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Pacuare River2022-07-02T09:52:56-07:00

Pacuare River Rafting

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.

River info

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.

Safety

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.

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.

Pacuare Outdoor Center is the leading outfitter on the Pacuare River. They offer a two day trip that is very popular which includes a night at their riverside lodge.

Send a message to Pacuare Outdoor Center

Pacuare River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment or experience.

Class II Rapid

Class II rapid or river feature.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include creeks and lodges.

Fun Zone

Well known surf waves and swim areas.

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.

Length

The multi-day put-in to the Siquirres take out is 26.23 kilometers.

Difficulty

Moderate to Advanced.

Meters per Kilometer

The multi-day put-in to the Siquirres take out drops 9 meters per kilometer.

Shuttle Time

Hire a shuttle driver. See Pacuare River Information tab above.

KM 0.00 – Multi-Day Put-in: River Left. This is the put-in currently used for two day trips. Previously, there was another option further upstream but the road has become rutted and slightly washed out. This new road requires the landowner’s permission as there is a gate. If you plan on using this access point you will need to join a Pacuare Outdoor Center trip (listed as our preferred partner).

KM 0.26 – Bienvenidos: Class II+. This is a tight right turn with three waves towards the bottom.

KM 0.45 – Welcome Wall: Class II. The water pushes into a wall on river right just downstream of Bienvenidos.

KM 0.76 – March Madness: Class II. This is a fairly continuous Class II+ rapid that casually makes a long right hand turn.

KM 1.00 – Rasta Rock: This enormous rock sits on the gravel bar on river right at the very bottom of March Madness Rapid. It makes for a decent visual cue as to where you are.

KM 1.14 – Big Turn Rapid: Class III. The water is forced to the outside bend and makes a sharp left turn. This is due to the large gravel bar on the left. There’s large boulders strewn in the center channel.

KM 1.61 – Popcorn: Class II+. Classic Pacuare, splashy fun. Another left hand turn into a right wall.

KM 1.67 – Small Waterfall: River Right. Just below Popcorn Rapid is a small creek and waterfall coming in on the right.

KM 2.4 – King Fisher Rapid: Class III. Read and run waves.

KM 2.55 – Class II Bend.: Class II. Small wave train ends with the river making a sharp turn right with the water pushing against the wall.

KM 2.7 – Zurqui Rapid: Class III. A slightly longer rapid compared to the short and fast ones that you’ve seen so far. This is a read and run wave train with large cobble bars left and right. It ends with a left turn.

KM 3.18 – Terible River: River Right. The Terible River meets the Pacuare here on river right. If you hike up this confluence approximately fifty meters there’s a small but nice swimming hole.

KM 3.23 – Tres Equis Farm Put-in: River Left. This is a put-in option for one day trips.

KM 3.33 – Bienvenidos Rapid: Class II+. Another rapid named Bienvenidos due to a river access point. Read and run.

KM 3.77 – State Border: You cross from Cartago Province into Limon Province at this point.

KM 4.14 – Linda Vista Put In: River Left. This is the best put-in option for the Lower Pacuare. The road is good and there are pit toilets here.

KM 4.33 – Volcano Rapid: Class III. Keep your eyes out for a rock mid channel that’s easy to pass on the left. Then the river makes a jarring right hand turn, work your way right to stay off the right wall.

KM 4.68 – Rock Fan: Class II. At low flows there’s a fan of rocks that present a challenge to get through.

KM 4.89 – Jump Rock: River Right. A jump rock that is good to go at low and medium flows is located here.

KM 4.95 – Creek: River Left. There are lots of tributaries on the Pacuare, which are difficult to find their names if they have one. This creek has a large swimming hole if you hike up it approximately 100 meters.

KM 5.24 – Cable Car: A cable cart crosses the river here for access to the Ju Tsiöbata eco-lodge, which you can’t spot from the river. This marks the beginning of the lodge section, which continues until Rio Tropicales, ~5 kilometers downstream.

KM 5.5 – Rocks Everywhere: Class II. The name says it all.

KM 5.76 – Maria’s Sweet Heart: Class II. The river gets pushed far right due to a large cobble bar to the left of it. Stay off the right wall here. Pacuare Outdoor Center will loop this rapid with tubes occasionally.

KM 6.35 – Pacuare Eco-Lodge: River Left. Pacuare Outdoor Center lodge is the first visible lodge you’ll come across on the Pacuare River. Learn more about the Pacuare Eco-Lodge.

KM 6.66 – POC Rapid: Class II. Read and run.

KM 6.88 – Pocito: Class II. Find a route through this fast water and avoid the wall on the right.

KM 7.22 – Cuidado Rapid: Class III. Enter center and then get right to avoid a rock on the left.

KM 7.46 – Circo Rapid: Class III. This is a long wave train that ends with a sharp left turn. Pick your way through the rocks / waves and then get left.

KM 8.04 – Crying Rock Rapid: Class II. At medium flows and higher, there is a raft flipping pour over located at the bottom of this short rapid. Go left of it.

KM 8.08 – Crying Rock: River Right. Look right for a rock with water seeping over it.

KM 9.58 – Rios Tropicales Lodge: River Right. This is where Rios Tropicales is located and marks the end of the lodge section.

KM 9.65 – Rojo Rapid: Class II. Small rapid that marks the entrance of the Huacas Gorge.

