White water rafting Costa Rica

White water rafting Costa Rica – Bring on the adrenaline rush

If you’ve ever wanted to try white water rafting Costa Rica is an excellent place to get your fix.


After being in the warm weather for a number of days, doing something where we got sopping wet was just what the doctor ordered.

Of all the things we did in Costa Rica on our honeymoon, this was the most fun. I don’t think there’s words to describe how much fun we had.

It helps that we had an awesome guide on our boat. Every time we would come up on a set of rapids, he would get us pumped up by shouting all sorts of crazy things. We’d bust through the rapids and he would holler out “pura vida!!!”

Our guide was an adrenaline junkie. Every picture I got back you could tell he was hootin’ and hollering throughout the whole ride.

And everyone in the boat would yell out “pura vida!” along with him, laughing almost uncontrollably.

Rolling down the river

White water rafting Costa Rica was one of those things we had our hearts set on before we even landed. While researching Costa Rica vacations, we knew we wanted to do this but we didn’t book our tour until we arrived in the Manuel Antonio area. We wound up booking our tour through our hotel, which was easy and painless. A tour bus picked us up at the hotel and drove us to our entry point. The bus ride was about 30 minutes.

The most difficult part of it all was that we had to schlep the rafts down some steep stairs to get to the riverbed. Those things are heavy and unwieldy.

But once we got down by the water, we each took a paddle and got some quick pointers from the guide. You may wonder how you stay in the raft sitting up on the edge like that. The trick is that there’s a little strap on the inside of the raft that you wrap one of your feet around.

You’ll get thrashed around quite a bit…and soaked…but as long as you keep your foot in that strap, you’ll be good. We didn’t have any “swimmers” on our raft.

White water rafting Costa Rica: It’s starting to get bumpy…

You should run into some “calm” patches in the river which will allow you to take in the spectacular and beautiful scenery. It’s the kind of viewpoint you’re not going to get anywhere else.

Along with the raft we had a couple of dudes following us on recon kayaks, one taking pictures and one circling around in case assistance was needed.

Don’t get in over your head

If you’ve never been white water rafting before by the time you travel to Costa Rica, you’ll probably want to go no more than Class III rapids. Class IV can get pretty bumpy.

Alright, it’s bumpy now! Pura Vida!!!

The classification of white water rapids is done on a scale, I (one) through VI (six). Here’s the breakdown so you have an idea of what you’re getting into:

  • Class I: Generally calm, a few rough spots, but no real obstacles.
  • Class II: More rough water, some obstructions, and some small drops. You’ll need to move the raft around a bit.
  • Class III: Now you’re getting into rapids with medium waves. More drops, and higher (3-5 feet.) Some of the passages between obstacles could be narrow and will require the expertise of your guide to navigate.
  • Class IV: Big waves and long rapids, with large obstructions and large drops. You’ll probably want to have some previous experience before running these kinds of rapids.
  • Class V: Experts only. You’re getting into some violent rapids here, big drops, big rocks, wild current.
  • Class VI: This used to be Class U — for “unrunnable by any craft”. Need I say more? You don’t want this!

Prices and things you should know

Tours will be in the $40 – $80 range (per person), depending on the length of your outing, and whether or not meals or a snack are included. This isn’t a tour I would cheap out on, your safety is important. You want your “boat captain” to speak English (check to make sure) and you should be provided with a helmet, a life preserver, and a paddle.

If you’re hardcore and will be white water rafting Costa Rica’s Class IV and V rapids, there’s longer tours available, and multi-day excursions where you camp overnight.

It should be obvious, but you will need to know how to swim in order to go white water rafting. There’s always a chance you could wind up in the drink when you’re getting bumped around quite a bit.

White water rafting in Costa Rica (or anywhere for that matter) is not without risks. People do get hurt occasionally. But you’ll minimize that risk by going with a reputable tour company and paying close attention to your guide throughout your entire experience.