Rapid Transit: Costa Rica Style

Imagine the gut feel of gravity pulling down—your hands gripping the paddle down in the water, your legs braced down into the side of a big rubber boat, heart beating down in your chest, teeth clenched down until SPLASH, the boat plows a wave and sends a white spray sunbursting up over you and your crewmates. A brief pause to cheer, but you stay focused, because right now you are drifting down into another exciting rapid.

River rafting on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica
River rafting on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica

River Rafting in Costa Rica has long been a favorite destination for both the beginner and the experienced rafter. With ample annual rainfall, mountainous rainforest landscapes, and plenty of road-to-river access, the country prides itself on being a whitewater paradise. To top it off, Costa Rica has warm weather year round making it perfect for a swim during the calm intermissions between rapids.

The only thing that comes close to the thrill of sluicing through a rapid is when you take a moment to look around at the natural beauty that is Costa Rica. And from a raft on the river, you are at the beating heart of it. The turbulent water awakens the senses.

Tours depart in the early morning from San Jose. From there, you are driven to the outpost for a delicious breakfast. After breakfast, it’s to the river’s edge where your equipment is adjusted for a proper fit and you receive safety instructions and tips for basic paddling strokes. Safety is always a top concern during any tours hosted by The California Native and the guides are experienced professionals with extensive knowledge of whitewater navigation, river rescue, and first aid.

Travelers with The California Native enjoy experiencing the rapids and the rainforests on the Reventazón or Pacuare rivers.

The Reventazón River is a good place for those curious about the sport and want to ease into it. The various stretches of the river accommodate all types of people, from those who want to take a calm, relaxing, scenic float trip, to those seeking a more thrilling day in challenging Class II and III rapids.

For those who want even more excitement, the Pacuare River is a great choice. Chock full of expert-level rapids, the Pacuare is a world-famous run guaranteed to get the pulse pounding. Flowing toward the Atlantic, the 14-mile run winds through dense jungle giving you plenty of opportunities to spot parrots, toucans, monkeys, and butterflies. But be sure not to take your eyes off the water for too long, because the rapids, which in some spots can be rated up to Class V, are best viewed from inside the boat rather than out. If you do become separated from your seat, don’t panic, the guide will be quick to fish you back on board.

For those who can’t get enough, The California Native offers a 2-day option where guests are able to overnight on the Pacuare at a riverside lodge. There is no better way to relax from a day of paddling than to be lulled by the sounds of the river while looking forward to another day of rapid transit. On the second day, more rapids with names like ‘Two Mountains’ and ‘Cimmaron’ (translated from Spanish as ‘wild’) lay downstream ready to challenge you and your crew mates.

So grab your river-runner sandals, join The California Native on a Costa Rica Adventure, and come aboard!

A Fantastic Time in Costa Rica

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Last week, Jean Dook who lives in Almeria, Spain, returned from our California Native adventure in Costa Rica and wrote:

We had a fantastic time. I don’t know how you do it! Every connection, transfer, and trip arrived and delivered. Never had to make a call to check anything. Now I think that this is VERY GOOD given how many things seem to go wrong when I book a flight from Spain to UK.!!!!!! I have told everyone who will listen how good you are.

It’s hard to pick out a highlight from our trip, we all loved different things, the young people loved the zip lines in Monteverde, couldn’t drag them away. (I enjoyed it too but the zip lines in Copper Canyon [are hard to beat]).

For me Tortuguero was the highlight, loved the hotel and the riviera. All guides excellent, kind, caring and very knowledgeable. All spoke good English but is was nice for me to chat in Spanish, so much easier than here in Spain where everyone talks so fast. We saw a sloth with a baby, a spider monkey crossing the river with her baby, and a large group of howlers, who were as interested in us as we were in them, and so many other wonderful things.

We changed a horse riding trip for a paddle down the river and coffee with a local family, that was a highlight for many of us. The hot springs were an unexpected success with us all, after the long trip sitting in the rain in those springs was mind blowing.

The start of my trip alone was great fun on the white water rafting, wonderful day, wish I had booked the two day trip. Great people who took care of this old lady really well. Hotel Santo Tomas was a super hotel for us all but I loved it when I was alone—it had the personal touch. I could see the Holiday Inn and was so pleased not to be there. I thought San Jose was underrated in the books—I loved it.

