White Water Rafting in Costa Rica: 16 Best Tours and Tips

White water rafting in Costa Rica is the perfect way to combine thrilling adventure with beautiful landscape views.

One of the many great things about rafting in Costa Rica is that there are rapids for all skill levels throughout the country. Whether you are rafting for the first time or even a seasoned rafter, there are options for you!

We love white water rafting day tours in Costa Rica because they are typically a full-day experience with transportation and lunch included. In our experience, the guides are usually excellent and you might see some wildlife as well.

So, are you ready to find the perfect white water rafting in Costa Rica adventure for your next vacation? Let’s get to it!

White Water Rafting Info

white water rafting costa rica

In Costa Rica, there are rapids for all skill levels. If you are new to rafting, the levels are divided like this:

Class I-II 

Level I to II rapids are perfect for everyone. This is more like a float down a river with paddling and guided wildlife info.

Class II-III 

Levels II and III rapids are doable for the whole family. This is a good combo of easy float and a few mild rapids which will still provide a good level of exhilaration.

Class III-IV 

Class III and IV rapids is when things get more intense. A trip on these rapids tends to include more rapids, bigger drops, and tons of exhilaration.

Class IV

We don’t recommend class IV if you are not physically fit, experienced in rafting, and ready for some serious tough paddling.

Best Places for Rafting Day Trips

rafting costa rica

There are multiple places to raft in Costa Rica. Here are a few of the very best spots.

La Fortuna

La Fortuna, with it’s Arenal Volcano backdrop is a popular destination for adventure. It is also probably the most popular place to take a rafting trip in Costa Rica.

White Water Rafting in Costa Rica: 16 Best Tours and Tips

The biggest advantage here is that there are numerous places for all skill levels to raft within an hour’s drive. 

One of the best places near La Fortuna is the Balsa River. Rio Balsa has class II and III rapids.

The more strenuous rafting in this area takes place along the Sarapiqui Rive and on the upper part of the Balsa River. Here you can expect class III and IV rapids

For class II to III we suggest:

Balsa River White Water Rafting class 2/3

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  5 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, you will get to experience 2.5 hours of thrilling rapids on the Balsa River with Arenal Rafting.

Arenal Rafting is our favorite rafting company in the La Fortuna area. Their experienced guides will take great care of you and you’ll have so much fun!

Be prepared for a lot of paddling and an unforgettable action-packed escapade that will surely be the highlight of your vacation.

Included:

  • Transportation from La Fortuna area hotels
  • Fresh fruit during your time on the river.
  • Towels for post-rafting.
  • Refreshing beers and water to quench your thirst.
  • A delicious traditional Costa Rican meal, the “Casado”, to refuel after your adventure.

Departure Times: Tours depart daily from 09:00 to 14:45.

For class III to IV we suggest:

Upper Balsa River White Water Rafting Class 3/4

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  5 hours | ✅ Book it!

This tour is also run by Arenal Rafting.

On this adventure, you can expect:

  • Rafting Experience: A thrilling Class IV white water rafting adventure on the Balsa River, spanning 15 kilometers.
  • Nature Stops: Opportunities to swim and rest amidst the rainforest.
  • Refreshments: Fresh Costa Rican fruits during breaks.
  • Lunch: A traditional Costa Rican meal at a local restaurant post-rafting.
  • Transportation: Roundtrip transfers from local La Fortuna hotels.
  • Equipment: All necessary rafting gear for the adventure.
  • Guidance: Expert guiding services throughout the journey.
  • Towels: Provided for your convenience after the rafting experience.

Please note: This tour is recommended for participants aged 12 and above.

Manuel Antonio

The popular white water rafting river, Rio Naranjo runs through Manuel Antonio National Park. The rafting here is for more experienced skill levels with rapids at class III and IV.

However, Rio Savegre is located just south of Manuel Antonio and provides options for other skill levels.

For class II to III we suggest:

Whitewater Rafting Savegre Class II-III plus Waterfall

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  6 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, you will embark on a thrilling white-water rafting journey down the scenic Savegre River.

