Costa Rica Rafting Trip Advice - Mountain Buzz

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Old 04-08-2013   #1
Breaks, Virginia
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 13
Costa Rica Rafting Trip Advice

Hello Buzzards!

This is my first post on MB but I have been lurking for a while now. It was a great source of information a few years back re: an 18 day trip down the Big Ditch. The best vacation ever....18 days, incredible whitewater, no swims for me, no flipped rafts, big time party....sorry, I digressed.

I am an East Coaster who hangs out on BT but like to lurk on MB to read about catarafts, the Salmon, and dream about what it would be like to have our season with some of your desert multiday trips in our backyard....Anyway....

My family and I are going on vacation to Costa Rica in May.
We will be heading straight to Arenal for 3 days and then to Manuel Antonio for 3 more. I want to take my son (13) on a rafting trip and would like to get a sweet river in. It looks like tours operate from Arenal to Sarapiqui and the Tenorio and list both as 3-4. While maybe not a pro, I have been boating for close to 20 years and my son has done II+ in a canoe with me and III+ in a double ducky so I think we would be fine on anything III/IV.

Which would you select, and why? Consider quality whitewater, quality scenery, and a incredible experience to be the three main and equally important considerations.

Also, if you have better suggestions on a tour that we can get on out of Arenal or MA, I am open to suggestions


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Old 04-08-2013   #2
West of Boulder, CO
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 110
Pacuare!!!!! Without a doubt the most fun I have had with my family. The overnight at the Pacuare Lodge was excellent beyond belief.

Also, when at Manuel Antonio, do not stay in Quepos. Stay right by the beach at the Hotel Playa Espadilla instead of having to hike or cab to the beach..
"Nothing says dirtbag like a mylar pillow with a spigot."
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Old 04-08-2013   #3
Breaks, Virginia
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 13

I should have addressed this before...I would love to head to the Pacure as I understand it is the crown jewel of CR whitewater.

2 Concerns:

A) I don't think they will let a 13 yr old on board (does anyone believe otherwise?)

B) I understand it to be about 3.5-4 hrs from Arenal which is quite a trek.
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Old 04-08-2013   #4
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Jun 2008
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To address both of your concerns:

- You could definitely find a company that would allow your 13 year old on the trip. This time of year the water is not as high as it isn't the rainy season in the Turrialba area, so the rapids will be a bit more tame. It is considered III-IV pretty much all of the time.

- It would be quite a trek from Manuel Antonio, but far worth it. The rivers around that area are nothing compared to the Pacuare. Plus its usually done as a two day trip so you would not be making such a long trip for nothing.

The Pacuare is by far the most beautiful river I have ever experienced. Many companies will even provide transportation from San Jose so you can do it on one leg of your trip and be close to the airport. If you can swing it go for it. The Sarapiqui sections I ran were pretty mellow, more of a nature float than whitewater. I think there are some pretty good rapid stretches though. I don't know the other river.
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Old 04-09-2013   #5
loveland, Colorado
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 337

Pacuare definitely worth the trip and the flows in May will be more mellow for your son. Kayaked it in one day but heard the overnight is sweet.
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Old 04-09-2013   #6
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Totah, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 07
Join Date: Aug 2010
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Pacuare is wonderful, there is another river in the turrialba area called the Pejibaye, which has a class II-III section that is mellower than the Pacuare and also pretty damn beautiful.
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Old 04-09-2013   #7
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D-go go, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
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Originally Posted by cerebus1 View Post

We will be heading straight to Arenal for 3 days and then to Manuel Antonio for 3 more.
The Buzz is right on target with the Pacuare! You are way off target staying 3 days in Arenal and 3 in MA.....give arenal a day- then go to Turiallba, then head down to Uvita and then hit MA on your last day.

I understand this is a family trip but it would be a shame to head to CR and only hang out with the tourists....(i.e- white people, fanny packs, velcro sneaks, etc....) Anchoring yourself to these locales will really give you a false perception of a beuatiful country....but if high prices, no culture and bullshit zip lines are what your after then you've booked it right!
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Old 04-09-2013   #8
Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 264
Pacuare is a great trip...the Sarapiqui is also fun. The Reventazon is also fun but if they won't let a 13 year old on the Pacuare they probably won't on the Reventazon as it is a step up and has some solid IV's to even V depending on flows...I can only speak of those 3 from personal experience. The last time I was down there we did zip-lining and then rafted the Sarapiqui and it was a lot of fun. Some III's but nothing too much more than that, which is OK cause it gives you plenty of time to sight see and check out the toucans, monkeys, etc.

Don't want to dissuade you from your existing plan but Arenal is no longer an active volcano so it has lost some of it's luster. While it is still a cool spot, it doesn't have the glowing lava at night anymore.

One jewel I discovered a couple years ago was the Hacienda Guachepelin which is in the Guanacaste region near another volcano with a great hike to a crater, Rincon de la Vieja. While whitewater tubing is a fashion faux-pas on the Buzz the Hacienda Guachepelin has the funnest tubing I have ever take a horseback ride to the river, get on a tube and go down some class IV's rated on the international tubing scale. Seriously it's a hoot. The Hacienda is all about the eco-tourism that Costa Rica is known for. In addition to hiking to a crater, horseback riding, and tubing, you can also do waterfall cayoning, zip-lining, and mud baths by the crater hike, etc. There is a short walk to a waterfall from the Hacienda as well. The place is a kick in the pants for your whole family...check it out:

Hacienda Guachipelin Hotel Rincon de la Vieja Guanacaste Costa Rica

From there the area of Tamarindo is not too far away if you wanna get into some surfing, fishing, disco-tecaing, etc. Tamarindo has grown over the years and is pretty touristy but still a fun spot with great beach breaks at Playa Grande.

Have fun, you really can't go wrong anywhere (except maybe Jaco) and Costa Rica to see it all involves a really long time spent down there or to just return as often as you can!

Pura Vida!
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Old 04-16-2013   #9
Breaks, Virginia
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 13

Thanks for all of the suggestions. Once we get back, I will share our experience for others to learn from. Stay safe out there!
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Old 04-16-2013   #10
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Vail, CO
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Check out Costa Rica Descents out of La Fortuna (base of the volcano). They are one of the safest companies I've rafted with and they run on a few different rivers. AND...afterwards, they will take you (i think they do this for most of the trips) out to an organic farm to eat one of the best meals of your life! Thank me later.
Wear shoes in the Safety first, then teamwork.
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