The Most Time And Cost Efficient Way To Visit Tortuguero And Raft The Pacuare River During Your Time In Costa Rica (Part 1).

Travellers interested in experiencing two of Costa Rica’s greatest tours – cruises through the Tortuguero Canals and rafting on the Pacuare River – are faced with the challenge of best incorporating both activities into their trip plans without wasting precious vacation time and money. Although anyone with a map can see that both tours are offered in the same general region of the country (Costa Rica’s Limon province nearby the Caribbean coast), tour operators only include transportation to/from San Jose with each tour. This requires travellers to make the trip to and from San Jose twice during their vacation if they wish to participate in both activities. This also gives travellers the false impression that these tours (the Tortuguero 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day tours and the Pacuare River rafting 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day tours) must start from and end in San Jose. Fortunately, this is not the case as there are much more time efficient ways of planning visits to both Tortuguero and the Pacuare river than simply leaving from and returning to the same location (San Jose). Here’s how.

Exploradores Outdoors' pacuare rafting tour

Exploradores Outdoors’ pacuare rafting tour

The Pacuare River rafting experience typically starts and ends in San Jose. Many different rafting tour operators offer this tour option (Rios Tropicales and Aventuras Naturales are two of the more popular tour operators operating to and from San Jose) and most will offer a drop-off after the tour at any location in Costa Rica for an extra charge. Fortunately, one tour operator – Exploradores Outdoors – offers the option to get picked up and dropped off in one of the following locations with their Pacuare River rafting tour: San Jose, La Fortuna/Arenal, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Guapiles, Siquirres, or Sarapiqui. With this tour option, travellers are able to mix and match their pick-up and drop-off choices, allowing them to be picked up in one city before the tour and get dropped off in another city after the tour making use of Exploradores Outdoors’ complimentary city-to-city transportation as included with their rafting tours.  This means that travellers can opt to be picked up in San Jose before their tour and dropped off in La Fortuna/Arenal after the tour (or elsewhere, according to the destinations listed above) at no extra charge. In addition, Exploradores Outdoors also offers their complimentary city-to-city transportation service with their overnight rafting trips as well, so regardless of whether you would prefer the 1-day, 2-day, or 3-day Pacuare River rafting experience, the option not to return to San Jose at the end of the tour is available.

Exploradores Outdoors' tortuguero expedition

Exploradores Outdoors’ tortuguero expedition

Shift focus for a minute to tortuguero tours and the first question you may ask is whether it would be possible to access the same complimentary transportation discussed above as is included with the pacuare rafting tour. Fortunately, Exploradores Outdoors also offers a Tortuguero Expedition tour which includes the same city-to-city transportation options as their pacuare rafting tour. This means that travellers also have the option to get picked up and dropped off in one of the following locations when wanting to visit tortuguero: San Jose, La Fortuna/Arenal, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Guapiles, Siquirres, or Sarapiqui.

complimentary city-to-city transportation

complimentary city-to-city transportation

So how exactly do these two tours combine smoothly to save you time and money on your trip? Quite easily. If you have a map of costa rica in front of you, you will see that Siquirres (the town closest to the Pacuare River tour start and end point) and Guapiles (a town about 40 minutes outside of Siquirres) fall along the route travelled between San jose and Tortuguero. Both Tortuguero tours and Pacuare River rafting tours travel this section of highway between San Jose and Guapiles/Siqurres, meaning that when travellers plan to do both tours separately they end up making the drive to and from these destinations twice. Part of this drive time (please see the approximate drive times listed below as estimates) can be eliminated by opting to spend one night in between the two tours in either Guapiles or Siquirres (for the purpose of this blog post, we will use Guapiles in our examples provided below).

DRIVE TIME EXAMPLES

Let’s assume that you originally plan to take two separate tours to Tortuguero and the Pacuare River to and from San Jose. The following are the approximate drive times related to your choice:

DAY 1
San Jose -> Tortuguero:
approximately 2 hours by tour van transport to Siquirres (where travellers stop to have breakfast before their Tortuguero visit), then approximately 1.5 hours by tour van transport to the dock, followed by an approximate 1 hour boat trip to Tortuguero

*overnight stay in Tortuguero required

DAY 2
Tortuguero -> San Jose:
approximately 1 hour by boat to the dock, then approximately 1.5 hours by tour van transport to Siquirres (where travellers stop to have lunch after their Tortuguero visit), followed by an approximate 2 hour drive via van transport to San Jose

*overnight stay in San Jose required

DAY 3
San Jose -> Siquirres (the location of the Pacuare River for the rafting tour):
approximately 2 hours by tour van transport to Siquirres (where travellers stop to have breakfast before their rafting tour)

Siquirres (the location of the Pacuare River for the rafting tour) -> San Jose:
approximately 2 hours by tour van transport to san jose

