Rapid Rewards

Braving Costa Rica’s Pacuare River

The Details

There are countless Pacuare River rafting tour operators to choose from, most meeting in the capital, San Jose, and beginning with a bus ride or a hotel transfer to a particular portion of the river.

Costa Rican Trails
888-803-3344; www.costaricantrails.com
Costa Rican Trails prides itself on customer service, offering welcome kits and around-the-clock traveler assistance to clients. Its Pacuare Rafting Adventure — a two-day, one-night excursion — includes a candlelight dinner with wine, a bungalow room with either a garden or river view, a canopy tour and more. Rates begin at about $325 per person, based on double occupancy.
Commission: 12-16 percent

866-571-2443; www.explornatura.com
With Explornatura’s eight-day Spirit of Adventure package, not only will clients navigate rapids, but they will also rappel down waterfalls, hike, mountain bike and kayak in the Caribbean Sea. Most meals take place in restaurants and most nights are spent in top-quality hotels or beachside resorts. The excursion costs $2,200 per person.
Commission: Starting at 15 percent

Rios Tropicales
For $99 per person, Rios Tropicales offers an adrenaline-packed afternoon on the Pacuare’s Class III and IV rapids. The tour begins with early morning pick up from the client’s hotel in San Jose and a typical Costa Rican breakfast. A hot lunch, beverages and professional bilingual guides are also included in the price.
Commission: 20 percent

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Many travelers journey down to tropical Costa Rica to soak up some Central American sun, surf and sand in an attempt to get away from it all. And with 802 miles of pristine coastline in a tranquil country such as Costa Rica, it doesn’t take much to find some peace of mind. But after the heart rate slows and the skin grows golden brown, some curious visitors are ready to ditch the beach chairs for an adrenaline rush.


Clients can navigate Class III and IV rapids on many Pacuare River tours. // © 2009 Rios Tropicales

Such adventurous spirits can quench their wanderlust with an exhilarating and challenging whitewater rafting trip down the Pacuare River rapids. Not only can they get in on the action, but they can also experience some of the most spectacular natural charms that Costa Rica has to offer.

The mighty Pacuare River originates in the Cordillera de Talamanca, which is located in the south-central region of the country and stretches about 63 miles before meeting the Caribbean Sea on Costa Rica’s east coast. Within the first quarter of the river’s length, rafters experience an 800-foot vertical drop down dozens of Class II, III and IV rapids.

Multiday trips, ranging from two to four days in length, that travel down the Pacuare are affordable (a four-day trip starts around $400 per person) and often include canopy tours, guided hikes, meals and lodging with the basic necessities. Day trips are also available for approximately $100 per person. A day spent on the Pacuare can range in temperature and climate, so advise clients to pack a combination of light T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, shorts and rubber-soled shoes that can get wet. Waterproof sunscreen, bathing suits, towels and sunglasses are a safe bet, but they should also consider bringing rainwear if the itinerary calls for hiking in national parks. And, if staying overnight, clients can never go wrong with a bottle of insect repellent and a tube of anti-itch cream.

Some clients, however, might feel that the Pacuare’s Class IV rapids are far too intimidating. But fear not: I was once in that situation, my knees weak with anticipation. But when we boarded our raft and pushed off, all that was left to do was simply go with the flow — and I did.

Needless to say, the guides on my tour were excellent. Many of them had grown up working in the water and maneuvering around menacing boulders in the river. They were professional and in control throughout the entirety of the trip, making sure that the rafters felt safe and comfortable at all times. And, despite my initial hesitation, navigating the rapids quickly became my favorite part of my Costa Rica vacation.

As I rested between rapids, I was able to take deep, cleansing breaths and absorb the awe-inspiring beauty as it passed by. Looking out from underneath the shell of a helmet and over the inflated bulk of my brightly colored life jacket, I was floored by the lush, emerald green rainforest. The rich diversity of Costa Rica’s wildlife was in clear sight as toucans, sloths and even jaguars occasionally peeked out from the dense foliage. Besides the amazing sights, the journey was filled with the sounds of the wild, from the calls of howler monkeys to the whoosh of cascading waterfalls.

At the end of the tour, I stepped out of the raft feeling like I had accomplished something. And, as I felt the coolness of the water on my calves and took in the vibrancy of the natural beauty around me, I knew this experience was one that I would not soon forget.

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