Experiencing the Thrills of Costa Rica: Rafting and Jungle Exploration

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Costa Rican adventure

This article is presented by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Perched precariously at the front of the raft, I plunge my paddle into the frothy rapids. The serene sounds of the rainforest, once filled with birdsong and the gentle murmur of the river, are now drowned out by the thunderous roar of water crashing against rocks. A sudden urgent shout echoes behind me: “Forward! Forward!” I attempt to row, but the inflatable boat lurches, and I find myself airborne, sliding off my seat, feet losing their grip, and my paddle swishing through empty air. What a terrible mistake, I think, as the raft slams back into the water, and I miraculously remain on board. Humans were surely not meant to confront such forces, let alone navigate them for sport. “Get down! Get down!” commands the guide at the back. In a split second, our team of four rowers awkwardly grasps for safety ropes, lifts our paddles, slithers onto the cramped floor, and braces ourselves, as the raft collides with a massive boulder and propels us forcefully into calm, flat waters.

The Pacuare River near Pacuare Lodge offers some of Costa Rica’s best rafting experiences.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PACUARE LODGE

What class was that rapid? A fearsome IV? A death-defying V? “Congratulations, you survived your first class II rapid!” Marcello Delgado calls out encouragingly. Affectionately known as Cello, our whitewater fanatic guide is passionate about spending his days teaching and guiding on Costa Rica’s main rafting artery, the Pacuare River. Alongside him is Alex Cordero, our safety kayaker, a nimble scout who skillfully maneuvers through the rapids ahead of our raft, charting the course and scanning for obstacles. Alex, leading the way, demonstrates how to respect the currents rather than fear them. He dances with the Pacuare, dipping, diving, twisting, turning, and even floating backward through its churning channels.

When Cello anchors the raft in a sheltered bend for us to swim beneath a waterfall, the symphony of the rainforest fills my ears once again. The indistinct chorus of insects and birds reverberates against the towering walls of the gorge. As we float in the sun-kissed plunge pool, fish darting around our ankles, Cello points out an iridescent blue morpho butterfly, its wings as wide as his hand, lazily fluttering between the trees. “They love the water, just like me,” he remarks. Before we resume our journey, Alex playfully performs Eskimo rolls in the shallows, capsizing his kayak while remaining inside and effortlessly righting it using his core strength. This unfamiliar river, this impenetrable forest, on my very first day in Costa Rica, is transforming into an enchanting playground minute by minute. And that’s just the beginning of our adventure.

Pacuare Lodge offers a range of activities, including rappelling.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY REBECA SABORIO

My destination is one of Costa Rica’s most remarkable eco-lodges, the Pacuare Lodge, a remote retreat powered by water turbines and inaccessible by road in the Limón province facing the Caribbean Sea. Arriving soaked and perspiring from the exertion sets the tone for my days at the Pacuare Lodge. Despite the elegance of its open-air dining pavilion and 20 villas featuring polished wood, expansive terraces, and billowing drapes, this place is designed for untamed exploration. It’s

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Costa Rican adventure

What is the Pacuare River known for?

The Pacuare River is renowned for offering some of the best white-water rafting experiences in Costa Rica. It features thrilling rapids that range from class II to class V, providing an exhilarating adventure for rafting enthusiasts.

How do you access the Pacuare Lodge?

The Pacuare Lodge is located in the Limón province of Costa Rica and can only be accessed by river. Guests typically arrive at the lodge via a thrilling white-water rafting journey along the Pacuare River, which adds an element of excitement to the overall experience.

What activities are available at the Pacuare Lodge?

The Pacuare Lodge offers a range of activities for guests to enjoy during their stay. These include white-water rafting, jungle trekking, swimming beneath waterfalls, rappelling, zip-lining, and even relaxing in the lodge’s infinity pool. It’s a paradise for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.

What is the best time to go to Costa Rica for rafting?

The best time for rafting in Costa Rica, particularly on the Pacuare River, is generally from June to December. During these months, the river’s water levels are higher, resulting in more thrilling rapids and an optimal rafting experience. However, it’s always a good idea to check with local guides or tour operators for the most up-to-date information.

Are the eco-lodges in Costa Rica sustainable?

Yes, many eco-lodges in Costa Rica strive to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. They often employ local staff, support local communities, and implement eco-friendly practices such as using renewable energy sources, conserving water, and minimizing their ecological footprint. Staying at these lodges allows travelers to enjoy their vacation while supporting sustainable tourism initiatives.

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