Let the current carry your kayak as you observe the unique flora, fauna and wildlife found only in this biologically diverse heaven! Beginners will delight in the ease of paddling through protected inland waterways, while your guide points out and explains this unique jungle environment.


The exclusive fleet of transportation for Amigos del Rio includes brand new Microbuses and 4x4 vehicles rarely found in Costa Rica such as the HUMMER and the UNIMOG.


Adventure tours should only offer the best in safety and equipment, so for that reason, Amigos del Rio chooses to use high performance AIRE rafts, specially design for our favorite rivers.


Complete relaxing “Tico” style meals are provided on the tours, with refreshments and local fruits. There’s no hurry on these tours, time is on your side.

Safety First

The Amigos del Rio gear is all U.S. Coast Guard approved and operated by professionally certified guides that have past extensive safety guidelines. Amigos del Rio is a fully insured and bonded company.

Team Amigos del Rio

Their team of expert guides is all formed by locals who have grown up rafting these rivers, and know their business better than anyone!

The Amigos del Rio Promise

From the owner to the reservations personnel, they guarantee the level of safety and fun you are seeking, all supervised by the Amigos del Rio professional team of Whitewater Rafters. They love what they do and it shows!

So if you find yourself traveling to the Manuel Antonio and Quepos area of Costa Rica, and you are looking for the adrenaline rush of a lifetime, while enjoying the wonders and scenery of Costa Rica, don’t wait……sign up with Amigos del Rio, and you too will discover the fun and adventure of Whitewater Rafting!!


Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria Day! Brave Martyr or Brazen Myth?

Juan Santamaría, an impoverished drummer boy, born of a single mother from the town of Alajuela, is easily the most famous martyr in Costa Rican history, and the only individual to have a National Holiday (April 11) declared in his honor. But was it really Juan Santamaria that saved the day at the Battle of Rivas, or was it more to do with Costa Rica’s need to have a national hero? Read on….

If legend is to be believed, as a result of the Battle of Rivas on April 11th, 1856, Juan Santamaria’s selfless act as his country's impromptu savior brought his eventual rise to glory, fame and martyrdom as he succeeded in saving Costa Rica against the infamous US sponsored invasion of the soldier of fortune style militia of William Walker.

William Walker, a lawyer, doctor and soldier of fortune from Tennessee, hoping to not only exploit the commercial trade route between New York and the Southern tip of Nicaragua, Walker also hoped to conquer the five Central American States with the intention to annex them, extending the new Federation of Southern States, part of the US. Walker and his “filibusteros” (soldiers of fortune) with his new post as a shaky provisional President of Nicaragua planned to instill his political and financial power over the Central American territories, with the next logical step being the invasion of nearby Costa Rica.

Fearing Walker’s growing force in Nicaragua, Costa Rican President Juan Rafael Mora supported by the backing of wealthy American businessmen who wanted their important trading routes reopened, was urged to declare war not on Nicaragua, but on Walker and his filibusters. Furious, Walker ordered the immediate invasion of Costa Rica, crossing the border into the province of Guanacaste, while the Costa Rican army mobilized full speed ahead Northward from the Central Valley. This rag tag army, led by the President’s brother Jose Joaquin Mora and brother-in-law General Jose Cañas, with their contingent of three thousand men marched towards the Walker encampment said to be assembled near the now famous Hacienda Santa Rosa, south of Nicaragua. Upon learning of their imminent arrival, Walkers men made a hasty retreat, taking the battle to Meson de Guerra in Rivas.

That is where Juan Santamaría prominently steps into the picture.

Walker's men, under the command of Colonel Louis Schlessinger, had no sentries posted in the Rivas fort, allowing Mora’s Costa Rican troops to surprise the small American militia, as Schlessinger himself retreated, leaving his troops in complete disarray. When a bloody battle ensued, the commanding Costa Rican officer asked for a volunteer to set fire to thatch roof of the El Mesón de Guerra; the filibusters' stronghold. Surely a suicide mission at best, it is said that Juan Santamaría, an impoverished mulatto drummer boy from the town of Alajuela, stepped up and with torch in hand, approached the hostel and through a hail of bullets, tossed his torch of fire onto the vulnerable thatched roof. This selfless patriotic act caused the enemy to flee, resulting in Juan Santamaria’s death, but leaving him a genuine National Hero.

The deaths of Juan Santamaría and more than a thousand other men saved Costa Ricaand Central America from a complete collapse. The Battle of Rivas put great confidence to the Costa Rican Army in the fight against Walker, who before this battle believed himself undefeatable and unstoppable, and lead to his later assassination in Honduras, during his next attempt at staging a Central American coup.

Although Costa Rica was victorious in the Battle of Rivas, the country did not return back to normal by any means. The numerous dead bodies were not buried in Rivas but were simply thrown into the wells, causing the city a huge outbreak of cholera from the contamination. The troops then carried the disease home with them to Costa Rica where it ravaged the country, killing as much as one tenth of the population. Mora was eventually blamed for the outbreak, as well as other economic problems, and was taken out of power a few years later in 1859.

This is where the dispute of the true legend of Juan Santamaria begins. Heated arguments and several investigations suggest that the well repeated history of Juan Santamaria may not be all it’s cracked up to. According to Steven Palmer, a Canadian researcher, Juan Santamaria was possibly invented by the Liberalist Costa Rican government. Palmer’s study suggests that the government in the late nineteenth
century was seeking to create a national identity in order to unify the disorganized country. Legends, heroes and battles, all helpful ingredients in the creation of a sense of national patriotism, the government set out to find something or someone that would serve its motivating purpose. Since Costa Rica lacks a history of warfare, the Liberalist government chose one of the few significant battles, the 1856 Battle of Rivas fought against William Walker. After choosing the famous battle, a brave hero was to be chosen as their new “symbol” for National unity. With this, Palmer says, Juan Santamaria was “born” or reborn after being dead and forgotten for many decades. That Juan Santamaria was a member of the lower classes, only served to inspire an even stronger sense of belonging to a nation that was coming of its own in world recognition, as Juan Santamaria showed anyone could become a National idol.

Further claims have been discovered that state Juan Santamaria actually died of cholera and not by the bullets of his enemies. Now granted, there are said to be listed four different Juan Santamarias amongst the some 9000 volunteer troops of Costa Rica, so this does open the door for some skepticism and confusion, but it is interesting to consider why Juan Santamaria lay buried for almost four decades, before being remembered and named Costa Rica’s National Hero.

Finally, other historical versions of the Battle of Rivas and the fight at the “Mesón de Guerra”, list the Lieutenant Luis Pacheco Bertora as the first to approach the fort with the idea of flushing out the enemy, but he was gravely injured by gunfire in his attempts. Lying unconscious, a Nicaraguan named Joaquín Rosales made a second attempt to burn the fort, but lost his life in the process. Finally, a third brave soldier stepped forward, the now well-known Costa Rican soldier, Juan Santamaría, who successfully set fire to the “meson” and saved the day for Costa Rica. None of these other brave soldiers have ever received the recognition due them as Juan Santamaria did, much less a National Holiday, statues or International Airports named after them, though the mystery behind the true history of these events lives on!

In the end, there is no attempt to minimize the participation of any of the soldiers involved in this battle, even less so Juan Santamaria. We only hope to give a shout out to all the valiant soldiers who gave their lives to win the liberty and sovereignty of Costa Rica, and to dispel of the rumor that Juan Santamaria was simply approaching the building, tripped and his fire torch accidentally started the fire that ended the battle.

Tell that later version out loud in Costa Rica, and you may be run out of the country even faster than William Walker was!!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Lisa Tirmenstein