Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ

Questions and Answers about traveling to pacuare costa rica and rios lodge

How do I get to the Rios Lodge?

Here are answers to the top questions we get from travelers coming to Costa Rica and staying at Rios Lodge at the Pacuare River. If you don’t see the answer to your question, contact us or you can call USA or call Costa Rica and we’ll help you out!
  • A transportation shuttle to and from San Jose, Costa Rica to your rafting or hiking meeting location is included with every lodge package. In addition, transportation shuttles are available as separate custom add-ons for your trip to/from other locations in Costa Rica. Just tell us what you need at check out online.
  • Hikers and rafters take the same group shuttle from San Jose to a location where all guests can organize their luggage into what will be securely stored while at the lodge, and what will go into dry bags for transportation on rafts to the lodge.
  • Rafters then take a shuttle van to the Linda Vista put-in of the Pacuare River.  Bathrooms and changing rooms are at the put-in.
  • Hikers then take a shuttle van to El Tigre and change to a 4x4 vehicle to drive to the cable car crossing at the Pacuare River. There they start their hike into the lodge.
  • See our FAQ: WHAT TO BRING TO RIOS LODGE - PACKING LIST for details on what to bring and exactly how your luggage transportation works!
  • From the San Jose International Airport, it is about a 3 hour drive to Bajo Tigre (just outside of Turrialba in the Cartago Province). If traffic is heavy, this can become more like 3-4 hrs.
  • From Turrialba to El Tigre and the Pacuare Butterfly Garden is about a 45-50 minute drive. There, hikers switch to a 4x4 vehicle for a 15 minute drive on a rough, river access road to the Pacuare River cable car crossing.
  • From Turrialba to the rafting put-in at Linda Vista is about a 45 minute drive.
  • If you have a car and want to drive to the vicinity of the lodge and park, instead of taking a shuttle from San Jose or some other location in Costa Rica, we do have an option for you. 
  • Remember, there is NO AUTOMOBILE ACCESS directly to the lodge.
  • We do offer secure parking at the Pacuare Butterfly Garden, which is in the small village of El Tigre. From there we can arrange a private shuttle for you to either the rafting or hiking starting meeting place to get to the lodge. 
  • Then, at the end of your trip, we will arrange a private shuttle for you from the rafting takeout back to your car. If you are hiking out of the lodge, you will get to the Pacuare Butterfly Garden as part of your hiking out route.
  • To choose this option, just note on your reservation form or contact us about needing a place to park and private shuttle. 

Hiking into the Lodge

Guests are shuttled from San José to the rafting center location to repack their luggage to go to Rios Lodge. Hikers then depart via shuttle van to the  Pacuare River cable car crossing to start your hike to the Rios Lodge on the Pacuare River Trail.  You will be traveling  on the Pacuare River Trail headed downstream. The  1.5 km (0.9 miles) trail is rolling and is a 30-45 minute moderate hike along the river, depending on how many stops you make to take pictures and your mobility level. You will rejoin with the rafters and all have lunch at the lodge together in the early afternoon.


Hiking out of the Lodge

Hiking out of the lodge is on the Pacuare River Trail, which travels upstream along the Pacuare River. The 1.5 km (0.9 miles) trail is rolling and is a 30-45 minute moderate hike along the river, depending on how many stops you make to take pictures and your mobility level.  You’ll hike to the cable car crossing over the river and cross on the cable car.  Our 4×4 shuttle vehicle will meet you on the other side of the river to take you to the Pacuare Butterfly Garden for a tour of the butterfly garden and enjoy a packed lunch from the Rios Lodge kitchen. After lunch,  we will transport you to the rafting takeout meeting location in Siquirres where you will meet up with the guests who rafted out from the lodge.  This facility has changing rooms, bathrooms, and plenty of space to repack your gear, as any luggage that you stored at the rafting center at the beginning of the trip will meet you here. After getting all your gear together, the shuttle buses back to San Jose and other destinations in Costa Rica depart from this location.


