The Best River For Rafting In Costa Rica

UPDATED: 2017

Looking for Costa Rica white water rafting tour discounts? WE OFFER TRAVELLERS FREE ACCESS TO DISCOUNTS FOR WHITE WATER RAFTING TOURS when booking the day tour through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated. Click here for more information and/or to obtain the rafting tour discount. Con mucho gusto (you’re welcome) and pura vida! 🙂

Looking for Costa Rica safari float tour discounts? WE OFFER TRAVELLERS FREE ACCESS TO DISCOUNTS FOR SAFARI FLOAT TOURS when booking the day tour through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated. Click here for more information and/or to obtain the safari float tour discount. Con mucho gusto (you’re welcome) and pura vida! 🙂

Ricky (aka. Ricky Bobby) - Guiding on Pacuare

Ricky (aka. Ricky Bobby) – Guiding on Pacuare

We love rafting. Point blank. Given that Ricky was a white water rafting guide and safety kayaker on Costa Rica’s pacuare river for more than 6 years, we are of course biased when we say that pacuare is the best river for rafting in the country. However, our love for this particular river goes beyond our personal experience. It is rooted in fact – fact that the rapids are some of the best in the country, fact that the trip (which includes complimentary transportation between popular areas such as San Jose, La Fortuna/Arenal, and Puerto Viejo), and fact that National Geographic once identified the river as one of the best in the world for river scenery. But all accomplishments and accolades aside, here’s the truth. As appealing as pacuare is, if a run down this particular river does not fit with your trip itinerary, desired river level, or budget, there are many other worthwhile river trips to choose from. 

In our post Where To Go In Costa Rica: Determining The Best Places To Visit During Your Trip we explain that the only person who can decide which Costa Rican destinations are the “best” to visit is the person doing the visiting. Similarly, in our posts When Is The Best Time Of Year To Travel To Costa Rica? and Which Costa Rica Zipline Is The Best? Comparing 6 Popular Canopy Tours in Arenal and Monteverde, we argue that it is up to travellers to decide for themselves when they should travel to Costa Rica and which tours would be most enjoyed by them. In each case, although we aim to provide travellers with as many details as possible so they can make informed decisions regarding their trip, we are hesitant to pinpoint the “best” anything, as doing so would only overshadow our clients’ unique interests, desires, and needs with our own opinions.

So in true Costa Rica Travel Blog style, below is a list of some of the most popular rivers for rafting in Costa Rica that visitors can choose from. These include both rivers for white water rafting and flat rivers where safari float tours (slow-moving rafting tours) take place. As always, readers can contact us with their rafting tour or river-related questions as we’re happy to answer them.

Note: Don’t miss the bottom of this post for some helpful rafting tour tips!

WHITE WATER RAFTING TOURS

Pacuare River Rafting Tour

Pacuare River Rafting Tour

Pacuare River (Lower Section)

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: III/IV
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 12+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: La Fortuna/Arenal, San Jose, Sarapiqui, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Guapiles, Siquirres, Turrialba
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, breakfast, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? Yes
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? Yes (click here for more information)
Other: tour runs once daily

Don’t miss our Pacuare River Rafting Tour discounts:
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (San Jose)
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (La Fortuna/Arenal)
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (Puerto Viejo)
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (Cahuita)
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (Sarapiqui)
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (Guapiles)
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (Siquirres)
Pacuare River Rafting Tour (Turrialba)

Reventazon River Rafting Tour

Reventazon River Rafting Tour

Reventazon River (El Carmen Section)

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: II/III
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 6+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: La Fortuna/Arenal, San Jose, Sarapiqui, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Guapiles, Siquirres, Turrialba
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, breakfast, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? Yes (click here for more information)
Other: tour runs once daily

Don’t miss our Reventazon River Rafting Tour discounts:
Reventazon River Rafting Tour (San Jose)

Toro River Rafting Tour

Toro River Rafting Tour

Toro River

UPDATED 2014: TOURS ARE NO LONGER OPERATING ON THE TORO RIVER

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: III/IV
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 13+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: La Fortuna/Arenal and San Jose
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? No
Other: tour runs once daily


Balsa River Rafting Tour

Balsa River Rafting Tour

Balsa River (Lower Section)

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: II/III
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 10+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: La Fortuna/Arenal and San Jose
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? Yes (click here for more information)
Other: tour runs once daily

Don’t miss our Balsa River Rafting Tour discounts:
Balsa River Rafting Tour (La Fortuna/Arenal)
Balsa River Rafting Tour (San Jose)

Sarapiqui River Rafting Tour

Sarapiqui River Rafting Tour

Sarapiqui River (San Miguel Section)

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: III/IV
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 13+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: La Fortuna/Arenal, Sarapiqui, and San Jose
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? Yes (click here for more information)
Other: tour runs once daily

Don’t miss our Sarapiqui River Rafting Tour discounts:
Sarapiqui River Rafting Tour (La Fortuna/Arenal)
Sarapiqui River Rafting Tour (San Jose)