APPROXIMATE TRANSPORTATION TIME ON DAY 1: 4.5 hours
APPROXIMATE TRANSPORTATION TIME ON DAY 2: 4.5 hours
APPROXIMATE TRANSPORTATION TIME ON DAY 3: 4 hours
TOTAL TRANSPORTAION TIME FOR THE 3-DAY/2-NIGHT ITINERARY: 13 hours

Now, let’s assume you plan to combine your trips to tortuguero and the Pacuare River. The following are the approximate drive times related to this plan:

DAY 1:
San Jose -> Tortuguero:
approximately 2 hours by tour van transport to Siquirres (where travellers stop to have breakfast before their Tortuguero visit), then approximately 1.5 hours by tour van transport to the dock, followed by an approximate 1 hour boat trip to Tortuguero

*overnight stay in Tortuguero required

DAY 2
Tortuguero -> San Jose:
approximately 1 hour by boat to the dock, then approximately 1.5 hours by tour van transport to Siquirres (where travellers stop to have lunch after their Tortuguero visit), followed by an approximate 40 minute drive via van transport to Guapiles.

*overnight stay in guapiles required

DAY 3
Guapiles -> Siquirres (the location of the Pacuare River for the rafting tour):
approximately 40 minutes by tour van transport to Siquirres (where travellers stop to have breakfast before their rafting tour)

Siquirres (the location of the pacuare river for the rafting tour) -> San Jose:
approximately 2 hours by tour van transport to San Jose

APPROXIMATE TRANSPORTATION TIME ON DAY 1: 4.5 hours
APPROXIMATE TRANSPORTATION TIME ON DAY 2: 3 hours, 10 minutes
APPROXIMATE TRANSPORTATION TIME ON DAY 3: 2 hours, 40 minutes
TOTAL TRANSPORTAION TIME FOR THE 3-DAY/2-NIGHT ITINERARY: 10 hours, 20 minutes

Between the two options outlined above, it is clear that spending one night in Guapiles between visits to Tortuguero and the Pacuare River can save over 2.5 hours of drive time. So how exactly does this idea to combine the two tour experiences fit into a trip itinerary? The following are some itinerary suggestions to help you visualize your trip.

TRIP ITINERARY EXAMPLES

Itinerary Request: I am interested in a 2-day/1-night Tortuguero visit followed by a 1-day Pacuare River rafting tour:

DAY 1: Tortuguero tour pick-up in San Jose, transportation from San Jose to Tortuguero, night in Tortuguero
DAY 2: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Tortuguero, transportation from Tortuguero to Guapiles, Tortuguero tour drop-off in Guapiles, night in Guapiles
DAY 3: Pacuare River rafting tour pick-up in Huapiles, transportation from Guapiles to the Pacuare River, Pacuare River rafting tour, transportation from Guapiles to La Fortuna/Arenal (or back to San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), rafting tour drop-off in La Fortuna/Arenal (or back in San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), night in La Fortuna/Arenal

Prefer to raft the Pacuare River first, followed by a visit to Tortuguero? Not a problem.

Itinerary Request: I am interested in a 1-day Pacuare River rafting tour followed by a 2-day/1-night Tortuguero visit:

DAY 1: Pacuare River rafting tour pick-up in San Jose, transportation from San Jose to the Pacuare River, Pacuare River rafting tour, transportation from the Pacuare River to Guapiles, night in Guapiles
DAY 2: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Guapiles, transportation from Guapiles to Tortuguero, night in Tortuguero
DAY 3: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Tortuguero, transportation from Tortuguero to La Fortuna/Arenal (or back to San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), Tortuguero tour drop-off in La Fortuna/Arenal (or back in San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), night in La Fortuna/Arenal

Wish to add in an extra night or two to your Pacuare Riverrafting tour or Tortuguero visit (or both)? This can easily be achieved as well.

Itinerary Request: I am interested in a 3-day/2-night Tortuguero visit followed by a 1-day Pacuare River rafting tour:

DAY 1: Tortuguero tour pick-up in San Jose, transportation from San Jose to Tortuguero, night in Tortuguero
DAY 2: free day in Tortuguero, night in Tortuguero
DAY 3: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Tortuguero, transportation from Tortuguero to Guapiles, Tortuguero tour drop-off in Guapiles, night in Guapiles
DAY 4: Pacuare River rafting tour pick-up in Guapiles, transportation from Guapiles to the Pacuare River, Pacuare River rafting tour, transportation from Guapiles to La Fortuna/Arenal (or back to San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), Pacuare River rafting tour drop-off in La Fortuna/Arenal (or back in San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), night in La Fortuna

Itinerary Request: I am interested in a 2-day/1-night Pacuare River rafting tour followed by a 2-day/1-night Tortuguero visit:

