Pacuare Rafting

Rafting the Pacuare River AND Rios Lodge

Raft INto the Heart of the Pacuare Rainforest

Cross the threshold to a paradise found in a remote part of the rainforest. The river trip to Rios Lodge is the perfect introduction to the wild, untouched beauty you’ll discover and enjoy during your entire stay.

You’ll see why people travel from across the globe to raft the Pacuare in the first moments of the trip. On your way to the eco lodge, you’ll raft past blue-green water, romantic waterfalls, staggering rock faces, and lush green foliage.

With several exhilarating moments of rapids and calm moments to take in the views, it offers the perfect balance for adventurers ready to take in the rainforest in its most raw and pure form.

What You Need To Know

Rafting The Pacuare River

Here is what you can expect when you raft the Pacuare River to Rios Lodge!

The Pacuare River is a popular one day rafting trip on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, deep in the rainforest in Limón Province. The river and surrounding region is an incredible part of Costa Rica, and one of the best ways to experience it fully is to stay overnight along the river. There are a handful of lodges along the river, with the Rios Lodge being the first lodge established on the river and the only one that you cannot access by road. All guests must either hike or raft into and out of the lodge. Rios Lodge is located right at the entrance to the famous lower Pacuare River gorge section and roughly halfway down the river on the one day trip.

Above Rios Lodge: During the trip to Rios Lodge, you’ll raft the upper section of the Pacuare and take out right at our eco lodge. During this section of the river, you’ll raft through lively, bubbling class II and III rapids, fun for all levels of rafters. See the Pacuare River Map below on this page.

Below Rios Lodge: The second half of the river below the lodge offers thrilling water on the lower section of the Pacuare into the gorge. On this section of the river, you will navigate exciting III and IV rapids. See the Pacuare River Map below on this page.

Rafting the entire river, upper and lower sections – is a bucket list experience for many active travelers. You’ll quickly know why when you experience the stunning Pacuare River and exuberant white water. If you only want the calmer waters and/or have younger children, you can raft in on the upper section and hike out from Rios Lodge.

The Upper Section of the Pacuare is Suitable for Adventurers 6+
Bring the family along for the raft trip to the lodge! This section of the river is calm enough to host mini adventurers as young as six years old yet exciting enough to keep the whole family entertained.

All rafters must be at least 12 years of age to raft the lower Pacuare through the Pacuare Gorge. If your group has younger kids or people who don’t want to raft larger rapids, have no fear! You can raft the calmer water in and then hike out.

The rainforest is teeming with unbelievable views, from jaw-dropping forests that seem to scrape the sky to the potential to see some exciting wildlife, like Great Green Macaws, lively monkeys, or even elusive jaguars. No matter what animal friends are out to say hello, you can drink in the energy of the rainforest.

Rios Lodge is the former Rios Tropicales Lodge, co-founded by Rafael (Rafa) Gallo. Rafa and Mike Mayfield wrote the book on paddling the rivers of Costa Rica in 1988. It’s become a classic for all paddlers and includes the famous Pacuare River: The Rivers of Costa Rica.

Rios Lodge works with an experienced rafting company with decades of experience on the river. These guides will ensure you have the info you need to confidently take on the river and navigate you through the best parts of the Pacuare. Additionally, many Rios Lodge staff and stewards are also accomplished white water paddlers.

Tackle the river confidently with these helpful tips!

Preparing to Raft the Pacuare

What to Wear While Rafting the Pacuare River
The River will definitely jump up to say hello – so we highly recommend wearing light clothing that you don’t mind getting wet! While the water and air temps are often warm, the dense foliage shades the river from the sun. If you get cold easily, bring a waterproof layer!

What To Bring for Rafting the Pacuare?
The Rios Lodge team will handle transporting your bigger bags to the lodge, but we recommend you bring a small waterproof bag with a carabiner to clip to the raft with some essentials. Bring along sunscreen, an extra layer, a waterproof phone or camera and bug spray!
See our complete packing list for the Pacuare river rafting and the lodge here.

