|MEETING PLACE:||Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, Costa Rica|
|MEETING TIME:||A representative will meet you at the airport on day 1|
|RETURN TIME:||For flights departing any time on day 7|
|RIVER RATING:||Class III-IV|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 12|
|TRIP LENGTH:||7 days / 6 nights|
|ACTIVITIES:||Rafting, hiking, zipline/canopy tour, leisure kayaking, wildlife viewing|
|BOAT TYPE:||Paddle raft|
Join us for a week-long escape rafting the best river in Central America, exploring the unique wildlife of the rainforest canopy, and witnessing the turtle nesting miracle in Tortuguero National Park. What could be a finer juxtaposition than mixing the pulse-quickening thrill of a world-class whitewater river with the quiet awe of one of the greatest natural phenomena on Earth—the annual turtle nesting on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica? You’ll experience the best of super-natural Costa Rica on this tropical adventure, while based out of two comfortable lodges, one of which is considered one of Central America’s most legendary eco-lodges.
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip 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: Arrive San José, Costa Rica
Arrive at Juan Santamaría International Airport, register with immigration and go through the standard customs check. Outside the airport, look for your transfer guide holding a sign with OARS on it. He or she will take you to our hotel.
Depending on your time of arrival, you may have to time explore the area around the hotel. You’re free to explore dining options or enjoy dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Details of when and where to meet the next morning will be provided by your transfer guide, but it’s usually 6:00 AM in the hotel lobby. If you arrive ahead of day 1, look for this information to be provided via message at the hotel reception.
Tryp Sabana by Wyndham
Day 2: Tortuguero National Park
This morning we’ll get an early start (typically 6:00 AM) and begin our overland journey to the Caribbean coast and Tortuguero. On our way we’ll stop at the popular Rio Danta Restaurant in Guapiles for a Costa Rican style breakfast. As we travel the rural roads, you’ll have views of the surrounding landscape and communities that make up this region. 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 transfer to Tortuguero. These boats are sleek and fast and fun to ride in!
Upon arrival to the lodge we’ll enjoy lunch along with the scenes, sounds and scents of this tropical beach location. 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.
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 to 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.
As the day comes to an end, nocturnal animals and insects awaken. Our twilight tour is an opportunity to enjoy the sounds of the rainforest at night, a completely different experience from daytime outings. With a naturalist guide in the lead, our walking tour will introduce us to the magic of the rainforest as it turns dark. The trail has been carefully built, raised from the ground and in cement, to allow your most comfortable walking experience. After our evening walk we’ll return to the lodge for a much deserved dinner.
Mawamba Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 3: Tortuguero National Park
We awake to the sounds of life around us – the ocean waves, birds, monkeys and more. Another hearty breakfast fuels us for a day of adventure in our tropical paradise.
This morning we’ll depart 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 (identified so far), including 3 out of the 4 species of monkeys of Costa Rica, caimans, toucans, sloth, and much more. Stay alert, as nature will rise right in front of your eyes.
After lunch back at the lodge, our afternoon adventure takes 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 1300 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, about a 1-mile walk.
This evening after dinner we’ll gather again in hopes of witnessing an Atlantic Green Sea Turtle nesting on a nearby stretch of beach. Come dressed in dark clothing so as not to be visible when walking the beach toward a nesting turtle – long sleeves and pants are best and closed-toe shoes are required. 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.
Mawamba Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 4: Rio Pacuare Whitewater Rafting
Our stay in Tortuguero comes to and end as we begin our travels to reach the renowned Rio Pacuare and our whitewater rafting adventure. We’ll return by boat through the inland canals to where our vehicle awaits. On the way, we’ll stop at the river operations base where lunch is prepared before continuing to the river.
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.
We arrive at the unique Rios Tropicales Lodge where we can spend the evening relaxing in a hammock or soaking in the natural pools by the river. After settling-in to your room, 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.
