Pacuare River

Pacuare River, forming the northern border of Central America’s largest network of protected areas. It includes national parks and primordial rainforest reserves, and is one of the most important protected areas of the Pacuare region. A privileged location and abundant yearly rains sustain the rich, complex life systems found here, which account for the extraordinary beauty surrounding Costa Rica’s most accessible river. Deemed one of the top 10 scenic rivers in the world by National Geographic, the Pacuare River is a premiere destination for whitewater rafting—arguably some of the most scenic rafting in all of Central America.

With its origins in the Talamanca mountain range, the tropical river’s warm, celadon waters flow some 68 miles deep inside remarkable primordial rainforest before plunging into the Caribbean on Costa Rica’s central coast, passing through some of the country’s most varied terrain, including towering waterfalls, challenging stretches of Class III-V rapids, serene natural pools, and steep gorges of densely vegetated rainforests rising hundreds of feet above the riverbanks. The river’s surrounding rainforest is sanctuary to native Cabecar Indians, brilliantly colored plants, and an incredible diversity of wildlife, including jaguar, deer, ocelots, monkeys, butterflies, sloths, and numerous other mammal and bird species.

The Lower Pacuare section proves the most accessible of the river’s run, with 17 miles of Class III–IV rapids, and a scenic stretch that passes through rocky gorges, canyons, an indigenous village, and wild jungle full of life. The Upper Pacuare also offers Class III–IV rapids, though conditions can make for Class V challenges. While the river can be enjoyed year-round, June to October are ideal months; October to December sees the highest and fastest running waters and huge waves, March to April sees the lowest waters, though they are still challenging.

An approximately two-hour drive to the put-in precedes an exhilarating rafting adventure on the Pacuare, where you’ll paddle through roaring rapids. Other activities include exploring hiking trails, cascading falls, and natural springs; visiting primordial rainforest reserves or Cabecar Indian communities; rappelling, zip-lining, bird-watching, horseback riding, or fishing; enjoying a picnic on the riverbank; and experiencing a stay at world-famous ecolodges such as Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica’s most intimate rainforest experience, situated in the rainforest and overlooking the enchanting river.

Pacuare River Essential Information

Reasons to Visit

  • Family Travel
  • Hiking/Trekking
  • Multisport Adventures
  • 2 nights

When to Visit

  • Good: September-October
  • Better: May-August / November
  • Best: December-April