As the raft enters the rapid and starts spinning, buffeted by an unseen force of water, there is no time to feel exhilaration or panic. Your guide is instructing you to paddle madly, and in another moment the raft goes soaring up, only to deliver you with one rushing surge, breathless and drenched, on the calm river again. Soon, this experience becomes nearly pleasurable.
Pausing at a waterfall to wallow in warm shallows, the surroundings are idyllic: Dense virgin rain forest rises up from the river, and tall trees sprouting orchids send long lianas trailing down into the flowing water. After another bout of rapids, it is a relief when the rafts come ashore at a clearing in the jungle. Here, as if miraculously, you’ll see a beautiful wooden palenque and staff emerging with goblets of cold lemonade. This is Pacuare Lodge, hidden on a bend in the river in 25,000 acres (10,115 ha) of deep, protected forest. Accessed only by raft (although children may come by jeep and cross the river in a basket), the Pacuare experience starts with adventure, but ends with a deep sense of peace. Hundreds of species of birds can be seen in the beautiful gardens, and you will wake to the sound of howler monkeys calling through the forest.
Garden-view rooms are simple wooden palm-thatched cabins, open on all sides to the exotic gardens, but choose the much grander river-view cabins for their extensive space, verandas with hammocks, and stylish outdoor showers. As nightfalls, candles are lit, and guests gather in the palenque to sip caipirinhas before a superb three-course meal— carpaccio of fresh tuna, filet mignon, seared tilapia— served by local staff who are genuinely delighted to welcome you to their paradise. There can be no more romantic place to be marooned.