Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ
How do I get to the Rios Lodge?
What are the transportation shuttle options?
- A transportation shuttle to and from San Jose, Costa Rica to your rafting or hiking meeting location is included with every lodge package. Hikers and rafters are on the same bus from San Jose. The hikers will get off the bus before the rafters. You’ll confirm your pickup and drop off location in San Jose with the Rios Lodge reservation team after you book your stay.
- Rafters are transported by bus from San Jose directly to the Linda Vista put-in of the Pacuare River. Bathrooms and changing rooms are at the put-in.
- Rafters and Luggage: Any luggage not going to the lodge will be securely stored for you while you are at the lodge. Be sure to separate your luggage into bag(s) that goes to storage and your 1 bag that goes into the rafting dry bag, BEFORE you get on the shuttle, NOT at the put-in. Rafting guests are allocated to bring one carry-on size bag for raft transport, and can also have a personal small dry bag for access in their raft.
- Hikers are transported by bus from San Jose to Santa Marta, outside the community of El Tigre. There you will change to a smaller vehicle to shuttle to the Pacuare Butterfly Garden for the start of the hiking experience, which includes a tour of the Butterfly Garden and lunch there, before hiking down to the lodge.
- Hikers and Luggage: Any luggage not going to the lodge will be securely stored for you while you are at the lodge. Be sure to separate your luggage into bag(s) that goes to storage and your 1 bag that goes to the lodge, BEFORE you get on the shuttle, NOT at Santa Marta. Hikers are allocated to bring one carry-on size bag for short 4x4 and raft transport, and are welcome to carry their own daypack or personal small bag on their hike.
- We also offer other transportation shuttle options to help you get to and from other locations in Costa Rica, as an additional service when you book a stay at the lodge. We can pick you up in La Fortuna, Turrialba, Puerto Viejo, or Siquirres. You will indicate your transportation needs at booking, and confirm arrangement details and separate costs after you book your reservation.
What are the transportation shuttle drive times?
- 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.
- From Turrialba to the rafting put-in at Linda Vista is about a 45 minute drive.
What is hiking into and out of the Lodge like?
Hiking into the Lodge
Guests are shuttled from San Jose to the Pacuare River Butterfly Garden, in the small community of El Tigre. There you will meet your Rios Lodge guide, and get a tour of the butterfly garden and enjoy a lovely, typical Costa Rican lunch. After lunch, you will be shuttled via 4x4 vehicle through our conservation properties to the start of the Rios Tropicales Reserve Trail, to begin your hike down into the Pacuare Gorge and to Rios Lodge. This well-maintained trail through the rain forest drops about 800 feet in elevation and includes numbered signs on key trees that are referenced on a downloadable Rios Tropicales Reserve Trail Nature Guide. This hike takes about 30 minutes to go down, longer if you stop to take pictures. The total trail distance is 2.6 km (1.6 miles).
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 20-30 minute moderate hike along the river, depending on how many stops you make to take pictures. You’ll hike to the cable car crossing over the river and cross on the cable car. Our 4x4 shuttle vehicle will meet you on the other side of the river to take you back to the Pacuare Butterfly Garden and then on to San Jose. If you made arrangements for a shuttle transportation to another location instead of San Jose, those shuttle details will be ready for you, as well.
You will not be hiking back out on the Rios Tropicales Reserve Trail that you came down to the lodge on - as it’s a pretty steep climb out of the gorge.
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 4x4 to the river and then rafted downstream the short distance to the lodge. Your luggage will be put in a large dry bag for the short river trip. When hiking out, lodge staff will get your carry-on bag back to the cable car, as well.
Hiking Packing List:
- Day pack
- Light hiking shoes or sneakers for hiking
- Light and quick drying hiking clothes
- Croakies and sunglasses
- Ecofriendly, waterproof sunscreen
- Light rainjacket
- Insect repellent
- Water bottle
What is rafting into and out of the Lodge like?
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. There you’ll get your rafting gear, a safety briefing, and a dry bag for your one bag going to the lodge. 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.
Staying at the Lodge
When is High Season and Low Season at Rios Lodge?
High and Low Season: Pricing for rooms varies per high and low season. Your rates will reflect high or low season pricing based your selected dates at checkout.
- High season is November 16 through March, and June through August.
- Low season is April through May, and September through November 15.
