Costa Rica is famous in the world of white-water rafting. Our tiny country has been blessed with abundant water resources. Powerful rivers make their way through the lush forests, creating the perfect setting to practice this extreme sport. Keep reading and find out all you need to know about white-water rafting Costa Rica.

History of white-water rafting

The history of rafting goes back centuries to the early 1,800´s. The first successful rafting trip recorded occurred in 1840 when a group of Scientifics decided to explore the Snake River in Wyoming. Later, the scientific explorations using a rubber raft expanded to other areas of United States.

Snake River First Rafting - White-water rafting Costa Rica

Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, USA. 1941. Image courtesy of The Washington Post.


The recreational trips using a rubber boat were boosted by the magnate John D. Rockefeller after building a hotel in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, where float trips were offered as one of the activities.

The Olympic games in Munich of 1972, included for the first time the white-water rafting discipline, spreading out the word about this new sport all around the globe.

What is white-water rafting?

Whitewater means a rapid. A rapid happens in a river when the gradient increases enough to create turbulence. And rafting refers to any activity that uses an inflatable boat to navigate a river. So, if 1+1 is 2, whitewater + rafting means adventure in a river!

It is falsely believed that white-water rafting is always extreme and implies a level of danger. Everyone can do white-water rafting, from kids and elder people to professionals. And to allow this to be so, rafting is categorized into 6 classes.

Class I – relaxing journey with some small waves. It does not require any skills.
Class II – easy rapids with waves up to 3 ft. tall, some rocks and small drops. Requires some steering.
Class III – waves up to 5 ft. that makes the boat vibrate and some water may burst over the sides of the boat.
Class IV – Large waves, long rapids, rocks, considerable drops and turbulent water. Requires precise maneuvering.
Class V – Continuous rapids, large rocks and hazards, narrow passages, twisting and spinning. Requires expert skills.
Class VI – It actually means extreme risk, even for experienced rafters. It is more like a Danger sign to not even think to try to go into the water.

white-water rafting Costa Rica group of rafters


There are certain techniques required to enjoy this great outdoor activity. The good thing is that usually all these techniques can be learned moments before starting the adventure.

Safety should come always first, so we recommend you to always comply with these basic measures:
• Always choose a licensed and professional guide and tour company.
• Always wear a life jacket and a helmet
• Pay close attention to the guide instructions before the tour begins and during the trip.
• Never panic, if you fall out of the boat look for it. The guide will probably be already giving instructions to pop you out of the river.

White-water rafting Costa Rica, where to go

Costa Rica offers rapids from Class 1 to 5. Where to go will depend on the level of adventure you want to experience. There are more than 10 rivers in the country suitable to enjoy this outdoor activity.

Rivers per location:

Tenorio River: Class III & IV
• Corobicí River: Class I & II
• Colorado River: Class II & III

Arenal & Sarapiquí:
• Balsa River: Class II & III
• Toro River: Class III & IV
• Sarapiquí River: Class II, III & IV
• Peñas Blancas River: Class I & II

Central Valley & Caribbean Coast:
• Pacuare River: Class III & IV
• Reventazón River: Class II & III

Central Pacific:
• Naranjo River: Class III & IV
• Savegre River: Class II, III & IV

South Pacific:
• Coto Brus River: Class II & III

White-water rafting Costa Rica - Tenorio River

Tenorio River

Our country has had the privilege to host the World Rafting Championship three times: in 1991, 1998 and 2011. Also, the Panamerican Champs were held in Costa Rica in 1999 and 2006. This shows that if you are planning a trip to Costa Rica experiencing this amazing activity is a must.

Ask us which level of adventure you would like to experience, and we can help you make it a reality. Contact us now to book your tour.