Nestled in the jungle on a 2,000-acre private reserve above the Pacuare Gorge, the Rios Tropicales 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. The lodge is built as a sustainable eco-lodge—including the building materials, waste management system, recycling practices and the clean, renewable energy that powers the entire facility. The lodge is a great starting place to explore the surrounding rainforest on self-guided trails or with a naturalist guide, relax in serene riverside pools or in a hammock overlooking the river, fly through the canopy on the zip-line tour or watch the myriad species of birds and other animals in this wonderful location. Did we also mention sipping jungle punch and dining by candlelight with a delicious dinner?
Rios Tropicales Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 5: Rios Tropicales Lodge—zip line canopy tour, 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 zip line course. The distinctive platforms blend in seamlessly with the natural surroundings, giving you an amazing perspective of life in the roof of the jungle.
In addition to the 9-line canopy tour, you can choose to join a couple hikes—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 spacious property 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. (Rappelling down a nearby waterfall is available for an extra cost.)
Rios Tropicales Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 6: Rio Pacuare Whitewater Rafting and 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 back at the river operations base where showers and changing rooms are available. From here, we’ll travel back to San Jose, arriving to our hotel in the late afternoon. Here you’re welcome to relax or take advantage of nearby museums, restaurants and colorful local businesses. The hotel offers a restaurant, gym, coffee house and gift shop. Head over to Escazú, San José’s hottest spot for shopping and nightlife.
Tryp Sabana by Wyndham (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.
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled, professional guide service and naturalist provided by our affiliate operator
- 6 nights hotel and 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, including rafting, kayaking, zip line canopy tour
- Dry bag for packing your belongings on the river trip
- All transportation from arrival in San Jose on day 1 through departure from San Jose on day 7
- 27-oz Klean Kanteen water bottle
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
- Alcohol and personal items (an equipment list will be provided)
- Guide gratuities
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: We recommend the purchase of the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you before and during your trip. A travel protection plan can help with reimbursement of your non-refundable payments in the event you have to cancel your trip due to listed reasons such as a covered illness or injury. Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. We list the cost for the optional OARS Travel Protection Plan on your trip invoice.
10-Day Free Look Period: This stipulation allows you to cancel your travel protection plan within 10 days from your effective date of coverage or before your scheduled departure date, whichever comes sooner. OARS will refund all of your premiums paid if you cancel coverage within the time specified, provided you have not already filed a claim under the travel protection plan. Effective date refers to 12:01 AM the day after the policy premium is paid.
Insurance coverages are underwritten by Arch Insurance Company, NAIC #11150, under policy series LTP 2013 and endorsements thereto. Policies are administered by Arch Insurance Solutions Inc., 855-286-8351, CA license #0I18111, TX license #1787195. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage. Certain restrictions and exclusions apply and coverages may vary in certain states. Please refer to your policy for detailed terms and conditions; online at: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Consumer disclosures can be found at: https://oars.archinsurancesolutions.com/disclosures
Please note, we require all participants have a minimum of emergency medical evacuation coverage to participate. This coverage can be purchased as a stand-alone policy, or is typically included in a travel protection plan. If you don’t have proof of coverage at the start of the trip, you cannot take part in the expedition. For a basic policy that includes coverage for emergency medical and evacuation situations, visit www.oars.com/tmp
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 90 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.
☐ Reserve flights, shuttles and lodging: Verify with your Adventure Consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at https://www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitation you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
☐ Payments: Final payment is due in our office 90 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting & Place Time
For travelers arriving on day 1, an OARS representative will meet you at Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) near San Jose and provide a transfer to our hotel. Travelers arriving to Costa Rica ahead of day 1 can have a transfer arranged by OARS for an additional cost, or make your own way to the hotel.
The group will meet the morning of itinerary day 2 in the lobby of our hotel.
*Note that your transfer driver may not be familiar with specific details of the OARS trip itinerary.