KM 9.67 – Water Level Indicator: River Left. Look to the left for a rock with paint on it. If the water is at the red paint or higher, do not continue downstream, the water is too high. Learn more about the Pacuare River flow.

KM 9.82 – Footbridge: A footbridge crosses the river here.

KM 9.88 – Creek.: River Right. A creek enters on river right here.

KM 10.11 – Corner Rapid: Class III. There’s a big hole right in the middle.

KM 10.37 – La Cháchara: Class III. A medium to long, read and run class III.

KM 10.4 – Fer-De-Lance Falls: River Right. A creek cascades into the river in this tiered waterfall.

KM 10.93 – Jumping Bobo: Class II. This is a small drop located just below Fer-De-Lance Falls.

KM 10.96 – Creek: River Left. Just below the Fer De Lance Falls and the small drop, is a creek on the left.

KM 11.18 – Rodeo Rapid: Class III. Enter center and then move right.

KM 11.75 – Waterfall: River Right. A gorgeous waterfall drops into the river here.

KM 12.14 – Pequena Rapid: Class II. Boogie rapid. Keep your eyes out for the small waterfall entering the river just after this on the left.

KM 12.23 – Cold Creek: River Right. Not sure if this is the true name, but local guides call this Cold Creek.

KM 12.32 – Two Story Rapid: Class III. Run this either left of center or right of center. Lots of small holes in this one.

KM 12.85 – Upper Huacas: Class IV. At low water, you will want to enter center and then work right to get right of the bottom rock and the wall. At medium flows, enter left and stay left. At high flows, it’s the same as medium water with an enter left and stay left line, but pay attention to the right as the features are large here.

KM 13.11 – Huacas Falls: River Right. A large, beautiful waterfall cascades into the river between the Huacas rapids. Learn more about Huacas Falls.

KM 13.33 – Lower Huacas: Class IV. If the water is high you will want to portage the first drop and then stay far right. At medium flows, it’s a center line and then you’ll want to get right. At low flows, right all the way. There are undercut rocks here so you need to pay attention.

KM 13.86 – Calm Pool: There aren’t many long sections of calm water on the Pacuare. This is one of them.

KM 14.18 – Upper Pinball: Class III. Read and run with a sharp right at the bottom.

KM 14.4 – Lower Pinball: Class III. Just below Upper is Lower Pinball. This rapid has two sections, both are read and run.

KM 14.46 – Hut: River Right. Look right and you’ll see some huts.

KM 14.58 – Monkey Head Rock: River Left. Just downstream of the huts is a small Class II rapid and if you look towards the bottom left of it you’ll see a rock that has a side profile of a monkey’s head.

KM 14.72 – Guatemala Rapid: Class III. Fun wave train with a hole towards the bottom that you can play in.

KM 14.91 – Creek: River Right. A smallish waterfall tumbles into the river here.

KM 15.23 – Disneyland Rock: Hard to miss this enormous rock. Logs are deposited on top of it from the high water event from the fall 2021 flooding that occurred here. Some guides call it Disneyland Rock, other guides don’t have any name for it. Learn more about Disneyland Rock.

KM 16.09 – Creek: River Right. An unnamed creek enters the river here.

KM 16.85 – Creek: River Right. Another unnamed creek meets the Pacuare.

KM 17.04 – Cimarrones: Class II. Go right of center.

KM 17.56 – Surf Wave: There’s a small and fun surf wave located here with an eddy making for easy access. Enjoy.

KM 17.78 – Nuevo Rapid: Class II. This is a newer rapid that was a result of the massive flooding in 2021. Fun, long wave train.

KM 18.81 – More Changes: Class II. This section changed alot from the flooding and it is currently Class II+ boogie water.

KM 19.37 – Brain Rock: This used to be in the center of the river, but after the 2021 floods it is no longer on the left bank. It’s called Brain Rock because, well, it looks like a brain.

KM 19.51 – Creek: River Right. Another unnamed creek enters the Pacuare on river right.

KM 22.34 – The Wall of Sorrow: Class IV+. You’re going to want to scout this one. You can scout it easily from the left cobble bar. This wasn’t much of anything until the flooding in 2021. Most of the water enters a right channel and then slams into a rock slide coming off the right wall. This rockslide has undercuts, so it is important you make the move back left. The move is easy to spot, but can be challenging to make. Hopefully over time the rapid settles and an easier route to the left appears.

KM 22.67 – Dos Montanas Rapid: Class IV. Left of center is the standard line. Right of center also works but there are larger features with this route. Avoid down the middle as there are rocks and at bigger flows, large holes.

KM 22.93 – Dos Montañas Gorge: This is an iconic Pacuare River section. You’ll enter a narrow canyon here with beautiful cascading waterfalls and a bridge. Learn more about the Dos Montañas Gorge.

KM 25 – Jump Rock: River Right. There’s a small but fun jump rock here on river right. If you pass by the four powerlines you’ve gone too far.

KM 25.17 – Eléctrica Rapid: Class III. Go down the center, but avoid the middle rock and then move towards the right. The visual marker for this rapid is the powerlines overhead.

KM 25.63 – Train Bridge: This bridge marks the beginning of Siquirres.

KM 26.01 – Highway Bridge: Highway 32 crosses the river here. You’re likely to see people fishing in this area.

KM 26.23 – Siquirres Take Out: River Left. There are a number of takeout options in this area, but the most common one is the cobble bar just past the Highway 32 bridge.

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