History

formerly Rios Tropicales Lodge

3 decades+ of ecolodge history

In 1989, Rios Tropicales purchased 90 acres along the Pacuare River near a small subsistence farming community. Rios bought the land from local community member Anibal Obando and his wife Dina Fuentes. The Obandos had cut down significant tracts of rainforest to create farmland so they could scrape out a subsistence living for their family of 11 children. Visionary Rios Tropicales co-founder Rafael Gallo then turned around and hired the same Obando family to manage the land for a new mission, creating a river camp for paddlers and reforesting most of their deforested farm and grazing land.

That first year alone, together we planted over five hundred trees, using native, local seeds that the kids had collected over time on that very land. Our reforestation efforts have continued over three decades since then, with new land parcels purchased and reforested thanks to Rios Tropicales funds and outside donations. Volunteer participants in tree-planting have included local communities, Rios Tropicales staff, student groups, and Costa Rican & international guests.

Since 1989, Rios Tropicales has planted over 30,000 native trees as part of the One Billion Trees for the Planet UNEP. We are keen to continue this important work. As most of us know, the rainforest is considered the lungs of the world. Let’s protect what we can!

See also this Pacuare River history timeline for more information about this famous river and the ongoing conservation fight for it to stay free-flowing. 

BEGINNINGS

September 15, 1985

Rios Tropicales is founded by childhood friends Rafael “Rafa” Gallo, Jimmy Nixon, and Fernando Esquivel.

September 15, 1985

November 1985

Rios Tropicales runs its first commercial trip on the Pacuare River with kayakers. To get the kayaks and gear down to the river, they used a cart pulled by an oxen team.

November 1985

November 1985

Rafa pays subsistence farmer Anibal Obando to rent camping site on Pacuare River banks. This is the site of the future Rios Tropicales Lodge.
November 1985

1986

Miguel “El Indio” García, a local indigenous Cabecar man, builds first open-sided thatched-roof huts at the Pacuare camping site.
1986

September 1989

Rios Tropicales purchases 90 acres from the Obando family and hires the family to manage and reforest the land. Over 500 trees are planted that first year.

September 1989

EXPANSION

1990

Rafa creates the Rios Tropicales Rainforest Reserve, which becomes the largest private protected area in the Pacuare River Valley at 2,409 acres (975 hectares).

1990

1992

Rios Tropicales Lodge builds first guest bungalows, bathrooms, and dining/kitchen in indigenous Cabecar style with palm-thatched roofs. The Obando family now manages the lodge on-site.

1992

1998

More rooms and improvements are added to the Rios Tropicales Lodge. Dina Fuentes becomes the lodge manager (former wife of Anibal Obando) and runs the lodge for the next 23 years.

1998

2005

The Rios Tropicales Rainforest Reserve adds another 247 acres (100 hectares).
2005

RECOGNITION

2006

Rios Tropicales wins the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth award by National Geographic Adventure.

2006

2007

Rafa Gallo joins the Committee for Costa Rica’s Blue Flag Ecological Program (Bandera Azul Ecológica) & helps create two new categories for Blue Flags: Micro Watersheds and Natural Protected Spaces.

2007

June 2008

Rios Tropicales wins the first National Geographic Geotourism Challenge: Celebrating People and Place. Rios Tropicales Lodge is featured in this win.

June 2008

2008

Rios Tropicales wins the Conde Nast World Savers Award.

2008

2008

Rios Tropicales receives grant for the South-South Project, an international sustainability project between Costa Rica and The Kingdom of Bhutan focused on the nearby El Tigre community.

2008

2008

Rios Tropicales joins the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign,” planting 8,000 trees this year.

2008

2009

Rios Tropicales wins Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth award National Geographic Adventure.

2009

2009

The Rios Tropicales Lodge and Reserve receives the Blue Ecological Flag for Protected Natural Spaces, and earns the award every year since.

2009

2009

Rafa Gallo is inducted into the International Whitewater Hall of Fame (IWHoF).

2009

February 2010

Rios Tropicales receives the Pioneers for Prosperity – Central America Award.

February 2010

2010

Rios Tropicales receives the Innovation Award from The International Ecotourism Society (TIES).
2010

August 2012

Rios Tropicales wins the Best Practice in Corporate Social Responsibility 2012 for Latin America for the Care and Preservation of the Environment for the Rios Tropicales Natural Reserve.
August 2012

2012

Rafa Gallo wins the Esther Sanborn Environmental Excellence Award from the America Outdoors Association for Rios Tropicales conservation practices.
2012

2013

Rios Tropicales wins the Exemplary Companies of Latin America award in Corporate Social Responsibility.

2013

2014

Rios Tropicales wins the Sustainable Tourism Award by Skål International.
2014

2014

Rios Tropicales receives Level 4 Certification for the Sustainable Tourism Program in Costa Rica.
2014

LEGACY

August 19 2016

The 2016 Adventure Travel World Summit in Anchorage, Alaska goes carbon neutral with 5,000 trees planted at the Rios Tropicales Rainforest Reserve. Watch the video.

August 19 2016

September 2019

Rafa Gallo receives Peace Award at the International Conference on Sustainable Tourism: Planet, People, Peace (P3).

September 2019

October 11, 2019

The National Alliance of Rivers and Watersheds of Costa Rica creates “Rafael Gallo Palomo, Safeguarding the Future of our Rivers” award. The award recognizes and stimulates environmental improvement for rivers and water sources around the country.
October 11, 2019

February 2021

Rios Tropicales closes operations at the height of the global coronavirus pandemic.
February 2021

March 23, 2021

Rafa Gallo passes away after a 14-month battle with cancer.

March 23, 2021

REBIRTH

February 2022

Rios Tropicales Lodge is purchased by a group of paddlers and conservationists and is renamed Rios Lodge. Its mission is to expand on the conservation & sustainable ecotourism legacy of Rios Tropicales.

February 2022

Summer 2022

Extensive upgrades and new facilities are in development at Rios Lodge.
Summer 2022