The adventure begins with a fully-narrated drive, offering you an insightful opportunity to learn about the local wildlife.

As you tackle the exhilarating Class II and III rapids with the guidance of experienced professionals, there’s a special treat in store—a stop at a secluded waterfall.

Once the rafting concludes, you’ll head back to the Amigos Del Rio headquarters in Manuel Antonio for a delicious lunch before being transported back to your hotel.

Included:

  • Informative narrated drive through picturesque towns and landscapes.
  • A mid-rafting snack at a serene waterfall.
  • Safety kayaker accompanying the group for added security.
  • Delectable lunch post-rafting adventure.

Departure Information: Tours begin with a pickup from your hotel or rental home, followed by an approximate 1-hour and 10-minute drive south to the Savegre River.

For class III to IV we suggest:

Whitewater Rafting Naranjo River from Manuel Antonio Class III-IV

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  4 hours 30 minutes | ✅ Book it!

This is a thrilling adventure along the Naranjo River. On this tour you can expect:

  • Advanced Rafting: An exhilarating half-day white-water rafting adventure on the Naranjo River. This trip is specifically designed for experienced paddlers.
  • Canyon Ride: Experience the rapid descent of the river as it flows from the mountain to sea level, journeying through the Naranjo Canyon.
  • Transportation: Convenient pickup and drop-off from select hotels in Manuel Antonio or Quepos.
  • Meals: A meal is provided either before or after the rafting, depending on the time of the tour.

San Jose

From the capital city of San Jose there are plenty of white water rafting tours. Most of these tours include hotel pickup, lunch, and an action-packed day.

For less experienced rafters the Sarapiqui River is always a great option. This is a great place to see wildlife.

The downside is, it is a bit of a drive to get here. Fortunately, we suggest day tours with transportation. So, you can sit back and relax in an air-conditioned shuttle and enjoy the scenery.

For more experienced white water rafters the Pacuare River is definitely where you want to be. This river is arguably one of the best whitewater rafting places in the world.

In some stretches, you will have continuous nonstop rapids. We also love that it flows along deep canyon walls.

For a Class II – III Experience we suggest:

White Water Rafting Sarapiqui River

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  10 hours | ✅ Book it!


On this tour, you will dive into an exhilarating white-water rafting experience down the Sarapiquí River, starting from San Jose.

You will paddle about 10-mile (16-kilometer). Along the way, the stunning jungle vistas and diverse wildlife will captivate you.

After about 2 ½ hours of heart-pounding action, you’ll be treated to a delicious traditional meal by the riverside.

Included:

  • Professional gear for a safe and thrilling rafting experience.
  • A mid-rafting stop to indulge in a vibrant selection of tropical fruits.
  • Expert guides who will not only help you navigate the rapids but also provide insights into the fascinating flora and fauna.
  • A hearty traditional lunch awaiting you riverside after your adrenaline-filled journey.
  • Convenient hotel pickup and drop-off ensuring a hassle-free experience.

For a Class III – IV Experience we suggest:

White Water Rafting Pacuare River

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  9 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, you will embark on a thrilling white-water rafting journey down the Pacuare River.

You will navigate through 38 pulsating Class III-IV rapids.

While you tackle the challenging rapids, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife.

After conquering the waters, a hearty lunch awaits to wrap up your unforgettable day before you are chauffeured back to your hotel.

Included:

  • All the essential rafting equipment for a safe expedition.
  • An experienced guide to help you navigate the rapid-filled waters.
  • An amazing traditional lunch to refuel after your riveting adventure.
  • Hassle-free hotel pickup and drop-off, making your experience seamless from start to finish

Tamarindo

From Tamarindo, the Tenorio River is often the best white water rafting option.

The Tenorio River is one of Costa Rica’s premier white-water rafting destinations. It offers a good mix of heart-pounding wild rapids and serene stretches of water.

White Water Rafting Class 3/4 Tenorio River

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  7 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour you will go white-water rafting down the Tenorio River, setting off from Tamarindo.

