Back in San Jose, we grabbed a taxi from the bus stop to take us to our hotel —Gran Hotel de Costa Rica. It's old (historic) and pretty much dead central to downtown. It's decent, but maybe three-star by our standards. We checked in and then wandered down the road to El Patio for dinner (pizza and black bean soup - all pretty tasty).
Tuesday, we were up bright and early to grab the buffet breakfast at 6 a.m. before heading downstairs to meet our shuttle to the Pacuare Lodge at 6:15. Our guide chatted with us and talked up a storm about interesting things while we spent the next hour driving around San Jose picking up another few couples that were headed to the Lodge. Then we were off, made a quick stop in Cartago to visit the famous Basilica de Los Angeles, and then wove into higher elevations full of farm land before stopping for a typical Costa Rican breakfast. The restaurant had a view and great food. We were encouraged to change there in prep for our first white water rafting adventure. Transportation, breakfast and white water rafting were included in our Pacuare Lodge adventure package, along with all other meals and our lodging for two nights and three days. Another hour or so and we arrived at put-in at the Pacuare River.
Our river guides and rafts awaited. Our luggage made it into dry bags and we grabbed paddles, vests and helmets and off we went. The first day of rafting is only about an hour or so and you dock at the Pacuare Lodge. There, you take off your gear, are given a towel and a glass of papaya juice and greeted by staff. Our river guide actually ended up being the manager … and one of our waiters … and a bartender … and, well, you get it. We grabbed out bags and were each taken to our bungalows. The Mr. and I had a Garden View one (Tucan), surrounded by tropical fauna and just feet away from the rushing sound of the river. The only electricity on the property is in the property office and the outdoor kitchen, so, yup - no a/c and candlelight at night. But it was WONDERFUL. The bungalows are screened in and have running water … well crafted in wood and featuring mosquito nets and lanterns, it was beautiful and romantic, for sure.
After we settled in, it was lunch time … outdoors on the deck, right off the river. The place is incredible peaceful and the staff added to the equation. That afternoon, we just tore (and toured) through the rainforest surround the Lodge - came across lots of creeks and waterfalls and bird nests (and, uh, tarantula holes). Drinks and snacks are served between 5 and 6 p.m. (p.s. the sun goes down around 6) and dinner is served at 7. November is at the end of the off-season (rainy season - things start to pick up around Thanksgiving), so not only were rates cheaper for us, we didn't have to deal with crowds … so there was a level of intimacy and casualness I don't think we would have gotten to experience otherwise. There were only about six couples on property while we were there … so, we got to know the staff and our fellow adventurers, as well.
There are several excursions/adventures you can choose from to do throughout your stay. On Wednesday, the Mr. and I took a 4 hour horseback ride to and from the local village — El Bajo del Tigre. There, we got to hangout with our guide's aunt, eat a little authentic snack and poke around their farm. It was a very cool cultural experience. Tub and Amanda went canyoning down waterfalls (totally going to do that next time)!
Wednesday afternoon brought rain that lasted into Thursday. After breakfast on Thursday, we packed up and got geared up to hit a higher and more rapid river of rapids. Max, our singing river guide, directed us through Class-2 and 3 and 4 rapids for the next 2.5 hours. That second run was CRAZY — in ride, fun AND scenery. I'm pretty sure I smiled the entire time. We beached our raft at the Pacuare Lodge outpost where we got out, changed and awaited our lunch. After eating, we hopped on the shuttle back for the 1.5 hour ride back to San Jose (via a new/different route) and the Gran Hotel.
New room and lots of hours to spare, we hit a casino (note: it's not easy to win when you don't know the language!), ate at El Patio again, and settled in for the night. The next day, after buffet breakfast and lots of lazing around, we caught a taxi to take us to the airport.
Vacation done. Booooo.
Again, pictures can be found on my Flickr.