The Best White Water Rafting in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is nicknamed, “the Rich Coast”, and its official name is The Republic of Costa Rica. It’s a whitewater rafter’s paradise in Central America.

To its north, you’ll find Nicaragua. To its southeast, Panama. 

Costa Rica is flanked by two big waterways, which are the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The country has a population of roughly 4.9 million people and a land area that covers over 51 thousand square kilometers. 300 thousand people live in its capital city, San Jose.

Once you’ve discovered the best white water rafting in Costa Rica, you’ll be ready to plan a rafting itinerary that is beyond compare…

Rio Pacuare

whitewater rafting at Rio Pacuare

Author: Autentico Adventures Costa Rica

The Pacuare River (Rio Pacuare) has a Class III-IV rating, which means moderately difficult to difficult whitewater conditions. If you want a challenge, rafting on this stunning river will be the ideal Costa Rican adventure experience.

This river is in top ten lists of the “best whitewater rivers on the planet”. It’s also a popular destination for adventure kayaking.

What’s amazing about this river is that it’s tropical. It features water which is delightfully warm. Also, you’ll love the celadon hue of Rio Pacuare. The river features a staggering nineteen miles of white water, which is flanked by a striking rainforest (where a diverse and fascinating array of birds, plants and animals are found).

This river is situated on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica. It borders a mountain range called Talamanca, which is the home of indigenous Cabecar Indians, as well as deer, monkeys, toucans and a host of other wild creatures.

Once you’ve experienced the thrill of rafting on the Pacuare, you’ll never forget it! It features a course which is narrow and crosses lush forests. If you explore it, you’ll be treated to the sight of twenty gorgeous waterfalls, including The Temples, along the way. The Temples is dramatic and dazzling. It’s considered one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful natural sights.

The best time to go whitewater rafting on Rio Pacuare is between the middle of May and the middle of March.

This isn’t a mellow whitewater experience. It’s for thrill seekers. If you want something easier and more family-oriented, there will be rivers on our list that deliver. If you do want a high-octane experience, which is all about heart-pounding excitement, this “rio” will be right up your alley.

Rio Sarapiquí

Sarapiqui river in Costa Rica

Author: Steve Jurvetson

You’ll find beautiful Rio Sarapiqui in northeastern Costa Rica. Nicaragua is bordered to its north. The entire Sarapiqui region is very popular with tourists, from families on holiday to adrenaline junkies and beyond. The area is world-renowned for incredible biodiversity. In addition, it’s considered a dream destination for those who seek out outdoor adventure!

Rio Sarapiqui is surrounded by lowland tropical rainforest. This exuberant Costa Rican river flows into the San Juan River. The Sarapiqui river is also the eastern border of the region of Sarapiqui. This region (or canton, as they say in Costa Rica) covers eighty-five percent of the province of Heredia.

Enjoy Class III, Class IV or Class V (if you dare!) thrills, depending on which section of this scenic river you decide to explore by raft.  Difficulty varies by section and the river measures thirty-five kilometers. In the Class V section, it rises to one hundred feet and flows at a rate of five thousand feet per second.

The “Class” rating for a river is its level of “river difficulty”. Class III is intermediate, Class IV is advanced and Class V is expert. Class V means violent rapids!

The “Atlantic slope” portion of the river features Class III rapids which are a bit tamer, but still plenty of fun. The Class III slope is better for beginners.  Naturally, there are also sections of Rio Sarapiqui which are calm and serene. This river begins between a couple of volcanoes (Barba and Poas) and ends at the San Juan River,

While you’re exploring the river, be sure to keep an eye out for banana, cocoa, sugar cane and coffee plantations.

This river starts wild and ends silky-smooth. Whitewater rafters of all skill levels will find something to enjoy here. Also, you’ll be pleased to know that this river is remarkably clean.

Rio Reventazón

Reventazón river in Costa Rica

Author: Rodtico21

Rio Reventazón measures one hundred and forty-five kilometers in length. Its waters flow towards the Caribbean Sea. This Costa Rican river rises within Meseta Central and then flows through three valleys (Turrialba, Orosi and Reventazón).

Once its waters make it to the coastal plains of the Caribbean, they flow into the Caribbean Sea.