The upper section of the Pacuare River is the rafting trip to Rios Lodge. This section is welcoming with class II-III rapids, suitable for rafters ages 6+. The lower section of the Pacuare River is the rafting trip from Rios Lodge. This section is more adventurous with class III-IV rapids, suitable for rafters ages 12+.
Our trips only run at specific water levels, and we are constantly monitoring water levels. If the water spikes up over the green gauge, the trip will not run on the lower pacuare, and guests will hike out. Thanks to the spontaneity of rainforest weather, waters can rise quickly and go down quickly, so these calls can be made at the last minute.
Yes – the river is more than 16 miles and takes about 5 hours to complete, so it’s a long day of rafting. You can get a much more intimate and special rainforest immersion experience by staying at least one night at the lodge. This area has so much more than just the rafting trip in and out! We highly recommend breaking the rafting journey into at least two days. Or better yet, enjoy a few relaxing and fun-packed days at the lodge before the raft back out.
Our team will take care of your bigger bags in a large raft that is only for gear and is rowed down the river by a guide. For items you want in the raft with you on the way down, our guides will clip your water bottle or small bags to the raft so they stay secure through the rapids.
About 3-5 companies regularly run rafting trips on the Pacuare River. More than ten rafting outfitters identify the Pacuare River as one of their trip options.

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. Our preferred rafting partner is Whitewater Excitement, thanks to their incredible experience of 40+ years on the river. 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. Rios Lodge is the new name for the former Rios Tropicales Lodge that Rafael Gallo co-founded. We work closely with the Gallo-Jimenez family in rainforest conservation in the Pacuare watershed. Learn about the Rios Lodge and Rios Tropicales relationship here.

There are dozens of rapids with names that you can encounter on this river! Most of these larger rapids are on the more rowdy second section of the river. The most popular and memorable rapids on the Pacuare are the following:

Pele el Ojo – Class III: This is the biggest rapid in the first section of the river!
Rodeo – Class III: Second section of the river.
Double Drop – Class III-IV: Second section of the river.
Upper Huacas – Class III-IV: Second section of the river.
Lower Huacas – Class IV: Second section of the river. This is considered the best rapid on the second section of the river!
Cimarrona – Class III: Second section of the river.
Dos Montañas – Class IV: Second section of the river.

The Lower Huacas is a Class IV rapid on the lower section of the Pacuare River in the gorge. Guests and guides alike widely consider this the best rapid! It has the best of both worlds with both big water and technical moves. It has a thrilling drop at the beginning and you have to zig zag your way through the rapids.

From Tres Equis (the put-in of the first section) to Siquirres (the takeout for the second section) it is 26.25 km or 16.3 miles.

Gradient: 46 F.P.M Put in Elevation: 950 Ft Take Out Elevation: 195 Ft Average Discharge: 2200 C.F.S
The first upper section of the river takes about 2-3 hours to raft. The second lower section of the river takes about 3-4 hours to complete. The range of time depends on the water levels that can change each day.

Yes! It’s a famous river for whitewater paddlers, including kayakers and canoeists. Rios Lodge can help experienced paddlers rent gear in order to paddle the river to and from the lodge for an amazing white water and rainforest eco lodge vacation. Contact us if this is you!

The Rios Lodge team will take care of transporting your larger bags to the cabin, but we recommend that you bring a small waterproof bag with a carabiner to attach it to the raft with a few essential items. Bring sunscreen, an extra layer, a waterproof phone or camera, and bug spray. See the complete list of what to bring. 

History of Pacuare River Rafting

Raft guides gettting ready to raft with guests on the Pacuare River
Rafa Gallo planting trees in Costa Rica, on the Pacuare River

The Pacuare River is a stunning river that runs for 80.2 miles from the high mountains of cloud forests down to the Caribbean Sea. While the first known kayaking run was achieved in 1980 by a group of Polish travelers, Rios Tropicales (the company that founded our lodge under its previous name!) was one of the first companies to run commercial raft trips as transportation to our eco lodge.

Over the following decades, Rios Tropicales became dedicated protectors of and experts in the Pacuare River, participating in protests to protect the purity of the river to writing a book about rafting the Pacuare that is still a resource for the river today.

Since then, Pacuare River Rafting has exploded in popularity, being coined a “Top 10 Scenic Rivers in the World” by National Geographic and widely considered the best river to ride in Costa Rica.

See the full timeline of the Pacuare River’s History here.