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Pacuare Lodge
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Reviewed March 5, 2012

For the last leg of our vacation, we planned a 3 day rafting/rainforest trip with the Pacuare Lodge.
They picked us up from Banana Azul early in the morning (at an extra cost, which was too expensive if you ask me)- the driver spoke no english, which made it a bit hard to communicate, with the "poqito espanol" that i can speak.
Our contract stated we were to get breakfast on the way to the warehouse (where you drop off your luggage and take a bag with you, enough for three days, since you're rafting to the actual lodge). Well, we never got that breakfast. When we arrived at the warehouse, we were starving, and when asked about it, the coordinator on-site tried to deal with it the best he could. At one point, he gave me his phone, as there was a woman from the lodge (or so i thought) that told me they were going to get breakfast for us, and have it brought to us on the bus that was coming from San Jose with other rafters. Ok, fair enough. Except that never happened. So we're waiting there for an hour for the bus to show up, and thankfully i packed a granola bar to share with my friend. Not the best first impression, if you ask me.

We were on the bus for a good 45 minutes that took us to the raft entry. We met our guides, packed our bags up, and took off. The guides were great. The river was not too rough... maybe class 2...if that.

We arrived at the lodge.. it’s beautiful. The accommodations are really nice and comfortable. There is NO electricity in the lodging, aside from the dining area, so just be prepared for no heat at night (it wasn’t too cold, but since it’s the rainforest, we were constantly wet, with no dryers, etc. so you feel very chilled throughout).
The food was delicious. Although I do have to say that they should have snacks throughout the day- we were a bit hungry during the day, and there is nowhere around to purchase little items, etc. They have “snacks” later in the day about an hour before dinner, which didn’t really make sense to me.
The staff is amazing.. the river guides are very knowledgeable about everything- the water, animals, plants, etc. and they are your waiters for the meals. Very safe and lovely environment. We really enjoyed their company and again, felt very safe when on the excursions and on-site.
A word to the wise- it is very dark and although lit with candles, etc. at night, I saw a few older people fall on the premises. Just need to be very careful.
If you’re not doing the excursions, there really isn’t that much to do, so I would just recommend one night here, as opposed to the two that we did.
Our last day, we rafted back to the warehouse, where our luggage was stored. The rapids were much rougher this time, and we had a blast. The lunch that they gave us while rafting was amazing.. delicious.
After the warehouse, they dropped us off in San Jose (included in cost).

It's a very unique experience, staying at the lodge, and I imagine if it's not raining it's even more enjoyable.

Room Tip: I personally would stick to a "river view" suite, as the upgraded cabins are a hike to get to.. and I would not want to walk there in the dark (again, no electricity=no street lamps, etc. Everything is lit by candle light)
  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled with friends
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1  Thank gidget2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 27, 2012

I cannot begin to describe in words how amazing the Pacuare Lodge is… but that’s not going to stop me from trying. This review will be very long, so let me give you a summary first:

Summary

If you are contemplating going to the Pacuare, just go. Stop contemplating. Just book it. The rooms are fabulous, the location incredible, the service fantastic and the food is absolutely gourmet.

Full Review

My husband and I stayed at the Lodge for part of our honeymoon in mid-February. We actually booked our whole honeymoon through Aventures Naturales (who are associated with the Lodge) and I highly recommend them as well.

Getting to the River

We were picked up at our hotel in San Jose and taken by van with 2 other couples to the river. We drove for about 1.5h before stopping for a Costa Rican breakfast at a little restaurant in the hills. Then it was another 1.5h to the river. But the time in the van flew- our guide was knowledgeable and kept giving us information about the area and pointing out flora and fauna and geographic details.

The road down to the river off the main road is like a two wheel track that goes down down down and I was amazed by the driver’s ability to negotiate it. It was a little bumpy, but the scenery was beautiful.

Once at the river we just had to tell the guide which luggage we wanted at the lodge and which we wanted at the warehouse. TIP: Have everything pre-packed so you know what you are taking, and definitely use a duffel bag or back pack as your suitcase will NOT fit in the dry bag unless its carry on sized.

The guides got all the luggage packed and put on the raft. This takes longer than you might like- we were itching to get onto the river, but be patient- it’s worth it.

Rafting In

This should be clear, but you are going to get wet- soaking wet if you choose to swim, so either wear water shoes or sandals that will tie up around your feet or else shoes you don’t mind getting soaked. We picked up watershoes for $7 ea at Walmart and it was completely worth it. Also- if you want to wear your sunglasses on the water you need to have them tied around your neck- they won’t let you bring them on the boat otherwise. Make sure your camera is either waterproof or in a dry bag, but I’d suggest splurging for the waterproof if you can- the scenery is worth it.