I want to go back, cannot remember when I last said that about a trip (oh yes, it was Copper Canyon) but I would like to see the same things at the end of the rainy season when the rivers will be high and everything different. I loved the rain, it’s very dry where I live. I may not find another friend to go with me, words getting around about long days and rough roads!!!!!! I live 30 minutes from a tourist beach so want something different. Costa Rica is so beautiful.

Thank you all very much and look forward to traveling with you again.

Jean Dook
Almeria, Spain

Costa Rica Rafting
An exciting day rafting down the Reventazon River in Costa Rica’s rain forest.
Arenal volcano in Costa Rica
California Native travelers pose nearby Costa Rica’s Arenal volcano.

Head in the Clouds at Costa Rica’s Monteverde

Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest
Eerie, fog-enshrouded and peaceful, Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest is well worth visiting.

Eerie, mysterious, yet peaceful, strolling through Costa Rica‘s Monteverde cloud forest is a memorable experience. The trees are almost entirely covered by mosses, ferns, and epiphytes—plants which grow on other plants but cause no harm to their hosts. The fog enshrouded scene is brightened only by the brightly colored orchids which grow high up into the canopy.

A great number of plant and animal species, many unique to this delicate environment, live in the cloud forest—most impressive of all is the Resplendent Quetzal, which looks more like the product of a papier-maché piñata factory than a living creature. Predominately green, the Quetzal has a brilliant red breast, a helmetlike crest, and remarkably long streamers for tail feathers.

Monteverde was first settled in the 1950’s by a group of pacifist Quakers from Alabama who migrated to Costa Rica to escape serving in the military of the United States. Located high up in the mountains on Costa Rica’s continental divide, it has been internationally acclaimed for its conservation efforts.

To visit Monteverde, you must travel two hours up a 25 mile steep, unpaved road. Efforts to pave the road have been vehemently opposed by members of the community, who believe that by making access to the area a little difficult they limit visitors to those who are environmentally conscious and truly interested in what this unique area has to offer. It’s well worth the drive.

30 Years of Adventures With The California Native

Lee at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan.
California native founder, Lee Klein, at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan. What a way to make a living.

This June we are celebrating our 30th Anniversary—30 years of leading fantastic trips to exotic destinations around the world.

This anniversary comes as a proud moment for our company’s founder, Lee Klein, who continues to scout new locations world-wide in search of new destinations for the active traveler. Klein, who holds an MBA in Management and a BS in International Marketing, spent more than two decades as a corporate manager and college professor until, in 1983, while climbing Ayer’s Rock in the Australian Outback, he decided to drop out of the corporate world, take off his suit and tie, and create an adventure travel company based on the lessons he taught his students on how to succeed in business: “keep the quality high, keep it affordable, and treat people the way you would like to be treated.”

Lee and Ellen on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.
Lee and Ellen Klein hiking on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.

The initial offering from The California Native was a tour billed as “The Other Los Angeles.” This day-long excursion traced the route of the San Andreas Fault from the Mojave Desert to the San Gabriel Mountains without ever leaving Los Angeles County. The tours became so popular that colleges in three California counties offered them as part of their community-education programs. From this, the company expanded its offerings to include tours to the Channel Islands, Death Valley, Yosemite, and other uniquely California destinations, as well as white-water rafting, ballooning, spelunking (caving), sailplane gliding, and other outdoor adventures. “My family has lived in Los Angeles for generations,” writes Klein in the company newsletter, “hence the name The California Native.”

California Native founder, Lee Klein, rappelling in Argentina
Lee rappelling in Argentina. Hey, this is research.

Satisfying the growing client base led to the development of The California Native’s most popular destination—Mexico’s Copper Canyon. These escorted and independent tours feature the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad (labeled as one of the most spectacular train rides in the western hemisphere) and highlight one of the most primitive indigenous cultures still subsisting in North America—the Tarahumara Indians. The California Native has become a leading source of information on this remote area and the company and it’s guides are known throughout the area for their work with the Tarahumara.

Today, The California Native offers a wide selection of tours to destinations including Costa Rica, Yucatan, Patagonia, Peru, the Galapagos, Ireland, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, and more destinations are in the planning stages.

