Costa Rica: Pura Vida

Location Costa Rica Adventure Level Moderately Challenging Minimum age 12 River Rating Class III-IV From $2199
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

Join us for a week-long, lodge-based Costa Rica vacation that showcases the best of “Pura Vida.”

What could be a finer juxtaposition than mixing the pulse-quickening excitement of a world-class wild river, the Pacuare, with the quiet awe of one of the greatest natural phenomena on earth: the annual turtle nesting on the Caribbean beaches of Costa Rica? 

Our adventure in paradise begins on the coastal beaches of Tortuguero National Park for kayaking and wildlife viewing, including the chance to see (fingers crossed) a 300-pound green sea turtle laying eggs on the beach. Then, we venture inland to raft the best river in Latin America and explore Costa Rica’s lush rainforest. Always wanted to swim under a waterfall, zipline through a jungle canopy, and come face-to-face with an amusing monkey? When you dream about the perfect Costa Rica vacation, this is it.

Trip Highlights
  • Explore Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast
  • Watch for nesting sea turtles laying eggs in the sand
  • Kayak through canals and see monkeys, cayman, birds, and more
  • Raft the world-class Pacuare River as it flows through jungle rainforest
  • Hold on for a zipline canopy tour or hike in a secluded nature preserve
  • 6 nights lodging, including two nights at the award-winning Rios Lodge

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Costa Rica adventure is different depending upon the group, other trips in the area, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

Day 1

San José, Costa Rica

Arrive at Juan Santamaría International Airport and transfer to our hotel in San Jose. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have to time explore the area. 

Dinner is on your own tonight. Try the on-site restaurant, or if you’re feeling adventurous, venture to a local establishment nearby.

Day 2

Tortuguero National Park

This morning we’ll begin our overland journey to the Caribbean coast and Tortuguero National Park (approximate drive time is 3 hours). Our destination is Caño Blanco, where a boat awaits our arrival to take us into the heart of the park where there are no roads, only waterways. We’ll board the boat for the 1-hour water taxi to Tortuguero. These boats are sleek and fast and fun to ride in!

Upon arrival at the lodge, we’ll enjoy lunch along with the scenes, sounds, and scents of this tropical beach location. 

Our afternoon adventure will be kayaking one of the many canals within the park. We’ll board a motorboat and cruise the park’s canals and lagoons before we arrive at a remote canal. Here we’ll launch our kayaks and enjoy a leisurely paddle, exploring where motorboats cannot go and where wildlife is most abundant. You’ll find yourself immersed in a world where the forest merges with the river as you paddle your kayak through the calm water.

This evening after dinner we’ll gather again in hopes of witnessing an Atlantic Green Sea Turtle nesting on a nearby stretch of beach. Depending on the location assigned by Tortuguero National Park, we’ll travel by boat and/or by foot to reach the beach. Once in position, our group waits for the park service trackers who will radio our guide to indicate where a mother turtle has been spotted. Once located, we get to stand a few feet from the 300-pound turtle while she lays 80-100 eggs, covers up her nest, perhaps digs a false nest to throw off predators, and after more than an hour, returns to the sea.

While our primary objective is to witness the nesting process of the Atlantic Green Sea Turtle, we will also have the opportunity to observe the stars in the Caribbean sky, the bioluminescence on the waves, and if we’re really lucky we may see a sign of jaguar coming to the beach, also in search of a turtle. It’s not unusual to find their tracks in the sand. (B, L, D)

Day 3

Tortuguero National Park

We awake to the sounds of life around us – ocean waves, birds, monkeys, and more. We depart early this morning from the lodge by boat, stopping by the ranger station at the Tortuguero National Park headquarters where the park ranger will tell us which canal we are able to explore. From there we’ll journey up the canals, full of flora and fauna, and home to more than 350 bird species, including three out of the four species of Costa Rica monkeys, caimans, toucans, sloth, and much more. Stay alert, as nature will rise right in front of your eyes.

Back at the lodge, we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast before deciding how to spend the remainder of the morning. You may choose to join our guide on a journey up another nearby canal by kayak, in search of more wildlife. Or perhaps you’d prefer to relax by the swimming pool and explore the surroundings along one of the nearby nature trails. Either way, the sights, sounds, and smells of this tropical environment will be a fulfilling experience.

