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White Water Rafting in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is the adventure capital of Central America, where you can enjoy epic adventures like horseback riding, ziplining, or soaking in natural hot springs. However, there aren’t many activities more adventurous than tumbling down the exciting rapids on one of the country’s rivers on a whitewater rafting tour!

If you want to go whitewater rafting during your trip to Costa Rica but aren’t sure where to start — we’ve got you covered. Discover the country’s best rivers for rafting and read our answers to frequently asked questions about whitewater rafting in Costa Rica.

Top Places to Go Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica

Pacuare River

  • Where: Puerto Viejo
  • Rapid River Class: Class III & IV

The Pacuare River is one of the top-rated whitewater rafting destinations not just in Costa Rica — but in the entire world. During your whitewater rafting trip on the Pacuare River, you will pass stunning waterfalls, towering canyons, and tons of exotic wildlife, including monkeys, parrots, jaguars, ocelots, and more!

A few rafts floating down some river rapids in a tropical rainforest.

The Pacuare River is known for its intense Class IV rapids, so children under the age of 12 will need to sit this river rafting experience out. However, for adults and families with older children, an epic journey down the Pacuare River near the Caribbean Sea will be the highlight of your trip. You can choose a one-day float down the Pacuare River or multi-day trips with an overnight stay at a jungle lodge.

Balsa River

  • Where: La Fortuna
  • Rapid River Class: Class II & III

Located near Arenal Volcano National Park, the Balsa River offers a calmer whitewater rafting experience perfect for the whole family. This river isn’t too powerful, but it still has enough twists, turns, and rapids to make it exciting and fun — making it one of the most popular rafting destinations for beginners.

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Whitewater rafting down the Balsa River also offers an excellent opportunity to see exotic wildlife, such as monkeys, sloths, and tropical birds. Overall, this is a great whitewater rafting adventure if you’re unsure which to choose during your trip to Costa Rica.

Sarapiqui River

  • Where: La Fortuna
  • Rapid River Class: Class II, III, IV

If you are looking for a rafting trip that is more adventurous in La Fortuna, look no further than the Sarapiqui River. This spectacular river is about a two-hour drive from La Fortuna, but the Class IV rapids make the trip worthwhile for all thrill seekers.

A raft full of eco-adventurists enjoy a serene gentle float down the Corobici river, in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Some rapids you will encounter on the Sarapiqui River include the Terminator, the Pipeline, and Dos Locos. Because of the intensity of the river rapids, families with children under the age of 14 are not permitted to embark on rafting tours of the Sarapiqui River.

Tenorio River

  • Where: Guanacaste
  • Rapid River Class: Class III, IV, V

Guanacaste is one of the driest regions of Costa Rica and is home to gorgeous beaches like Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco, and Playa Tamarindo. So, you may be surprised to learn that it is also home to one of the best whitewater rafting rivers in Costa Rica — the Tenorio River!

While riding the Tenorio River, you will hit up to 22 crazy rapids, including a 12-foot waterfall drop called “Cascabel Falls.” Because of the intensity of the challenging rapids, you must be at least 14 years old and in good physical condition to join one of the rafting trips down the Tenorio River.

Though you will spend a lot of time navigating the river’s rapids, you will still have time to sit back, relax, spot wildlife, and enjoy the natural beauty of the rainforest.

Naranjo River

  • Where: Quepos
  • Rapid River Class: Class II, III, IV

The Naranjo River, located right outside of Manuel Antonio National Park, is one of the top destinations for whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. It is an ideal rafting destination for the whole family since children eight and up can join, and there are plenty of opportunities to spot native wildlife and stunning jungle terrain during your journey down the Naranjo River.

Four people in a yellow raft whitewater rafting down a river in Costa Rica.

Many rafting tours down the Naranjo River offer hotel pick-up from accommodations in Manuel Antonio National Park and Quepos. The Naranjo River offers some calm Class II and Class III rapids and some tumultuous Class IV rapids for thrill seekers. The Naranjo River is perfect for a diverse rafting adventure!

Penas Blancas River

  • Where: La Fortuna
  • Rapid River Class: Class I, II, III, IV

If you want a calm, relaxing river rafting experience, you will love floating down the Peñas Blancas River. Unlike other whitewater rafting tours in Costa Rica with steep drops and tumbling rapids, rafting trips down the Penas Blancas River are much more like a “river safari float.”

