While it might be a small country, when it comes to whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, it is home to some of the most beautiful rivers you might ever raft down. There are a total of 14 major river systems in Costa Rica, providing plenty of options for a rafting adventure. A few years ago we took all the munchkins on what is still today their favorite vacation of all time, Costa Rica. One of the main reasons was all the adventures, from ziplining to incredible waterslides down the side of a volcano (that’s another crazy story) Costa Rica is full of so many fun adventures, you will absolutely love it.
Amazing Rivers for Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica
Flowing down from the volcanic mountains and through lush jungles, Costa Rica’s rivers hold all variety of whitewater experiences from Class II to Class V rapids. Whether you are young, old, experienced or not, whitewater rafting in Costa Rica is available to almost anyone.
Choosing which river or rivers to raft is a very personal decision, depending on what type of experience you want. However, there are a number of rivers that stand out, even winning accolades from National Geographic for their whitewater rafting opportunities. Below we have listed just some of the top rivers you might want to consider. You also can do Kayaking down the river with a guide which we did and it is so much fun.
Savegre and Naranjo Rivers
The Savegre and Naranjo Rivers are located in the central Pacific region. They offer great rapids and are easily accessible on half-day, full-day, or even multi-day tours. Rafting trips depart the nearby towns of Jacó and Manuel Antonio year round.
Rapids on the Savegre River are Class II and III and open to beginners. This is a great rafting option for families with most tour operators accepting children as young as 6. For more challenging conditions and faster rapids, you can also visit during the rainy season from June to October.
The Naranjo River has more powerful Class III and IV+ rapids. Trips here run May to November for the main sections of the river and January to April for the more difficult Chorro section, which includes a number of technical narrows. Depending on the section of the river your raft and time of year, the recommended minimum age is 8 -14.
Pacuare and Reventazón Rivers
When it comes to whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, the Central Valley and San Jose region is undoubtedly the hub of the action. With two of Costa Rica’s most impressive rivers flowing through, you’ll have multiple options for rafting tours. Tours leave from many places in the region including La Fortuna, San Jose, and Turrialba.
When people call Pacuare River the best whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, they are not messing around. Running along the Talamanca mountain range and through the Turrialba valley, this beautiful river offers the chance to really connect to nature. Pacuare river is surrounded by incredible biodiversity and wildlife, filled with cascading waterfalls, and has plenty of Class III and IV rapids. This river has even been named by National Geographic as one of the top ten river trips in the world!
Whitewater rafting trips on the Pacuare River are run year round. During the dry season, rapids are a bit more manageable and great for beginners. The rain season, which runs from about June to November offers up slightly more challenging conditions. Tour operators generally require children to be 12 or older, especially if rafting a more difficult section.
Flowing through the same region, the Reventazón River is a great option during Costa Rica’s dry season, especially March and April, when many other rivers in the country are at much lower water levels. Being the most challenging river in Costa Rica, Reventazón offers some of the country’s hardest commercial runs.
The Reventazón River is divided into two sections, the Pascua and the Florida sections. Both sections have mostly Class III rapids but offer Class IV and V rapids as well. The Florida section, in particular, is prized for its 10 miles of fast, exhilarating Class III+ rapids. To experience more powerful rapids you must visit during the peak of the rainy season – around June to October.
Sarapiquí and Peñas Blancas Rivers
In the Northern Lowlands, you will find many whitewater rafting options. The highlight in this region is not only the rivers but the amazing lush jungles they flow through.
Sarapiquí River is one of the region’s most scenic rivers to raft. Multi-day rafting trips are especially popular here and offer the chance to not only explore the Sarapiquí River but also the Río Puerto Viejo and others in the region.
Sarapiquí River offers a bit of something for every level of whitewater rafting fan. The river consists of three sections, spread over 35 kilometers, and rapids Class III to V. Most tour operators on the Sarapiquí River require a minimum age of 13 or 14.
Another Northern Lowlands option is the Peñas Blancas River. This much calmer river is great for a safari float and open to the whole family.
Safari floats are perfect for families with young children or elderly travelers. Rather than flying over fast rapids, you will enjoy gliding down the river, keeping your eyes peeled for local wildlife. It is possible to spot sloths, monkeys, the occasional crocodile, and the river is ideal for birdwatchers.
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With so many amazing whitewater rafting options available in Costa Rica, it can be hard to choose. If you have younger children it can be easier to narrow down your options but if not, it really is open to your own preferences. Whether you want an exhilarating family bonding adventure or a tranquil river experience filled with wildlife spotting, Costa Rica has you covered!
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