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

San Jose, Costa Rica, that is. San Jose is located in Costa Rica’s central valley and is the nation’s capital. It is the starting place for our California Native Costa Rica Adventures.

Located at the center of the Americas, between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has become one of the world’s most popular destinations for Eco-tourism due to its fantastic biodiversity—it may contain as many as 6% of the world’s plant and animal species, and its friendly people. It is a delightfully peaceful little country which constitutionally abolished its army more than sixty years ago.

From its rain forests to its volcanoes and beaches it is a wonderful country to explore and we have been introducing people to Costa Rica for more than a quarter of a century. Our Nature Explorer Tours combine the best features of a guided tour with the flexibility of independent travel. We arrange everything just for you, so you can depart on any date. The tours are designed to maximize your time exploring the natural beauty of the country. Whether you want to raft down a thrilling jungle river or relax in a hammock it is all there for you. Please join us.

California Natives rafting in Costa Rica
California Native zip lining over the canopy in a Costa Rican rainforest.
Monkey in Costa Rica rain forest

When Times are Slow It’s Time to Go

Now is the time to travel with The California Native

The economies of the world’s countries are slow. Travel and tourism are down. Hotels have plenty of space. Crowds are down. Now is the perfect time to take that trip you have been dreaming about for so long. Travel now before the crowds come back and the prices go up. Join us on a trip to one of the exotic destinations around the globe that we specialize in. Whether it’s Mexico’s fabulous Copper Canyon, the magical Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, or the rainforests of Costa Rica we are ready for your call.

Always wanted to come eyeball-to-eyeball with a flightless cormorant or a giant tortoise? Then the Galapagos is for you. How about enjoying a fantastic cruise through the Straits of Magellan, hiking on a glacier and sipping whiskey over-the-rocks of ancient glacial ice? Patagonia is the place, or travel back in time to visit the mighty empire of the Maya—the Yucatan is your destination. Perhaps you prefer to stroll or bicycle through the green hills and friendly villages of Ireland? These are just a few of the adventures that we have lined up for you.

Wherever your dream destination is, now is the best time to travel. When the times are slow it’s time to go.

Costa Rica’s Bounty of Butterflies


Throughout Costa Rica’s plentiful rainforests, beaches and mountains, visitors are enchanted by the number and variety of butterflies. Costa Rica boasts over 1000 butterfly species, more than the entire continent of Africa.

Flitting from flower to flower the butterflies are enchanting to watch, the brilliant colors of their wings lending joy to the day. These delicate wings are covered with tiny scales which reflect light passing through them to form bright colors and patterns. They serve to identify the butterfly to members of its own species as it seeks to carry out its sole mission in life, mating. The colors of some species, such as the Monarch, which are toxic when eaten, warn predators that these butterflies are not dinner.


The male butterfly spends his short time on earth cruising around looking for a female. With his antennae he can smell her perfume (pheromones) from over a mile away. At the back of his abdomen—remember, butterflies are insects so their bodies have three sections, a head, a thorax, and an abdomen—is a set of “claspers” to grab on to his lady love. When couples mate they face in opposite directions with their abdomens locked together. The female, if startled during the conjugal act, will fly up into the air carrying aloft her attached Don Juan. During her short lifetime she will lay about 100 eggs. Some species lay their eggs in clusters while others lay each egg on a different plant.


Upon hatching, the tiny caterpillars go into the world to eat. As adult butterflies are primarily sex machines, caterpillars are primarily eating machines, munching the night away, and remaining motionless during daylight hours to camouflage themselves from predators. The growing caterpillar sheds its skin four times, then searches for the perfect spot on the underside of a leaf to attach itself and prepare for the miraculous change from a crawling eating machine to a glorious flying butterfly.

The butterfly’s life is short, varying from species to species, but averaging about three months—two weeks as an adult butterfly.

Join us on a California Native tour to beautiful Costa Rica and witness this bounty of butterflies for yourself.

Join Us for a Cup in Costa Rica

“Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!” – Johann Sebastian Bach, “The Coffee Cantata”

Costa Rica is a coffee growing paradise.

According to Greek mythology, coffee originated when Zeus’ daughter, Helena, prepared a drink that “had the power of robbing grief and anger of their sting and banishing all painful memories.”

