“An idyllic riverside jungle lodge, hidden in the depths of the rainforest and reachable only by raft”
Walk along a winding path to the tall open-sided palenque and sip caipirinhas before dinner - surprisingly sophisticated cuisine is served under the moon, next to the murmur of the river. Awake to birds calling all around you, monkeys swinging in the trees and hummingbirds flitting in the flowers outside your window. Pacuare Lodge will be the highlight of your trip to Costa Rica.
- This is a unique chance to be isolated in the rainforest, immersed in nature but with fine wines and excellent food
- The palm-thatched wooden cabins are rustic but luxurious, most have 360-degree rainforest views or plunge pools
- The staff are charming - everyone seems to love welcoming you, creating a warm and uplifting atmosphere
- Arriving by raft is unforgettable. Those who don’t fancy it can be brought by jeep and a basket across the river!
- Amazing activities are on offer, such as the hike to visit the Cabecar indigenous community and their curandero (medicine man)
- Pacuare Lodge is carbon neutral
- It's pricey, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and all meals and local transportation are included
- There's no phone, no TV and WiFi reaches the reception area only. That’s the whole point
- No children under 7 are accepted (only over 12s can raft), and rafting might prove too much for older guests. Consider the option of taking a jeep across the river
- There's no electricity in most cabins, so no air-conditioning is available, and there’s the possibility that bugs will get in, though your cabin windows are mosquito screened. Be prepared and you’ll love it
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Jungle Lodge
- All meals included
- Over 7s welcome
- Open all year
- Heated Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Bicycles Available
Pacuare's lovely grounds hold various thatched wooden suites and villas, all designed to make the most of the verdant natural surroundings.
The surprisingly elegant Garden Suites have spacious verandas and ochre-plastered bathrooms with copper rainhead showers; additional outdoor showers allow you to bathe in nature. Water is heated by solar panels. If you want river-front views, plump for a River View Suite.
Though we’re yet to personally view them, the Linda Vista Villas sound like the cat’s pyjamas. Perched on a ridge, each has awesome river and rainforest views as well as private spring-fed dipping pools.
Honeymooners might well be content with any of these, unless they see the huge Canopy Suite first. Right in the heart of the jungle, this extravagant cabin has a luxurious bathroom, a wonderful open deck with grand views and steps down to a private plunge pool. There’s even a secluded observation platform accessed via a private suspension bridge, perfect for declarations of love.
Newest of all is the super-luxurious Jaguar Villa, sitting on a treetop platform and accessed via a private suspensions bridge. It sleeps up to 4 (across a master bedroom and lounge / second bedroom), but the lofty setting means it's best suited to groups and families with older children.
Wherever you stay you'll get good towels, plentiful organic, biodegradable toiletries, and lots of candles. You’ll be given a torch too, to make wandering the (dimly lit) garden paths easier at night.
- Extra beds
- Plunge pool
- Safe box
From the delicious iced lemon juice you’re handed on arrival, you know the food and drink at Pacuare are going to be good. And despite the fact that everything you eat has to be brought here on a raft like the one you were madly paddling, chefs Warner and Alan manage to produce meals of impressive sophistication. Plus it’s all organic. Meals are eaten in the main building: a tall, open-sided wooden palenque, right by the river’s edge, with tables on the terrace outside or inside where you can watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen.
Breakfast is a buffet of fresh fruit, warm homemade bread, and freshly made banana pancakes, then eggs, rice and beans, fried plantain and yoghurt with homemade granola. Help yourself to coffee and a large selection of St Dalfour organic teas. Each table is given a big jug of juice and this is a lovely time of day to linger, sitting out on the terrace, watching birds flitting around and the river below you.
Lunch offers 2 choices for each course: our filo pastry parcels filled with goats cheese, pork tenderloin, and roasted vegetables were delicious.