Getting to San Jose
From the United States, these are some of the carriers offering services to Costa Rica: American, Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, United Airlines, US Airways, Copa, Aeromexico, TACA and Air Canada.
Let us know if you’d like assistance with arranging your international flight logistics. Our partners at Exito Travel specialize in international destinations and we’d be happy to obtain a quote from them on your behalf.
Please do not purchase airfare until your departure has been confirmed by the minimum number of required guests.
After Your Trip
On the final day of your trip (day 7), you will be transferred to the international airport for your departing flight (including domestic flights), a car rental office, or to a nearby hotel. You may schedule your flight for any time.
To expedite your departure experience, we have included the Costa Rica departure tax in the trip price.
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations
This trip includes hotel and lodge accommodation for each of the six nights. If you plan to arrive early or stay beyond the OARS program, please contact our office if you would like assistance in booking pre- or post-trip accommodation at one of our hotels or lodges. We recommend you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging. Pre- and post-trip lodging is not included in the trip cost. Accommodation at hotels other than the ones we work with can be arranged directly with that establishment.
Essential Travel Documents
If you don’t have a passport, apply for one immediately because the process can be lengthy. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiration date to see that it is valid through the duration of your planned visit to Costa Rica. Make a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and carry it separately from your passport. It is a good idea to leave a copy with your emergency contact at home. We request that you send us a copy to keep on file for emergencies during your trip. If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy will help the local consulate speed up authorization for replacement. Also check your passport for blank pages. If you do not have at least two blank pages in your passport, we recommend that you apply to have extra pages added. Do not pack your passport in your checked luggage.
You may be asked for your visitation papers at various times during the trip. If you are carrying a customs form, please keep it in a safe place at all times. We recommend carrying it separate from your passport because you often must submit the passport at hotels, where reception clerks can easily lose the form.
Visas are not required for U.S. or Canadian citizens to enter Costa Rica if your planned visit is for 90 days or less. For citizens of other countries, please check with the Costa Rican consulate.
Mandatory Evacuation Insurance
We require that you purchase emergency medical evacuation insurance to participate in this expedition. For a policy that includes coverage for emergency medical and evacuation situations, visit www.oars.com/tmp
We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation through the purchase of a travel protection plan. We offer the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings before and during your trip. Travel Protection can reimburse you for non-refundable payments if you should have to cancel your trip for a covered reason such as your illness or the illness of an immediate family member. For complete details go online to: www.oars.com/tpp
Tortuguero National Park
The essence of Tortuguero is slow-moving tropical rivers & canals. Everything about Tortuguero is defined by the rivers. They are the essential pathways and soul of Tortuguero. Located on the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park has incredible biological variety including rainforest, swamps, beaches and lagoons. The park supports hundreds of species of trees and thousands of plant species which in turn attract an amazing number of birds, including kingfishers, toucans, blue herons, peacocks and various parrots. The forests are home to jaguars, three- and two-toed sloths, ant eaters, reptiles and three of Costa Rica’s four species of monkey, while the rivers house sensitive populations of manatees, caimans and crocodiles. The beaches in the reserve are key nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles such as Hawksbill, Loggerheads, Green and Leatherbacks.
As part of a small group along with a naturalist, we hope to witness a turtle nesting on a remote beach. It’s a fascinating part of the turtle’s lifetime journey, which started many years ago when she broke out of her own egg, climbed up through the warm sand, and stumbled down to the ocean shore—through a gauntlet of predators. She is the one in 10,000 who survived. She roamed for all those years through thousands of miles of ocean. Now she’s much larger, protected by her shell and a long life of adventures that made her strong and safe. Amazingly, through her ability to sense the earth’s magnetic field, she has returned to the very beach where she was born 30 years ago. She’ll emerge from the ocean. You’ll sit with her as she digs her nest and lays her 80–100 eggs. She will then laboriously cover the nest, perhaps digging a false nest to throw off predators before finally returning to the ocean. You will be there at the perfect time, at the perfect place, on that isolated beach, to meet her and grasp something about eternity.
