The magic of the Pacuare River

Magical Pacuare River in Costa Rica

What could be more fun than splashing down a warm-water tropical river, dodging this way and that and bouncing in and out of waves in an inflatable raft?

World class whitewater raftingCosta Rica is one of the world’s top destinations for whitewater rafting. Just last year the World Rafting Championship 2011 was held in Turrialba on the Pacuare River. More than 300 international competitors came from 30+ different countries to compete for the title. Winners were Japan for the men’s team and the Czech Republic for the women’s team.

One thing that makes Costa Rica so great for rafting is non-freezing water! Rivers flow down mountain valleys from cloud and rain forest – it’s tropical and steamy in the jungle. While the water isn’t bath temperature, it’s not teeth-cracking glacial as are most rivers in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia and South America.

Rocks in Costa Rican rivers tend to be smooth, rounded and mossy from constant water flow, not jagged and broken like in rivers that freeze and thaw. Why is this important, you ask? Think of how nicely that inflatable raft slides over round, smooth rocks with no danger of rips or holes. And if you happen to be so lucky as to fall out of your safe craft, swirling in the rinse cycle of a rapid, it’s much nicer to “bounce” off sleek mossy spheres than razor-edged stones. (I speak from experience!)

Best yet is the scenery. Tropical rivers are simply gorgeous! Tangled, thick, green vegetation Breath-taking tropical beauty on the Pacuare Riversplashed with rainbow colors of over-sized flowers, waterfalls thundering down cliffs into foamy water, jewel-toned birds and butterflies darting overhead, the feeling that you’ve gone off the charts into a lost paradise.

The Pacuare River epitomizes this “lost” tropical paradise.

I may be a bit prejudiced; after all, it was the Pacuare that convinced me to move to Costa Rica way back in 1999. I was already working in adventure tourism and had rafted some pretty spectacular rivers, but the thrill of journeying down the Pacuare was life-altering … the towering virgin rainforest trees, buttress roots the size of a giant’s hand, narrow jungle gorges, waterfalls, rolling rapids, vividly colored flowers, toucans and Morpho butterflies. It was while floating in the emerald Dos Montanas gorge on the Pacuare Rivergreen water of the Dos Montanas gorge, looking up the steep stone walls at a brilliant blue sky above the greenery and savoring the last moments on the river, that I thought, “I want to live in paradise.”

I had the honor and privilege to train and work as a whitewater rafting guide on the Pacuare River – my first job in Costa Rica – and I’ve never forgotten its magic.

You too can experience the magic on this “top river in the world for whitewater rafting” (as noted by Outdoor and National Geographic magazines), rafting its main section of 18 miles of class III and IV rapids. The Turrialba-based adventure company ExplorNatura runs day trips on the Pacuare nearly 365 days a year. They’ll take you in top-of-the-line rafts with highly-trained river guides on a day of safe and exciting adventures. You even get lunch mid-way down at their hillside camp along the river. You just need to be physically fit and over 12-years-old.

Explornatura also runs family rafting trips, low-key and fun, on the beautiful tropical Pejibaye River.

By Shannon

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