Tenorio River Rafting Tour

Tenorio River Rafting Tour

Tenorio River (Upper Section)

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: III/IV
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 13+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: La Fortuna/Arenal, Monteverde, Samara, and the Guanacaste Beaches (Papagayo, Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal, Panama, Potrero, Flamingo, Conchal, Tamarindo, and Langosta)
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? Yes (click here for more information)
Other: tour runs once daily

Don’t miss our Tenorio River Rafting Tour discounts:
Tenorio River Rafting Tour (Monteverde)
Tenorio River Rafting Tour (Samara)
Tenorio River Rafting Tour (Guanacaste)

Savegre River Rafting Tour

Savegre River Rafting Tour

Savegre River

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: II/III
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 6+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: Manuel Antonio
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? Yes
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? No
Other: tour runs twice daily

Don’t miss our Savegre River Rafting Tour discounts:
Savegre River Rafting Tour (Manuel Antonio)
Express Savegre River Rafting Tour (Manuel Antonio)

Naranjo River Rafting Tour

Naranjo River Rafting Tour

Naranjo River

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: III/IV
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 8+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: Manuel Antonio
Time of year tours are run: May to November
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and snack (no lunch)
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? No
Other: tour runs twice daily

Don’t miss our Naranjo River Rafting Tour discounts:
Naranjo River Rafting Tour (Manuel Antonio)

Naranjo River Chorro Section Rafting Tour

Naranjo River Chorro Section Rafting Tour

Naranjo River (Chorro Section)

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: IV
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 15+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: Manuel Antonio
Time of year tours are run: January to April
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and snack (no lunch)
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? No
Other: tour runs twice daily

Don’t miss our Naranjo River Chorro Section Rafting Tour discounts:
Naranjo River Chorro Section Rafting Tour (Manuel Antonio)

Colorado River

Tour type: white water rafting
Rapid class: II/III
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 10+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: the Northern Guanacaste Beaches (Papagayo, Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal, Panama, Potrero, Flamingo, Conchal, Tamarindo, and Langosta)
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, rafting tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? No
Other: tour runs once daily

SAFARI RIVER FLOAT TOURS

Penas Blancas Safari River Float Tour

Penas Blancas Safari River Float Tour

Penas Blancas River

Tour type: safari river float
Rapid class: N/A
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 3+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: La Fortuna/Arenal and San Jose
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, safari float tour, transportation, and snack (or lunch, depending on whether a tour option including lunch is chosen)
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? Yes (click here for more information)
Other: tour runs twice daily

Don’t miss our Penas Blancas River Safari Float Tour discounts:
Penas Blancas River Safari Float Tour (La Fortuna/Arenal) – by raft
Penas Blancas River Safari Float Tour (La Fortuna/Arenal) – by canoe
Penas Blancas River Safari Float Tour (La Fortuna/Arenal) – by kayak

Tenorio Safari River Float Tour

Tenorio Safari River Float Tour

Tenorio River (Lower Section)

Tour type: safari river float
Rapid class: N/A
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 10+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: Monteverde, Samara, and the Guanacaste Beaches (Papagayo, Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal, Panama, Potrero, Flamingo, Conchal, Tamarindo, and Langosta)
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, safari float tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? Yes (click here for more information)
Other: tour runs once daily

Don’t miss our Tenorio River Safari Float Tour discounts:
Tenorio River Safari Float Tour (Monteverde)
Tenorio River Safari Float Tour (Samara)
Tenorio River Safari Float Tour (Guanacaste)

Corobici Safari River Float Tour

Corobici Safari River Float Tour

Corobici River

Tour type: safari river float
Rapid class: N/A
Prior rafting experience required? No
Recommended for: travellers 6+ years (minimum age limit may vary across tour operators)
Tours are run to/from: the Northern Guanacaste Beaches (Papagayo, Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal, Panama, Potrero, Flamingo, Conchal, Tamarindo, and Langosta)
Time of year tours are run: all year
Tours include: all equipment, guide, safari float tour, transportation, and lunch
2-Day/Overnight rafting tour option? No
City-to-city transportation-inclusive tour option? No
Other: tour runs once daily


RAFTING TOUR TIPS

When preparing for your rafting tour, know the following:

  • River levels are determined by the amount of rainfall over the day(s)/night(s) prior to the tour date. Costa Rica’s rivers are higher during the rain/wet/green season (May-December) and lower during the summer/dry season (January-April).
  • More often than not, prior rafting experience is not necessary. All rafting tours include a safety demonstration and all necessary rafting equipment.
  • Rafters do not need to be body-builders, but they should be in good physical condition. This means that travellers who wish to participate in the tour should be mobile (able to climb into and out of the raft) and have the ability to use their upper body and arms to paddle.
  • Knowing how to swim is not a requirement but it is an asset. Feeling comfortable in and around the water will help calm any nerves and heighten your overall rafting experience.
  • Rafters must wear secure shoes (and bring a set of dry clothes to change into) during their rafting trip.
  • If river conditions are unsuitable the day of the rafting tour, the tour operator will either cancel the tour or else change the tour location to a back-up river.
  • Most tour operators employ a photographer to join the tour (photo CDs are often available for purchase through the tour operator after the rafting trip). Don’t forget to ‘say cheese’ when you hit the rapids!
  • Some tour operators offer their rafting tours as a connection between two destinations. In these cases, travellers can get picked up in one city before their rafting tour, spend the day rafting, and then get dropped off in a different city after their rafting tour (taking advantage of the complimentary transportation between cities).

