Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

At one point, those doctors nearly declared me dead.” The man riding next to me was very much alive, and explaining how a bad accident led him to trade in riding Harleys in America for riding horses in Costa Rica. It was just one of many fantastic tales we’d hear throughout the day.

As a certified animal lover, the opportunity to explore a new destination by horseback always piques my interest. But more often than not, I find myself resisting out of concern for the animal’s welfare — not to mention my own good experience. Let’s be real — I’m not interested in a line of twenty mane-to-tale horses trotting along a tired trail. I’ve had one truly great horse riding experience thus far in my travels, in Iceland. My ride in Panama was okay, but the one in Peru (technically a donkey ride) left me feeling guilty.

I wanted to have one fabulous riding adventure before I left Latin America. Knowing Costa Rica’s reputation for eco-tourism, I figured it might be our best bet, and began the search. And that’s when I found Bruce.

One foggy morning, Anders and I rode our bikes from Puerto Viejo to Playa Chiquita to start a different kind of ride with . Owner Bruce Walker had emailed us ahead of time to ask us about our personalities so he could match us with a compatible horse, and our new friends were saddled up and waiting to greet us. But the real character here was Bruce. With a Hawaiian shirt, a handlebar mustache, and an unmatched knack for storytelling, I knew we were in for an interesting morning.

This is not your standard horseback riding tour. Bruce let us know right off the bat not to worry about timing — he doesn’t even wear a watch during rides. He promised we could stop to take photos any time, and offered to take pictures for us with his own camera and email them to us later for free — a surefire way to win any blogger’s heart, though in the end we took so many ourselves I forgot to even ask him for them.

After leaving the stables and heading for a short clip down a palm-lined road, our menagerie turned onto a quiet, untamed beach. We were escorted by Bruce’s three dogs, who he assured us joined him on every ride.

Though it was an overcast day, I barely noticed, enthralled as I was by listening to Bruce’s life story and how he came to start an non-exploitative, happy horse-based riding business. “You may say this is a type of spiritual ride within nature and learning and seeing how the universe and nature all works together and we are just part of it,” Bruce explained.

As we chatted about everything from ethical business to the dangers of over-development, our horses roamed the beach freely, occasionally trotting into the surf with the over-excited pups who were blazing the way.

Halfway through, we stopped to give the horses a break and enjoy some fresh coconut juice. I hopped off and handed the reins to Bruce, who I was shocked to see just as quickly looped them over the saddle and dropped them. The horses trotted off happily to graze. “Aren’t you worried they’ll run away?,” I asked. He smiled. “They have nothing to run from.”

I was distracted from enjoying my fresh coconut by a kind of hissing noise. Looking upward, I saw what appeared to be a very agitated family of monkeys, clearly feeling a little less zen than we were. I cursed having not packed my , but quickly moved on and enjoyed the curious creatures dangling in the trees above us.

As we hopped back on our horses and headed back towards the beach, I was thrilled to see the skies had cleared and the sun was baring its full heat right down on us. Blue skies, white sand, trotting along the turquoise waters by horseback — we were living the Caribbean dream.

Horseback Riding in Costa Rica

The beaches were starting to fill out by this time. Curious tourists smiled at us as we paced past, while locals and expats called out greetings to Bruce.

I certainly wouldn’t call what we did this day a “tour.” I think I’d best describe it as organic horse-led riding with new old friend and a pack of pups to guide you. Is that thing yet? Because if not, I’m pretty sure it is now. And I can recommend a beautiful beach in Costa Rica to try it out on.

What’s been your best horseback riding experience?

We were guests of Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures, who you can find on or on . Many thanks to Bruce for his hospitality!

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
79 Comments...
  • Caity
    April 29 2014

    Personally, I am a little terrified of horses which has only been reinforced by the poor conditions I witnessed while in India. However, the description of your experience and the adorable pics may have gone someway to redress my concerns. Plus Bruce seems like such a dude! What an amazing and unique travel experience, thanks for sharing!

