La Fortuna is known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica and white water rafting is one of the many adventure activities you can do. There are actually a handful of rivers for white water rafting, suitable for all rafting levels. If you’re looking for an easy rafting adventure, then the Balsa River is the best option.
The Balsa River rafting tour has Class 2 and 3 rapids and is only 30 minutes from La Fortuna, making it a fun and easy day trip. It’s an excellent options for families with kids and beginner and first time rafters!
La Fortuna White Water Rafting
We did the Balsa River rafting tour with Jacamar Naturalist Tours. They picked us up at 9:20 AM from our hotel, Arenal History Inn and took us to the Balsa River rafting entrance. After a safety talk and paddle practice, we were ready to conquer the Balsa River!
The Balsa River is a natural river connected to the Lake Arenal dam and the water is let in and out of the river everyday. This control of water means that there are always rapids all year long which is great. Even in the summer when it’s dry and other rivers have a low water level, the Balsa River will still have Class 2 and 3 rapids.
This is one of the most popular white water rafting tours in Costa Rica and things to do in La Fortuna and Arenal because of it’s easy accessibility and availability.
The dam keeps the rapids at Class 2 and 3, perfect for beginners or families with little children. The entire rafting time is about 2 hours.
Tour companies only go to this section of the river even though the upper Balsa River has much bigger rapids.
Balsa River Rafting Tour – First Half
The river is not in the rainforest so the scenery is not as pristine as others in Costa Rica. The entrance is actually right off the road near a bridge. So you will be rafting next to some farmlands and you can even spot cars on the parallel road. It doesn’t take away from the fun though!
The first half of the river is Class 3 and you’ll feel the adrenaline rush through your body as you paddle through quick and long rapids. They were really fun but nothing super crazy which is why this river is so good for first time rafters or kids.
We took a break about an hour in and got out on the riverbank to have some fruit and take a breather. Our guide set up a nice spread of watermelon, mango and pineapple. Some cows even joined us!
Second Half of the Rafting
After that, it was easy peasy rafting. I would say we barely rafted the second half of the river to be honest. You can definitely feel a difference between Class 2 and 3 rapids.
This part of the Rio Balsa rafting tour was more like floating down calm sections of the river and I noticed that the scenery changed once we finished the Class 3 rapids. It was definitely a lot more “jungley” and we couldn’t see the farms or roads anymore. We also saw more birds at this section, like herons and egrets. We even saw a sloth in the trees along the river!
It was extremely nice to relax and enjoy the scenery during this part of the rafting. We even jumped into the river and floated down.
Here’s a short video of the Balsa River rafting tour from La Fortuna. It was a lot of fun and it was easy rafting.
Lunch and Sugar Cane
This tour also includes lunch and a short sugar cane presentation in their tour. You’ll have a traditional Costa Rica lunch on their property and they will show you how they process sugar cane. You’ll also get to try your hand at making sugar cane juice and sampling it.
La Fortuna Rafting Tour Discount
We have a 7% discount with Jacamar Naturalist Tours for the Balsa River rafting tour, click the link to get it!
Information about the Balsa River Rafting Tour
- The Balsa River is a half day rafting tour. Pick up is around 9 AM and you will come back around 2 PM.
- It includes lunch, roundtrip transportation, fruit, guide and water.
- Minimum age is 8.
- You can combine this tour with another one since it’s a half day. Jacamar offers a canopy (ziplining) and white water rafting tour.
- Small groups only. Rafts fit up to 4 to 6 people not including the guide. Kids can sit in the middle.
If you are looking for something more advanced, we recommend the Pacuare River rafting tour. It has a full day of Class 3 and 4 (sometimes 4+) rapids and is more for experienced rafters. Pick up and drop off from La Fortuna is available. We also have a discount you can get in the link!
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Driving to La Fortuna from San Jose: Routes, maps, photos and videos of driving from San Jose to La Fortuna and vice versa
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