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Kayaking Rivers

Whitewater Kayaking Rivers of Costa Rica

The following is an evolving list of the rivers in Costa Rica that can be navigated by Kayak. We will continue to add to this list as more rivers open or are added to our trips. If you think we have missed a river, let us know at rivers@amazingvacationscostarica.com.

Arnalod Jason Kayaking

PACUARE RIVER

Class III & IV Whitewater Kayaking

The Pacuare River is the gem of Costa Rica kayaking rivers. It is one one of the most popular rivers for kayaking and rafting in the country. If you know someone that has run rivers in Costa Rica, they have likely run the Pacuare.

This stretch of whitewater takes you through the jungle and a river gorge that includes 52 Class II – IV rapids. The water level will affect how big the rapids are and how many you can hit. There are several great rapids along the upper section of this river and we love the remote and beautiful approach to this put-in that will sometimes result in seeing sloths or other wildlife.

Trip Duration: All Day or 2 Days

One of the best things about kayaking or rafting the Pacuare River, is you can choose the length of your run. You can float the river in a full day (approximately 12 hours), but our preference is to make it a two day trip. With this, we’ll put boats on the river further upstream and avoid the location used by large commercial raft companies.

We also feel that two days is a more exciting trip and allows us to stay overnight at one of the jungle camps along the river. These camps give you a private bungalow with hot showers, a gourmet kitchen, and an experience you’ll never forget. Spend part of your day recovering from world class kayaking by relaxing in a hammock, listening to wildlife, and taking in Costa Rica’s untouched beauty.

There is also another amazing luxury lodge along the river that has many more modern conveniences, including electricity, a restaurant, spa and other amenities. Depending on how adventurous you are feeling, we can arrange to use either of these amazing camps for your trip.

Trip Seasonality: Year Round

This river trip can be run all year. However, depending on the time of year, water levels will vary.

The following is a list of named class III and IV rapids along the Pacuare. There are a total of AT LEAST 52 rapids along a section of approximately 16 miles of river.

RAPIDS

Bienvenido – Class III
Pyramid Rock – Class III
Pele El Ojo – Class III
Bobo Falls – Class III
Casa Blanca – Class III
Double Drop – Class IV-
Upper Huacas – Class IV
Lower Huacas – Class IV
Upper Pinball – Class III
Guatemala – Class III
Cimarrones – Class IV
Dos Idios – Class III
Dos Montañas – Class II
La Rana Roja – Class III
Graduation – Class III

New! Upper Upper Upper Pacuare River

Class III & IV River Kayaking

This is a challenging section of bigger water on the Pacuare River for kayakers that have proven they can handle themselves on class III rapids. The most challenging IV+ rapid is named “Por Donde Me Voy” (translated “Where do I go?”). It is a pushy rock garden with three challenging lines. Each have severe consequences for any mistakes that include two major hydraulics at the bottom of the rapids. There are other big class IV rapids that will challenge any boater.

This is one of our guides’ favorite sections of river and is rarely used by raft companies, providing you with a quiet, yet exciting experience.

Trip Duration: Approximately 4-6 hours

This run can take four to six hours depending on scouting, water levels, sightseeing, and if anyone swims on the run. We feel this is perfect length for this run. It gives kayakers plenty of time to enjoy the river and then time to relax and recover before the next days activities.

Trip Seasonality: October to January

Because the water levels fluctuate with the rainy seasons, we recommend running the Upper Upper Pacuare River anytime from October to January. If your trip isn’t during this time, we can scout the river to see what might work, or we can recommend other rivers with similar rapids and durations.

New! Upper Upper Upper Pacuare River

Newly Opened Pacuare River Section to Explore

This section of the Pacuare River just opened in 2018. Some 4×4 trails were cut to bring services to local communities, and kayakers benefit with new access to the river. Very few people have kayaked this section of the river and we’re the only company taking guided tours.

We’re excited to offer this new section of river to our guests this year.

Trip Duration: Approximately 1-3 hours

This is a relatively short section of river to kayak, but one you won’t soon forget. If we rundown the river, it only takes about an hour to do this section. However, we like to take our time and allow guests to see the beauty of Costa Rica and explore this previously untouched part of the Pacuare. Our trips will typically take a little longer.

