Costa Rica's mountainous topography and copious rainfall are together responsible for one of the best white water river selections in the world. About half a dozen rambunctious rivers are regularly run by experienced rafting outfitters, and those river trips not only provide plenty of excitement, they also pass some gorgeous scenery. Not only do white water enthusiasts flock Costa Rica, including several Olympic kayaking teams, but every year tens of thousands of visitors experience the thrill of rafting for the first time there.
Costa Rica is the perfect place for a first white water rafting experience, since it has several rivers that offer a combination of reasonable rapids and beautiful floats. There are even rivers that are great for family excursions and bird watching, since they lack big rapids and flow through forests full of birds and other animals. In fact almost all river trips offer chances to see a bit of the country's wildlife, such as iguanas, blue morpho butterflies, parrots, otters, king fishers and herons.
The river routes available to rafters range from the turbulent waters of the lower Reventazon, where you hardly have enough time to catch your breath between rapids, to the meandering curves of the Corobici, where you spend more time watching wildlife than paddling. The most popular rafting trips offer a good combination of challenging rapids and calmer stretches where you can sit back and enjoy the passing scenery. If you've done a bit of rafting up north, you'll find the comfortably cool water of Costa Rica's rivers a nice switch from the chilly water of the northern rivers. All rafting trips can also be done in kayaks, but kayakers must be experienced.
A wide selection of outfitters run trips down the country's most accessible rivers using trained river guides and modern equipment -- life vests and helmets are provided for all rafters -- ensuring safe but exciting excursions. One-day river trips include transportation to and from the river, breakfast and a picnic lunch on the riverbank. Overnight trips often include lodging in riverside cabins and all meals.

The following is an overview of rafting rivers:
  • Reventazon: The Tucurrique section (Class III) is easy enough for first-timers. The Pascua section (Class IV-V) is very wild, and requires previous rafting experience. Can be run year round

  • Pacuare: The country's longest and most spectacular river trip (Class III-IV), can be run from mid May to mid March. Two day trip recommended.

  • Sarapiqui: Beautiful river (Class II-III), good trip for beginners. Can be run out of San Jose or Arenal area, from mid May to mid March.

  • Savegre: Another beautiful river (Class II-III) perfect for first-time rafting experience. River trips leave from Manuel Antonio and Quepos, May to January.

  • Naranjo: A wild river (Class III-IV) near Quepos that requires some rafting experience. Run from June to November

  • El General: A popular three-day kayaking or rafting trip (class III-IV) best during the height of the rainy season, September to November.

  • Corobici: near the town of Canas, in Guanacaste, an easy river good for beginners and families (Class I-II); great animal and bird watching.