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, king fishers, herons, hawks, osprey, egrets and oriels. 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.
Boat Option (on the river)
- Paddle Raft—the sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and team work begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids! Helmets required. (Four to six paddlers)
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. Meals beginning with breakfast on day 2 through breakfast on day 7 are included in your trip.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we must consider in planning your trip. If you have additional food allergies or necessary restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of cooking for a large group in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages are not included in the cost of your Costa Rica adventure but are readily available at your hotel in San Jose and at the lodges.
The local authorities state that the drinking water in Costa Rica is perfectly potable; however we recommend that you stick to the bottled variety wherever possible to play it safe. Costa Rica is by no means Mexico (where Montezuma’s revenge has become the stuff of tourist legends) but there may be bacteria in the water in some areas that disagrees with your system. As such, we simply suggest that you be cautious of what you eat and drink, as an upset stomach can be a burden during travels.
Costa Rica’s electricity supply is 110v — the same as in the USA. Outlets are also the same, and accept flat, two-pronged plugs like the kind used in the USA. Few outlets accept a grounding prong, so you may need an adaptor to convert a three-prong device to two prongs. You can learn more at www.power-plugs-sockets.com/costa-rica/
Both lodges, along the river and at Tortuguero, provide electricity 24 hours a day.
If you’re an avid photographer, we recommend bringing a waterproof digital SLR camera that can be used on land and at appropriate river locations. Please bring a small bag, preferably waterproof, to hold your camera and other items you might want during the day when rafting. To further protect your camera you may wish to place it in a zip-lock bag or special waterproof camera case. We also recommend padding it with a towel or clothing.
We strongly recommend you take out a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover your camera—especially if it’s fine equipment. If you are planning to bring a digital camera, don’t forget extra media cards, batteries, etc. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players and flying drones, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow travelers. We ask that you be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip and leave your drone at home.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone even though there is often limited cell service. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
While at our hotel in San Jose, internet is available and cell phone reception is good. While at Mawamba Lodge, internet is available in the lobby. During our two nights at the river lodge, there is no internet service and no cell phone reception. The lodge does have radio communication for emergencies.
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 3845 ft (the highest point is the city of San Jose).
Averages for San Jose:
|Month||Air (High) °F||Air (Low) °F||Rainfall|
Averages for Tortuguero:
|Month||Air (High) °F||Air (Low) °F||Rainfall|
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend you check the following web site: www.accuweather.com.
The ‘Tico’ System
The pace of life in Costa Rica is quite different from what you are accustomed to—it’s slower. You can try to fight it, but if you do, you might as well go home. Try to understand, enjoy and make the most of the “tranquilo” pace. Even if we could achieve an industrialized world pace, you would lose an important part of the experience of being in Costa Rica. Slow down, learn, and enjoy.
Costa Rica corresponds to U.S. Mountain Time when the U.S. is in daylight savings time, and U.S. Central Time during winter months. Costa Rica does not observe daylight savings time.
The Costa Rican Colon, or CRC, is the official currency of Costa Rica. U.S. dollars are widely accepted and can be obtained at ATMs. If you want to change currency, an easy place to purchase Colons is at our hotel in San Jose. We suggest you bring U.S. dollars in small notes, such as $1, $5 and $10 dollar bills, as larger notes may not be accepted. Cash is also useful for tipping. Please note that as a general rule, foreign bills (U.S. dollars for instance) with the slightest tear are often not accepted, so make sure your bills are in good condition. Only well-known types of traveler’s checks (American Express) or U.S. currency can be exchanged in Costa Rica.
Major credit cards are generally accepted at hotels and shops. The Mawamba Lodge (nights 2 and 3) and the Rios Tropicales Lodge (nights 4 and 5) both accept credit cards. However, cash is useful when visiting these remote locations, as credit card services are often interrupted.
