Rafting Costa Rica's Pacuare and Reventazón

 (courtesy, Errol Barrantes/Costa Rica Tourism)

Deep in the Costa Rican rainforest, a whitewater enthusiast's dream comes true. Two rivers, the Pacuare and the Reventazón, curve eastward through the narrow country, rolling toward the Caribbean Sea. On their way, they create some of the world's most challenging whitewater, while showcasing the country's lush jungles and diverse wildlife. Paddlers enjoy stretches of white-knuckle rapids interspersed with glimpses of jaguars, capuchin monkeys, sloths, morpho butterflies, and the 850 tropical bird species that call Costa Rica home.
True to its name, "bursting" in Spanish, Rio Reventazón tumbles out of Lake Cachí, nestled below the Turrialba and Irazu volcanoes. The river first rolls through a cliff-lined gorge, then slides into a lowland valley of sugar and coffee plantations. The Class II "Mid-Section" makes for popular and easy day trips, while the Guayabo section offers hardcore Class V whitewater; one rapid, El Horrendo, drops a stomach-churning seven meters over the course of 100 meters. Between the rapids, calm waters will let you soak in the verdant jungle landscape, providing a combination of high-speed thrills and tranquility that make the Reventazón Central America's most popular river.
Rio Pacuare profiles the country's wilder side and is the subject of a controversial hydroelectric dam proposal (so get there quick). Dubbed as the first Wild and Scenic River by the Costa Rican government—the first waterway in Central America to carry this distinction—the Pacuare's 32 miles of Class III-IV whitewater weave through the densest section of Costa Rica's rainforest, abundant with tropical flora and fauna.
Both the Reventazón and Pacuare are runnable year-round, but the best time to hit the rapids is during the rainy season, from May to November. Although easily accessible from San José, Costa Rica's capital, the eco-lodges that line both rivers offer the real deal. Sleeping in hammocks under thatched-roof huts and waking to the call of a macaw will make you feel as if you've found the most remote slice of paradise in all of Central America.

Published: 16 Jul 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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