Ricky’s greatest passion in life is the Pacuare River—one of Costa Rica’s most exciting rivers to raft or kayak.
Once declared by National Geographic as the second most beautiful river in the world for river scenery, the Pacuare River offers its rafters more than one would expect to get out of a river trip. Besides being set in the heart of the Costa Rican jungle, flowing through two breathtaking canyons, passing an indigenous reserve, and showing off several stunning waterfalls, the river boasts some of the best white water rafting rapids in the entire country.
I love Pacuare not only for the joy it brought Ricky every time he went to work as a white water rafting guide and safety kayaker over the course of six years, but also for the sense of community the river creates among Ticos local to the Turrialba region.
Turrialba is an old town with a new reason to visit: the Turrialba Volcano. Given that the town’s namesake beast falls short of the appeal generated by the more popular Arenal Volcano, as well as the convenience offered by the Irazu Volcano and the Poas Volcano, it has long been overlooked as a tourist attraction worthy of a visit by foreign visitors. Until now. Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on who you talk to—the Turrialba Volcano has experienced a number of eruptions over the last few years that have boosted the region’s popularity; not to the level of celebrity that the country’s other active volcano regions have already achieved, but, like a rising star who has just been cast in a role that the critics claim will launch an explosive career, there is no denying that it is well on its way.
Until the Turrialba Volcano reaches complete stardom, the Pacuare River will continue to serve the Turrialba area as its greatest moneymaker. And, regardless of other sites worth seeing in town, including the Guayabo National Monument, the University of Costa Rica, and the CATIE Botanical Gardens, most travellers will only get as close to Turrialba as the site termed the “put-in” (a.k.a., the starting point) for Pacuare River rafting tours. An approximate thirty-minute drive outside of Turrialba’s downtown core, the river level put-in exists at the base of one of my favourite communities in the entire country: Tres Equis.
Tres Equis is a small town comprised of three thousand of the most family-oriented, humble, and hardworking people I have ever met. Sure, I would argue any day that the majority of Costa Ricans could be labelled as the same, but Tres Equis offers the perfect nexus of great people, good land, and pleasant weather, combined with a one of a kind gem: the Pacuare River. The community is small, but it offers the three staple necessities for living a long and happy life in Costa Rica: a grocery store, a church, and a futbol field. Everything else required or desired from time to time is only a short bus ride away in Turrialba.
Sometimes I wonder whether it is the town or the river that has won the upper hand. The river is run by individuals living in the town of Tres Equis (or its surrounding areas) who love working close to home. In fact, the majority of Pacuare’s river guides—regardless of the rafting company they are employed by—know one another from school, town, or a neighbouring town, and are friends both on and off the river. It is this sense of camaraderie among guides that translates to a pleasant, fun, and safe rafting experience for international travellers, otherwise known as the holy grail of tourism attraction success. On the other hand, the river gives back to its rafting guides. Significantly. Pacuare helps support the town of Tres Equis and its inhabitants by offering stable and benefit-secure employment to those who are both brave enough to take on the roaring rapids and patient enough to outlast the seemingly neverending slew of rescue training courses. In turn, river guides are equipped to financially support themselves and their families—an often challenging feat given that procreation for most Costa Ricans begins soon after adolescence and the obligation of supporting one’s elders is a lifelong responsibility.
Outside the rafting community born in Tres Equis, such unanimity is hard to come by. It is not commonplace—in any country in the world, and at any workplace—to find a group of employees who each love and proudly enjoy what they do each day. It is even more difficult to find workers who perform their duties under grueling and tiring conditions without a whimper and only a smile. Ricky’s rafting job required him to ride a tourist bus for a total of six hours each day—three hours from our home to the river and three hours from the river back home again—in addition to the hours he spent paddling a thirty-kilometre stretch of river during the day, seven days per week, fifty-two weeks per year. And, he loved every minute of it. I suppose this is a testament to the strength and determination of a willful breed of river guides; two valuable assets that appropriately define the rafting community in Tres Equis–a family Ricky and I could not be more honoured to share as our own.
If you’re more of a visual learner, take a moment to view our gallery photos below (many of which were taken by our river friends) from Ricky’s guiding escapades on the Pacuare River.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you experienced the Pacuare River before? If so, what did you think? Are you planning a trip to Pacuare soon? What are you looking forward to the most?