What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.
Native Central Americans, Rafael Gallo and Fernando Esquivel founded Rios Tropicales in 1985. Rafael and Fernando were longtime childhood friends who spent their early youth in neighboring El Salvador. Rafael’s family left El Salvador in 1980, and Fernando’s family moved back to Costa Rica, the home country of his Costa Rican father. His mother is Salvadoran, and Rafael’s parents are also Salvadoran. The two friends broke from conventional career paths shortly after college to start Rios Tropicales, an integration of their vision of conservation, love of sport, and passion for whitewater rivers. Rafael was already at that time a world-class kayaker and slalom competitor of international renown.
Since those early days of working out of Fernando’s mother’s house with two rafts and a handful of paddles, lifejackets, and helmets, Rios has grown into a multi-sport eco-adventure company with operations on the Pacific and Atlantic sides of Costa Rica, as well as in the central and northern mountainous regions. Rios Tropicales paddlers, led by Rafael Gallo pioneered explorations and first descents on numerous Costa Rican rivers in the late 1980s, culminating in development of the first complete river guide for paddlers; “Rivers of Costa Rica” (Menasha Ridge Press, March 1988). The company now employs more than 150 staff across all their operations; over 95% are local Costa Ricans and the rest hail from the Americas, New Zealand, and European countries. In November 2007, National Geographic Adventure Magazine rated Rios Tropicales the #1 Adventure Outfitter in Costa Rica, and #4 Rafting Outfitter in the world.
Rafael and Fernando founded Rios Tropicales from the very beginning with a business approach that chose engagement and collaboration as the rule, not the exception. In some sense, they were “doing geo-tourism/ eco-tourism”, (or whatever the term of the year might be) as a simple matter of business in order to save the rivers they loved, promote and protect the areas they loved, and constructively engage with the local community members who became their friends, colleagues, partners, employees, managers, and facilitators in this dream.
In its third decade of operations, Rios Tropicales is focused on further integrating its sustainable business practices and environmental protection programs within its communities of operations. These practices and programs include: land protection and reforestation projects, green construction projects, environmental education programs in elementary schools, and support of local communities, including the indigenous Cabecar Indians, through employment, development assistance, sustainable agriculture, and providing markets for local products
The company’s Mission and Vision Statement has not changed from its 1985 roots:
Rios Tropicales Mission:
To share the rivers and natural resources of Costa Rica, our culture and conservation values, always committed to professionalism, safety, high quality and extraordinary service.
Rios Tropicales Vision:
To achieve excellence and uniformity in all of our services.