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WHOEVER SAID “GO BIG OR GO HOME” MUST HAVE BEEN WHITE WATER RAFTING IN COSTA RICA
Arguably one of the most incredible photos we have in our files is the one shown above which displays Ricky guiding a raft of six tourists. Can’t see the raft? Don’t adjust your computer screen, it is hidden among the roaring rapid known as “Cimarrones”–a reminder of why class IV rivers are worth the added cost, time, drive, fear, and any other sacrifice required in order to include a white water rafting tour on the Pacuare River into your Costa Rica vacation plans.
If you are familiar with our Costa Rica Travel Blog, you already know that white water rafting Costa Rica is a great passion of ours. Ricky worked for many years as a white water rafting guide and safety kayaker on the Pacuare River and he could not have been happier doing so. He always joked that the stunning backdrop of the Costa Rican jungle was his “office”, that the adrenaline-inducing river rapids were his daily work tasks, and that as a keen customer-service-driven employee, he fully embodied his “job” of making white water rafting tours in Costa Rica an experience visitors would never forget.
Although we have written previously about The Pacuare River Family that we are proud to belong to, as well as Costa Rica’s thrilling Pacuare River Rafting Tour that we recommend highly, this article’s intent is to simply to entertain travellers with some of our favourite white water rafting Costa Rica photos (most of which were captured by incredible Exploradores Outdoors photographers, including our good friend Maikol, over the many years we have rafted with them). We may also be trying to use the below photos to tempt you to travel to Costa Rica to get to know the rivers and thrills for yourself, so let us woo you, won’t you?
WHITE WATER RAFTING IN COSTA RICA LOOKS TERRIFYING. IS IT?
White water rafting Costa Rica: River levels and Costa Rica’s seasons
If you’re thinking that white water rafting Costa Rica’s Pacuare River may be too daring for you, we suggest you think again! Although some of the photos on this page may suggest otherwise, the Pacuare River can be quite tame at many times throughout the year. The river is typically at its lowest during the months of January to mid-April, in correspondence with Costa Rica’s dry/summer season, and at this time of year, the rapids are comparable to those offered by other class III/IV rivers. In contrast, the river tends to be at its highest in October, November, and early December when rainfall throughout the country is plentiful. The river can be raging during these months, so true adventurists shouldn’t rule out a wet/green season vacation to Costa Rica for this reason.
When is the best time of year to raft the Pacuare River?
If we gave the river’s water/rapid level a score between 1 and 10 (1 being the lowest level we have seen and 10 being the highest level we have seen), this is what to expect from month to month:
February: 3 or 4
March: 2 or 3
April (first few weeks, depending on whether the rain/green season starts early or late): 1
April (the last week, depending on whether the rain/green season starts early or late): 5
May: 5 or 6
October: 7, 8, or 9
November: 8, 9, or 10
December (first few weeks, depending on whether the dry/summer season starts early or late): 8
December (last few weeks, depending on whether the dry/summer season starts early or late): 5
White water rafting Costa Rica: Prior rafting experience and/or the ability to swim
Still, despite the spectrum of river, rapid, and adrenaline levels, fortunately the Pacuare River is safe to run year-round (daily safety measures are in effect, so if the river was ever deemed unsafe to run due to high water levels, it would be cancelled by the tour operator). Furthermore, regardless of the time of year you plan to go white water rafting in Costa Rica, prior rafting experience (and believe it or not, the ability to swim) is not required. The tour offers all of the safety equipment participants need, safety instructions, and safety demonstrations, as well as a confirmation of rescue techniques (performed by the rafting tour operator’s guides and safety kayakers) should the need for them ever arise. However, do note that the rescue techniques are simply precautionary–during most river trips, neither a detailed knowledge of rescue techniques nor swimming techniques are required to be demonstrated by travellers.
White water rafting Costa Rica: Is it family-friendly?
If you are travelling with children, note that all tour operators will enforce a minimum age limit for tour participation. For class II/III river tours, the minimum age limit for participation ranges from six years old to ten years old. For the Pacuare River Rafting Tour and other class III/IV river tours, the minimum age limit increases to twelve or thirteen years old (with the exception of the Naranjo River rafting tour). This being said, depending on the time of year you plan to travel during (especially if you plan to be in Costa Rica during the dry/summer season), which river you choose, the height and weight of your child, and his or her level of rafting experience, the minimum age limit may be negotiable with the tour operator.
Costa Rica white water rafting tour minimum age limits by river, rapid class, and tour operator:
Pacuare River; class III/IV (Exploradores Outdoors): 12 years old
Reventazon River; class II/III (Exploradores Outdoors): 6 years old
Sarapiqui River; class III/IV (Desafio Adventure Company): 13 years old
Sarapiqui River; class II/III (Desafio Adventure Company): 10 years old
Balsa River; class II/III (Desafio Adventure Company): 10 years old
Tenorio River; class III/IV (Desafio Adventure Company): 13 years old
Tenorio River; class II/III (Desafio Adventure Company): 10 years old
Naranjo River Chorro Section; class IV (H2O Rios Tropicales): 15 years old
Naranjo River; class III/IV (H2O Rios Tropicales): 8 years old
Savegre River; class II/III (H2O Rios Tropicales): 6 years old
For more information about the specific Pacuare River rafting tour experience, don’t miss our related blog post Pacuare River Rafting Tour.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Plan on white water rafting Costa Rica? If so, which river do you intend to visit, and why was it your choice?
If you’re more of a visual learner, take a moment to view our gallery photos below from some of our most extreme Costa Rica rafting adventures.