In San Jose, most of the major banks have 24-hour ATMs accepting a variety of cards. ATMs outside of San Jose are either hard to find or often do not work. There is an ATM machine at the San Jose International Airport.
Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. Most of those you come in contact with—at hotels, lodges and tourist sites—will speak English.
Laundry service is available at the lodges. Before dropping any laundry check for turn-around times. We recommend lightweight, quick drying articles of clothing that can air dry. Bring plastic bags to keep wet & dirty items separate from clean.
Health and Medical Information
Although we do not require any immunizations to participate in this adventure, it is important that you be current on several standard immunizations and that you check with your physician prior to departure. The CDC also is a good resource for recommendations pertaining to international travel immunizations.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. You can use sandwich-sized Ziploc baggies during the day to store feminine products while you are on the river or hiking, and you can then discretely dispose of the baggies when you reach camp. When possible, we recommend o.b.® tampons, which are 1/3 the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping. If you use pads, be sure to bring extras. Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
Traveler Responsibility Code
1. Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.
2. Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.
3. Wear the issued and properly–fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when in the boats or swimming. Wear a helmet when required.
4. Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.
5. Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.
6. Abide by the managing agency’s rules.
7. No drugs or alcohol during the day; alcohol is allowed in moderation in the evenings.
8. Minimize your impact on the environment.
9. Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
10. Your children are your responsibility!
Essential Eligibility Criteria for River Trips
The following are the physical and mental eligibility criteria for all participants on any OARS river trip.
1. Ability to remain seated and balanced while in a whitewater craft while holding on with at least one hand.
2. Wear a Type V Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches). Wearing leg straps may be required to ensure proper fit. Where required, properly wear a helmet.
3. Ability to independently board and disembark a boat four to ten times each day. This may require stepping into the boat, and then maneuvering your body over and across tubes and fixed objects into a seated position.
4. Ability to independently navigate shoreline terrain, including safely maneuvering around and across boulders, rocks, and slippery and uneven surfaces, under low branches, and around vegetation. This includes the ability to maintain your balance near precipitous ledges or cliffs.
5. Ability to independently swim in whitewater or swift currents while wearing a PFD. This includes being an active participant in your own rescue, including having the ability to (a) keep your airway passages sealed while underwater, and regain control of your breathing when being submitted to repeated submersion under waves or currents; (b) orient yourself to new “in-river” surroundings; (c) reposition yourself in the water to different swimming positions; (d) swim aggressively to a boat or to shore in whitewater; (e) receive a rescue rope, paddle, or human assistance, and possibly let go of the same; (f) get out from under an overturned boat.
6. Ability to swim 100 yards in flat water while wearing a PFD.
7. Ability to assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
8. Ability to follow both verbal and non-verbal instructions given by guides in all situations, including during stressful or dangerous situations, and to effectively communicate with guides and other guests.
9. Ability to carry personal dry bags and other personal gear (as heavy as 20-30 pounds) uphill from the boats to your camping location and back the next morning, independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member. (This only applies on multi-day trips).
10. Ability to manage all personal care independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
11. If taking prescription medications, have the ability to maintain proper dosage by medicating independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
12. Ability to remain adequately fed, hydrated, and properly dressed so as to avoid environmental injuries such as hypothermia, heat related illness, sunburn and frostbite.
The above criteria, if not met, will disqualify a person from participating in a river trip with OARS. The criteria exist for your own safety and that of all trip participants. None of the criteria are meant to discriminate on the basis of any physical or mental disability, and are applied uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability. OARS is committed to making reasonable modifications to any trip for any persons with a disability, so long as they do not fundamentally alter the nature of the trip.
Further Information About Our Expectations of Trip Participants
The following paragraphs are meant to further inform all potential participants of the expectations for all participants in order to promote a safe, enjoyable experience for everyone on a trip. There may be requirements, whether physical or mental, that are not specifically applied “essential eligibility criteria”, but that help our guests understand the reality of being on a wilderness river trip.