What do I need for hiking into and out of the lodge?

Bring a daypack for the hike and your water bottle. Your luggage (there is a recommended limit of one bag, carry-on size) will be transported to the lodge via rafts.  Your luggage will be put in a large dry bag for the  river trip.  See our FAQ: WHAT TO BRING TO RIOS LODGE - PACKING LIST for details on what to bring and exactly how your luggage transportation works!

Rafting into the Lodge

Rafting on the world-renowned Pacuare River is an experience not to be missed! It’s a truly unique and exciting way to get to and from remote Rios Lodge. Your lodge stay includes shuttle transportation from San Jose to the Pacuare River Linda Vista put-in. At the put-in, you’ll get your rafting gear and a safety briefing from guides. There are changing rooms and bathrooms at the put-in. You’ll raft approximately 16 kilometers of Class 1-2 whitewater for a 2-3 hour paddle to the lodge, depending on the water levels. Ages 6 and up can raft this first half of the Pacuare River to the lodge.

Rafting out of the Lodge

Rafting out of Rios Lodge on the final day of your stay brings the fantastic excitement and incredible scenery of the Pacuare River Gorge. Enjoy thrilling Class 3-4 whitewater, tropical wildlife and birds, and mesmerizing canyon high waterfalls. National Geographic rates the Pacuare River one of the top 10 whitewater rivers in the world. The second half of the river will take between 2 and 4 hours depending on the water levels, and takes out near the town of Siquirres. Your transportation shuttle back to San Jose will meet you at the take-out, and will have any bags you stored while at the lodge.  The minimum age is 12 years old to raft the lower Pacuare River through the Gorge.


What do I need for rafting into and out of the lodge?

The rafting trip packing list covers what you need to bring for rafting. Your luggage (we recommend as little luggage as possible, one carry-on size bag and smaller personal bag is ideal) will go into a dry bag provided to you at the rafting put-in.


Rafting Packing List:

  • Closed toe shoes (sneakers or river specific shoes) or strapped water sandals (for example: Chacos, Astrals, Tevas)
  • Quick drying swimsuit or shorts and top
  • Sunglasses and eyeglass strap retainer, especially for prescription glasses! (for example: Chums).
  • Eco-friendly, waterproof sunscreen
  • Brimmed hat if you want one, though note that you will be wearing a helmet on the river so your hat (e.g. a ball cap) should fit under your helmet.

Airport and Hotel Tips When Traveling to Stay at Rios Lodge

If you book your own hotel, not on the east side of San Jose, you will have a pickup time that could be as early as 6:30am, instead of closer to 8am.

  • Plan to fly into San Jose, Costa Rica airport the day BEFORE your Rios Lodge stay starts. This is important because transportation pickups are early morning in San Jose to drive to the Turrialba Operations Center where you will pack your things into drybags, store unneeded extra luggage, and change into rafting/hiking gear for hiking and rafting into the lodge.
  • Morning pick ups are between 6:30am and 8am. You will not make this if you fly into San Jose the same day you are supposed to leave for Rios Lodge.
  • We recommend that guests plan to fly out of San Jose, Costa Rica the day AFTER your last day at the lodge. This is because you will either raft or hike out of the lodge, then take our Rios Lodge shuttle back to San Jose, arriving in the early evening usually.
    • Traffic and weather can cause delays getting to San Jose, so flights before 10PM Costa Rica time are too early to reliably catch. Flights after 10pm are possible to catch.
    • (Remember you will need to check in 2 hours early for your international flight, and 3 hours is recommended by San Jose airport).

What to Bring to Rios Lodge - Packing List

Bring a small, soft-sided CARRY ON SIZE duffle-type bag as your luggage for your eco-lodge stay.

