Superman Zip-lining in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest

Continuing on with my list of some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had and would suggest you add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about the Zip-lining in Costa Rica’s cloud forest.

Zip-lining in Costa Rica is a pretty well-known activity for visitors to the Central American country, deservedly so. There are tons of options for you to take a zip-lining tour and you can do it as a single activity or combine it with other tours. Basically, you head up into the rainforest, get strapped into a harness, and fly through the canopy of the rainforest. Not only is it fun to whiz across the zip-line itself, but also you’ll get some great views of the rainforest from up above.

I did a post on this earlier in the Where in the World? blog, which you can check out here for a bit more detail on exactly what I did. You can also watch the video of it here:

One thing that’s important to note, however, is that you want to be sure to choose a tour that offers the “superman,” because this isn’t offered on all of the tours and it’s one of the coolest experiences. This is when you are strapped into a special harness that allows you to be on your stomach in a superman position as you zip through the canopy and it’s the closest thing to feeling like flying that I have ever experienced (though I have never sky-dived or used one of those flying suits, but this works for the fainter of heart).

Isla Tortuga – Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica I stayed in the capital city of San Jose, which is not on the water. However, since Costa Rica is known for its beaches, I did take a few trips out to the Pacific coast to see what it had to offer. One of those trips was a visit to Tortuga Island.

Those who want to visit Tortuga Island, which is a small, semi-private island where you can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, bird-watching, or just lounging on the beach should take a ferry or a catamaran from Puntarenas. You’ll have to book this as a day tour and you’ll be provided lunch on the island by your ship’s staff. The lunch and a few tickets for basic drinks are included. Alcohol and any of the other activities like kayaking and snorkeling will cost you extra and I recommend trying to haggle with the activities vendors.

Having worked on cruise ships, I’m a little hard to impress so I wasn’t swept away by the entertainment or the beach’s beauty, but it was definitely an enjoyable day and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to have some leisure time and see beyond Jaco or Puntarenas.

You can check out the ferry ride and the island in the video below:

Startup Costa Rica

Costa Rican Countryside
This is just a gratuitous photo from Costa Rica so the post wouldn’t be all text.

While I experienced an epic fail last week when my dog ate my homework (aka my computer had a meltdown and lost my video interview with Ignacio Castro, the Founder of Startup Costa Rica) I think that the work Ignacio is doing through Startup Costa Rica is valuable and interesting so I am giving the organization its own post.

Ignacio is a Costa Rican who’s relocated to the U.S. but still has high hopes for building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in his home country, which is why he founded Startup Costa Rica. While he sees entrepreneurship building momentum throughout Latin America, he believes there is a gap in Central America with most of the major activity and growth happening and South America and Mexico. Partly, that is because of the small size of the countries located in Central America. Costa Rica, for example, has a population of around 5 million. However, if you take Central America as a whole, you have a viable market with approximately 45 million potential consumers.

According to Ignacio, Costa Rica has a lot going for it: it’s population is very well-educated and has the talent to build exciting new companies. Additionally, many people speak English – a definite advantage for entering the global marketplace – and the country is a Green leader. He’d like to see companies attacking the Central American, or larger Latin American, market with a base in Costa Rica, and that’s exactly what he hopes to encourage through Startup Costa Rica and would be thrilled if Costa Rica could develop to the point of having a model similar to that of Startup Chile or Startup Spain. It will be tough to get that level of monetary support from Costa Rica’s government, however, so he’s hoping to work with international agencies to help develop the program.

Ignacio’s vision for the future of Startup Costa Rica is based on two pillars: learning and acceleration. The organization will promote learning through an annual conference, startup school, angel school, hackathons and similar events, meetups, and workshops. It will also help to accelerate startups’ growth through the creation of competitions, a diaspora network, co-working spaces, demo days, investment, growth support, and promotion abroad.

If you’d like to get involved with Startup Costa Rica, visit the website and signup.

Baldi Hot Springs (Arenal Volcano) – Costa Rica

One of the many popular activities in Costa Rica is a trip to one of the hot springs resorts near the Arenal Volcano. After ziplining (which talked about last week) my tour continued on to give me a quick peak at the Arenal Volcano and then gave us some time to enjoy the Baldi Hot Springs Resort.

To be completely honest, this wasn’t my cup of tea. While the resort was very pretty, it’s a resort. It consists of a series of pools and swim-up bars sprawled out in the midst of lush tropical greenery and you have the freedom to wander and enjoy the various hot spring pools. However, because it’s a resort there is really no indication that these pools are heated by the nearby volcano and could just as easily have been heated with a standard heater. Additionally, it’s already quite warm in this area of Costa Rica so there wasn’t any pressing need to jump into 104 degree water as it was 90 degrees outside.