How do meals work at Rios Lodge?
Meals (breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dinner) are included as part of your lodge stay package. When you book a room at the lodge, your meals are added on to your room reservation, based on how many people you select that are staying in each room. Your meals are a daily rate based on the number of days you stay at the lodge.
Extra cocktails, snacks, and miscellaneous food and beverage items (like that special bottle of chilled wine you might like to request in your room upon arrival!) are available onsite and are not included in the meal package.
Do I need cash at Rios Lodge?
- We do recommend Guests bring some cash with them, either in US dollars or Costa Rica colones, primarily for tipping your guides and lodge staff if you choose to do so.
- We can take credit cards at the lodge, so Guests do not need to have cash to pay for activities or incidentals during your lodge stay. This includes things like snacks, beverages, additional zipline tours etc.
- If you want to tip your guides and lodge staff, we do recommend cash as the best way to do this.
- You can tip in colones or in US dollars.
- For international guests, we do recommend that you change some money into colones when you arrive in the country for traveling in remote areas.
Do I need to tip my Guides and the Lodge Staff?
- Tips are not required, but are always welcomed. Tips from 10% to 20% are typical. Guests should have cash on hand for tips, as staff will not have access to online payment apps and tips (other than meals) are not part of your room reservation.
- For meals, a 10% gratuity is already included in your meal package for the kitchen staff.
- Tips for other Lodge staff, like gardeners, housekeeping, maintenance, etc. are welcomed and always at your discretion. Any such tips are split between all of these other Lodge staff.
- Guide tips are specific to your guide and separate from any lodge staff shared tips. Tips for guides should be in cash, and either colones or US dollars are accepted. Guides do not have access to online payment apps like Venmo, here in Costa Rica.
Is there WIFI at Rios Lodge?
- Yes there is limited WIFI, for the first time in the history of the lodge!
- There is free WIFI to connect to WhatsApp for calls and text messages; it is only available in the common areas at the lodge. This includes the dining pavilion and deck overlooking the river at this time.
- There is NO limited WIFI for WhatsApp available in any of the rooms.
- In addition to the free WhatsApp wireless connection, limited data WIFI packages are also available for purchase at the lodge. Note that our WIFI is satellite-based WIFI and please set your expectations appropriately. The typical download/upload speeds are 10MB/2.5MB. We call it "Jungle WIFI" for a reason.
- We understand that many of us simply have to be able to check in with the family or office while on vacation, no matter how remote a location we go to. We are pretty thrilled to be able to offer any WIFI connection at all given current technology options in the rainforest. And, yes, we are keenly aware of how limited it is compared to urban high speed broadband.
Is smoking allowed at Rios Lodge?
Rios Lodge is a drug-free and smoking-free location at the lodge, on all lodge property, and on all lodge activities.
About Pacuare River Rafting
What is the water temperature?
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!
How hard are the rapids?
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.
Do we need to paddle?
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.
Will we see wildlife?
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.
What is the best time to raft on the Pacuare?
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.
Do I tip my raft guides?
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.
How deep is the river?
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.
Is there a difference in river volume during the year?
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.
Is there a minimum age to raft the Pacuare River?
- 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.
How fit do I need to be to raft the Pacuare River?
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.
Does Rios Lodge run Pacuare rafting trips?
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
Can I go hiking without a guide from the 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.
How hard are the hiking trails?
- 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.
Is it really hiking in a jungle?
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.
What about snakes, big cats, and other beasties? 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
What’s the weather like at Rios Lodge?
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.
Will it rain all the time?
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.
What’s the best time of year to visit Costa Rica and Rios Lodge?
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.
How long are the daylight hours in Costa Rica?
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
Do I need to know Spanish to visit Rios Lodge?
No. Our staff is bilingual. We encourage you to learn a few phrases because it’s fun, and we can teach you.
What are the best airlines that fly to Costa Rica and what airports should I use?
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:
- San Jose International Airport (SJO), also known as the Juan Santamaria International Airport. This is the closest international airport to the Rios Lodge.
- Liberia International Airport (LIR), also known as Daniel Oduber International Airport.
- There are also 14 domestic smaller airports throughout the country. See the full Costa Rica Airports list.
What is the currency in Costa Rica? Where can I exchange money?
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
Can I plant trees during my Lodge stay?
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.