During your trip down the Penas Blancas River, you will see diverse wildlife, such as monkeys, sloths, lizards, frogs, and more. You will also have the chance to enjoy gorgeous scenery, including hot springs, beautiful waterfalls, and towering canyons.

Corobici River

  • Where: Guanacaste
  • Rapid River Class: Class I & II

Corobici River offers another calm river rafting tour perfect for families with young children or elderly family members when visiting Costa Rica. Corobici River is located next to Palo Verde National Park —a popular spot for bird watching — so you can see storks, herons, and other species of birds flying by during your safari float on the river.

Savegre River

  • Where: Quepos
  • Rapid River Class: Class II & III

The Savegre River, located outside Manuel Antonio National Park, is one of the best whitewater rafting experiences in Costa Rica. This particular river offers the perfect blend of challenging rapids and calm stretches that are fun for the whole family.

A shot of 5 rafters and a guide trying to avoid being tipped over as they navigate the rapids of the Rio Colorado in Costa Rica

During rafting tours down the Savegre River, you can expect to see rainforests, mangrove forests, and other beautiful natural landscapes. Some of the rapids you will encounter on this river include The Washing Machine, Boca Diablo, and Screaming Child.

Colorado River

  • Where: Guanacaste
  • Rapid River Class: Class I, II, III

The Colorado River is situated in the valley below one of the most famous national parks in Costa Rica — Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It offers soft twists and turns for a fun whitewater rafting adventure for the whole family.

You will be able to admire wildlife, like monkeys, and breathtaking natural scenery during a rafting tour on the Colorado River. Since the rapids on this river are so tame, families with young children can join in on the fun.

Frequently Asked Questions About Diving in Costa Rica

When is the best time of year to go whitewater rafting in Costa Rica?

Most tourists visit Costa Rica during the dry season, from December to April. However, if you are looking forward to white water rafting during your trip, you are best off visiting during the rainy season from May to November.
During the rainy season, the rivers across Costa Rica fill up with rainwater, making the rapids more intense and so much fun to ride. If you are visiting Costa Rica during the green season — white water rafting is an activity you cannot miss!

What class rapids are in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is filled with rivers that offer five classes of rapids:
Class I Rapids: Fast, moving water with small waves. Perfect for a sightseeing adventure, like a river cruise or safari float.
Class II Rapids: Wide, clear channels that are easy to maneuver for those with little to no rafting experience.
Class III Rapids: Moderate, irregular waves with fast currents that can be difficult to avoid and require complex maneuvers.
Class IV Rapids: These rivers are powerful but predictable, requiring precise handling and quick maneuvers.
Class V Rapids: Violent rapids that are long, obstructed, and more demanding. You must have prior experience rafting before embarking on Class V rapids.

Where is the best place for whitewater rafting in Costa Rica?

Most of the country’s best white water rafting is found in Central Costa Rica, near La Fortuna, including the Penas Blancas River and Sarapiqui River. However, you can also find great white water rafting in the Guanacaste Province, including the Corobici River and Tenorio River, and in Quepos, including the Savegre River and Naranjo River.
There is only one notable place for white water rafting on the Caribbean Coast — the Pacuare River in Puerto Viejo. However, these top-rated rapids are some of the best in the world!

What are the best whitewater rafting tours in Costa Rica?

Special Places of Costa Rica offers excellent rafting tours for all skill levels in Costa Rica. These are the best whitewater rafting tours we offer:
Corobici River Rafting Tour — For $106 per person, ride on gentle rapids down the Corobici River fed by the Tenorio Volcano. This is a family-friendly adventure and offers plenty of opportunity for wildlife spotting, including monkeys, bats, lizards, and crocodiles.
Rio Tenorio Whitewater Rafting Tour — The Tenorio River in Guanacaste is one of the top whitewater rafting destinations in Costa Rica. On this tour, you can embark on a thrilling rafting adventure with extreme drops, including a 12-foot drop down Cascabel Falls for $106 per person.
Rio Colorado River Rafting Tour — The Rio Colorado begins inside the popular Rincon de la Vieja National Park and offers an exhilarating rafting experience. For just $106 per person, you can tumble down Class II and Class III rapids and enjoy scenic views along the way.

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