White water rafting in Costa Rica is the perfect way to combine thrilling adventure with beautiful landscape views.
Imagine this, a peaceful float down a blue river. On both riverbanks, you can see dense tropical tree coverage. Overhead, exotic birds are chirping and monkeys are howling. All of a sudden, your guide tells your group to get ready for your next set of rapids.
You get your paddle in position and the water starts getting rougher. Your guide yells, “It’s time!” and the white capped water whips by your boat. Your group paddles as hard as possible and your adrenaline kicks in.
Does this sound amazing to you? With a tour white water rafting in Costa Rica this can be a reality.
White Water Rafting Info
In Costa Rica, there are rapids for all skill levels. If you are new to rafting, the levels are divided like this:
Level I to II rapids are perfect for everyone. This is more like a float down a river with paddling and guided wildlife info.
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 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.
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
There are multiple places to raft in Costa Rica. Here are a few of the very best spots.
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. 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 River. Here you can expect class III and IV rapids.
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.
Uvita and Dominical area is home to the more relaxed Rio Savegre, this is a great place for people who aren’t looking for an adrenaline-packed experience. It is also a good spot for people with kids (most tours here require children to be over eight years old). The rapids are class II.
Although these are the most popular rivers for rafting in Costa Rica, that does not mean that these are the only rafting places.
We suggest asking at the hotel you are staying at. Usually, they can guide you to some great local rafting companies in the area and they may even be able to get you a discount.
Multi Day Rafting Trips
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 great 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.
White Water Rafting Combo Tours
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
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. 🙂
Our Costa Rica Rafting Tips
We suggest wearing rubber soled shoes that can be closed and you don’t mind getting wet (I suggest Chacos or Keens), a bathing suit, clothes that can get wet and dry fast (I suggest a fast drying long sleeve shirt to block the sun), and sunglasses with a strap around your neck.
Oh and don’t forget to load up on SPF 50 sunscreen.
We suggest bringing a towel, more sunscreen, and a change of clothes.
Most white water rafting tour companies provide water, other drinks, fruit, and other snacks. Sometimes you may have lunch included in your trop as well.
Trust Your Instincts
We are all about supporting local companies, but please make sure that whichever company you book through is reputable and experienced.
There was an incident a few years ago with a small company on the Naranjo River that decided to take people rafting despite heavy rains and warning of flash floods.
A flash flood occured and four men were swept away and died after all the rafts capsized.
If you feel hesitant about something or conditions don’t seem optimal, speak up.
Note: This kind of thing really would only ever occur in the part of the year when there are super heavy rains (September- November) and most companies don’t even operate tours on this river at this time of year due to the risk.
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.
When to Organize your Trip
You don’t typically need to organize a white water rafting trip far in advance. For most day trips it is possible to book a day or two before you would like to raft.
However, if you plan on doing a multi day rafting trip it is best to organize it before you travel to Costa Rica.
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.
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!
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