Costa Rica isn’t exactly at the end of the earth—it’s a quick flight from just about anywhere in the United States—but the nation’s virgin old-growth Central Caribbean rainforest is another matter. There, you’re more likely to run into Cabecar Indians, howler monkeys, and whitewater raft guides than you are traditional tourists. With only a handful of lodges, the approximately 25,000-acre Pacuare Protected Zone has remained blissfully undeveloped.
Getting there requires a dry bag and a flight to San José, where a minibus will transport you through the historic capital city of Cartago to the banks of the Pacuare River. After a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto and fried plantains, Aventuras Naturales’ professionals will guide you down 2.5 miles of Class III rapids to Pacuare Jungle Lodge’s muddy shores. En route, keep a watchful eye on the dense tropical rainforest to catch glimpses of monkeys, brown sloths, and jaguars’ pint-sized brethren, ocelots.
Once you’ve settled into your bungalow, you can take a dip in your private, freshwater stone pool, nap in your rope hammock, or embark on a handful of adventures. Horseback ride 2.5 miles through narrow jungle pathways to the rural village of Bajos del Tigre, zip line through the rainforest’s canopy, or trek to a Cabecar Indian’s isolated household to chat with a shaman. Your departure brings Class IV rapids and the infamous Upper Huacas and Lower Huacas. Translation: Graveyard. Beginning at $413 per person, double occupancy, all-inclusive; pacuarelodge.com.