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       rafting upper sarapiqui 
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Whitewater rafting the upper Sarapiqui class III-IV rapids

Whitewater rafting the upper Sarapiqui class III-IV rapids

Destination: Arenal


  • Adrenaline-inducing adventure
  • Transportation and lunch included
  • Beginner and intermediate rafters welcome


  • Location : Arenal
  • Hours : 8:30 a.m. daily from La Fortuna or San Jose
  • Time length : About 8 hours
  • Price : $89 per person, with lunch

The current, swollen with rain water, gushes over the class III and IV rapids. Water crashes against boulders and launches itself over hurdles of unseen stones creating great rolling waves. Compared with the fury of the Sarapiqui River, the rafts seem a humble match. But with the help of a team and expert guides, you'll be navigating the rapids with ease.

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The rapids belong to a nine-mile section of the Sarapiqui River extending from San Miguel to La Virgen.  With origins in the central mountains around San Jose, the river runs to Nicaragua passing through the tropical wet rainforest, pastures and farms. While rafting companies hold tours on many different parts of the river, the upper section remains the ideal spot for thrill-seekers looking for the strongest currents and the biggest rapids.

Note* Make sure to bring your swimsuit, a change of clothes, sunscreen and a pair of water shoes, old sneakers, or sandals with straps (no flip-flops). Water-proof cameras are okay, but a professional photographer also comes along to take your picture.

A Day in the rapids

Learn the signals, practice the techniques and plunge into a set of roaring class IV rapids screaming and hollering as the nose sinks into the water and bobs up like a rubber duck in a bathtub. Soaked, screaming and heart pounding, float to the side of the river beside a small waterfall and watch as the other rafts make it through the rapids.

Afterwards the rapids come in quick succession. Working with the flow of the river, you'll slink between boulders and pop over smaller stones all while your guide calls out directions. At every large drop, you'll shriek in terror and excitement as each new bend in the river brings new challenges, pushing you to row harder and faster.

As if the adrenaline rush isn't enough, guides devise games to play. Right before a rapid, your guide will call out "Right paddle forward, left paddle back." Blindly following his/her directions, spinning yourselves in circles while the current propels you through the rapids in a game called the "washing machine". It's a little bit like riding a merry-go-round in an earthquake.

Another game is called "Riding the bull". This involves one lucky participant sitting on the nose of the boat with legs dangling over the edge holding nothing but the safety line circling the raft. Together you'll paddle through a set of rapids with the lucky fellow holding on for dear life.

The ride takes nearly two-hours, but seems over in a few minutes. As you pass under an old iron bridge the guide announces for you to pull up on the riverbanks. With aching arms and sore legs, your body exhausted, you'll be begging for more.

Back on dry land, you'll have a chance to get changed before heading to a restaurant in La Virgen for a healthy buffet-style lunch of rice, beans, vegetables, plantains and a choice of meat like beef or chicken.  While you eat, the tour photographer will pull-up the day's pictures on a screen for you to relive your adventure.

Departure & Return

  • Departure point : Tour departs from all major hotels in San Jose and La Fortuna
  • Departure time : Hotel pickup is between 20 and 50 minutes before tour start time depending on hotel location. In San Jose pick up is three hours before tour start time.
  • Return details : Tour returns to original departure point between three and four hours after tour start time. For San Jose, the return is expected to be at 9 p.m.

Whitewater rafting the upper Sarapiqui class III-IV rapids in Pictures

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