Clothes:

  • Light sweater - it can get cool at night at the lodge
  • Light rainjacket
  • Cap or hat
  • Sunglasses and retainer strap
  • River sandals (they also work for hiking and swimming)
  • Lightweight trail shoes for hiking around lodge
  • Pair of lightweight wool socks (not cotton). Not fully recommended, but better fast drying than cotton options. 
  • Swim shorts and top
  • Long sleeve sun hoodie or sunshirt
  • Undergarments - not cotton!
  • Shorts - several pair, not all cotton (consider 3 for a 1N/2D trip - see
    climate note.)
  • Short sleeve tees/tops - several, not all cotton (consider 3 for a
    1N/2D trip - see climate note.)
  • Skort/skirt/dress
  • Lightweight long pants (for cool weather, bugs, and/or ziplining)

Techie & Gear

  • Camera/go pro, charger, spare batteries, tripod
  • Binoculars
  • Smart phone (camera!), battery bank, charger (Note: there is
    limited wifi at the lodge. Whatsapp access is free. Data packages
    are available for purchase during your stay.)
  • e-Reader or good old fashioned book
  • Notebook and pen
  • Passport
  • Cash- USD or Colones (it is recommended to have some colones
    for tips, travel stops to/from lodge, etc.)
  • Bugspray
  • Headlamp
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Toiletries - bring as little as possible. There is shampoo and shower
    gel in the lodge rooms, but no conditioner, so bring some if you
    need it.
  • For Rafters: small personal dry bag for sunscreen, extra layer,
    phone, etc. with a carabiner to clip into the raft
  • For Hikers: Small backpack for hiking around the lodge. Might want
    a backpack cover in case it rains.
  • Sunscreen
  • Medications, plus extra in case of emergency
  • Optional: Hydration electrolyte tablets or powder packs (example
    Liquid IV, Nuun). Can be useful for really hot days on the river.

DOWNLOAD THIS PACKING LIST

Here are some useful tips about staying in an ecolodge in the Costa Rica Rainforest. It will likely rain at some point, and it will be hot and humid. Your clothes will not dry quickly, or even completely over 1 or 2 nights. Plan accordingly and bring spare tops and bottoms so you have clean, dry clothes to change into after a fun day on the river, the trails, or in the trees. There is no air conditioning (AC) anywhere are the lodge, and in fact there are no glass windows either. All cabins have screened windows and the dining pavilion and kitchen is completely open air with a roof. This is very typical of rainforest eco lodges.

  1. Bring a small, soft-sided duffle-type bag (carry-on size) as your luggage your ecolodge stay. You can leave any luggage that you do not want to bring to the lodge in the secure rafting center where all rafters and hikers are transported to, to organize their luggage for what goes to the lodge vs stays in storage while they are at the lodge. Example, roller bags/ large suitcases, electronics like laptops, extra clothes for the other parts of your Costa Rica vacation (like a beach trip), can all be stored in your suitcase at the rafting center. Don't bring everything, there isn't room on the raft!
  2. At the rafting center, you will get a large dry bag to use for your luggage that is going to the lodge. Note - you will share this very large dry bag with one other guest, so it's much easier if you can pack all your lodge gear and clothes into a nicely contained, small, soft sided duffle bag first. Then you just put that duffel into the big dry bag.
  3. The rest of your luggage can stay in your other or main bag, in the rafting center. This stored luggage will be brought to your post-trip gathering location for rafters and hikers. There are changing rooms, bathrooms, and plenty of tables to repack all your gear back into their original bag(s) for your journey to San Jose or to your next Costa Rica destination.
  4. If you are hiking in, your luggage is still transported to and from the lodge on rafts. You will need to carry in only your personal small backpack with day items you want on your hike, like a water bottle, bugspray, rain jacket, hat, sunscreen, camera, etc. Your single soft sided bag with your apparel, etc. will go into a drybag and be transported to and from the lodge on the rafts, with all the other guests’ luggage.
  • Filtered, potable water
  • Large umbrellas for guests
  • Blue towels to use at swimming holes and waterfall pools
  • White towels, all sheets, and extra blankets in rooms
  • Filtered water
  • Electrical outlets in all rooms, and the dining area. USA plugs will
    work in all the outlets.
  • Hammocks at the riverside pavilion
  • Yoga mats for use at the riverside pavilion

About Pacuare River Rafting

The Pacuare River is a warm, tropical river. It is a free-flowing river that warms to the ambient temperature. It's typically a relatively warm temperature in the dry season at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius.  During the rainy season or periods of heavy rain, the river will get colder into the 60s, and that coupled with rain and no sun can make for a cool experience while rafting. Be sure if you get cold easily, to have a layer when rafting!