After lunch, our guide will take us to the village of Tortuguero. This visit will provide an opportunity to learn about the ways of life for the inhabitants of Tortuguero, a small community of about 1,300 people. We’ll tour the village center made up of local artisans, businesses, and more. For those who are enjoying the walk, we can return to Mawamba Lodge via the beach, adding about 1-mile to the walk.

As the day comes to an end, we’ll gather once again for dinner. We’ll toast the staff and our guides for a great time, and learn more about what to expect as our next stop brings us to the Rio Pacuare. (B, L, D)

Day 4

Pacuare River Whitewater Rafting

Our stay in Tortuguero comes to an end as we begin our travels to reach the renowned Rio Pacuare and our whitewater rafting adventure (approximate drive time is 3.5 hours). We’ll return to the mainland by boat, through the inland canals to where our vehicle awaits. On the way to the river, we’ll stop at an authentic restaurant.

Upon arrival at the river, our guides will give an orientation and safety talk. Then it’s into rafts for fun and exciting whitewater action on Class II-III rapids. As we are swept down the Rio Pacuare by the currents, we soak in the natural beauty of the primary and secondary rainforests surrounding us. Water level and time permitting, a guide will lead us on a hike up one of the many gorgeous side creeks that spill into the Rio Pacuare.

When we arrive at our unique riverside eco-lodge you can settle into your room and then spend the evening relaxing in a hammock or soaking in the natural pools by the river. Come on down to the open-air dining area where the guides will have prepared fresh appetizers and the guest-acclaimed famous “jungle punch.” As the sun dips behind the hills and the twilight fades, we will be treated to a delicious, freshly prepared dinner. (B, L, D)

Day 5

Canopy Zipline, Hiking, Relaxing

Wake up to the beauty of the light through the forest, the sound of toucans, and the smell of coffee. This day is designed to enjoy the lodge and its natural surroundings. Here you will have the unique opportunity to experience the wonders of the rainforest canopy on the zipline course. The distinctive platforms blend in seamlessly with the natural surroundings, giving you an amazing perspective of life in the roof of the jungle.

After the ziplines, you can choose from a couple of hikes on the property—a short nature hike near the lodge or a two-to-three-hour hike to a nearby waterfall, with a natural slide and pools. This 2,000-acre private rainforest reserve offers limitless places to get away from it all and enjoy nature. Just a short walk from the dining area, the lodge offers a sheltered hammock area that makes for the perfect spot to catch up on your reading, enjoy a cool drink or just relax and take in the stunning beauty of this amazing retreat. (B, L, D)

Day 6

Pacuare River Whitewater Rafting & Return to San Jose

After breakfast and loading the rafts, we’ll prepare to paddle downriver through the Class III-IV Pacuare Gorge, past gushing waterfalls, serene pools, and pounding rapids. A quick stop by the riverside allows you to explore a waterfall and pool. An adrenaline-packed morning running rapids like Upper and Lower Huacas, Cimarron, Dos Montañas, and many more will have you cheering ecstatically.

Our river journey ends with lunch before we travel back to San Jose, arriving at our hotel in the late afternoon (approximate drive time is 3 hours). Here you’re welcome to relax or take advantage of nearby museums, restaurants, and colorful local businesses. Head over to Escazú, San José’s hottest spot for shopping and nightlife. (B, L)

Day 7

Departure from San Jose

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel then OARS will arrange your transport to the airport for your departing flight. You may depart at any time today. (B)

Meeting Time & Place


San José, Costa Rica

Meeting time

A representative will meet you at the airport on Day 1


For flights departing any time on Day 7

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

2024 DeparturesPrice
June 30$2,199 – $2,499
July 7, 14, 21, 28$2,199 – $2,499
August 4, 11, 18, 25$2,199 – $2,499
September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29$2,199 – $2,499
2025 DeparturesPrice
June 29$2,715 – $2,960
July 6, 13, 20, 27$2,715 – $2,960
August 3, 10, 17, 24, 31$2,715 – $2,960
September 7, 14, 21, 28$2,715 – $2,960

Price per person based on double occupancy and group size.

