As the bus climbed higher up into the Costa Rican mountains our rafting guide demonstrated paddle strokes and gave instructions on what to do in a variety of emergency situations: getting stuck on a rock, going through rough rapids, and worst of all, falling out. We got increasingly nervous trying to remember the different commands and strokes. This didn’t seem as easy as we thought it’d be.
When we reached the river our group of 30 was assigned to six different rafts and guides, and we kitted up with helmets and life jackets. A little disturbingly you sit on the edge of the raft and hold on by gripping your feet inside. After a quick practice we were off. Luckily the river starts slowly giving us plenty of time to get used to paddling.
Our entertaining guide Mauricio worked hard to make us a team – he cut off branches to stick in our helmets and used a stone to make war paint for our cheeks. The rapids started small but after every one we gave a celebratory shout of “Pura Vida” and high-fived with our paddles.
As we approached our first class 4 rapid we began to get nervous as Mauricio gave some last minute emergency instructions. My greatest fear was falling out of the raft onto the sharp rocks beneath us. My original plan was to hold on for dear life to the security rope as we ran the rapids, but I wouldn’t be let off that easily. Mauricio pushed us on to paddle fast through the gushing water, and steely focus was needed. I actually found the rapids less scary when actively engaged in tackling them and it was an exhilarating feeling taking on the mighty river and making it through.
Luckily no one fell out during the four hour trip and our guide was excellent at giving clear instructions on which way to steer to avoid the rocks (the water was quite low at this time of year). We made it through four class 4 rapids and many smaller ones. Mauricio made things a bit more challenging by coming up with new ways for us to go through the rapids: standing up, eyes closed, backwards, going around in circles, and with Simon at the front with his legs hanging over the edge. Still we survived unscathed.
The river got more beautiful as we progressed through the rainforest, passing under waterfalls and through steep canyons, with blue morpho butterflies fluttering past. At slow points we would sometimes get out of the raft and float along lazy river style. We took a lunch break for wraps and fruit at the company´s camp, which even had flushing toilets.
It was a fun and beautiful trip, scary enough to be exhilarating but not too much to be dangerous.
We rafted the Rio Pacuare with Exploradores Outdoors on a one day trip which costs $99. We had no complaints and the guides were fun and professional. The price includes breakfast at their centre before the trip and lunch on the river. You get picked up in their buses from San Jose, Puerto Viejo or La Fortuna (all about 1.5-2 hours away) and can get dropped off at a different location at the end of the day, saving yourself a bus journey.