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2014

      Yeah, I had wanted to horseback ride in Ecuador but from everything we heard the conditions were not good and it really turned me off the idea. I can’t enjoy myself if I know the horses involved are miserable!

  • Hannah
    April 29 2014

    This looks amazing, it’s really nice to see Puerto Viejo again. I looked into horse riding whilst there, I’m sad that I missed it now. Bruce seems like an absolute dude!

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      I LOVED Puerto Viejo but had a hard time stomaching how pricey it was. I would have loved to have stayed longer if only my wallet agreed!

  • Horses scare me a bit, but regardless I’ve done some nice tours on horseback. This one looks so pleasant! It’s also picture-perfect. That photo of you looking back and the one of the guide off in the distance are gorgeous!
    Jessica of Curiosity Travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Thanks Jessica! I’ve been so lucky to have a great photographer like Anders around!

  • Shaun
    April 29 2014

    Something I thought I would enjoy and ended up loving. I’ve only went horseback riding once and it was a lot of fun. This is the best way it seems to do. Amazing how he said “I don’t wear a watch on rides” and “they have nothing to run from” I have some of the same ethical issues when it comes to how animals are treated. Wouldn’t think twice about booking a ride with Bruce.
    Shaun recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Yeah, we looked into doing it in Ecuador and they actually said, “It’s $10 an hour for a sad horse and $12 an hour for a well-cared for horse.” I was so disgusted by the idea that someone would pick a “sad” horse that I was turned off the idea entirely.

    • Bruce Walker
      May 1 2014

      Hi Amanda, even when it drizzles here it’s not that bad and still warm and can be refreshing on the beach.
      Just click your heels twice, see yourself on a beach riding. If you dream it, believe it you can manifest it. πŸ™‚

      Bruce
      Bruce Walker recently posted..

  • Rick
    April 29 2014

    Heavenly photos of paradise. Thanks!

  • Amanda @ Farsickness
    April 29 2014

    Horses are one of the few animals I’m not scared of and as a horse obsessed child I spent a few years taking riding lessons, but haven’t been on one in ages, a lot of it stemming from concerns over how the horses are treated. But this tour looks lovely! It’s always nice to find someone like Bruce who cares about more than just nickel and diming tourists.

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Yeah, these kinds of businesses do exist out there! It’s just difficult to find them. That’s why I love being able to share when I do!

  • Justine
    April 29 2014

    I’ve taken one horseback tour in my life in Maui, and it was AMAZING! But like a lot of other travelers I’m usually scared off of these types of tours because I worry about how the animals are treated. However, it seems like you happened upon a tour operator who treats his horses as if they are his own children! I love that he lets the roam free because “they have nothing to run from.” That’s awesome!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Wow, I can imagine Maui would be the most amazing destination for that! I might be slightly biased though, considering I think Maui is basically the best destination for anything…

  • Emily
    April 29 2014

    Bruce looks like quite a character – I love that stache!

    I’ve had the chance to grow up with farm relatives, so have had plenty of horseback riding experiences, but I think a ride along a beautiful beach is now on my wishlist!
    Emily recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      It was on mine too, and checking it off was awesome πŸ™‚

  • Amanda
    April 29 2014

    This sounds AWESOME – exactly the type of thing I would love to do next time I’m in Costa Rica. Totally bookmarking this!
    Amanda recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      You will love it — hope you get back soon so I can read your post on the subject πŸ™‚

  • Rekha Devarapalli
    April 29 2014

    Looooved the pics! Hope more posts are coming on Costa Rica.
    Rekha Devarapalli recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Unfortunately only one πŸ™‚ But I will make it a good one!

  • Amy
    April 29 2014

    You’re making me like Costa Rica Meihoukai! So I’ve finally settled on a destination for November and it’ll be Peru! woo hoo!
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Amazing! You are going to LOVE it! Such a cool country.

  • Coolfam
    April 29 2014

    I did a horseback ride in Banff, Alberta and another one in Jamaica but they were as you described tail to mane and on a tired trail. I would love to horseback ride on a beach even though I am not an expert by any means just seems like a more natural, fun experience!

