Rafting in the Pacuare River

In Puerto Viejo, San José, Tourist Life by VirginieLeave a Comment

After three months in Costa Rica, leaving is not easy. Puerto Viejo has been our home for the past months and we got used to it. We developed a routine that allowed us to have fun and work at the same time. But now, it’s time to get back on the road and start a new adventure! Being digital nomads, leaving people and places behind is something we are going to have to get used to.

But we couldn’t leave Puerto Viejo without doing some white river rafting. Exploradores Outdoors offers this great trip. The cool thing about it is that they can pick you up either in Arenal, San José or Puerto Viejo. This means that the rafting is not only a cool experience; it’s also a way to travel. Once you are done, they drop you off in one of the three cities, whichever you want.

We took it from Puerto Viejo to San José, but there’s tons of combination you can do, depending on where you’re going next.

And trust me; it costs $99US, but you get so much for your money, considering a standard shuttle would be around $50US.

So here’s how the day went:

The shuttle picked us up in the morning, at 6:00 am. We tried going to bed early, but it didn’t really worked since we had some packing and cleaning to do. If you can do it, I strongly recommend being in bed as soon as you can. You’ll need all the energy you can get.

It was an hour and a half drive to their base in Pacuare. There, we changed into our rafting outfit (swimsuit and shorts/t-shirt). Also remember that you need shoes that are going to stay on your feet during the ride. We didn’t have anything except flip-flops (and we weren’t going to use our running shoes in the water right before taking the plane), so one of the guide suggested using our running shoes laces with our flip-flops. It wasn’t pretty, but I guess it worked! Our sandals stayed on our feet the whole time.

Once we were changed, it was time for breakfast! (And it was about time, trust me.) We stuffed ourselves on rice and beans, eggs and sausages. There’s also cereal, yogurt and fruits. You get to eat as much as you want, since it’s a buffet.

I wanted to mention that I’m absolutely in love with their rice and beans! It’s just so delicious, a lot better than the one Chris and I made. I don’t know what their recipe is, but they master the art of Gallo Pinto.

After breakfast, it was time to get on the shuttle again. It took everyone to the top of the river. On the bus, the guide explained all that we needed to know about rafting: the commands, what to do in case you fall and how to rescue someone. It was important to listen carefully and even if we were seating in the back of the bus, we made sure that we could see everything he was demonstrating.

Once we were at the top of the river, it was time to find a helmet that is the right size for our heads. Chris had a lot of fun difficulty finding one, since he kind of has a big head. We also needed to get a life vest and a paddle. After that, it was time to hit the water!


The first half hour was practice. Our team of four – an nice Australian couple and the both of us – learned all the tricks that the guide mentioned on the bus. The rapids weren’t that bad, it was time to learn the ropes and get better!

It was only after that that the real fun started!

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Since it had rained for the last two days before leaving Puerto Viejo, we were lucky enough to have a level four river. The highest level in the Pacuare river is five, so you can imagine that we did enjoy ourselves!

For the next hour, we had fun going through the rapids, this time getting some harder ones. Staying on the boat was the hardest part, but we were all lucky enough to manage it. Someone on another boat actually fell in the water and we were the one rescuing him. We felt so proud as we paddle against the current to save that poor human being who was being dragged in the current, then lifting him on board. It was a good thing that we were only four people on the boat, so we had some room for him, since all the other boats were full with six people.

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After a good hour and a half, it was time to stop for lunch. We stopped on the side of the river, were the rafting company rents land to the indigenous people. The guides started making lunch for everybody. You could either have a sandwich or a burritos, depending on what you felt like eating. The food was actually very good and there was more than enough for everybody! (Even too much.)

Once we were all stuffed (again – I told you we got a lot for our money!), we went back on the water. This time, Chris and I went in front and paddled hard together, trying to be as synchronised as we could.

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But we hadn’t experience the coolest part yet. At one point, we went into a narrow canyon, where there were actually no rapids, to my surprise. Then this happened.

Guide: You can jump in the water, if you want.

Australian guy: Really? We can jump?

Guide: Yes, go ahead.

All of us: HELL YEAH!

We jumped in the water and let ourselves float in the river, being slowly dragged by the current. I still don’t understand everything about that moment, but all I know is that it was so calm and relaxing. Floating on my back, all I could see was the primary forest of Costa Rica, a clear blue sky and there was nothing else than us. It was one of the happiest moments I had in Costa Rica. It was like I was surrounded by peace and there was nothing that mattered anymore, except this moment.

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Unfortunately, we all had to get back on the boat at one point and kept going. Even if the adrenaline of the rapids was amazing, the best part for me is still when we were floating. Not all the guides allowed it though. So depending on when you go, it might or might not happen, I can’t promise it. But God I was glad our guide allowed us to do it!

And after the four hours on the river, we were back to base. It was time to shower, dry ourselves, say goodbye to our new friends and get on the bus back to San José.

I think everybody slept at one point during the ride back. After a full day like that, we were all exhausted. We arrived at out hotel around 6:00 pm and it was about time we could lay down again.

That day was a great one and made us want to do more adventures. No matter how much it costs, we only get one chance at doing it. I don’t know what our next adventure will be, but we won’t miss it!