DAY 1: Pacuare River rafting tour pick-up in San Jose, transportation from San Jose to the Pacuare River, Pacuare River rafting tour including overnight stay in the jungle, night along the Pacuare River
DAY 2: Pacuare River rafting tour, transportation from the Pacuare River to Guapiles, night in Guapiles
DAY 3: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Guapiles, transportation from Guapiles to Tortuguero, night in Tortuguero
DAY 4: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Tortuguero, transportation from Tortuguero to La Fortuna/Arenal (or back to San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), Tortuguero tour drop-off in La Fortuna/Arenal (or back in San Jose or elsewhere, if desired), night in La Fortuna/Arenal

Of course, as mentioned above, it is also possible to mix and match Tortuguero and Pacuare River rafting tour pick-ups and drop-offs between San Jose, La Fortuna/Arenal, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Guapiles, Siquirres, and Sarapiqui. If you would prefer a reverse route (for example, if you prefer to be picked up in a location other than San Jose and then return to San Jose after the tours), this is possible. Consider, for example, the following itineraries if you would prefer to be picked up in La Fortuna/Arenal (or swap this destination for the destination of your preference) and get dropped off in San Jose:

Itinerary Request: I am interested in a 2-day/1-night Tortuguero visit (with pick-up in La Fortuna/Arenal) followed by a 1-day Pacuare River rafting tour (with drop-off in San Jose):

DAY 1: Tortuguero tour pick-up in La Fortuna/Arenal, transportation from La Fortuna/Arenal to Tortuguero, night in Tortuguero
DAY 2: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Tortuguero, transportation from Tortuguero to Guapiles, Tortuguero tour drop-off in Guapiles, night in Guapiles
DAY 3: Pacuare River rafting tour pick-up in Guapiles, transportation from Guapiles to the Pacuare River, Pacuare River rafting tour, transportation from Guapiles to San Jose (or back La Fortuna/Arenal or elsewhere, if desired), rafting tour drop-off in San Jose (or back in La Fortuna/Arenal or elsewhere, if desired), night in San Jose

Itinerary Request: I am interested in a 1-day Pacuare River rafting tour (with pick-up in La Fortuna/Arenal) followed by a 2-day/1-night Tortuguero visit (with drop-off in San Jose):

DAY 1: Pacuare River rafting tour pick-up in La Fortuna/Arenal, transportation from La Fortuna/Arenal to the Pacuare River, Pacuare River rafting tour, transportation from the Pacuare River to Guapiles, night in Guapiles
DAY 2: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Guapiles, transportation from Guapiles to Tortuguero, night in Tortuguero
DAY 3: Tortuguero tour pick-up in Tortuguero, transportation from Tortuguero to San Jose (or back to La Fortuna/Arenal or elsewhere, if desired), Tortuguero tour drop-off in San Jose (or back in La Fortuna/Arenal or elsewhere, if desired), night in San Jose

Note: With any of the above mentioned itineraries, the transportation between San Jose, Tortuguero, Guapiles, the Pacuare River, and La Fortuna/Arenal (in whichever order you prefer to do the tours) is included in the tour prices. No additional transportation fees apply as the city-to-city transportation services are complimentary with Exploradores Outdoors’ tours.

When helping travellers plan their vacation, we maintain that just about any combination of pick-up and drop-off is available with the Tortuguero and Pacuare River rafting tours (from a list of pre-approved cities) when choosing Exploradores Outdoors as your preferred tour operator. However, one option that is not available is to plan a visit to both the Pacuare River and Tortuguero in one day. The full-day duration of the Pacuare River rafting tour combined with the travel time required to get to Tortuguero makes it impossible to raft the Pacuare River and get to Tortuguero in the same day. For this reason, when travellers wish to experience both (the Pacuare River and Tortuguero) at least one overnight stay in between is required. As outlined above, we simply recommend that travellers plan to spend the night in Guapiles or Siquirres instead of San Jose in order to save drive time during their vacation.

For those travellers who wish to combine visits to tortuguero and the pacuare river but would prefer not to choose Exploradores Outdoors’ tours, please follow us at CostaRicaTravelBlog.com and catch our future post (Part 2) on alternative ways to combine Pacuare River rafting and Tortuguero tours as offered by other tour operators.

*Discounts for Pacuare River rafting and Tortuguero tours (either combined as combo tours or taken as separate tour activities) are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated at: http://www.puravidaeh.ca/

Pacuare River Rafting Tour

Click here to access discounts for Rafting Tours

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Exploradores Outdoors' tortuguero expedition

Click here to access discounts for Tortuguero Tours

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Click here to access discounts for Tortuguero Hotelslabaulalodgediscount

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QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Did you raft the Pacuare River and/or visit Tortuguero during your trip? How did you plan your trip itinerary?

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