As you navigate through eight miles of Class III and IV rapids, get ready to paddle, splash, and maneuver your way through the thrilling twists and turns the river offers.

And for those seasoned rafters seeking an added thrill, there’s an opportunity to tackle the unique class V-12 foot drop.

Included:

  • Comprehensive briefing on safety and equipment usage.
  • A thrilling 2.5-hour rafting journey through Class III and IV rapids, with the optional class V-12 foot drop.
  • All the necessary equipment to ensure a safe and memorable adventure.
  • A chance to witness the harmonious blend of dry and rainforests, home to a rich variety of wildlife.
  • A delectable lunch to wrap up your action-packed day.
  • Convenient transportation: Starting with an early morning pickup in the Tamarindo area, and post-adventure drop-off back to the same.

Playas del Coco / Hermosa / Papagayo Areas

Tours from this popular beach area near the Liberia Airport often include transportation. The most common river to go white water rafting on here is the Tenorio River.

White Water Rafting Tenorio River Class 3/4

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour you will navigate the narrow, rapid-filled waters on specially designed rafts. It is a great balance of thrilling adventure with the serene beauty of nature.

You will conclude your rafting escapade with a delectable hot lunch by the Rio Corobici.

Included:

  • Ground transportation from most hotels in Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, and Playa Ocotal areas.
  • Rafting equipment: vest and helmet.
  • Expert guidance from professional rafting guides.
  • Hot lunch at Rio Corobici.
  • Shared transportation for a comfortable return journey.

Puerto Viejo

As I mentioned in the San Jose section, the Pacuare River is one of the best white water rafting destinations in the world.

The river is located close to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, so there are a lot of tours here from Puerto Viejo.

Our favorite tour is:

White Water Rafting Pacuare River

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  6 hours 30 minutes | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, you will embark on an exhilarating journey down Costa Rica’s Pacuare River, renowned for its stunning whitewater rapids.

Challenge yourself as you paddle through over 50 rapids ranging from class II to IV, spread across an 18-mile (29-km) stretch.

This adventure is not just about the thrill. The river gorge is adorned with lush cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and the untouched beauty of the tropical rainforest.

While the rapids will get your heart racing, the calmer stretches of the river offer a chance to soak in the natural beauty and spot the diverse wildlife that calls this region home.

Included:

  • A traditional breakfast to kickstart your day.
  • A delectable lunch to savor after your rafting escapade.
  • Convenient hotel pickup and drop-off, ensuring a hassle-free experience.

Multi Day Rafting Trips

pacuera

A multi day rafting trip is a great way to see the Costa Rican landscape in a way most tourists don’t get to experience.

These rafting trips are a combo of adventure, wildlife watching, meeting new people, embracing the Costa Rican landscape, and more.

The most common place to take a multi-day rafting trip is along the Pacuare River.

This whitewater river runs approximately 67 miles (108 km) into the Caribbean. It’s a great area for spotting birds, monkeys, ocelots, and if you are really lucky you may even spot a jaguar.

We have a few recommendations for multi day rafting adventures.

2 Day Rafting Tour

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  2 days | ✅ Book it!

Included:

  • Private transportation
  • Two breakfasts
  • Two lunches
  • One dinner
  • Accommodation at the Lodge for one night
  • Safety equipment and briefing
  • Expert white-water rafting guides
  • Admission ticket

Itinerary:

Day 1:

  • Pick up from the main hotels in San José.
  • 1.5-hour drive to the breakfast location for a traditional Costa Rican meal.
  • Arrival at the Rio Pacuare banks. Safety briefing and gearing up.
  • Start the white-water rafting adventure, navigating through class 2 and 3 rapids and absorbing the scenic beauty.
  • Lunch stop at a pristine beach along the river.
  • Arrival at the Lodge for relaxation and an overnight stay.
  • Dinner at the Lodge.

Day 2:

  • Start the day with a hearty breakfast.
  • Gear up and embark on the day’s rafting journey, tackling class 3 and 4 rapids like Huacas Arriba, Huacas down, and Dos Montañas.
  • Lunch break at another beautiful riverside beach.
  • Conclude the rafting experience and reach the end point.
  • Opportunity to shower, change, and relax.
  • Return trip to the hotels in San José.