February is the low season for the river and the rafting was easy. (Oct-Dec are high season) My husband had never rafted before (nor had the other 2 couples with us) and no one had any problems. It was more of a float than anything else. You raft 7km the first day- took about 1.5h, but we stopped for a little while at a natural swimming pool that was a very short hike up from the river. It was fun to swim and splash around, and there is a small natural slide into the water.

You come around a bend in the river, and there is the Lodge- its beautiful.

The Lodge

Rooms

We were met by the resident manager of the Lodge and offered cool towels and a lovely fruit drink while our bags were unpacked from the raft. Each couple had a staff member personally escort them to their room. We reserved a Linde Vista Suite, and I can honestly say that the pictures on the website (as incredible as they are) do not do the room justice. It was huge, and beautifully decorated with a fantastic view.

In case you are wondering the difference between the Canopy Honeymoon and the Linde Vista (we were) it seems to be the size of the room- we saw both rooms during our stay, and the amenties seem identical (outdoor shower, dipping pool, hammock, huge deck etc).

The other rooms are lovely, but smaller and don’t have the pool, privacy or additional deck space of the Linde Vista. For our honeymoon, it was great, but if we went again I think we would choose a River View room. Also, it is a hike up to the Linde Vista Suite- you get a great view, but at the expense of a great calf workout. My husband is a personal trainer, and I’m in decent shape, but we both felt it was a workout to get up to our suite. (Another reason I’d choose the River View next time…) The staff used an ATV to bring our bags up to our room.

There is no electricity, but that just added to the romantic atmosphere. There were plenty of candles- both in the suite and on the deck. We did however bring our own flashlights after reading some other reviews that said the ones in the room weren’t great. You only need the flashlight for walking back after dinner, but we were glad we brought more powerful ones with us.

My concern was that we would run out of hot water, but we never did, and we took some long showers… So don’t worry about that.

The water in the dipping pool is not heated, so that was a little chilly, but once you got used to it, it was fine.

One thing to note- no electricity means no clocks in the rooms, so make sure you have your own watch or travel clock or something. We didn’t think about that, and as neither of us wears a watch (thank-you cell phones) we had no clock, so we were always guessing the time. Not a big deal, but its something I wish I would have brought.

Food

As I mentioned, the food was wonderful. There is a menu you can order off of for breakfast that includes fruit, yogurt, granola, eggs (any style), omelets, French toast as well as a typical Costa Rican breakfast. They make their own bread and it was wonderful.

Lunch was a 3 course meal- soup, entrée and dessert every day. The soups were what you’d have at any 5 star restaurant and the entrée varied from chicken to couscous to pasta, and was very good. The desserts were also 5 star.

While eating lunch, the staff would give you the options for dinner, which was also 3 course. You had a choice of appetizers- a soup or salad style dish every night, an entrée that was either beef, pork or chicken and dessert choice. I can’t say it enough- the food was gourmet. Generally my husband and I ordered one of each and just tried out each others food- it was all fantastic.

We did the romantic riverside dinner- it was lovely and I recommend it. We did do the upgraded menu- that gave us a fish option, and the entrée came with shrimp. I’m not sure if you need to do the upgraded menu or not though- the regular food is so amazing. But we also had a bottle of champagne with (I think that came with the upgraded menu).

Our last morning, they offered us the option of breakfast in our room- I didn’t even know that was an option and it was fantastic- the same menu, but brought right to your room.

Liquor is not included, but it’s not a bad price- a glass of wine was $5 US and beer was $5, and a hiball was $6 I think- about what you would pay at home in a restaurant. They have a large wine cellar if you want wine by the bottle, but I enjoyed their house red. Just note- they want you to pay the liquor tab in cash, so plan accordingly.

Service/Activities

The staff are phenomenal. They are so helpful and friendly. The first time you met each staff member, they ask your name, and then they remember it so you are always called by your first name. Its wonderful.

The staff all seem to do everything- the river guides wait tables, and the bartender does hikes. By the way- Jonathan- the bartender- is wonderful. My husband loves the creepy crawly things- spiders, snakes, tarantulas, lizards etc. and Jonathan took him and another couple for a night hike one night to look for those things (I was tired and enjoyed the hammock on the deck, looking up at the stars). My husband loved it and got some fantastic pictures of some very cool looking creatures that he never would have seen without Jonathan. And all it took was my husband asking him about snakes.

Side note- I do not like snakes, and scoured all the reviews for mention of them before booking. There are apparently 4 or 5 different snake species in the area, some very poisonous, but despite actively looking for them (my husband is crazy) we only saw one. So if you are worried about it, don’t be- they are there, but you won’t see them.

Of the pay activities, we only did the Canopy Adventure Tour- it was great. There is a 15 min vertical hike at the start, and then about 2h of zipping through 13 different zip lines before finally rappelling down a tree back to the lodge. You have two guides who point out different flora and fauna and who are extremely safety conscious.

