University of Wisconsin–Madison

19 Kilometers on the Pacuare River

This past Sunday I went rafting on the Pacuare River. It was kind of funny when I tried to explain my plans for the weekend to my host mother. I didn’t know the verb for ‘rafting’, so I just said I planned to go to the river and then I choreographed rowing. I found out the next day that rafting has the same meaning in Spanish as in English: ir de rafting = to go rafting.

We were picked up at 6:30 from the school and stopped to eat some gallo pinto for breakfast before being dropped off. The ride through the rural towns and farmland was interesting. The towns are a refreshing change from San José, rural and surrounded by mountains, with winding roads and terraced fields. I wish I took some pictures, but I didn’t bring a camera for this trip.

We were met by our guides after a half hour hike from the bus to the riverbank. After a quick safety orientation and some practice rowing, we set off. The entire 19 kilometers of river we rafted was surrounded by steep slopes covered in rainforest; it was the greenest place I’ve ever seen. The guide of our six person raft kept up a steady stream of conversation: identifying different birds, large blue morpho butterflies, and basilisk lizards (AKA Jesus Christ lizards—the kind that run across the top of water on two feet to escape predators).

Along one bank of the Pacuare is La Amistad, a nature preserve whose name means “The Friendship” and extends south out of Costa Rica and all the way to Panama. High waterfalls, a few rope and plank bridges, and lush forest lined the river. The trip wasn’t all scenery though—the rapids were excellent. I had rafted once before in Colorado, but the section of the Pacuare we did was significantly rougher than that. It was an adrenaline rush paddling as the guide shouted directions to avoid the bigger obstacles. I was even thrown out of the raft once from an unexpected boulder, it was great!

One of the guides we met when we were picked up, Alejandro, followed the group in a kayak and took some photos at the calmer parts of the river. I’m convinced he has one of the coolest jobs ever.

 Taking a dip in the Pacuare River
Taking a dip in the Pacuare River


I’m looking forward to a 3 day trip to Manuel Antonio this coming weekend, a national park on the Pacific coast, it will be my first chance to hike through the rainforest and see Costa Rica’s famed biodiversity up close.

Speaking of biodiversity, here’s a picture of my new friend…



She (he?) lives in the bathroom at my temporary home, and I usually catch her hanging out on one of the walls when I first wake up or go to bed. The cool thing is that ever since she showed up I haven’t seen as many cucarachas when I go to brush my teeth.