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      It’s fun to see what the horses want to do πŸ™‚ Of course we had the ability to steer them back on course if they were going in the complete wrong direction but it’s nice to let them do their thing!

    • Bruce Walker
      May 1 2014

      Coolfam.
      To ride with me and my horses and dogs you don’t have to be an expert. I have a way of teaching a natural way to ride with a horse as one. Just as we are a part of the oneness of creation. It’s all about rhythm and being in harmony with your horse and nature. It’s a beautiful and blessed experience. πŸ™‚
      Blessings
      Bruce

  • Sara @ Restless Feet
    April 29 2014

    This looks AMAZING! I’ve heard about the beauty of Costa Rica but I have yet to make it there myself. I’ve only managed to explore eastern Europe, but after reading your posts it’s definitely on my bucket list!

    Long time reader, but I think this may be my first time commenting! Love following another blog who shares as much of a love for travel as I have πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Hey Sara, thank you so much for breaking your silence and saying hi πŸ™‚ It is so lovely to meet ya, and I really appreciate you reading and joining along!

  • Charlotte
    April 29 2014

    Thanks for this great post. It seems like so much fun and great to see it’s animal friendly. Living in China can sometimes be so confronting when it comes to animals and how they treat them so when I travel I always try to look for places like this. Bruce seems like such a cool dude. (and haha yes after your last reply I noticed that you and A. are still going strong, such a cool love story…)
    Charlotte recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      I’ve never been to China but I have heard it can be rough there in terms of animal welfare. Glad you are looking for the good ones!

  • Jade
    April 29 2014

    I’ve always wanted to try horse-riding while I’ve been travelling but having an allergy and not knowing what proper medication I need has always stopped me. Maybe I need to try it out, because this looks glorious!

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Wow, that seems scary Jade! How did you find out you were allergic to horses? And what do you do in places where they are all over? I’m thinking of Gili Trawangan right now, where they are everywhere.

      • Jade
        April 30 2014

        When I was about 6 my family went to a circus where they had horses and I had a pretty bad allergic reaction. Since then I’ve just stayed away and generally can cope, just a few sniffles, if they are near. Riding one may be another story though… then again it’s been so long that I wonder if anything might have changed. Maybe if I took the right precautions I could get back on the horse! I would love to…

  • Maria from Nerd Nomads
    April 30 2014

    I have never tried horse back riding. This trip looks so lovely and peaceful, it really made me want to try out horse back riding some day! Beautiful photos! Have tried elephant riding in Thailand once, but the elephants looked so sad and unhappy so not a nice experience.
    Maria from Nerd Nomads recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      I’ve actually written a whole post about elephant riding and why I would not do it again. It’s definitely a touchy subject though, as so many tourists arrive in Southeast Asia raring to do it! I often hear from others who have had the same experience as you though… not a nice one.

  • doesn’t get more romantic than riding horses on the beach.. unless of course it was just the 2 of you (you and anders, not you can bruce) lol
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Haha! I don’t think we’re brave enough to be fully entrusted with two horses just yet… maybe after a few more rides!

  • Lisa - Wee Wanders
    April 30 2014

    I’m scheduled to go horse-riding for the first time in a few weeks a significantly less sunny Scotland πŸ™‚

    It was something I had wanted to try for a while and I thought I would give it a go before I head off on my travels in a few months…even more excited now!
    Lisa – Wee Wanders recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2014

      Scotland is so beautiful! I think it will be the perfect setting. Enjoy your ride!

  • Amanda
    April 30 2014

    Okay, please transport me to horseback riding on the beach instead of this drizzly NY day… πŸ™‚
    Amanda recently posted..

