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Pacuare River Rafting Guide
The Pacuare River is what made rafting famous in Costa Rica. Beautiful, cascading waterfalls, too many rapids to count, a jungle setting, and year-round access make it an idyllic spot. The Pacuare is segmented out by the Upper Upper, the Upper, and the Lower Pacuare. Our guidebook covers the Lower Pacuare which is the commercially rafted section. The other two are popular with kayakers looking for Class V fun.
About this guide
This guide outlines the Lower Pacuare run from the Multi-Day Put In to Siquirres. This is considered the commercial run.
People describe the Pacuare as having 50+ plus rapids. They’re more or less correct as there are tons of Class II/III rapids and whitewater features on this river. The Lower Pacuare is primarily a pool-drop run with most of the rapids being read and run. It’s a beautiful stretch as the river is remote and you’ll raft in and out of canyons and thick jungle with creeks cascading into the river seemingly at every corner. The Pacuare is a free flowing jungle river that is most commonly run near the town of Tres Equis through Siquirres. There are other sections though, which are upstream of the start of this guidebook. These are called the Upper and Upper Upper. Both feature more challenging whitewater and are typically kayaked rather than rafted.
Being a free flowing river with many tributaries, the Pacuare river flows can ramp quickly. It is important to not be on the water if it is rising fast or if it is high. Additionally, the river and rapids are in constant flux and change often. What was once a Class II rapid can shift with a flood and be Class IV overnight. Channels close off while others open up. You should be a competent Class IV paddler if you are considering tagging along on a trip in your own kayak. If you are a commercial guest, then no previous rafting experience is necessary.
Joining a trip
We recommend joining a trip to learn the river as there are no flow gauges, the Pacuare can spike quickly, and the rapids change often. Pacuare Outdoor Center offers trips that run often and they are open to kayakers tagging along but you should expect to pay for meals and lodging as their trips are two days long.
Pacuare River Shuttle
Like most rivers in Costa Rica, you’ll need a four wheel drive vehicle to access the Pacuare. While it is certainly easier to join a Pacuare commercial trip and use their shuttles/logistics, if you need your vehicle at the put-in, then you’ll want to hire someone to shuttle it to Siquirres. Get in touch with Pacuare Outdoor Center to have it arranged.
Pacuare River Flows
There’s no automated flow gauge for the Pacuare River. Located in a rain forest with many tributaries the river can very quickly flood, so paying attention to the forecast and going with someone that knows the river and canyon is a must.
The only “gauge” is a visual marker located near the Rios Tropicales Lodge, painted on a rock on river left. This is labeled in our guide as the Water Level Indicator. The different colors are described in the guidebook in relation to flow. As recommended elsewhere in this guidebook, you should paddle with Pacuare Outdoor Center as you learn the river to make sure you are in good flows and follow the correct lines.
Lower Pacuare – Class II, III & IV+
This guide outlines the main waypoints for the Lower stretch of the Pacuare River, from the multi-day put-in to the Siquirres takeout. Many of the Class II and III rapids are straightforward read and run at normal to low flows. If the water is up, or at the Class IV rapids at any flows, you will need to be with someone that knows the river well.