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I Am Trying To Choose Between The Naranjo River And The Savegre River. I Have Rafted the Pacuare River Before. Which River Would Be The Most Similar?

I Am Trying To Choose Between The Naranjo River And The Savegre River. I Have Rafted the Pacuare River Before. Which River Would Be The Most Similar?

Last updated on May 2nd, 2020 at 11:31 am EST

You asked…

LOVE YOUR BLOG! We are all trying to settle on which white water rafting trip to take. Some don’t mind class 3 and 4, and none of us really want a class 5. Some would probably feel comfortable with just a 3. My husband and I went on the Pacuare River several years ago in February. It was considered a class 4. We experienced a somewhat calm river a lot of the time, (so plenty of time to prepare for the exciting times), but of course it was a class 4 at times. We had the best time ever! I’m trying to choose the best tour for a larger group (we are arriving in a few weeks), and I want my adult children to have a similar experience as we had on the Pacuare, but we will be coming from Manuel Antonio. I have watched UTube videos and read blogs. I am still confused. The Savegre river is recommended as a class 2 and 3. After reading some blogs, I am not sure if this river will be as exciting as the Pacuare river. But the Naranjo river (which looks VERY exciting) is recommended as a class 4 and 5 at times. If we avoid the Chorro part of the river, can we get a good class 3 and 4 tour on the Naranjo River? Any suggestions would be so appreciated.

We answered…

You have come to the right place! We LOVE assisting travellers with their Costa Rica rafting tour questions–well, all Costa Rica trip planning questions truly–however since we have rafted Costa Rica’s rivers more than 2,000 times (yes, you read that right!), we get excited when we can help others have wonderful experiences similar to our own.

Let’s start with the most pressing question… when will you be in Costa Rica? I caught that you mentioned that you will be here in a few weeks, however knowing the exact dates you will be here will help us really judge what the rivers will most likely be like during the time of year you plan to visit. Assuming–for now–that you plan to visit at the end of November, this is nearing the end of Costa Rica’s rain season and it is a time of year when rivers are generally swelled. Compare this to your last rafting experience here which was during the month of February, and although the Pacuare River offers one of the very best rafting experiences in the entire country, the fact that you participated in the activity during Costa Rica’s dry/summer season would have changed the river’s height, course, and rapids significantly.

To tackle the question of class III rivers versus class IV rivers, nearly every white water rafting trip in Costa Rica is either a combination of class II and III rapids, or else a combination of class III and IV rapids. To quote an answer provided in our Your Costa Rica Rafting Tour Questions Answered! blog post:

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CLASS II/III RIVER IN COSTA RICA AND A CLASS III/IV RIVER IN COSTA RICA? SHOULD I CHOOSE A CLASS II/III RIVER OR A CLASS III/IV RIVER?

River “classes” (sometimes referred to as “grades”) signify river difficulty. In general, class II signifies a novice class, class III signifies an intermediate class, and class IV signifies an advanced class. Classes are often grouped together (e.g., as class II/III or class III/IV) when the river includes a combination of easier and more difficult sections. In Costa Rica, most white water rafting tours are run on either class II/III or class III/IV rivers. In layman’s terms (at least in Costa Rica), class II/III rivers are best chosen by timid rafters and/or rafters with children who may be too young to participate in class III/IV river rafting tours. In contrast, class III/IV rivers are the most common rafting tour option; they are available to all travellers above the minimum age limit for participation, they are ideal for both beginner and experienced rafters, and they provide the most thrilling rafting tour experience.

You asked, “can we get a good class 3 and 4 tour on the Naranjo River?”. To this question, we can easily answer “yes”. This is because the Naranjo River is graded as a class III/IV river, and if you do in fact plan to visit at the end of November (as per our assumption above) when rivers tend to be at their highest, class III/IV rapids are most likely what you will get. Here’s where it gets tricky answering your question with similar certainty. You also commented, “The Savegre river is recommended as a class 2 and 3. After reading some blogs, I am not sure if this river will be as exciting as the Pacuare river.” If we were to compare the Pacuare River rafting tour experience in February (as per your past experience) to the Savegre River rafting tour experience in February, we would tell you that the latter experience would pail in comparison to the former (with respect to rapids) since the Savegre River is graded lower than the Pacuare River. However, assuming you plan to visit in late November–when the Savegre River is likely to be higher than it is at other times of the year (including February)–this would increase the intensity of the Savegre River rafting tour experience and bring it closer to the intensity experienced when you rafted the Pacuare River in February (i.e., during one of the Pacuare River rafting tour’s least intense months).

Without being able to predict Mother Nature, the following is how we would rank the three river trip experiences (on average, from the most intense to the least intense river trip according to rapids) at the times of the year that pertain to your question:

  1. Naranjo River Rafting Tour during November (class III/IV river rafted during the wet season)
  2. Pacuare River Rafting Tour during February (class III/IV river rafting during the dry season)
  3. Savegre River Rafting Tour during November (class II/III river rafted during the wet season)

Since you commented, “I want my adult children to have a similar experience as we had on the Pacuare”, the real question becomes, between the two Manuel Antonio river trips (i.e., the Naranjo River rafting tour vs. the Savegre River rafting tour), which would be the better of the two? If you are not able to experience the exact same rapid intensity that you did on the Pacuare River in February, would you rather have a more intense or less intense trip? If you prioritize rapids and would rather have an experience that is slightly more intense than the rafting experience you had previously, we would suggest going with the Naranjo River rafting tour. Alternatively, if you prioritize rapids and would rather have an experience that is slightly less intense than the rafting experience you had previously, we would suggest going with the Savegre River rafting tour.

To make matters more difficult, even with the debate over rapid class pushed aside, there are other ways that the two rivers can be compared. Below we offer links to our pages that provide full descriptions of the various river trips, including tour details such as tour start times, tour durations, minimum age limits for participation, amenities included (such as meals), and costs. In addition, when it comes to scenery, the Savegre River rafting tour provides a nicer backdrop than the Naranjo River does (for some travellers, this warrants a selection of the Savegre River rafting tour over the Naranjo River rafting tour, although rapid class is sacrificed), however unfortunately neither of the two compare to the stunning surroundings of the Pacuare River jungle.

Naranjo River Rafting Tour

Savegre River Rafting Tour

Express Savegre River Rafting Tour

Note: We agree with your thought to avoid the Chorro section; this section of the Naranjo River (which is reserved and sold separately as its own individual rafting tour separate from the regular Naranjo River rafting tour) only runs between January and April when rivers are typically at their lowest (from May to December, the Chorro section of the Naranjo River is too dangerous to run).

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