Updated: Jan 6, 2020
Pura Vida really is the only way to describe the adventure opportunities at the internationally renowned Pacuare Lodge, one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. My stay here was incredible, the only trouble was that I wish I could have stayed longer as I truly didn’t want to leave. This luxurious river lodge is secluded in the Rainforest area on the edge of one of the best whitewater rafting rivers in the world.
Getting to the lodge is an adventure in itself! There are three main routes into the lodge; via an excellent “beginners” whitewater rafting experience with only Class I and II rapids, by vehicle and an ancient gondola crossing, or by helicopter. Mine was via the river, which is a perfect way to decide if you are ready for the outbound journey on your departure.
I was lucky enough to enjoy the transfer to the river from a couple of different central San Jose hotels with a young honeymoon couple, and two other solo travelers, a gentleman from France and a young lady from California. Having stopped along the way for breakfast, as it had been an early start, we were all getting to know each other before arriving at the river, when we met up with a couple from Barcelona. Six of us were going to raft to the lodge.
On arrival at the Lodge we were met with towels and a perfect cup of coffee and/or water and quickly
shown to our respective villas to give us time to shower before lunch. The honeymooners off up the hill to a secluded Linda Lista Villa with a private pool, and the remainder of us to our various villas – mine was named Tortuga and was a beautifully located River View Villa at the far end of the property. With the welcome sign and a beautiful hammock waiting for me I knew immediately that I wasn’t going to want to leave two days later
The Pacuare Lodge is mostly all-inclusive, with just a few exceptions, such as alcohol and the spa services on offer. The selection of dishes on offer for all meals was quite superb and provided a great variety for all dietary requirements. One of the guests also shared that she was on a very specific diet for health reasons and they accommodated her requirements without any problems and even made a special cake for the couple’s 15th wedding anniversary celebration in the shape of a heart!
The Lodge offers several great opportunities to explore the surrounding natural beauty of the area:
The Pacuare Camp Canopy Adventure Experience
Tropical Canyoning Experience
Cabecar Indigenous Hike
Bajo del Tigre & Nairi Aware Reserve Hike
Ancient Trails & Hidden Waterfall Hike
Cabecar Indian Rancho and Rainforest Hike
Birdwatching at Dawn Experience
Pacuare River Inflatable Duckies Experience
Breakfast or Dinner in the Rainforest Canopy “The Nest”. Take a short zip line to The Nest, and then rappel down from your tree-top dining experience after your meal!
There is a very nice spa, a brand-new infinity pool and a gym all available to guests at the Lodge. With just 20 individual lodges on the property it provides a great deal of privacy for all the guests, with the only time you really see others being during the activities or at meals.
The staff at the Lodge were brilliant, with many of the team being river guides and wait staff. They rotate in and out of the property usually every 48 hours or so. For example, our ‘river guide’ who got us safely to the Lodge was then our server at meals over the next 24 hours and then he was the guide on an outbound raft. This means that they all get to know you and there is a very friendly atmosphere, you are called by your first name (or whatever you choose) and you have the chance to know theirs too! They also have a team of staff that are on-site for such activities as the canopy and canyoning tours and the various hikes and bird walks.
I am sure that Giovanny will remember his dawn bird walk with Emily, Doug, Alyssa and I for quite a while.
Emily and I also enjoyed the Canopy Adventure, which was so much fun, and has a few surprises I won’t share as I don’t want to spoil it for future guests at Pacuare! Sadly, with limited time I was unable to fit in any of the longer hikes or the Canyoning Experience, but in chatting with other guests, they were equally as fun and highly recommended by them.
William, the General Manager is available to guests most of the day, and I noted he always walked around at breakfast and dinner time to check in with guests to be sure that they were having a good time.
The villas are all very roomy. With about four different options to select from, but all with individual touches, the entry level is a Garden View Villa, then a River View (which is where I stayed), and then there are the Linda Vista Villas, which are larger and have a private plunge pool and then two larger villas, the Jaguar and the Canopy. The Canopy Villa is highest up on the hillside and has a bridge out to a tree platform with a table and two chairs to sit and enjoy the view over the property and out to the river. The Canopy Villa is usually booked approximately a year out, so if you’re looking for that amazing spot to propose, or to celebrate a special anniversary, you need to plan early!
There are a few notes I would share with anyone interested in staying at Pacuare, but these should not be considered deterrents, rather as useful information 😊
No hairdryers are allowed as their electricity power is very limited in the lodges/villas.
There are electric lights in the villas, however these are supplemented by candles.
The villa doors don’t lock, but there is no need for them too, as you are in a beautiful lodge in the middle of the rainforest!
There is a coffee machine in the villa, but no fridge
No Wi-Fi, except in the common areas (around the office, the restaurant and the activity center)
Toilet Paper does not get put in the toilets (this can bother some people)
Alcoholic drinks, specialty coffees (latte, etc.), and smoothies are not included but are available at an extra cost
You will be asked to select your next meal choices at the previous meal, i.e. you select dinner at lunch
They do have at least 3 vegetarian options at both lunch and dinner
Children under 12 cannot raft in/out of the hotel and some of the other activities have age restrictions
They do have hiking boots you can borrow as well as Wellington Boots (if you don’t want to pack them)
Pack a headlamp as it will come in handy for night walks and reading in bed.
Bug spray is a must, especially for the birdwatching at dawn
I went here on the recommendation of some very well-traveled clients who shared that it is one of their top two ever places to stay, and the best in the Americas and so I went with very high expectations, which were absolutely met and exceeded. The staff and naturalists were incredibly knowledgeable, great fun and very enthusiastic to share this very special place with the guests.
For clients who enjoy nature, adventure, seclusion, solo travelers (as you will always have someone to do something with – even if it’s a private guide) or are looking for that extra special place for a special occasion I would highly recommend Pacuare Lodge. The age ranges of the guests there were from 20’s to 80’s (an older couple who were staying and were very clearly bird enthusiasts and did not choose the white-water rafting option in/out of the Lodge).
Enjoy this video shared by Ramon Munjo of our rafting adventure leaving the lodge. Ramon, his wife Ana, Emily and I were lucky enough to have one the Coaches of the Costa Rican National Women’s Rafting Team as our guide out 😊!