Dinner is a real occasion here - and very romantic in the depths of the jungle. The whole palenque is lit by candles and waiters run around with head torches, emerging from the shadows to bring you a cocktail (the caipirinhas are superb) or serve dinner. We ate on the open terrace, the river lit by moonlight (you can request to dine al fresco). White linen on the tables, red napkins and pretty candle holders create a sense of formality. The waiting staff are friendly and attentive and the food is excellent. Our carpaccio of tuna was top-notch, followed by tilapia fish in a delicately spicy sauce, and the most decadent chocolate pudding imaginable. All washed down with a premium Argentine malbec - a far from rustic experience. You’ll certainly sleep well.
Those who want ultimate privacy and romance should eat dinner in The Nest, a wooden terrace attached to a ceiba tree. You get incredible views from the forest canopy, though as you are 60ft off the floor, and have to reach the platform via a zip wire, it is not for the fainthearted!
- All meals included
- Organic produce
- Vegetarian menu
- Rafting is the means by which you arrive and leave (though you can ask for transfer by jeep, then cross the river in a basket suspended from a wire!). It’s Grade 1-2 on the way in, Grade 3-4 on the way out, depending on the time of year - low water can make the rapids more technically difficult. It’s great fun, even if you’ve never done it before. The guides are professional and take good care of you
- There are fantastic opportunities for bird watching. Many bird species are visible in this part of the rainforest and you'll see lots of them as you sit having breakfast on the terrace
- Canopy tours are available via 8 zip wires in a circuit connecting 12 platforms, which allow you to zip through the forest like a bird. There are also 2 rappel wires
- Plenty of hikes are on offer. Most popular is the 1 and 1/2 hour hike to waterfalls, with your guide explaining flora and fauna along the way
- Unwind in the Jawa Jüu Spa to the sounds of the forest around you. Couples should opt for the honeymoon package which includes a chocolate massage! You can also attend a yoga class
- Visit the Cabecar indigenous community, an unforgettable experience. It’s a stiff 2-hour hike through beautiful forest to reach the small remote group of traditionally built houses, and once there you’ll be greeted by the medicine man (curandero). It's a 6-hour round trip (ask to set off at 9 and you’ll be back for a late lunch)
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Plantlife / flora
- Traditional cultures
Pacuare Lodge welcomes children aged 7+, but rafting is only suitable for those over 12 years old; younger children must arrive and depart the lodge by land transportation.
Overall, the entertainment on offer is best suited suited to families with older kids and adventurous young souls will have a ball here.
Family friendly accommodation:
Extra beds can be added to most rooms on request. The Jaguar Villa can sleep a family with up to 3 children, but its location in the treetops makes is best suited to older children.
Pacuare Lodge is set deep in the rainforest jungle alongside the Pacuare River in eastern Costa Rica.
San Jose (150km) is the closest airport.
Travelling on to Pacuare:
It’s pretty much essential that you spend the night before you go, and the night afterwards, in or near San José - unless your flight leaves the next day after 8pm. Everyone is picked up at the rendezvous point by minibus in San José at 6.30am. The bus stops at the restaurant Ranchito Roberto’s at 8am for breakfast, 100km north of San José. The bus then continues to the ‘Put in’, which takes around an hour. You’ll get into the rafts at around 10.30am and rafting the 4 miles to Pacuare takes about an hour and a half, including a stop to wallow in an idyllic shallow pool by a waterfall. Lunch is served on your arrival.
Departure from Pacuare is around 9.30am. You continue rafting downstream for 14 miles, but make two stops, one to climb up to a spectacular waterfall, where you can wallow and swim, and another for an excellent lunch, also in a beautiful spot. You’ll reach dry land again at around 2pm and have time to change into your dry clothes, before getting back on the bus for the 2-hour journey back to San José. You’ll be dropped off around 5pm, though times change, obviously, with weather and different groups.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Costa Rica and getting around
- San José Juan Santamaria International 150.0 km SJO
- Beach 40.0 km
- Shops 15.0 km
- Restaurant 15.0 km