Pacuare Lodge is the antidote to a Disney family vacation

If this is ecotourism, count me in! That was what my husband said after stepping off the inflatable raft we had been on for the last hour and a half. We had arrived at Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica and had been greeted by the manager with a big smile and an even bigger cup of hot chocolate – just in case the tepid water temperatures were too much for us northerners.

We were in the middle of the rainforest approximately 70 miles due east from San Jose and it was a gorgeous scene. The Pacuare River is one of the Top 5 Rivers for whitewater rafting mostly due to its length, natural scenery and variety of class rapids. Almost every day, unless the water is too high, day trippers line up to tackle the six-hour journey through Class II, III and IV rapids toward the Caribbean. But alongside those day trippers were a few of us couples and families who wanted the extra excitement of staying at the Pacuare Lodge.

The Pacuare Lodge is a CST Level 5 certified sustainable eco-lodge run to benefit the local Cabecar Indian tribe. The people’s aim was to build a luxurious lodge that would value the environment (not one tree was taken down to build any part of the resort), provide local employment opportunities and preserve the heritage and culture of the tribe. They succeeded as Pacuare Lodge is brimming with nature, serenity, fun, and life!

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Our villa, surrounded by screened walls and colorful tall flowers and trees, sat right in the middle of a lovely garden. Although we did not have electricity, hot water was plentiful as each villa is provided with its own solar panel. All day, we could hear the rushing Pacuare River nearby as well as toucans and other birds calling out.

It was a scene right out of a movie – actually, there was a movie filmed on the Pacuare River called Congo that although did not do well in the box office was lauded for its cinematography. We spent the rest of our first day at the Lodge zip-lining and rappelling, and our first evening dining on a delicious meal by candlelight and starlight.

All the food is organic, kid-appealing and the Lodge even has its own wine cave (since you only need a flashlight to make your way back to your villa).

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The Lodge offers many activities including horseback riding, hiking, bird watching, yoga, and massage. We opted for the Cabecar Indian Hike, a grueling 6-hour hike through steep terrain of clay and mud and extraordinary scenery to an area where the native tribe still lives and works the land.

Mr. Juan offered us a seat (a log) in his home (a hut) and as carefully watched over his herd of cattle, tried to find out a little more about us. The experience was humbling, to say the least.

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After two nights, we said goodbye to our new friends and climbed back into the inflatable raft for another 5-hour ride to base camp. Guided by Alex, who was also our guide coming to the Lodge, we experienced thrilling rapids, beautiful waterfalls, lots of wildlife – and even lunch – all on the Pacuare River.

This experience should not be missed! 

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1 Response
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    Dear Irene Lane,

    I love your web site and newsletter that I get every month from GreenLoons. Please consider my invitation for you to Visit, Learn and Teach us about what else we could do to improve our Sustainable Eco-lodge immersed in a mountain top Rainforest Paradise and in wonderful natural monuments on a corner of this earth: La Fortuna Waterfall, Cerro Chato GreenLagoon & Volcano and Arenal Volcano & National Park. Our Eco-Lodge is immersed in the middle of all these Breathtaking Natural Icons & Landmarks in Costa Rica.
    We practice all 5 Eco-Tourism Activities mentioned in your previous article but would like to do more and learn from the mature voice, mind, heart, knowledge and eyes of a world-versed woman who has a great inside regarding International ecoToursim.

    Please come and stay with us as our guest! You will be fascinated by our “Wellness On Earth” Debt Free Sustainable program, that is Wellness for Humankind (Eco-Tourism and Lifestyle Medicine); Wellness for the wildlife; Wellness for the Natural Resources; Wellness for the Forest; Wellness for the Soil and Water Springs; Wellness for the Atmosphere! that is Wellness On earth through our “” Business Plan.

    “Facilities, Beauty, Sustainability, Education and Access”
    Senior Contributor
    32 reviews 32 reviews
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    🙂 5 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 week ago

    For me Green Lagoon had it all. Perched atop La Fortuna on what amounts to be the side of Arenal, the views are astounding. There are many angles from which to view all surrounding beauty. The hotel is great. It has location, size (not to big, not to small), vision and access on its side. Our rooms were clean and comfortable. I already spoke of the beauty of the location although the physical association to the Green Lagoon itself is wonderful. A short, though rigorous, hike (2 miles/3 Kilometers, each way) to Cerro Chato/Green Lagoon begins right off the hotel pool, bar and gift shop area. Additionally, there are many shorter and side trails to take advantage of. Add this to the fact that Green Lagoon was created by a Scientist, and you get a force of global sustainability and a wealth of educational opportunities. While they are reworking their vast activity list (kind of wordy and lengthy currently) they offer the most verity of activities and educational opportunities I have encountered. They have their own guide, Christian, who is like taking an encyclopedia/scientist into the forest with you. He and his partner are professionals that know everything about the area and more, their English is great, and they really care about and understand their environments. We did two tours with them and would have done more if we had stayed longer. We did a sustainability focus hike where we learned about all the ecological balance, re and de-forestification, saw birds of all kinds including Tucans, visited waterfalls, rivers and Costa Rican public water systems, as well as planted two trees in the re-forestification area. With a multi-acre organic medicinal plants garden operated by a indigenous tribal leader, Green Lagoon is a wealth of knowledge and is doing the things that those interested in sustainability can experience firsthand. We also did a night hike where we saw many tree frogs, insects, and other animals you can’t see during the day. Finally, the staff is wonderful overall. The rooms and grounds are very clean, the cooks are great and worth staying up on the hill for, and as I mentioned the guides are top-notch and the ownership really has a handle on the environmental beauty of the area and our on planet. I’d recommend a stay for relaxation, adventure or education. The only knock I had on the stay was that the activity book (which they are recreating) was obviously written by a Scientist, not with a marketing focus, which made it hard to choose our wonderful activities, and they are in need of some color in the hotel. surrounded by such beauty and grandeur, there are some parts of the hotel that seem sterile ( which is great in terms of cleanliness) and could use some big, colorful Costa Rican flare. All in all, I give Green Lagoon a very big thumbs up. What a great stay and establishment. I would go back, relax further, and learn more, given the opportunity. Thank you Green Lagoon.

    Please read from our guests


    Henry A Villegas, MD, FAAP and Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine
    GreenLagoon Falls Park and Lodge