Our primary goal is to minimize the risks associated with adventure trips in a wilderness environment. The trip involves physical exertion and exposure to the elements, including cold water and the potential for heat, sun, wind, rain and snow. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight, lack conditioning, or have other physical limitations or ailments that interfere with the realistic encounters on a wilderness river can endanger themselves, other guests, and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure.
It is very important that each trip participant take an active role in their own safety. You will likely encounter wilderness conditions that you are unfamiliar with, and those conditions may change rapidly. It is critical to pay attention at all times, to be aware of your surroundings, and to avoid taking unnecessary risks. Even a non-life threatening injury in a wilderness setting can become a major emergency for you, and can endanger the entire group. Swimming alone or hiking alone is discouraged. Excessive alcohol consumption or illicit drug use is not tolerated. Using common sense and following both the explicit instruction and the lead of your guides can go a long way towards keeping yourself and the group safe. Some obvious things to avoid in camp and on shore (by way of example) are: walking around without shoes in camp, approaching wild animals, not paying attention to what is above or around your tent site that could harm you, not paying attention to hazards such as poison ivy and rattlesnakes, and walking near precipitous ledges.
River trips, particularly those involving whitewater, are inherently risky. While the risk of a trip is part of what makes it an exciting adventure, you must be entirely respectful of the risk that such a trip poses. It is important that you are confident in your swimming ability, and your ability to stay calm in the event you become a non-voluntary swimmer. Your odds of becoming a non-voluntary swimmer change with the classification of a rapid, boat selection and environmental factors. On class IV and greater whitewater, the probability that you will become a non-voluntary swimmer is significant. A swim in whitewater is much more difficult and physically draining than swimming in flat water. Swimming in cold water can cause a gasping effect on your respiratory system. This can be overcome by focusing on your breathing and calming yourself down. Swimming in cold water will also much more quickly sap your energy and decrease muscle function than swimming in warmer water. While our guides are highly trained and will do their absolute best to rescue you, a successful rescue is greatly hampered by a swimmer who is unprepared for a swim in whitewater, who fails to actively participate in their own rescue, and who is not able to follow directions while under stress. You will receive a detailed orientation talk at the start of your river trip, but you can get a better idea of what to expect by watching a version of an orientation talk here: http://www.oars.com/videos/oars-whitewater-orientation.
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30 – 40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body workout and is training that is useful in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program to be sure you are medically safe to participate. Starting an exercise program that is more strenuous than you are ready for may result in injury or risk exacerbating existing health conditions. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
Packing for Your Trip
The information below is subject to when your trip takes place. The need for warm weather or cold weather items should be based on a reliable weather forecast leading up to your trip.
During the day—Start with a swimwear (for rafting and kayaking) and a light-weight shirt as a base layer. Additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added and subtracted depending on the weather and temperature. Lightweight synthetic or merino wool layers that wick moisture may be desirable if temps are cool.
Evening wear—After a long active day, you may want to refresh and change into clean & dry comfortable clothing. Soft, loose-fitting shorts or pants, t-shirts, etc. will allow you to truly relax in the evening. Many women find sarongs or a cotton dress to be a nice change.
Turtle nesting tour—Bring a dark (black or similar) outfit, consisting of long sleeves and pants. Bright clothing is not allowed on the beach when viewing the turtles.
During the day—For daily wear in the raft, kayaks and on shore, we recommend an amphibious closed-toe shoe or river sandals with a secure ankle strap, as Velcro tends to clog with the fine tropical sand. These shoes will be wet much of the time. Make sure you get good-grip, no-slip soles. Some people prefer to wear river sandals in the boat and on wet hikes, and cushioned-soled athletic shoes for longer hikes. We highly recommend closed-toe shoes for the zip line. For around the lodges, flip-flops are perfect. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
Evening wear—Lightweight athletic shoes can double as your evening shoes. Closed-toe shoes are required for the Turtle Nesting Tour in Tortuguero. It’s nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. Flip-flops or sandals are great.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection and rain. A ball cap or visor may fit under your helmet, which is required attire when whitewater rafting.