Find Class II fun, Class III challenge and Class IV excitement at various sections of this long and winding river! The word, Reventazón means, “crashing waves”. This legendary river definitely lives up to its moniker. Several sections of the river are popular with whitewater rafters. The Class II areas are best for beginners and Class III sections, which are intermediate in terms of difficulty, may be appropriate for them also.

The Class IV sections are best for those who can handle advanced river difficulty.

This mighty river is a sight to behold and plenty of adventure tours are available, as they are at all of the Costa Rican rivers on our list. This river is found in the nation’s Central Caribe region. Families with kids aged eight or older may go out for some gentle paddling and do some bird-watching. Those who want more thrills will have no trouble finding them at other sections of the river.

One great thing about this river is that it’s a simple day trip from San Jose or from the Caribbean portions of the country.

The wildest parts of the river are Lower and Upper Huacas. They are named after the local term for “cemetary”.

Rio Savegre

Rio Savegre waterfall in Costa Rixa

This river runs through a central Costa Rican valley. It moves through Las Quetzales National Park, in the direction of the Pacific coast. It begins to flow in the moisture-rich “cloud forest” and ends in a lowland tropical forest.

You may start your tour of this river at Jacó Beach. Another option is beginning your river exploration at Manuel Antonio National Park. This river offers Class II (suitable for beginners) and Class III (intermediate river difficulty) whitewater action. As well, its a great place to drink in the beauty of tropical scenery, vibrant flora and exotic birds and animals.

You’ll love the gorgeous river pools that you find here. They are perfect for swimming.

This river is known for its pristine beauty. It’s a glorious stretch of whitewater which is coastal. Flanked by canyons, waterfalls and dense primary rainforest, you’ll find some dazzling birds in the area, including parrots, kingfishers, toucans, osprey and egrets. Keep an eye out for cormorants and kingfishers, too.

People who want a calmer experience may enjoy the more serene sections of River Sevegre. Those who want pure adrenaline may opt for the roller coaster-like thrills of the most surging and dramatic rapids, including “The Devil’s Mouth”, Malibu” and “Cinderella”.

If you want to fish during your trip to Costa Rica, you’ll find that fly fishing is great on this river, especially for Rainbow Trout.

While you’re there, check out the town of Quepos. It’s situated on the central Pacific coast and it’s considered a “gateway” to the National Park (Manuel Antonio). The park itself is amazing, thanks to its proliferation of squirrel, howler and white-faced monkeys!

To get the best whitewater rafting experience, visit between May and January.

Rio Pejibaye

Pejibaye River waterfall in Costa Rica

Author: Cjgace

We think that River Pejibaye is an ideal place for families who want rafting adventure that isn’t too extreme. This river features some enjoyable Class II and Class III whitewater rapids. If you visit, hire a river guide. This person will make sure that your group paddles through the waves safely. This is a great place to experience of all of excitement of river rafting.

It’s smart to start your adventure at the edge of the river, within the rainforest. This river is mostly calm, with the occasional burst of whitewater, so expect to alternate between enjoying the natural beauty all around you…and getting a surge of adrenaline as your raft makes its way through the rapids!

Test your paddling mettle as you take in the epic grandeur of the majestic and awe-inspiring Turrialba Volcano. You’ll see so much dramatic scenery from your raft, including overhead tree canopies, ancient trees and hanging vines.

While this river may not provide the thrills of rivers with Class IV and V rapids, it’s got enough whitewater action to satisfy most people. Also, it’s a great place to watch for toucans, monkeys and iguanas.

Usually, kids aged eight and up find family outings on the river pleasant and exciting. This is definitely an ideal river for family rafting fun. Bear in mind that the whitewater gets wilder during the rainy season, which starts in October.

Take a break from rafting and have a nice picnic by the shoreline. Before you eat, be sure to take a dip in River Pejibaye and relax. Sunscreen and bug repellent are recommended.

Is Costa Rica Right for You?

Costa Rican dancers

Costa Rica has a relaxed vibe and some stunning scenery.

It’s a great place to make new friends and enjoy beautiful forests, superlative adventure activities, pristine beaches, excellent weather, majestic volcanoes, exotic wildlife, delicious food… and surging whitewater.

Let us know if you are planning a trip here, or if you have any recommendations to add to our list!


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