Throughout history, religious leaders preached that the drinking of coffee was dangerous and the “drink of the devil,” but in the 17th Century, the Pope gave his blessing on the consumption of coffee, and in Turkey, as part of the marriage vow, the husband had to provide (till death do they part) his wife with coffee—failure to do so was grounds for divorce.

Coffee arrived in Costa Rica in the 1790’s, and one could describe the relationship between Costa Rica and coffee as a love story—they were made for each other—the rich soil, ideal climate and altitudes were perfect for growing the red berries. Costa Rica exported its first coffee to Columbia in 1820, and twenty-three years later, London became a profitable market for the rich beans, converted in the mills to “grains of gold.”

After a brief civil war in 1823, free land grants, coffee plants and small parcels of land were given to families that wanted to grow coffee. Thus, Costa Rica is said to be based on a “Coffee Democracy.”

Coffee was originally hauled from the Central Valley to the coast on the backs of mules, but by the mid-1800’s, roads were developed and oxcarts replaced the mules. Even today some farmers rely on this traditional method of transporting their goods.

The coffee industry plays such a prominent role in the existence of this nation, that there is a special branch of the government that deals solely with coffee—The Costa Rican Coffee Institute or Instituto del Café. León Cortés Castro was the institute’s first president, and in 1936, went on to become president of the country.

Today, there are approximately 50,000 coffee producers in Costa Rica and together they produce more than 170 million tons of coffee. Costa Rica’s fine, high quality coffee is known throughout the world, and is frequently used to upgrade lesser quality coffees, like those of Brazil.

Modern medicine is still undecided on the health effects of this caffeine beverage but one thing is for sure, Costa Rica has found it quite stimulating.

So join us for a cup—in Costa Rica!

“Jump Start to Spring” Sale on Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the perfect place for monkey watching.This year’s winter has been a harsh one across North America. From the record breaking weather to the unsure economy, it has been trying for everyone. Here at The California Native, we want to shine a little light on those cold dark days. We know that many of our fans are looking for a great escape, so we are announcing our “Jump Start to Spring” Sale on our Costa Rica vacations.

Costa Rica is just the paradise to make the winter blues go away. It has rainforests and jungles loaded with exotic animals and birds—monkeys playing in the tree tops, sloths hanging from tree limbs, basilisks (Jesus Christ lizards) walking on water, macaws flying above, and butterflies dancing everywhere.

The scenery is unbelievable. From the Caribbean to the Pacific the country has so much to offer—fiery volcanoes, lush rainforests, mysterious cloud forests, and beautiful beaches.

Looking for a little action? Costa Rica boasts some of the best whitewater rafting around, canopy tours where you can fly above the tree-tops on a zip-line, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and kayaking. Whew! Need relaxing time? Nothing like a soak in hot-springs heated by the Arenal Volcano.

Costa Rica is the perfect place to thaw out. Located in the exact center of the Americas, right next to the equator, the temperatures are warm year round. (It is tropical, so it usually rains in the late afternoon but the rain is warm and not uncomfortable.)

Hungry? On your Costa Rica vacation you will savor fantastic seafood, tropical fruit and delicious coffee—all very fresh and oh so delicious. And the people who call it home, the Ticos, are warm-hearted and friendly which really puts the icing on the cake of a perfect vacation.

Join us on one of our Costa Rica Nature Explorer Tours by September 30, 2011 and receive our “Jump start to Spring” discount. All you have to do is mention this offer when you reserve your trip to paradise and you will receive a $400 per couple discount.

Phone or email us today and start packing for a wonderful adventure.

Happy New Year 2011!!

Happy New Year 2011As we come to the end of another year, it’s time to reflect on what we have accomplished in the last year and what we are looking forward to in the new year.

Last year was quite an eventful year for The California Native. We made another exploration trip to Patagonia, sailing around Cape Horn on a wonderful expedition cruise, hiking on glaciers with crampons, and whitewater rafting through Argentina’s beautiful countryside. We also made several trips to Mexico, one at the invitation of President Calderon to attend a luncheon with him and celebrate the initialization of a campaign to promote the wonders of Mexico’s colonial cities.

For the upcoming year we will be offering new trips in Patagonia and China, as well as additional departure dates for our Copper Canyon trips. And of course we’ll continue to offer our exciting tours of Costa Rica, Peru, Galapagos, Bhutan, Myanmar and Ireland, and our other off-the-beaten-track destinations.