With that said, the buffet dinner we received was quite good – especially the design your own pasta dish station – and if you’re interested in a lazy relaxing day where you do nothing but chill out and enjoy a cocktail, this is a great place to do it. I just prefer a little more excitement, I suppose.

For those of you who like the idea of doing nothing, the video below will give you a quick view of Arenal Volcano and then a look at the Baldi Resort:



Costa Rica’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Interview with Adrian Garcia and Allan Boruchowicz

Adrian Garcia and Allan Boruchowicz are the Founding Partners of Carao Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm and startup accelerator in the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica. While their accelerator space is currently undergoing a major remodel to create the perfect environment for emerging companies to thrive, Adrian and Allan have already jumped into working with entrepreneurs and building up the San Jose startup community.

Both men were educated outside of Costa Rica and then returned to the country to develop their skills working at the premiere private equity firm in the nation. Having established themselves in the PE arena, they decided to leave the corporate world behind and create Carao Ventures to support the entrepreneurial community in Costa Rica and haven’t looked back since. These experiences give the pair a unique take on where Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem stands in relation to those in the United States and in other Latin American countries.

Firstly, unlike many others whom I’ve spoken to throughout Latin America, neither Adrian nor Allan felt that access to capital was the true issue in Costa Rica. Rather, they felt that the entrepreneurs in the country need to develop their understanding of the entrepreneurial journey as it applies to high-growth companies  and to develop their ideas, their companies, and their skills in a way that would make them attractive to investors. Adrian put it simply saying:

“Money is never an issue when there are good ideas.”

They both do admit, however, that, “there’s a bridge that needs to happen between U.S. or developed economy-based VC money or institutional financing and Latin American startups.” Adrian describes the search for funding as akin to the dating game arguing that while,  “if you ask entrepreneurs they’ll complain that there’s no access to capital,” they feel that way because they don’t appreciate that you can’t just walk up to the first person at the bar, by them a drink, and expect them to be your soul mate, so to speak. To develop a good relationship it’s much more difficult and the same is true for entrepreneurs talking to investors.

Additionally, step one of building a successful relationship is to be prepared and to be an attractive potential mate, or potential investment, as the case may be, and both Adrian and Allan think that Costa Rican entrepreneurs need to work harder to be prepared before seeking out investment if they want to be successful. According to Allan,

“an American entrepreneur already knows what he needs to do before he approaches an investor. In Costa Rica, they don’t.”

He also feels part of this may be cultural. His take is that part of the culture in the U.S. is that people don’t have much patience so you have to come prepared to a meeting, whereas Ticos are much more willing to have a 4 hour conversation.

In addition to the differences between the entrepreneurs’ level of preparedness that both men mentioned, there are also quite a few structural differences between the United States and Costa Rica that affect the entrepreneurial ecosystem – some for the better, some for the worse. Firstly, the size of the market is clearly an obstacle for Costa Rican entrepreneurs. A U.S. based company can focus only on the domestic market and still have a huge number of potential customers to target. A Costa Rican company, however, really needs to look outside its own borders and be, at least, a regional company in order to be able to have even the hope of the success that would make the company attractive to investors. As Adrian says,

“we don’t encourage entrepreneurs to start a business that will focus on Costa Rica only because you won’t have the critical mass to succeed. You can’t really think of Costa Rica as your market, you need to look at all of Latin America.”

Additionally, because the startup ecosystem has not fully developed, it’s difficult to find lawyers, mentors, or other resources with experience focusing specifically on startups and the unique challenges they face. At the same time, however, Costa Rica has a highly educated work force coming from top universities, it’s within close proximity to and shares a time zone with at least part of the United States, and its workforce speaks very good English, all while salaries can be as little as half what they would be for equivalent talent in the United States.

So what do the two see for the future of Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?

“In 5 or 10 years I think the ecosystem is going to be about the same,” says Adrian, “but everyone – entrepreneurs, investors, incubators – will be able to play a better game. We’ll be able to play in the major leagues where right now we’re playing in the minor leagues.”

He doesn’t see any major catalysts that will change everything, but hopes that Costa Rican entrepreneurs and supporters, like Carao, will be able to connect the dots much faster with U.S.-,Europe-, or Isreal- based institutional sources of financing. “And we’d like to think that some people will remember or think of Costa Rica as a place to start a business.”