Our July through September dates are based on the turtle nesting season in Tortuguero. Costa Rica is a year-round destination with alternative activities available in place of the turtle nesting tour. Please call us to discuss the dates that work for you.

Book Now



Additional Costs

• Mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage

Single Supplement

2024: $239
2025: $450

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled, professional guide service and naturalist provided by our affiliate operator
  • 6 nights hotel/lodge accommodation (based on double occupancy)
  • All meals as indicated in the itinerary (B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner) 
  • All activities and equipment as outlined in the itinerary
  • All transportation from arrival in San Jose on day 1 through departure from San Jose on day 7

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Flights to and from San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Single supplement fee
  • Airport transfers for arrivals or departures outside of days 1 and 7
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan or mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Gratuities

On the Pacuare River, our guides use paddle rafts to navigate the rapids. One of the sportiest of crafts on the water, 4-6 guests handle a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and teamwork begets success. It’s a thrilling way to brave the rapids. Helmets required.

On this lodge-based Costa Rica vacation, you’ll stay at three unique and comfortable hotels/lodges as we explore different regions: 

Studio Hotel – five-star boutique “art” hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Nights 1, 6)

Mawamba Lodge – Nestled between the Tortuguero Canals and the Caribbean Ocean, Mawamba is a tropical jungle lodge in a laid-back Caribbean atmosphere that will allow you to discover the natural beauty that Tortuguero has to offer. (Nights 2, 3)

Ríos Lodge – Nestled in the jungle on a 2,000-acre private reserve above the Pacuare Gorge, the sustainable eco-lodge offers very comfortable accommodations in “Cabecar Indian” style bungalows with spacious rooms, private bathrooms, and hot water showers provided by the self-sufficient mini hydro plant that generates the electricity. Beautiful tropical gardens frame the native wood structures. (Nights 4, 5)

At all of our partner lodges, you can expect comfortable rooms with private bathrooms. Amenities vary by property.


Costa Rica is known for its varied cuisine. You will be able to experience a variety of foods during your stay. Fresh fruit and seafood are a special delight. 

We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we must consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or necessary restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

In the cloud and rainforest areas this trip will visit, the weather is considered ‘spring year around’ with average temperatures in the high 80s to low 60s. It can rain at any time in Costa Rica (there is a lot of rainforest) and rain gear is a must! Guests are also advised to bring a warm layer for evenings, particularly in San Jose. Humidity can be expected throughout the region. Elevation ranges from 0 to 3,845 ft (the highest point is the city of San Jose).

Averages for San Jose:

Air (High) °FAir (Low) °FRainfall

Averages for Tortuguero:

Air (High) °FAir (Low) °FRainfall

Pacuare River

A paddle raft going through rapids surrounded by lush rainforest on a Costa Rica Pura Vida trip

The Pacuare River, or Rio Pacuare, has been named one of the top ten rivers in the world by National Geographic. Winding through lush, primary rainforest, the Rio Pacuare offers unparalleled views of Costa Rican wildlife and natural beauty. The rainforest that surrounds the river is home to exotic species such as jaguars, monkeys, ocelots, and a great number of birds including toucans, kingfishers, herons, hawks, osprey, egrets, and orioles. Add exciting Class III and IV whitewater rafting on warm, celadon-colored water and you can expect a tropical adventure packed with rich experiences that will offer memories to last a lifetime.

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Purchase Travel Protection: In order to take part in this trip, each participant must have a minimum of Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage in place for the dates of the trip. Learn more about the plan we recommend.

  • Essential Travel Documents: A passport is required for travel to Costa Rica.
  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. If you are reserving within 90 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Deposits

A $500/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.

Cancellations and Refunds
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
90 or more days before your trip$250/person, balance refunded
89 to 60 days before your trip$500/person
59 to 30 days or less before your trip50% of the trip price/person
29 to 0 days before your trip100% of the trip price/person

Requests to transfer a date will be treated as a cancellation, per the terms above.

Canceled Trips

OARS International and the outfitter Tropical Rivers & Adventures Tours reserve the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.

Our Costa Rica trips are run by an affiliate company and arranged through O.A.R.S. International, Inc.

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