Trip Seasonality: Year Round

The new Upper Upper Upper section of the Pacuare River can be run year round. Rapids will be good any time of year, and you will have a great time kayaking this new section.

New!!! Upper Pacuare – Class V

Duration: Approximately 3-6 hours

Runs: Year Round

This is a section of river rarely paddled by anyone but local Class V kayakers. At high water this can be extremely dangerous, with severe consequences. This runs through a very remote section of the jungle, making extraction if necessary very difficult.

Kayaking By Wall
Whitewater Kayaking

Sarapiqui – Class II & III & IV

Duration: Approximate 4-6 hours
Runs: All Year If you are staying in Turrialba (Our home base and near the Pacuare River) you’ll have approximately a 3-4 hour drive to get to this amazing river. The river sits on the north side of a volcano amidst agricultural areas that grow pineapple, papaya and yucca. On our group kayak trips we’ll often drive in the morning and then float the river in the afternoon. We then stay at one of the local hotels for the night and then do a morning run on the upper section of the river on the second day. Depending on the weather, we’ll often adjust our put-in and take-out. This can be a fantastic class II with a few class III rapids or is you put on higher up stream there are some super fun class III and IV- rapids. The lower section of the run has lots of fun class II surfing opportunities with high potential to see wildlife. We often times spot monkeys and iguanas in the trees as we float along this section of river. Depending on the ability levels of our groups, we will sometimes split into two different ability groups so the more difficult upper section can be enjoyed and the newer boaters can also have an amazing experience on the easier more tame lower section of the river.

Upper Pejibaye – Class III & IV-

Duration: Approximately 1.5 hours
Runs: October – January This section of river is unique in that as you hike down to the put in, you will see the river is almost completely covered by trees and hanging vines. The approach is a bit steep and you won’t find raft companies or likely anyone else on this section of river. You will feel like you are floating along in a movie set in the middle of the jungle (and you are) for the first part of this run. The canopy of trees arches over your head and will leave you looking up at your surroundings and the wildlife as much as the rapids. Our team of guides will often take more advanced boaters on this run as a second run of the day after they are confident in the ability level of a paddler who can navigate the Pecquibaye slalom course. This run has several rapids that will have different lines down rocky slides and into pushy water and depending on the water level it can be quite technical with chances for wood and other obstacles along the way. This run has 2-3 rapids that could be considered III+ or IV- that sometimes have potential to create a swim situation. It also has lots of fun Class II+ and III waves that will keep you smiling and surfing throughout the run. Some paddlers tell us that this is one of their favorite sections of rivers that we paddle on our kayak trips.

Naranjo River – Class III & IV

Duration: Approximately 4.5 hours
Runs: May – January The Naranjo River drops steeply from the coastal mountain range above Qeupos through a beautiful jungle gorge, and takes you on a wild ride to sea level, passing farmlands and palm plantations. The river banks are overgrown with jungle and the canyon walls meet the water at 90 degree angles. The class III & IV whitewater, jungle, canyon and sky make for an unforgettable day. For the advanced rafter, this is an exciting ride. And if you are a first time paddler looking for the excitement of big waves, hydraulics, stunning scenery, this this is the river for you.

Sevegre River – Class II & III

Duration: Approximately 6 hours
Runs: May – January This is a great river trip for the adventuresome beginner and just enough excitement for the experienced rafter and kayaker. Along the way you will be astounded by the canyons, waterfalls, and rainforest of Costa Rica. Lurking just behind the shroud of lush foliage, you will find a number of truly magnificent waterfalls of the Sevegre’s tributaries. On the Sevegre rafting trip you will visit a waterfall and explore the natural swimming pools in the area that are surrounded by blooming heliconias.

Balsa River – Class II & III

Duration: Approximately 2 hours
Runs: May – January Rio Balsa – North of San Jose, Rio Balsa is great for beginners and mixed groups. With class II and III rapids, Rio Balsa provides some thrills without overwhelming beginners, children, and apprehensive adventurers. This is a 2 hour whitewater float that passes through scenic forests with lots of opportunities to spot wildlife such as toucans, monkeys and other exotic birds. This a smaller river channel that can push a lot of water through a tight area. You’ll experience rapids called the Dredges and Magnetic rock. You’ll take out at San Carlos Bridge.

