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!
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).
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.
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!