3 Day Rafting Tour

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  3 days | ✅ Book it!

Included:

  • Professional guides
  • All safety equipment for rafting
  • Three delicious traditional Costa Rican breakfasts
  • Three lunch stops along the pristine beaches of the Pacuare River
  • Two nights of lodge accommodation amidst the tropical jungle’s ambiance
  • Several guided walks through private reserves, exploring waterfalls and freshwater pools
  • Opportunities to witness diverse wildlife, including toucans, oropendolas, morpho butterflies, and possibly sloths
  • Return transportation to main hotels in San José

Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival at Pacuare River

  • Pickup from main hotels in San José, followed by a 1.5-hour drive.
  • Stop for a traditional Costa Rican breakfast and change into river attire.
  • Safety briefing and gear up at the banks of the Pacuare River.
  • Rafting adventure commences, navigating through class 2 and 3 rapids.
  • Lunch stop at a pristine river beach.
  • Arrival at the lodge for an overnight stay amidst the soothing sounds of the river and jungle.

Day 2: Exploration and Relaxation

  • Wake up amidst nature and enjoy a hearty breakfast.
  • Guided walks through private reserves, exploring multiple trails, waterfalls, and freshwater pools. Opportunities to swim and enjoy the natural beauty.
  • Return to the lodge for lunch.
  • Afternoon relaxation in hammocks, additional optional guided walks, or simply bask in the serenity of the lodge.
  • Candlelit dinner at the lodge.

Day 3: Adrenaline-packed Descent

  • Early morning breakfast accompanied by coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
  • Gear up for another white-water rafting experience, this time tackling class 3 and 4 rapids like Huacas Arriba, Huacas down, and Dos Montañas.
  • Relish the rainforest’s beauty, keeping an eye out for vibrant wildlife.
  • Lunch stop at another scenic river beach.
  • Continue rafting until reaching the end point of the tour.
  • Return transportation to respective hotels.

Rafting Resort Experience

White Water Rafting in Costa Rica: 16 Best Tours and Tips

⭐️ RATING: 9.9/10 on Booking.com | 5/5 on TripAdvisor⭐️

Pacuare Lodge is a completely different resort experience than anything you have probably experienced before. The main focus of the lodge is white water rafting.

This is the place to go if you want a completely unique nature experience with the luxury of an eco resort. 

We suggest spending three to four nights here to fully embrace it.

Note: Keep in mind that there are a few other places nearby with similar names. Make sure you are booking Pacuare Lodge by Böëna when you arrange your stay. 

Amenities

So much is included in your stay here!

  • Pick-up from San José hotels and transfer to the Pacuare Lodge (and back)
  • Canopy Tour
  • Canyoning Tour
  • Bird-Watching
  • Indigenous Hike
  • Ancient Trail & Hidden Waterfall Hike
  • Sustainability Tour
  • Daily breakfast, lunch & dinner
  • Afternoon coffee

There is also a pool on the property, a spa, and restaurant

On site Activities

Relax in the pool, enjoy the spa, try out one of the many included activities, sit by the river and listen to the nature sounds.

Off-Site Activities

The main off-site activity you will be doing is white water rafting. It is possible to arrange your tour through the helpful Pacuare Lodge staff

Rooms

There are five suite layout options. These range from sleeping two to four guests.

Dining

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included in your stay. Alcohol is not included but it is possible to purchase alcoholic drinks.

The food here is excellent and there are a wide variety of meal options for all dietary needs and taste preferences.

White Water Rafting Combo Tours

rafting

A combo tour is when you combine several activities into one day of Costa Rica adventure. For example, you may go zip lining in the morning, followed by horseback riding to your white water rafting destination. 

Although these tours usually are a great value and you can do a lot, these day tours can be absolutely exhausting.

You’ll definitely sleep good that night!

White Water Rafting Transfers

rafting costa rica

I’m a huge fan of adventure transfers in Costa Rica. It’s the perfect way to travel from one location to the next.