We could have done more, but it was our honeymoon, and we wanted to relax a little bit. However we did do a hike with one of the staff members one afternoon- we thought we were going to the waterfall that’s just 400m away from the lodge, but he took us to another set of 2 waterfall’s across a suspension bridge on the water and gave us lots of info about the flora and fauna along the way. Then we went to the waterfall by the lodge- its beautiful, and worth swimming in, so wear your suit. Also- if you have water shoes, I’d wear them to the falls.

I have never experience service like I did at the Pacuare- they went above and beyond to make your stay a memorable experience, and we loved every minute of it.

Rafting Out

Leaving is a sad day. The set up is the same as going in, but you raft 23km today, and it takes about 4h. The rapids are a little stronger and more exciting- less float, more adventure, but we never felt in danger and no one fell out. (The guides are great) You also have the opportunity to get out and swim several times which is so much fun.

There is one section of the river that has to be the most beautiful place I have ever seen- feels like you are in a BBC Earth documentary. It literally took my breath away. And, as a bonus, there is a place to do a mini cliff jump if you are so inclined.

We stopped for lunch about halfway, and I have no idea how they made the lunch they did- it would have been good at any restaurant, but having floated down the river for 2h it was incredible. The hot food was hot, and the food that was supposed to be cold was cold. It was a lovely picnic.

Ladies, just a note- there are no bathrooms at the lunch stop, but there are lots of trees and foliage. Just FYI.

Once you leave the river, it’s a short 2 min walk to the warehouse where you can change and head out to wherever you are going next. Just to note- they are change rooms and bathrooms only- no showers.

That’s the review- if you want to know more, feel free to ask, but all I can say is go, go, go. It is money well, well spent.
The only other tip I can offer is that you should go to Pacuare at the end of your stay in Costa Rica- we went at the beginning and stayed at some other wonderful places, but because Pacuare was so amazing, they seemed lacking, even though they weren’t. We kept looking at each other saying “I wish we were back at the Pacuare.”

It was truly paradise.

Room Tip: Linde Vista is incredible, but if you don't want to spend the money, the River View is a great compromise
  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
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12  Thank Palmtreelover10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 15, 2012

This hotel will always be special as it is where my boyfriend proposed. I cannot recommend it highly enough, from our pick-up in Costa Rica, to the white water rafting, the excursions, the accommodation, the food, the safety and the staff, there is nothing to fault.
The white water rafting was spectacular. I have white water rafted in some pretty stunning locations, but this surpassed anything I have ever done. We were lucky we got to raft as the level of the river was very high (my boyfriend and I even got thrown out in a class 4 rapid), but our guide Jose got us safely out of the water and if anything, it made it all the more exciting!

We stayed in a river view suite was was beautiful, we had humming birds fly into our room and really enjoyed the outdoor shower.

The food was incredible, especially given that everything has to be rafted into the lodge, I never thought we'd eat so well in the middle of the rainforest. We did the canopy tour with Gerardo and Jose (2 guides just for the 2 of us!) who told us so much about the fauna and flora, we even saw a sloth with their baby. The canopy tour lasted over 2 hours and is definitely good value for money. I understand they have added many more zip wires recently and it's brilliant.

On our last night there, my staff arranged a candlelit dinner right by the river, next to the fire pit, and my boyfriend proposed, it was the most perfect setting I could imagine.

Jose our main guide throughout our stay could not have been kinder, or more knowledgeable, and I would recommend this holiday to anyone who loves remote, intimate hotels with a sense of adventure.

One word of warning, it is the rainforest and therefore very humid. Your clothes, once wet, will not dry. Take dry bags, and make sure your dry clothes are kept in them at all times when you're not wearing them, the air is humid enough to make them damp!

Wish we could do it all over again!

Room Tip: The set up from garden bungalow to river view suite seems to be quite a big one and well worth the money as far as I understand from friends who stayed in a garden bungalow. The bigger suites are quite a long way up the hill, so make sure you don't mind walking all the way up at night.
  • Stayed: December 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank gftb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 2, 2012

This is by far the best Hotel I´ve stayed at, its totally sorrounded by nature with fine cabins, excelent food and the adventure of rafting level 3 and 4 included as it is the only way to get in and out of this places....totally recommend it, specially the only honey moon cabin with a private natural pool and a tree to hug...
pura vida!!!

  • Stayed: March 2011, traveled with friends
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2  Thank Saín A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 18, 2012

This is a unique adventure. My Mom found it written about in the paper and we decided to check it out for her 70th birthday. It's on one of the best white water rivers in Costa Rica. You raft in and raft out. The food was delicious, rafting really fun (our guide, Jose, was a real expert and took the time to ensure my Mom (who is not the most adventurous and has some leg pain) was comfortable throughout. Although it rains a lot (and we were there in the dry season) and it was hard to keep things dry, it was a magical place worth checking out on your next trip to Costa Rica.

  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank Jonathan A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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