10 Best Costa Rica White Water Rafting Tours

Between the year-round warm water and the natural beauty the country has to offer, a trip to Costa Rica presents the opportunity for world-class rafting in a tropical paradise. Costa Rica has 14 major river systems that begin in the volcanic mountain ranges and flow out towards the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, the San Juan River, or Lake Nicaragua — with plenty of waterfalls along the way. These rivers produce world-famous white-water rapids, as well as beautiful scenery along the banks.

We have a wide range of options when it comes to rafting adventures, with both single-day tours and multi-day white water excursions available, and river difficulties varying from the calm stroll of Class I rivers to the extreme thrill of Class V rivers. So, whether you’d like to take an easy float down the river to spot wildlife with the whole family, or you’re interested in challenging yourself on adrenaline-packed rapids with nicknames such as “La Boca del Diablo,” there’s a whitewater rafting trip for you.

Rafting Day Trips:

Want to spend time out riding the rapids, but not quite ready to give up several days of your vacation? Relax on a safari float or gear up for rumbling along some of the most challenging rapids in the world, all within the span of a few hours – and there are plenty of options!

Safari Float on Penas Blancas River: Class I


Enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest on this peaceful Penas Blancas River Cruise at Arenal. Be prepared to catch glimpses of Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth, the brown-throated sloth, the gray four-eyed opossum, the yellow-crowned night-heron, the spectacled owl, the long-nosed bat, the mantled howler monkey, and the ironically named American crocodile.

Safari Float on Corobici River: Class I-II

This easy float is perfect for bringing the kids along, and elderly vacationers are sure to enjoy the relaxing ride down the river as well. The banks of the Corobici River in Guanacaste are home to plenty of exotic wildlife, and the birdwatching in this location is among Costa Rica’s best. It’s truly a surreal experience being guided gently down the stream, watching the untouched landscape and its inhabitants as you pass by.

White Water Rafting Rio Balsa: Class II- III

In close proximity to Arenal Volcano, Rio Balsa is a great excursion for the whole family. Get ready for a healthy mix of both exciting white water action and scenic floats that wind their way through dense Costa Rican forests.

White Water Rafting Savegre River: Class II-III

The Savegre River, found near Manuel Antonio, is one of the cleanest in all of Central America. This 6-7 hour trip down the river is fun rapid rafting for the whole family –– it features a mix of both calm and exciting stretches, and guests will have plenty of time to get out of their rafts to swim in between the maneuvering of rapids with names like “The Washing Machine,” “Boca Diablo,” and “Screaming Child.” And don’t worry, that last one refers to screams of excitement, not fear!

White Water Rafting Pacuare River: Class III-IV


One of the top-rated rivers in the world for rafting, the Pacuare River offers beautiful views and crazy rapids to traverse. The river runs alongside the Talamanca Mountain Range, home to a vast array of exotic wildlife including monkeys, toucans, parrots, jaguars, deer, butterflies, and ocelots! Due to the intensity of the rapids, age requirements for this trip are 12 years old during the dry season (December through May) and 14 years old during the rainy season (June through November).

White Water Rafting Tenorio River: Class III-IV

For those looking for a thrill, the 8 mile trip down the Upper Tenorio River in Guanacaste provides just that. This day trip is more of an intense challenge with its quick turns, twists, and one 12-foot, Class V drop that will exhilarate even the most seasoned thrill-seekers! Because of the difficulty of this day trip, the minimum age is 14.

White Water Rafting Naranjo River: Class III-IV


Naranjo River White Water Rafting

There are two separate day trips available on the Naranjo River near Manuel Antonio. The first is a family-friendly trip, Class III-IV, that features an exhilarating stretch on the river’s rapids before opening up onto the Pacific flatlands where everyone can experience a more relaxing journey while scoping for the abundant birdlife of the region –– the ringed kingfisher and the white ibis, to name a few.

White Water Rafting Naranjo River: Class IV+

The other Class IV+ option for traversing the Naranjo River is geared more towards thrill-seekers and has a minimum age requirement of 12 years — this is the El Chorro section of Naranjo. El Chorro is an advanced run that features 9 technical narrows and a tight squeeze through canyon walls jutting up on either side of the raft.

Rafting Overnight Trips:

A multi-day rafting trip is a wonderful opportunity to explore Costa Rica from the water! Besides containing some of the best whitewater rivers in the world, the countryside is beautiful beyond description. Many of the rivers run through national parks or reserves, guaranteeing breathtaking views and countless chances to spot the more elusive wildlife creatures. The Pacuare River is a beautiful overnight rafting destination for the active traveler to consider, so come on out and get your adrenaline pumping on any of our multi-day trips!

Pacuare River Rafting: 1 Night/2 Days


This multi-day trip will first take you on a Class III whitewater rapid ride through the Pacuare Gorge with an occasion to stop for a snack and swim underneath a gorgeous waterfall before arriving at your Pacuare River Lodge. The second day is filled with continued rafting down the Lower Pacuare, this time through Class IV rapids. Again, there will be time to rest, experience waterfalls, and slide down natural waterslides that you won’t soon forget.

Pacuare River Rafting: 2 Nights/3 Days


The 3-day Pacuare River rafting adventure is an amazing way to get the most out of your trip! Experience the fun of whitewater rafting, heading down Class III rapids through a beautifully untouched primary rainforest. En-route, stop for a snack and a swim near a waterfall. You’ll arrive at the Tropical Rivers Lodge this afternoon for an evening of relaxing, delectable dinner, and a good night’s sleep. The following day is free to enjoy any of the amazing activities that are available at the lodge: horseback riding, a canopy zip-line, guided hikes, and much more! Or, the stunning location of the lodge makes it a divine destination for spending the day meditating, relaxing, or reading a book in a hammock near the river. You’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast the next morning, before whitewater rafting your way to the Operations Center for a hot lunch – and then on to the next adventure!

Rafting Transfers en Route:


White Water Rafting Adventure Connection with Desafio

Rafting is all well and good, but you’ve got places to be and things to see! No worries, we can customize your vacation to fit your rafting trip in while you’re heading towards your next destination. Spend a night in San Jose, grab a ride to Arenal Volcano, and stop off halfway for a quick tour on one of Costa Rica’s rivers. This is a great way to sneak in a rafting trip when it looks like your days are all full!

Costa Rica White Water Rafting FAQ:

No! There are, however, various levels of white water rafting based on river segments. Rapids are ranked in levels from I to V with V being the highest. First-time white water rafters can often begin on a level II-III rapid while more advanced rafters might enjoy class IV-V rapids. There are multiple excursion levels to choose from and conditions vary throughout the year as water levels rise and fall with the rain. Talk to a Costa Rica Expert about the best white water rafting option for you.
  • Rubber-soled shoes or strapped sandals that can get wet
  • Bathing suit
  • Quick-drying t-shirt and shorts. For more sun protection or added warmth, bring a long-sleeved t-shirt.
  • Water-resistant sunscreen lotion (minimum of SPF 15)
  • Hat or bandana to block the sun
  • Bug spray
  • Croakies or other eyewear retainers to secure sunglasses / eyeglasses
  • Change of clothes and dry shoes for afterward
  • Towel for showers after your tour
  • Prescription medications you may need during your tour
Consult the list above for day trip essentials as you will need everything there in addition to the following:
  • Necessary personal toiletries
  • Sweater or Sweatshirt for when the temperature drops at night
  • Hiking shoes
  • Light hiking pants (jeans not recommended)
  • Reading material
  • Journal to write down your memories!
  • Additional clothing, but remember to pack light!