pacuare river costa rica

Real Adventure on the Pacuare River Costa Rica

I’d heard about the Pacuare River in Costa Rica from a number of my adventure loving friends.

This river’s history as an adventure travel beacon goes back to the early days of tourism in Costa Rica. The first known rafting expedition on the Pacuare River was in 1981, and has drawn rafting junkies ever since.

pacuare river costa rica

The Pacuare River Costa Rica occupies a deep river gorge surrounded by soaring, jungle-covered hills, involves class IV rapids and is a unique opportunity to view wildlife from a unique vantage point.

Original Ecolodge on the Pacuare River Costa Rica

I had the opportunity to meet Rafael Gallo at an event in Colorado a few weeks ago. He’s one of the godfathers of Costa Rica tourism, and the first to develop tourism in the Pacuare River area of Costa Rica. So when he invited my family to visit his Rios Tropicales, the original eco-lodge on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica, how could I refuse!?

pacuare river costa rica

Rios Tropicales, located on a beautiful bend of the Pacuare River, is only accessible by raft. Or on foot, which is how we got to the lodge seeing as our kids were too young to raft in, particularly during the high water levels in the rainy season.

Thanks to extraordinarily heavy rains (we were in Costa Rica during the rainy season of an El Nino year, and rain in this area was 40% over normal expected amounts), the steep roads to access the trail into the lodge were a muddy mess, totally impassable for vehicles.

pacuare river costa rica

We took a truck as far in as we could, then a local boy came to carry us the rest of the way via 4-wheeler.


Then, we hiked down 821 steps to reach the lodge. This took about one hour, as with the little legs in our group we made quite a few stops. Our camp escort pointed out trees, vines and bugs as we made our way to the river.

rios tropicales costa rica

We could hear the rapids as we got closer. Then, into view came a massive hanging bridge. Welcome to Rios Tropicales!

rios tropicales costa rica

About the Rios Tropicales Experience

Rios Tropicales is built into a steep, jungle hillside. The common area includes a large, open air dining area and kitchen, as well as a covered sitting area and river overlook.

pacuare river costa rica

The rafting guides are also responsible for cooking and managing the camp. They make all meals for the guests while at the lodge. There is a small staff who stay there more permanently, including an older woman who serves drinks out of what looks like her home. She also raises chickens on site, so it’s no surprise most meals include chicken in one form or another!

There are at least four buildings of sleeping quarters. While very basic, they are clean and comfortable. There were a few student groups in camp while we were there, and they were largely kept together in sleeping and dining quarters, so we didn’t see much of them.

pacuare river costa rica

A highlight of our time in camp was swimming in the river. A cluster of rocks forms a swimming hole, and the cool river water was a very welcome cool-down after a hot, sweaty hike into the lodge.

Overall, Rios Tropicales is an ideal base for some serious adventure for your family in Costa Rica.


Have you been on the Pacuare River Costa Rica? What did you think?

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