Looking for adventure and hair-raising fun during your upcoming Costa Rica vacation? If paddling down churning Class III -IV rapids amid explosive white water sounds exciting, then have we got some choices for you! Costa Rica’s scenic and fast-moving rivers are legendary, and with varying levels to choose from, children as young as five are invited to join in on the action. The Pacuare was rated one of the world’s top five whitewater rafting rivers by National Geographic, and lures thousands of adrenaline seekers every year. Here’s a look at some of the best river rafting opportunities in Costa Rica.
A wild ride down the Pacuare River
Discover the thrills and spills of this adrenaline-charged tour that boasts spectacular scenery in one of the nation’s most verdant river valleys. Whether you’re a first-timer or a die-hard river rat, the Pacuare experience does not disappoint! Several operators offer day trips and multi-day tours, which include professional guides, safety equipment, personalized instruction, meals and transport to and from San Jose. This rollercoaster ride will have you plunging into rapids with names like double floor, two mountains and graduation. Idle moments can be enjoyed taking in the incredible wildlife and lush jungle that flank the steep canyon walls. (Minimum age is 14).
Family-friendly rafting tours on the Sarapiqui
If you’d prefer a gentler, kid-oriented introduction to river rafting in Costa Rica, the Sarapiqui has moderate Class II and III rapids that still deliver plenty of excitement. Guided half-day paddles explore the lower section of the Sarapiqui, which is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and a diverse mix of flora and fauna. Look for howler and white-faced monkeys, white ibis, green iguanas and caimans. Tours typically include a delicious “campesino-style” lunch, along with chances to swim in crystal-clear pools and jump off the river banks.
Trips down the Naranjo River
The Naranjo River, featuring Class II- IV rapids, is ideal for those visiting the Manuel Antonio and Quepos area. Winding through a stunning jungle canyon, this tour promises a gripping ride as it passes by African palm plantations and working cattle ranches. In addition to ensuring all guests are safe, your bilingual guides will point out resident wildlife including keel-billed toucans, sloths and aracaris. Parts of the Chorro section plunge sharply into a deep river gorge – a challenge for even the most skilled paddlers.
Important tips for your river rafting adventures
- High season vs. low season: Costa Rica’s rainy season (aka low tourism period) starts in late May and lasts through the early part of December. As the rains fall, river levels rise dramatically, making July through October the best months for those who want an added challenge. If river conditions are ever deemed unsafe, operators will reschedule tours accordingly.
- What to bring: Prepare for a wet and wild ride, no matter which tour you choose! Chacos or Teva-type sandals are a smart choice, as are lightweight sneakers that dry quickly. Be sure to pack sunscreen, a bathing suit, a strap for your sunglasses, a small towel and a change of clothes for after the tour. Many outfits have a professional photographer on-staff, but you’re welcome to bring along a waterproof camera.