“El Chorro” Section of the Naranjo River – Class IV & V

Duration: Approximately 5 hours
Runs: January – April The “Chorro” section of the Naranjo River has class IV-V rapids, for those looking for a more intense rafting experience. We typically do NOT run kayaks down this section of river due to the intensity and consequences of some of the rapids. It is only for expert kayakers. This section includes some of the best and most challenging rapids in Costa Rica. Exploding water, steep drops, tight rock walls and technical routes will get your adrenaline pumping. If you paddle this section of river you will ride through the narrow canyons surrounded by huge boulders and cascading waterfalls while you take in the breathtaking scenery of the rainforest. We typically recommend only running this section of river with an experienced raft crew and guide who is used to running this section of river. This raft trip is only recommended for individuals in strong physical condition.

Upper Upper Pacuare< – Class III & IV

Duration: Approximately 4-6 hours
Runs: October to January For those boaters who have proven they can safely handle Class III rapids in their kayak, this is a step up. This is a challenging section of bigger water that will challenge even the most experienced kayakers. The most challenging IV+ rapid is named “Por Donde Me Voy” (translated “Where do I go?”). It is a pushy rock garden with three challenging lines. Each have severe consequences for any mistakes that include two major hydraulics at the bottom of the rapids. Most of our kayak trips will scout the rapid and then watch our guides paddle their boats through the rapid, making the lines look easy… trust us when we tell you that they aren’t easy. A handful of other big water class IV rapids will definitely challenge any class IV boater and often produce a few swims during this stretch of river. This section of river is rarely paddled by raft companies because of the less developed dirt roads required to arrive at the put-in and take out. If you don’t know the area well, you can miss the take-out and find yourself padding the “Upper Pacuare” which consists of many dangerous and continuous Class V rapids. Locals love to share stories about different groups of kayakers from the United States and Canada that have missed their take-out and found themselves in the middle of the remote jungle canyon, dealing with dangerous rapids. This section is one of our team’s favorites that we love sharing with our kayaking and small raft friends, but if you are planning to paddle this section on your own, we urge you to make sure you don’t miss the takeout.

New!!! Upper Upper Upper Pacuare – Class III (Yes, that’s THREE Uppers)

Duration: Approximately 1-3 hours
Runs: Year Round In 2018 this section of river that was previously unaccessible without a lengthy hike with your boat is now opened up thanks to a new 4×4 road that was created to bring services to some of the communities in the area. We are super excited about this new section of river. If you’re one that gets excited about exploring and seeing places that very few people in the world have been to, this one needs to be on your bucket list. We are super excited to share this new section of river with our guests in the Fall of 2018!

Sarapiqui – Class II & III & IV

Duration: Approximate 4-6 hours
Runs: All Year If you are staying in Turrialba (Our home base and near the Pacuare River) you’ll have approximately a 3-4 hour drive to get to this amazing river. The river sits on the north side of a volcano amidst agricultural areas that grow pineapple, papaya and yucca. On our group kayak trips we’ll often drive in the morning and then float the river in the afternoon. We then stay at one of the local hotels for the night and then do a morning run on the upper section of the river on the second day. Depending on the weather, we’ll often adjust our put-in and take-out. This can be a fantastic class II with a few class III rapids or is you put on higher up stream there are some super fun class III and IV- rapids. The lower section of the run has lots of fun class II surfing opportunities with high potential to see wildlife. We often times spot monkeys and iguanas in the trees as we float along this section of river. Depending on the ability levels of our groups, we will sometimes split into two different ability groups so the more difficult upper section can be enjoyed and the newer boaters can also have an amazing experience on the easier more tame lower section of the river.

