Whitewater Rafting As A Beginner In Costa Rica

When I signed up for a day of whitewater rafting with Desafio Adventure Company in Costa Rica, I said I’d never done it before. I’ve rafted once, but I’m not sure if it counts. First of all, it was a good twenty years ago. Secondly, it was on a manmade course. Yes, it was a wonderful manmade course – in fact, Olympians regularly trained on it – but it still isn’t quite the same as the real thing. I figured it’d be better to register as a complete novice. That way if I ended up a total mess they wouldn’t judge me!

I decided before my trip that one of the essentials of a Costa Rica vacation was a whitewater rafting expedition. I was traveling with my father, so I chose a class II/III trip instead of class III/IV. I wasn’t sure what the levels really meant, and I figured that it varies from country to country anyway. Better safe than sorry. Dad wasn’t much better off than I was, having only rafted once on the Snake River a good 35 years ago.

The ecotourism industry in Costa Rica is well-organized and professional, and my experience with Desafio Adventure Company was no exception to the rule. Our drivers and guides were fluent in English and quite friendly, answering all our questions with ease. They were funny, skilled and knowledgeable. I know that their company offers several different types of excursions in different regions of the country. I would be more than happy to use their services again when I return.

We rafted on the Balsa River, a wide, beautiful body of water running through inland Costa Rica not too far from where we stayed in La Fortuna. Like everywhere else in this lovely country, the views did not disappoint. When I wasn’t frantically paddling or enjoying getting drenched by crystal-clear river water, I spent my time gazing up in wonderment at the beauty of the countryside. The entire stretch of river we traversed was surrounded by wilderness and wildlife.

Our boat guide, Jordan, was personable and hilarious. Most of us had little experience, but he walked us through all the instructions and safety guidelines with care and precision. By the time we actually got out on the water, I felt confident in my abilities. He explained what lay ahead and gave us ample time to prepare, as well as pointing out the animals and birds around us that we might not have noticed otherwise. It was clear he enjoyed his job and wanted us to have a great time.

It was the most fun I’d had in ages! Obviously we would’ve been lost without our guide, but Jordan got us through the trip with quiet confidence, making us feel as if we’d been rafting forever. I could’ve gone down that same course over and over again if my arms would’ve held up. I was proud that I never fell out of the boat, though I can’t say the same for my poor father! I made the most of the journey, riding the front of the raft like a bull for a portion of our trip – at Jordan’s insistence – and even taking some time to get out and float downstream in a calmer section of the river.

We stopped about three-quarters of the way through to enjoy fresh-cut watermelon and pineapple. I’ve never had such delicious pineapple in my life – I ate it at every meal while I was in Costa Rica and I refuse to eat it Stateside now. It’s just not the same. Our rafting trip ended much too soon, and I would’ve gladly gotten back in the bus and gone to do it all over again immediately. Next time I go to Costa Rica I will definitely try out the class III/IV route. I can’t wait!

I would say that if you’re new to whitewater rafting and want to try it, go for it! As long as you pick a trip with experienced guides and safe procedures, you’ll be all set. We had plenty of assistance in the form of extra guides kayaking with us who were also trained in emergency rescue. I always felt like I was in capable hands. Whether you’re in the U.S. or another country, it’s definitely worth the experience. Your only potential worry? You might get hooked!