Allan expects to see the creation of role models. “In 5-10 years, to be realistic,” he says, “we probably will see a couple of success stories that will come from the private sector…maybe between 5 and 10 success stories of local entrepreneurs that followed the typical path, raised outside investment, go to accelerators in other countries, and come back and set up a regional business.”

And they both hope to be a part of that change through their work with Carao Ventures. “It’s like any other innovation,” says Adrian, “you have to take what others do best and try to adapt it to your own environment, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.” “I have this secondary objective of helping Costa Rica, but the first objective is to grow businesses,” states Allan. He continues,

“We know how to help businesses with potential realize their potential.” 


Do you have experience with Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? Let me know your thoughts on what Adrian and Allan had to say in the comments below. 

Zipline Canopy Tour – Costa Rica

THIS IS MY FAVORITE ACTIVITY SO FAR ON MY LATIN AMERICA TRIP! That’s really all that needs to be said, but I will give you some more details. The canopy tour was ridiculously fun and it’s up there on my list of coolest things I’ve ever done along with the bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico and the helmet dive in Grand Cayman. Basically, you get to fly through the air through a rainforest so the actual ziplining is fun if you like mild adventure and the views are awesome.

I did this as part of a larger combo tour that also took me to the hot springs near Arenal Volcano (which I will write about next week), so I was picked up by a bus in San Jose, where I stayed while in Costa Rica, and was driven out to the Canopy Tour location. Once there, we got suited up in the zipline gear and were given the safety information (offered in both English and Spanish). Then it was time to get rolling.

The guys working the Canopy Tour course were all very easy-going and a lot of fun and the course itself is set up so you have a mixture of very short and much longer ziplines. On the longer lines, there is actually enough cloud cover that you can’t see when the zipline ends so you essentially just fly off into the abyss – which is a fun experience. Also, in addition to the basic ziplining, the course I completed included the “Tarzan swing” and the “Superman,” both of which I highly recommend. They’re both just what they sound like (and you’ll see a taste of both in the video below) – the “Tarzan swing” is just a hanging rope that swings you out over the canopy and the “Superman” allows you to lay down on your stomach and “fly” over the canopy. If you’re not adventurous enough to put on one of those flying squirrel suits or try hang-gliding, this is probably the closest you’ll get to feeling like you’re flying and it’s really an amazing experience and a breathtaking view over the jungle.

The tour I took was at Parque de Aventuras San Luis. Check out the video below to see my adventure!


Costa Rica’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Interview with Jose Cayasso

Jose Cayasso is the Founder and CEO of Saborstudio, the creator of Pota-toss – a game dubbed the next Angry Birds by Techcrunch and CNN. He’s a Costa Rican that has participated heavily in the U.S. startup community including being selected for Dreamit Ventures, so he has a very interesting take on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Costa Rica and how it compares to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the US. He was kind enough to sit down with me and discuss how he sees the entrepreneurial community in San Jose. Take a look at the video below to hear his thoughts:

Do you have experience with Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? Let me know your thoughts on what Jose had to say in the comments below. 

Our next interview will be with Adrian Garcia and Allan Boruchowicz of Carao Ventures. 

Doka Coffee Estate – Costa Rica

As everyone is aware, Costa Rica is very well known for its coffee production, so while there I made a visit to the Doka Coffee Estate as part of a combo tour that also took me to see the Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens (if you’re interested, don’t forget to check out my posts on those two stops). Of the three, Doka was definitely my least favorite as it was the least interactive, but it was still fun to learn about the coffee production that takes place there and how coffee is cultivated and roasted to give the different flavors that coffee lovers enjoy (I don’t actually drink coffee, so perhaps that’s another reason why this was my least favorite of the three stops).

We spent the perfect amount of time at the estate as part of the combo tour and the traditional breakfast that they served us upon our arrival was quite tasty. Check out the video below to get a taste for what you’ll see if you visit:

Costa Rica’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Ricardo Arce Interview

Ricardo Arce is the co-owner of InterGraphicDESIGNS and Quazar Web Design as well as co-organizer of BarCamp Costa Rica. He fell into entrepreneurship after college when he was doing freelance programming work, loved the freedom of freelancing, and his business took off to the point that he needed to hire employees and build a company. At the time Ricardo started his business, Costa Rica didn’t have a lot of high-quality web-design companies so Ricardo and his partners -Steven Guzman and Pablo Barrantes- were able to develop a solid reputation quickly and build InterGraphicDESIGNS to 35 employees (a mid-size company in Costa Rica). Computer science and programming are where Ricardo’s expertise lie so he has been learning how to be a entrepreneur as his company has grown and merged with others and has a unique take on the tech entrepreneurship world in Costa Rica and some of its issues.