Rain gear protects you from rain, wind and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for a jacket that is 100% waterproof, not just water resistant, with secure closures around your head, neck and wrists. Do not bring a rain poncho as it cannot be worn under your PFD. Rain pants are not necessary.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs. Be sure to bring a good hat that offers full coverage, such as a wide-brimmed hat. Women may prefer to bring a sarong or a piece of fabric to be used as a cover up.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Bugs and mosquitoes vary depending on location and time of year. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times.
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Small bags (stuff sacs, plastic bags or similar) to separate items for travel on the river
☐ Daypack: small, to carry a water bottle, camera and rain jacket during excursions and general travel
☐ 1 liter water bottle: durable and reusable
☐ Locking carabiner (for clipping a water bottle into the raft )
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing spare batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®)
“Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Athletic shoes or light hikers (closed-toe required for the turtle nesting tour and recommended for the zip line)
☐ Flip flops for around the lodges
☐ Hiking socks: 1-2 pair, lightweight
☐ Long-sleeved shirt: lightweight, quick-dry for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Swimwear; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom. Tankinis and board shorts are a great option.
☐ Shorts: 2-3 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 2-3
☐ Dark (black or similar) long sleeved shirt and pants for the turtle nesting tour
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap
☐ Rain jacket: waterproof, breathable (not water resistant)
☐ Casual clothes for evenings
☐ One warm top (such as a fleece), as night time temperatures can be cool
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection, evaporative cooling, changing clothes, etc.
☐ Small bags: stuff sacs, zip locks or similar for organizing items in your dry bag and/or luggage
☐ Small dry bag (for rafting on the river and kayaking at Tortuguero)
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Cash for gratuities
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore + 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Packing Your Gear
While at Tortuguero and on the river, bring clothes that are appropriate for getting wet. We recommend swim shorts, t-shirts, long-sleeved sun shirts and amphibious shoes or sandals with a secure ankle strap. Bring along a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses (with strap) and a camera (waterproof or in a waterproof case).
Lodge clothing may consist of evening wear such as shorts or pants, shirt and a lightweight warm top. Consider a second pair of sandals or lightweight shoes for dry footwear around the lodge. Gear for the zip line canopy tour and hikes can include lightweight shorts or pants, shirt, rain jacket and closed-toe footwear suitable for an uphill hike.
For the turtle nesting experience, be sure to pack a dark long sleeved shirt and pants (or shorts) for the night walk, as bright-colored clothing is not allowed on the beach when turtles are nesting.
Rio Pacuare: personal gear you’d like during the next three days & two nights days will be packed into shared dry bags at the start of the river trip and carried downstream in the rafts. Therefore, have an empty bag for packing what you need for the day & nights at the Rios Tropicales Lodge. Your travel luggage won’t fit into the shared dry bags, so it and any belongings not needed will be kept by our staff and returned to you at the end of the river trip (on day 6). For items left behind, consider bringing a plastic bag to keep dirty clothes separate from clean clothes. Avoid leaving wet clothes behind, as they may mildew and result in stains or ruined clothing.
We recommend that you leave valuables, such as jewelry, at home. For personal items like passports, wallets and cell phones, we recommend keeping them in a waterproof case (zip-lock bag) with your personal items that will travel by raft to the river lodge. When traveling to Tortuguero, you can keep these items on your person.
Guests often ask whether gratuities are appropriate and in what amount. “Thank you” is always enough to put a smile on the faces of your guides and staff, but tipping is one of the many ways to reward them for their extra efforts. Because this adventure consists of several components with specific staff, we have created a list to assist you with extending a gratuity to the people who make your trip more enjoyable. You’ll want to plan ahead and have cash – either US Dollars or Costa Rican Colon.