The rapids on the Pacuare River range from Class 1, 2 and 3 on the upper section from the put-in to the Rios Lodge, to Class 3 and 4 in the lower section of the Pacuare Gorge, below Rios Lodge. 

 

Guests as young as age 6 can raft the upper section, and guests must be age 12 or older to raft the Pacuare Gorge section. 

 

No prior rafting experience is required for rafting the Pacuare. All trips are fully guided.

Yes! The rafting trips are paddle trips - each rafter will have a single bladed paddle and is expected to paddle during the trip. There will be calm stretches of less paddling, and bigger rapids where paddling is essential to getting the raft where it needs to go. 

Yes! You'll have a chance to see a variety of tropical birds and possibly howler monkeys cruising through the canopy above the river banks. 

Whenever you can get here!  
There are two climate-driven seasons for rafting - rainy or "green" season (mid-May through mid-December) and dry season (mid-December through mid-May). The river tends to flow at higher levels during the rainy season, and lower levels in the dry season. Trips run year-round and are only cancelled or postponed if the river goes above the rafting water level. Water levels can rise and drop very fast on the river. Often times the river level will drop after a couple hours back to rafting levels.

Tips are not required, but are always welcomed. Tips from 10% to 20% are typical. Guests can charge tips to their credit card on file with their room reservation.

 

Raft guide tips are specific to your guide and are separate from any lodge staff shared tips. Tips for raft guides should be in cash, and either colones or US dollars are accepted. Guides do not typically have access to online payment apps like Venmo, here in Costa Rica. 

This varies! In sections where the river is wide, the water may be quite shallow running over a rocky bottom. In sections where the river gets narrow and the walls of the Pacuare Gorge channel the river, the water may be many feet deep. 

Yes, there can be. It's based on season and on daily precipitation. 


In general, there are two climate-driven seasons for rafting - rainy or "green" season (May - November) and dry season (December - April). The river tends to flow at higher levels during the rainy season, and lower levels in the dry season. Trips run year-round and are only cancelled or postponed if the river goes above the rafting-approved water level. Water levels can rise and drop very fast on the river. Often times the river level will drop after a couple hours back to rafting levels. That said, with climate change we are seeing more variation from historical, seasonal norms.

Yes.
  • The minimum age is 6 years old for the upper section of the Pacuare River rafting trip, that goes from the put-in TO Rios Lodge.
  • The minimum age is 12 years old for the lower section of the Pacuare river rafting trip, that goes FROM Rios Lodge to the take-out, through the Pacuare Gorge.
  • This is why younger guests can raft INTO Rios Lodge, but not OUT of Rios Lodge. Younger guests can hike out.

We recommend that you are at least moderately fit. This means you are able to paddle actively during your rafting trip, can fit into the PFDs comfortably, and are able to participate in your self-rescue by actively swimming to the boat or holding onto the boat, should you fall out of the raft.  

No, not directly. Rios Lodge doesn’t own a rafting outfitter or directly operate rafting trips on the Pacuare River or elsewhere in Costa Rica. We own and operate Rios Lodge and the guided adventure activities at the lodge. Our preferred rafting partner is Whitewater Excitement. The owners of Whitewater Excitement were long time head guides and trip leaders for the former award-winning adventure company Rios Tropicales, during its three decades of operations. We partner with Whitewater Excitement for the rafting access to and from Rios Lodge for our guests.