    • Bruce Walker
      May 1 2014

      Hi Amanda, even when it drizzles here it’s not that bad and still warm and can be refreshing on the beach.
      Just click your heels twice, see yourself on a beach riding. If you dream it, believe it you can manifest it. πŸ™‚

      Bruce
      Bruce Walker recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 2 2014

      It’s been torture hasn’t it!? I’m doing my sun dance up here in Albany…

  • Janice Stringer
    April 30 2014

    Hi there Meihoukai. The look of joy on your face in the first photo said it all to me. You look wonderfully happy here, were you?
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 2 2014

      I was indeed πŸ™‚ Out in nature and hanging out with great people and animals — what more could a girl want.

  • MCVK
    April 30 2014

    I shared this with a couple of horse-owning friends on Facebook and they LOVED it. I figured they wouldn’t comment – they didn’t – so I’m giving you the kudos you deserve. I grew up riding – there are beaches on Cape Cod that allow them, although I’ve never seen them for “rent” – and the animals’ welfare comes first. A big shout out to the former Harley rider who survived and thrives.

    • Bruce Walker
      May 1 2014

      Hi MCVK,
      I thank you very much and from one rider to another, the horse comes first. πŸ™‚ I love what I do and I enjoy sharing with my guest from around the world. But to be honest I could of never achieved this alone. Many people and events made this dream come true. They deserve kudos too. πŸ™‚
      Bless you,
      Bruce
      Bruce Walker recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 2 2014

      Thank you so much for sharing! I’m glad they loved it and I really appreciate you spreading the word!

  • Jen Seligmann
    May 1 2014

    I’ve never been horse riding. Can you believe it! Its on my life bucket list to experience it one day on a beach. I picture myself galloping along the sand of a picture perfect palm lined beach.
    Jen Seligmann recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 2 2014

      I can picture it too πŸ™‚ Sounds beautiful… I’m sure you’ll get there someday!

  • Bruce Walker
    May 1 2014

    To all of you for the awesome and beautiful comments, I my horses and dogs thank you.
    This is why we do what we do.

    It’s rewarding and I’m blessed to spend time with people and families from around the world.

    Understanding nature, the universe and animals and how it all works together is what my rides are about. As Meihoukai said, I don’t wear a watch on my rides or any time for that matter any more.

    There are just some things you can not put a time on or rush.

    It’s my riding guest time, and I’m just blessed to have them share their time with me.

    Meihoukai and Anders thank you for sharing your time with me and this fantastic article.

    We are now doing a documentary to share this and so much more with others.

    Bless all of you and thank all of you again.
    Bruce
    Bruce Walker recently posted..

  • Emily
    May 1 2014

    We had a similar experience in Montezuma, Costa Rica–except we did a bit of cantering. The horses were keen for some exercise and they were healthy and happy. I also avoid horse treks if I feel the animals are not well cared for (which is often the case in Central America).
    I’d love to stop by and meet Bruce and his horses, maybe next month! Thanks for the beautiful post.
    Emily recently posted..

    • Bruce Walker
      May 1 2014

      Thank you Emily.
      You are more then welcome to stop by and yes I allow running on the beach it the rider is experienced. I also teach riding a natural way of riding with the horse.

      You may also see more of my rides and what I do at:

      Thank you,
      Bruce

    • Meihoukai
      May 2 2014

      So glad you had a great experience as well — it’s encouraging to know more are out there! Maybe you’ll have one in Puerto Viejo as well at some point πŸ™‚

  • This sounds amazing! I went horseback riding when I went on a school trip to Costa Rica years ago but it was through an organized tour so basically just walking in a line the whole time. Although the horses seemed perfectly happy I’d love to go back and go on an adventure with fewer people, especially since I’ve taken lessons and am always itching to do more than just a slow trot on rides!
    Anna @ The Blonde Banana recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 3 2014

      Definitely sounds like you need another shot at it, Anna! Especially with lessons… fancy! I would love to try and get comfortable enough to canter.

      • I went through a teenage period of obsession with horses and convinced my parents to buy me lessons. I only cantered a couple of times though :/
        Anna @ The Blonde Banana recently posted..

