While traveling in Costa Rica, we read about the Pacuare River and its Class 3 & 4 rapids. My boyfriend Mark, his two beautiful dogs, and I had been on the road for 9 months, in our truck camper. We were spending as little money as possible, to travel as long as feasible. But… great things in life have their price.
We got very excited about the prospect of an awesome rafting trip, ignored being on a budget, and spoiled ourselves with this adventure. It proved to be more than worthwhile! The river looked pretty swift, and a little challenging, when Mark and I approached her. The guides from the rafting company were preparing the rubber boats. Each one of them was pumping up the boats, checking their sturdiness, or inspecting and laying out gear.
When they were done, they splashed the inside of their raft with river water and jumped in the stream themselves. They perform this ritual each time before departure; it’s supposed to bring good luck. Plus… soon enough everyone would be soaking wet anyway. After a brief instruction about safety and rules, every tourist grabbed a helmet, a life jacket, and a paddle.
We were spread out over the boats and took our designated seat, on the edge, one foot in the sleeve on the floor, the other tucked under the rubber sidewall. Each raft held four to six people, with a captain in the back. The whole group also got accompanied by about four experienced guides in a kayak for extra safety. We practiced the commands a couple of times on the river before we were ready to head out and tame the wild Pacuare River!
The current took us down the river at a fast pace. With short and steady strokes, we moved our paddle forward or backward as instructed. Soon enough we reached the first rapid. It was a little intimidating, but we managed to get through without capsizing. Woaw! We all gained courage and tackled the next one.
The following two hours were a combination of adrenaline and peace. The foaming and churning rapids came in quick series and were fully experienced by our crew. Each time we got soaked, our hearts rushed, and our faces smiled. Sometimes my body got propelled into the air and thrown on the floor, but always would we make it through and continue on, right side up. On the slower stretches, we floated along and enjoyed our surroundings.
We cut through lush jungle and steep canyons. Enormous waterfalls plunged into the river, next to our raft. In the Indian reservations, we saw fragile wooden bridges above our heads in one spot, and strong wires to transport gear somewhere else. We also got the chance to plunge in the cool river. Our vests kept us afloat and the strong current steered us in the right direction. For lunch, all the boats stopped at a fixed point, along with the banks of the Pacuare.
The Costa Rican guides placed all the delicious, fresh foods on a long table. Everybody made a tasty buffet-style sandwich and splurged on exotic fruits. With a full and happy belly, we took our positions on the raft for one last time. As “experienced” rafters we braved some more rapids and on the final stretch of the river, we have a couple of local kids a ride to our destination. Totally soaked and with a grin from ear to ear, Mark and I agreed that this adventure was one of a kind.
We almost signed up again for the next day! It is engraved in our memories as the “most fun” thing we did in Central America, and we recommend it to all other travelers out there. It’s something to never regret, nor forget!