Costa Rica is an adrenaline junkie’s dream, so you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding which experiences to include in your itinerary. White water rafting is a must. Particularly if your time is limited, the best tip I can offer is to choose a tour operator that will pick you up in one place and drop you off in another. It saves valuable time and money, and you can exchange hostel experiences with the people you meet on the day who are travelling the road in the opposite direction.
We used a company called Exploradores Outdoors, which deployed minibuses to collect the day’s rafters from San Jose and various other towns to the north of the country. Our chosen river was the Pacuare. The force of the water changes with the seasons, but regardless of the time of year, you can take on class III to IV stomach churners, and experience spectacular views of towering gorges, hanging bridges and intriguing wildlife during the calmer stretches.
As the minibus rattled its way along hillside tracks, a guide talked us through the basic paddling technique and stressed the importance of riding with the current feet first, should we fall out, to avoid smashing our skulls on the river bed.
The 6am start was long forgotten and our adrenaline was pumping.
We made a brief stop to load up on carbs and dump everything but the essentials in secure lockers. It’s a really good idea to take sunscreen and bottled water with you. The rafting instructor can look after it in a waterproof container. After being assorted into groups of six per raft, we donned helmets and lifejackets and pushed off from the river bank.
There were about 10 rafts in our troupe, along with some brave kayakers, whose job it was to fish out the plonkers who’d missed the cue to duck and fallen in – in our case, me.
Our guide really enhanced the experience. We were encouraged to clash our paddles and shout ‘Pura Vida’ after surviving each rapid, and he paddle splashed other groups then blamed it on us incessantly. He also took pleasure in demonstrating how to rescue us from the water, only to throw us straight over the other side of the raft.
At $99 per person, including breakfast and lunch, all equipment hire, and transport between San Jose and La Fortuna, in my opinion it was a bargain. For an extra $10, we bought photos of our group, which highlighted, in comic strip style, my spectacular ineptitude at remaining in a raft when 59 others were perfectly capable of doing so. Having said that, this photo suggests that, perhaps, sitting back left, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time…
Check out more Costa Rica pics in my Photophile!