Adversity to Hope Rios Tropicales

From adversity to hope: Rios Tropicales passes the baton

A pillar of rafting operators the world over, Rios Tropicales has called time and is passing the baton. From adversity to hope is the message from Rafael Gallo, CEO of Rios Tropicales and IRF Honorary President.

By Rafael Gallo.

Adversity to Hope Rafa GalloFor 35 years, Rios Tropicales has led Costa Rica adventure travel and ecotourism. We pioneered whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, advanced sustainability standards, and even saved the Pacuare River from a hydroelectric dam.

All of us at Rios Tropicales are proud of our three-and-a-half decades of bringing joy and adventure to people from around the world while sharing the amazing beauty of Costa Rica’s rivers and rainforest. We are honored and grateful for the many national and international awards we have earned and for the thousands of friends, customers, and partnerships we have made along the way.

In my role as co-founder of the International Rafting Federation (IRF), I am proud to have achieved my goal to bring the highest river safety standards and guide training to Costa Rica and worldwide. Costa Rica has hosted four international rafting events – the Project RAFT Rainforest Festival in 1991, the Camel WhiteWater Challenge and first IRF World Rafting Championship in 1998, the 2011 IRF World Rafting Championship that was the world’s first carbon neutral sporting event, and the first World Whitewater Rafting Summit in 2019. Also, we helped transform former FARC guerrillas into a national “rafting for peace” team that represented Colombia at the 2019 IRF World Rafting Championship in Australia.

Nevertheless, with a heavy heart, we regret to inform you that due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, we are permanently closing Rios Tropicales. As of Feb. 01, 2021, we officially ended our operations. This past year of major transition across the world and for us at home has prevented us from continuing our adventure travel goals. Still, we are proud to pass along our legacy to trusted former Rios Tropicales guides, who are forming their own completely new and independent rafting company to keep fulfilling the dreams of Costa Rica whitewater rafting fans.

Rios Tropicales has a long history of paying it forward in adventure tourism training and giving a hand to former raft guides to become ecopreneurs. The newest company Rios Adventure Travel is founded by Johnny, Roy, Albert, Walter, and David Obando. These five brothers grew up in the Rios Tropicales family. They started working with me when they were just kids helping me reforest their family’s farm that I bought in 1990 to build the Rios Tropicales Lodge alongside the Pacuare River. They have spent their entire lives on and in the Pacuare, and most of you know their mother, Doña Dina, who managed the lodge. Many of their sisters also worked at the lodge.

For decades, the Obando boys have been top rafting guides and boaters, seamlessly able to captain a raft, an oar boat, or a kayak. Johnny has competed in World Rafting Championships and managed a rafting company in Colombia. Roy is the highest level raft guide instructor for the International Rafting Federation, served as head of safety for the 2011 IRF World Rafting Championship in Costa Rica, and trained and certified the Colombia Rafting for Peace Team. Albert was the Rios Tropicales guide operations manager for years and was one of my right hands in overall company operations. Walter is a highly accomplished guide for more than 15 years, and David was our operations center manager at Cairo besides being a guide. For 30 years, they have been mentored by me, my Rios Tropicales partners, and top raft guides in Costa Rica and internationally. The Obandos are energetic and eager to continue our traditions of impeccable safety, exhilarating adventures, and exemplary customer service in their new company, Rios Adventure Travel. We are extremely proud to recommend the Obandos because they are not only capable professionals, but I also am certain they will continue to uphold our core values and beliefs in their own business.

To handle all of their sales and reservations, Ana Patricia Quesada, who was our marketing and sales director, is forming her own company – Tropical Rivers and Adventure Tours – with her husband, Gustavo Madrigal. Ana Patricia worked for Rios Tropicales since 1987. Gustavo is a former lead raft guide and a successful businessman. They met while both working for Rios – a true love story.

We highly endorse Rios Adventure Travel and Tropical Rivers and Adventure Tours to be your new partners in Costa Rica rafting and adventure travel.

As for me, I am retiring from being an adventure company owner to focus my efforts on my deep love for conservation. Over the past three decades, we have created the largest private rainforest reserve in the Pacuare valley, planting over 30,960 native hardwood trees and restoring biodiversity. Now it is time to grow an even larger conservation initiative in the Pacuare River region. Project RAFA – Rivers and Forests Alliance – will continue to spread the positive impact we have made for the rainforest, biodiversity, the Pacuare River and watersheds, rural communities, Costa Rica, and the planet.

On behalf of all Rios Tropicales staff and the board of directors, I thank you for your partnership, friendship, and faith in us. We wish you good health, great success, and many more adventures.

“Forward Hard!”


Rafael Gallo,

CEO of Rios Tropicales

#riostropicales #puravida #gracias