  • tammyonthemove
    May 3 2014

    Wow, this looks like pure bliss. I used to love horse riding as a child. My neighbour and best friend had three horses. I never took lessons though and haven’t been on a horse for 20 years. My most memorable experience was on a mule, not a horse though. I hired one to get back up a volcanic crater in Ecuador which had really sheer drops. Let’s just say I saw my life going past me a few times on this ride.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 6 2014

      That sounds like my experience in the Colca Canyon — sheer terror as we crossed a sheer cliff! Yikes.

  • Heather
    May 4 2014

    Wow, this sounds like my dream ride! The best I’ve ever experienced was in New Mexico. I desperately wanted to ride so I called a few places and found a guy willing to give me a solo ride. He turned out to be a Native American and took me on a two hour ride through his reservation. He pointed out cloud formations and snake tracks and told me so many interesting things about his life. Looking back, it was kind of perfect πŸ™‚
    Heather recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 6 2014

      Wow, that sounds like a very unique and special experience. Awesome! I’d love to do that myself someday.

  • memographer
    May 6 2014

    I love horses! This is so cool and fun, Meihoukai!
    memographer recently posted..

  • Amy M
    May 7 2014

    Awh that’s so lovely! It’s been ages since i got on a horse, but your post definitely makes me want to get back into it x
    Amy M recently posted..

  • Victoria
    May 16 2014

    I love this post and the fact that the “tour” was very organic and you could take your time and at your own pace.

    I’m no expert but I’v been horse-riding a few times. My worst experience was in the Dominican Republic about 13 years ago where the “trainers” were more concerned about how many tourists they could get that they hadn’t realised that my horse had galloped away, with me on it, and because it was my first time I kept whipping it up instead of slowing the horse down! I was too scared to fall off my horse LOL!

    My best experience was in the Brecon Beacon Mountains in Wales, UK about 4 years ago. It was absolutely wonderful. The trainers were patient, the horses calm, and depending on experience you could canter or gallop. I also liked the way that we went through the rivers, dirt paths and (small) rocky cliffs. It really challenged us but I felt so much more secure. A lovely ride. πŸ™‚
    Thank you for sharing.
    Victoria recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 16 2014

      Your Wales ride sounds lovely! I can imagine it would be insanely scenic as well. I’ll have to check it out should I ever make it to those parts!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    May 17 2014

    This beach looks gorgeous! I’d love to do this day trip next time I’m down in CR.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 19 2014

      Definitely give Bruce a call — he’ll take good care of ya!

  • Jessica
    May 21 2014

    Hey Meihoukai,

    Just been out on a ride with Bruce on your recommendation. It was amazing! Thanks for the heads up!!! With no watch to worry about the time, 2.5 hours soon turned into 4.5 spent wandering along the beach with the dogs in tow. Loved it:)

    • Meihoukai
      May 24 2014

      Jessica I am SO happy to hear that you had a great time! Thank you so much for letting me know… happy travels, chica!

  • Maddy
    May 23 2014

    I am so jealous! I have been wanting to horseback ride for years. Maybe this is a good excuse to take a trip to Costa Rica?
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Does anyone need an excuse to visit Costa Rica? πŸ˜‰

  • Emily Shea
    January 29 2015

    I read this post last May, and instantly put meeting Bruce and his horses on my bucket list. It took me nearly a year, but I finally made it over there–and it was magic. My son and I had the horse ride of our lives in Puerto Viejo, and we’ll never forget it. Thanks for pointing me in his direction!
    Emily Shea recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 29 2015

      That’s amazing, Emily! Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad you had a great experience — and I’m touched you got the idea for it here.

  • Megan
    January 1 2016

    Hi! My husband and I are going to Costa Rica in April. Do you have Bruce’s info?

    • Meihoukai
      January 4 2016

      Hey Megan, check out the website I linked to in this post for Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures. You can find Bruce’s info there!

  • Lili
    April 24 2017

    Wow this looks amazing. I was thinking about doing horse back riding in Boquete, but after reading your article about that trip vs this one I’m thinking I’ll need to re-plan!
    Lili recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 25 2017

      Out of the two, I’d definitely pick this one!