Basically how it works is that lets say you need to take a shuttle from La Fortuna to Puerto Viejo. Instead of just booking a normal shuttle ride it is possible to book a transfer that includes a stop for some type of adventure in the middle.

White water rafting transfers are great because you paddle down a river and the shuttle picks you up further down.

So, instead of sitting in a van for some of the way you get to paddle yourself instead. 🙂

Here are two great rafting transfers that we know of:

La Fortuna to San Jose or Puerto Viejo

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  10 hours ✅ Book it!

This thrilling white water rafting day tour departs from La Fortuna. After your fun rafting adventure you will have the option of transferring yo san Jose or Puerto Viejo.

The tour Includes:

  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Delicious Lunch
  • Refreshing Bottled Water
  • Essential rafting gear: Life jacket, helmet, and paddle
  • Private transportation ensuring comfort throughout
  • All fees and taxes covered
  • Expert guide for a knowledgeable and safe experience

La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 hours | ✅ Book it!


On this tour, you will get to enjoy an exhilarating white-water rafting experience down the Balsa River.

Begin your adventure with a convenient pick-up from your hotel, followed by a short 30-minute drive to the starting point.

For the next 2 hours, navigate through enthralling rapids like “Magnetic Rock” and “Dredges”.

After rafting you will enjoy a delicious lunch. Then you will embark on a 4-hour journey to Manuel Antonio, in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle.

You’ll reach Manuel Antonio by 7 pm.

Included:

  • Lunch to refuel after your thrilling expedition.
  • Snacks to munch on.
  • Bottled water to keep you hydrated.
  • All necessary equipment: Raft, Paddles, Rafting Vest, and Helmet.
  • Transport in an air-conditioned vehicle for maximum comfort.
  • Expert guidance from a professional guide ensuring a safe and memorable experience.
  • Convenient hotel pickup and drop-off from selected hotels.

Our Costa Rica Rafting Tips

rafting costa rica

To Wear

We suggest wearing:

  • Rubber-soled shoes that can be closed and you don’t mind getting wet (I suggest Keens)
  • A bathing suit
  • Clothes that can get wet and dry fast (I suggest a fast drying long sleeve shirt to block the sun)
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses strap

Oh and don’t forget to load up on SPF 50 sunscreen.

To Bring

We suggest bringing:

Most white water rafting tour companies provide water, other drinks, fruit, and other snacks. Sometimes you may have lunch included in your trip as well. 

Check out the Complete Costa Rica Packing List for all the Essentials You Need in Your Suitcase (and on that subject….we suggest a large backpack instead of suitcase)

Trust Your Instincts

We are all about supporting local companies, but please make sure that whichever company you book through is reputable and experienced.

All of the companies we suggested have a lot of experience and are well known.

However, if you feel hesitant about something or conditions don’t seem optimal, speak up. This goes for all activities in Costa Rica

Listen to Your Instructor

On the same safety topic, always listen to your Costa Rica white water rafting guide.

They know these rivers extremely well and lead tours several days a week. If they tell you to do something it is for your safety and the safety of your fellow tripmates.

Travel Insurance

It is always a good idea to purchase travel insurance before you travel to any foreign country.

We always suggest it when traveling to Costa Rica because not only are you likely going to participate in some adventurous activities you are not familiar with, but it is also just a whole new environment. 

Our go-to travel insurance company for Costa Rica is Heymondo. You can get a price quote from them here.

Conclusion: White Water Rafting Costa Rica

So, what do you think? Are you ready to enjoy a thrilling fun white water rafting trip during your trip to Costa Rica?

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are happy to help you out.

Also, if you have gone rafting in Costa Rica and would like to pass on tips to fellow travelers we would love to hear them!

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

๐Ÿš— Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

๐Ÿ„๐Ÿฝ How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

๐Ÿ I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

โœˆ๏ธ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

๐Ÿ›๏ธ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธWhat is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

๐Ÿ’ฐ What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colรณn (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

๐Ÿ“ž What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

๐ŸŒด Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

๐Ÿ›‚ Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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