- Lead guide (with you throughout the program): $8-$10 per person, per day
- Transfer guides (from the airport on day 1, to Tortuguero on day 2, to the river on day 4, to San Jose on day 6, to the int’l airport on day 7): $2-$5 per person, per transfer
- Tortuga Lodge guides (kayaking, hiking, turtle nesting): $5–$8 per person
- Raft guides: $5-$8 per person, per day
- Zip line and hiking guides (at the Rios Tropicales Lodge): $5–$8 per person
- Lodge staff (restaurant and service): $2-$5 per person, per day
- Bell boy/luggage handler: $1 per bag at check-in or check-out
*Note that you may not be reunited with any guide after that particular activity ends
In reviewing your statement, you’ll notice a $1 per person per day donation to International Rivers, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting rivers and defending the rights of the surrounding communities. Their work helps stop destructive dams and promotes water and energy solutions for a just and sustainable world. One-hundred percent of these funds go directly to protecting rivers, and your contribution is tax-deductible. Please notify our office if you would prefer to delete the donation from your balance.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to The Pam & George Wendt Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit https://www.oars.com/oars-foundation/ to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
Gear up in the OARStore where 15% of all purchases help fund outdoor adventures for under-resourced youth
Shop for the latest in top-quality clothing, footwear & outdoor gear
Explore gear made and tested for water-lovers
Recommended Reading List
OARS practices Leave No Trace outdoor ethics
Terms & Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
A $500/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. The balance is due 90 days prior to departure.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. The cancellation fee after you’ve made your deposit can range up to the entire trip cost, based upon the number of days prior to your trip that we receive your cancellation notice. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection).
|DATE OF CANCELLATION||CANCELLATION FEE|
|90 or more days prior to your trip||$250/person, balance refunded|
|89 to 60 days prior to your trip||$500/person, balance available as a limited time trip credit|
|59 to 30 days or less prior to your trip||50% of the trip price/person, balance available as a limited time trip credit|
|29 to 0 days prior to your trip||100% of the trip price/person|
Requests to transfer a date will be treated as a cancellation, per the terms above.
OARS International and the outfitter Rios Tropicales reserve the right to cancel any trip due to unforeseen circumstances. In such a case, you will be given a full refund of the tour cost, but OARS International and Rios Tropicales are not responsible for additional expenses incurred in preparation for the trip.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS. International People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
We offer the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings before and during your trip. Travel Protection can reimburse you for non-refundable payments if you should have to cancel your trip for a covered reason such as your illness or the illness of an immediate family member. For complete details go online to: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Please note, we require all participants have a minimum of emergency medical evacuation coverage to participate. This coverage can be purchased as a stand-alone policy, or is typically included in a travel protection plan. If you don’t have proof of coverage at the start of the trip, you cannot take part in the expedition. For a basic policy that includes coverage for emergency medical and evacuation situations, visit www.oars.com/tmp
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release form before the trip, acknowledging awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the Due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS. International cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. International, Inc., Rios Tropicales, and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and well being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 6 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept passengers weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced at accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time.
OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, it is important that all travelers obey the rules and regulations as determined by the managing agencies and the Trip Leader and demonstrate reasonable consideration for other guests and OARS employees. We reserve the right to remove any guest from a trip if, in our opinion, that guest’s actions or behaviors pose a threat to the safety of her/himself or others, or if those actions or behaviors compromise the enjoyment of the trip for others. Should a guest be asked to leave a trip, there will be no refund for the unused portion, nor will OARS be responsible for additional expenses incurred by the guest for accommodations, return transport, change fees, etc. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice.
Rios Tropicales, travel partners of OARS. International, is the operator of this adventure. Their staff members are the very best and will strive to ensure your complete satisfaction.