Pejibaye – Class II & III

Duration: Approximately 2-3 hours
Runs: All Year This is one of the best rivers in Costa Rica to learn to kayak. A section of this river was used for the Whitewater kayak slalom international competition and often times paddlers can paddle through the gates on the course. It is a gorgeous river run that we typically use for the first day on the river to gauge the ability level of each paddler and also allow more experienced paddlers to get in multiple eddy turns and practice before we step up the difficulty level on following days. When we have beginner kayakers we will use this section of river to work 1 on 1 with boaters to learn and practice their rolls, become more comfortable with eddy turns and experience “pushy” water. There are multiple spots along this run that allow for surfing in a kayak as well. This is also a super fun section of river for people to experience in a small one or two man inflatable boat (called duckies) if they aren’t wanting to learn to roll in a kayak. They’ll get to experience just the right amount of rapids, rocks and swift water while paddling below the jungle canopy.

Upper Pejibaye – Class III & IV-

Duration: Approximately 1.5 hours
Runs: October – January This section of river is unique in that as you hike down to the put in, you will see the river is almost completely covered by trees and hanging vines. The approach is a bit steep and you won’t find raft companies or likely anyone else on this section of river. You will feel like you are floating along in a movie set in the middle of the jungle (and you are) for the first part of this run. The canopy of trees arches over your head and will leave you looking up at your surroundings and the wildlife as much as the rapids. Our team of guides will often take more advanced boaters on this run as a second run of the day after they are confident in the ability level of a paddler who can navigate the Pecquibaye slalom course. This run has several rapids that will have different lines down rocky slides and into pushy water and depending on the water level it can be quite technical with chances for wood and other obstacles along the way. This run has 2-3 rapids that could be considered III+ or IV- that sometimes have potential to create a swim situation. It also has lots of fun Class II+ and III waves that will keep you smiling and surfing throughout the run. Some paddlers tell us that this is one of their favorite sections of rivers that we paddle on our kayak trips.

Naranjo River – Class III & IV

Duration: Approximately 4.5 hours
Runs: May – January The Naranjo River drops steeply from the coastal mountain range above Qeupos through a beautiful jungle gorge, and takes you on a wild ride to sea level, passing farmlands and palm plantations. The river banks are overgrown with jungle and the canyon walls meet the water at 90 degree angles. The class III & IV whitewater, jungle, canyon and sky make for an unforgettable day. For the advanced rafter, this is an exciting ride. And if you are a first time paddler looking for the excitement of big waves, hydraulics, stunning scenery, this this is the river for you.

Sevegre River – Class II & III

Duration: Approximately 6 hours
Runs: May – January This is a great river trip for the adventuresome beginner and just enough excitement for the experienced rafter and kayaker. Along the way you will be astounded by the canyons, waterfalls, and rainforest of Costa Rica. Lurking just behind the shroud of lush foliage, you will find a number of truly magnificent waterfalls of the Sevegre’s tributaries. On the Sevegre rafting trip you will visit a waterfall and explore the natural swimming pools in the area that are surrounded by blooming heliconias.

Balsa River – Class II & III

Duration: Approximately 2 hours
Runs: May – January Rio Balsa – North of San Jose, Rio Balsa is great for beginners and mixed groups. With class II and III rapids, Rio Balsa provides some thrills without overwhelming beginners, children, and apprehensive adventurers. This is a 2 hour whitewater float that passes through scenic forests with lots of opportunities to spot wildlife such as toucans, monkeys and other exotic birds. This a smaller river channel that can push a lot of water through a tight area. You’ll experience rapids called the Dredges and Magnetic rock. You’ll take out at San Carlos Bridge.

“El Chorro” Section of the Naranjo River – Class IV & V

Duration: Approximately 5 hours
Runs: January – April The “Chorro” section of the Naranjo River has class IV-V rapids, for those looking for a more intense rafting experience. We typically do NOT run kayaks down this section of river due to the intensity and consequences of some of the rapids. It is only for expert kayakers. This section includes some of the best and most challenging rapids in Costa Rica. Exploding water, steep drops, tight rock walls and technical routes will get your adrenaline pumping. If you paddle this section of river you will ride through the narrow canyons surrounded by huge boulders and cascading waterfalls while you take in the breathtaking scenery of the rainforest. We typically recommend only running this section of river with an experienced raft crew and guide who is used to running this section of river. This raft trip is only recommended for individuals in strong physical condition.
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