According to Ricardo, Costa Rica has very high-skilled and well-educated people so it’s been attracting companies like HP and Intel who want to access its human capital. This has resulted in competition for programmers – and a steep increase in the expected salaries for those programmers – that’s forced many of these small web design firms out of the market. In fact, Ricardo says, many Costa Ricans who were entrepreneurs are now employees of these larger, mostly U.S.-based companies.

“The competition now is not for clients anymore, but for human resources…Web design is a matter of talent, of skills, so it’s important that you have the best designers.”

This competition has led Ricardo and his business partners to adapt their company’s growth strategy and has shaped the way they do business:

“[Big companies] can hire a lot of people with good salaries because they are selling in bigger markets. So we can do the same,” he says, “but we need some international presence, we have to change our business model, and we are at exactly this point…Some years ago, 90% of our clients were from Costa Rica and now it’s just 40%.”

While international expansion may sound like any entrepreneur’s dream, it also comes with its own set of hurdles. Until now, Ricardo has built his business by reinvesting the profits back into his company, but he’s currently exploring the possibility of raising outside funding to expand his company’s international presence and he’s noticed that access to capital isn’t so easy in Costa Rica.

For one thing, he says, Costa Ricans just aren’t as educated about or comfortable with the concept of equity investing. This seems to be the case in a lot of the Latin American countries I have and will be exploring, but Ricardo thinks Central America is even less educated about it than Mexico or South America. He says:

“If you look in the Latin American ecosystem as a whole, you can find more opportunities, but if you stay just in Costa Rica you will not find a lot of opportunities. You have to go to Colombia, to Mexico, to Argentina, to Chile.”

But while he sees Costa Rica as not on par with Mexico and countries in South America, he does identify Costa Rica as standing out from the rest of Central America:

“I think Costa Rica is a little bit different [than the rest of Central America] because of the talent. We have the same quality of talent as the countries that we’re talking about [Mexico, Colombia, Chile,etc.], but things with funding and investment are a little bit different. We have not developed that type of culture and ecosystem.”

But that culture is beginning to change as organizations like Startup Costa Rica and Carao Ventures try to fill in the gaps in Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem (stay tuned for interviews with leaders from both organizations).  Ricardo sees this progress as good and wants multiple stakeholders to be involved in the ecosystem’s growth because – as he sees it –  journalists, the government, investors, and entrepreneurs all have a role to play. But he doesn’t see this growth happening quickly enough. The culture is changing, he says, but too slowly.

“If you grow slowly and the other countries grow faster, you will always have less even though you’re growing. So yes, we are growing, but we are growing too slowly.”

One sign that Ricardo says shows that entrepreneurship hasn’t taken it’s spot as a highly desired career choice: in Latin America there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are entrepreneurs because they have to be, not because they want to be. In Costa Rica right now there are a lot of multinational companies hiring and offering good salaries and benefits, so people are becoming employees and get comfortable not having the risks associated with building a business. This is happening so much that Ricardo predicts Costa Rica will actually have fewer entrepreneurs (as a percentage of total population) over the next few years.

As a lover of entrepreneurship, I can only hope that Ricardo is wrong and that entrepreneurship in Costa Rica continues to expand, not to contract.


Do you have experience with Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? Let me know your thoughts on what Ricardo had to say in the comments below. 

Our next interview will be with Jose Callaso of Sabor Studio. 

Poas Volcano – Costa Rica

Poas Volcano - Costa Rica
If you’re lucky, this will be your view of the crater at Poas Volcano in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is known for great views at a few of its volcanoes. Poas is one with a wonderful view of the crater (if you happen to be there when there isn’t complete cloud cover). After checking out the crater, you can also hike up through an awesome, fairy-tale-like path to the lake at even higher elevation than the crater.

Crater - Poas Volcano - Costa Rica
If you’re not lucky, you may see this (nothing but clouds).

If you want to see either the lake or the crater, however, you’d better cross your fingers. When I arrived at the crater I literally couldn’t see 3 feet in front of me because the clouds were so thick (see the pic above). We decided to hike up to the lake and it was the same there. We had some patience and stuck it out for about 20 minutes, however, and everything cleared and we were able to get some great views. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always clear and numerous people have told me that they never got to see anything at Poas. It’s definitely worth a quick trip if you have the time, but be prepared for it to be a bust if it’s not a clear day.

Crater - Poas Volcano - Costa Rica Crater - Poas Volcano - Costa Rica