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been white water rafting in Costa Rica? Which river did you choose? How did you enjoy the trip?

Pura vida!

*Discounts for Costa Rica day tours are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated at: http://www.puravidaeh.ca/

*Discounts and cash back savings for Costa Rica day tours are available through Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated

31 responses to “The Best River For Rafting In Costa Rica

  1. We are going to be in CR in early April and have heard good things about both Rio Toro and Sarapiqui, would you recommend one over the other or are they very similar? Can’t wait to get there!

    • BuckyBadger –
      Great question! We used to offer both Toro River and Sarapiqui River rafting trips, however Toro ran into some issues with the dam and this led us to offer Sarapiqui more often as the trips were more reliable and consistent. For river trip quality we prefer the Pacuare River rafting tour, however depending on where the trip is run from (especially when run from La Fortuna/Arenal) the drive to/from the river is a long one. Both the Toro River and Sarapiqui River are run closer to the La Fortuna/Arenal area than the Pacuare River (although not as close to La Fortuna/Arenal as the Balsa River trip), so from a distance perspective they are similar. From a scenery standpoint we prefer Sarapiqui, and as noted above we opt to recommend trips to this river over Toro as they are more reliable. http://puravidaeh.ca/category/costa-rica-tour-discounts/rafting/
      Pura vida! 🙂

      • Thanks Nikki. I would prefer the Pacuare myself but the driving distance from the Arenal area is what has us leaning towards the other two. Sounds like the Sarapiqui would be our best bet for a wet and bumpy ride with some good scenery. Thanks for all the great information!

    • tara30aren07 –
      Super delayed response on our part, but you’re more than welcome. It’s well deserved! 🙂
      Pura vida amigos!

    • tara30aren07 –
      Hey guys! How are things going in South Korea? Still can’t believe we were able to re-connect via our blogs. So great to hear that you are halfway around the world and loving being abroad. It’s such a great way to live isn’t it? Sending you both a giant ‘pura vida’ from your friends at Pura Vida! eh? Inc. 🙂

  2. I’m planning to go white water rafting for the first time here at home (in Romania), but I bet it’s not gonna be as awesome as in Costa Rica. Your country’s simply beautiful, I’d love to visit it someday! 😀

    • cityoftheweek –
      Wow! We’d love to go rafting in Romania one day. If/when you get a chance to go, let us know how the experience was. We love hearing about new experiences – in Costa Rica or abroad! 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • Maryam.Shahbaz –
      Such a relaxing thought! Rafting is one of our greatest passions and great loves, and despite the thrill of it all, it still amazing me how relaxing and calming the activity can be. There’s something to be said about the innate beauty that a river holds, especially when you travel over raging rapids only to come to its great peace. So glad to hear you could participate, albeit from miles away! 🙂
      Pura vida!

      • Everything you said is insanely true 🙂
        I have aqauphobia but immensely enjoy swimming .. two opossites .. I feel exactly the same way about the innate beauty of water ..
        Hope to visit the same thrill someday 🙂
        Regards,

  3. Looks like an amazing country. Definitely visiting once during my life :).

    • jumpingpolarbear –
      That is so great to hear! If/when you decide to make the trip, please let us know so we can help you access our over 2000 discounts for Costa Rica! 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • narcissuschronicles –
      We would love to visit the Philippines! Besides, your pics from wakeboarding make it look like so much fun! 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • morgansherrah –
      You are 100% right – it is AWESOME fun! Hope to see you in Costa Rica one day, and on one of the incredible rivers! 🙂
      Pura vida!

  4. These river rafting tours look so cool!

    • When a Third World Came West –
      We agree! Costa Rica is great for rafting – we are of course biased, however the rivers are breathtaking!
      Pura vida!

  5. Awesome ! I rafted the Rio Toro around 5 years ago now with a bunch of girlfriends and we had an absolute blast. Our guide was incredible.
    The fact that I ended up in the water twice made it even more fun ! A hilariously good time !
    A definite highlight of my trip to Costa Rica !

    • A tale or two to tell….. –
      That sounds like so much fun (travelling with a group of friends and keeping the great rafting experience as a memory of it!)! The guides in Costa Rica are… you said it… incredible. The majority truly love their jobs and love making travellers smile. Most Ticos (Costa Ricans) are proud of where they come from, and guiding is one way they can share the love they have for their country with others. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us! 🙂
      Pura vida!

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