About Hiking Trails at Rios Lodge

No, it’s a real deal jungle out there! Because our lodge is very remote, and the trails travel many kilometers away, and wildlife is everywhere - some friendly, some not so friendly - we do not permit self-guided hiking on our trail network.

  • Easy to moderately challenging.
  • The lodge is located at the banks of the Pacuare River, which winds through the mountains. All hiking from the lodge involves some altitude gains and losses as the trails wind along according to the topography and ascend and descend at moderate levels.

Yes! The lodge is located in secondary rainforest, with no other developments within miles/kilometers - except for other lodges or camps upstream along the river. Our trails go through primary (never been cleared) and secondary (been replanted) rainforest. Expect dense tropical foliage, huge trees of many varieties, vibrant flowers, and constant wildlife sounds and bird song.

Yes - they live here, too! You’ll learn how to travel responsibly in the jungle from your guide. This is similar to other parts of the world with wildlife that humans need to respect and keep their distance. Think Yellowstone National Park, in the USA, for example!

Costa Rica Weather, Climate, and Seasons

Amazing! The average annual temperatures in the Atlantic mountainous region where the lodge is located is 75°-85°F during the day and 65°-75°F at night, depending on the time of year. It’s a warm, humid, tropical rainforest. That said, it can get cooler at night, exspecially during the rainy season. Its smart to pack a warm layer like a sweater or lightweight fleece. Definitely bring a lightweight rain jacket.

Not as much in the dry season, which is typically December through April. Very little rain falls during this time, and the Pacuare River is lower as a result.

 

Yes it really can rain hard for several days straight during the rainy or "green" season in Costa Rica, which is typically May through November.  Guests should expect it to rain often during this time, and typically once a day at some part of the day.  Come with your light weight rain jacket and get ready to explore the wonders of the rainforest, named "rain"forest for a reason!

That said, with climate change we are seeing more variation from historical norms.

That’s easy, whenever you can get here!

 

Consider the climate seasonality - from rainy/green season to dry, and consider the high and low seasons for pricing. The most popular times for international guests are December through April - and that’s pretty much the high and dry season. Shoulder season dates in May and autumn are less crowded. Summer is the peak travel season for in-country travelers.

Because Costa Rica is close to the equator, our daylight hours are pretty consistent at about 12 hours per day, all year long, no matter what month of the year. This can be surprising for our Northern and Southern hemisphere travelers, who are used to long “summer” nights. The sun rises between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. most days, and sets between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. most nights.

Traveling to Costa Rica

No. Our staff is bilingual. We encourage you to learn a few phrases because it’s fun, and we can teach you.

The ones that get you here! Our guests come from all over the world. All the major airlines fly to Costa Rica. There are two international airports in Costa Rica:

  1. San Jose International Airport (SJO), also known as the Juan Santamaria International Airport. This is the closest international airport to the Rios Lodge.
  2. Liberia International Airport (LIR), also known as Daniel Oduber International Airport.
  3. There are also 14 domestic smaller airports throughout the country. See the full Costa Rica Airports list.

The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon. You can exchange money at any large hotel, in the airport, and in tourism centers. Any place that takes credit cards can charge you in colones and your bank will convert it to your currency at their exchange rate of the day.

About Conservation, Sustainability, Rainforest Reforestation

Yes, if you are here for a 3-day or longer stay! This is part of our conservation tour and can be part of visits to the Pacuare Butterfly Garden on certain hiking and horseback riding tours.

We plant around 25 different kinds of native species trees that grow in the Pacuare River Basin forest, like tropical hardwoods Pilon, Roble Coral, Ceiba, Cedro Amargo, Guapinol, Chancho Blanco, Corteza Negro, Caoba, and Cocobolo. Another main tree species is the Mountain Almond, which is a key food source for endangered Great Green Macaws. Over the years, hundreds of Mountain Almond trees have been planted in our conservation land that has helped return Great Green Macaws to the Pacuare region. We always plant a variety of native trees to blend into a healthy forest, ensuring harmony with the local ecosystem.