Every day in Costa Rica was bliss for me. However, despite my adoration for zip lining and the people and the culture and all the amazing nature around us, I think I would honestly say that white water rafting is when I felt the most pure, uninhibited happiness.
That might sound odd. Keep in mind the biggest rapids we encountered were a class III. And we had a fantastic guide in the back of the boat.
As with all our adventures in Costa Rica, I always felt so safe and cared for by all the guides with all of our excursions. Anywhere Costa Rica knows how to pick well.
White water rafting was the second half of the day after we were canyoning We had just assumed everyone was along for the same journey. Apparently not! We were dropped off in town at the office of Wave Expeditions and given a nice snack that included an apple, a granola bar, and a bottle of water. About 5 minutes later, a new van stopped to pick us up.
Our new guide, Dionis, gave us instructions during the 45 minute guide to the rapids. We were rafting in the Balsa River which actually flows north towards Nicaragua.
A few fun facts:
- Most accidents occur from one person accidentally hitting another with a paddle
- If you fall out of the raft, you have 5 seconds to grab the rope before you are too far from the boat
We were divided into 3 groups. We were paired with a fantastic couple who happened to be staying at Casa Luna as well named Mary and Bill. The boys sat in front, Mary and I sat in the middle and our guide, Carlos, sat in the back as his main job was to steer. We provided the power.
What a blast! Whitewater rafting enjoyment is largely based on how well you can work together as a team and we made an outstanding team! To make it even better, we laughed the whole time. Every time we would need to “get down” per Carlos so as not to be thrown from the safety of our rubber raft, Mary and I would consistently crack our helmets together. The boys took the brunt of the MASSIVE splashing that occurred when we would go nose down into the waves.
Every time we would finish a tough patch, Carlos would have us put our paddles together in the air as a “high 5” and yell “Pura Vida!” before immediately slapping the water with the paddle.
About an hour into our adventure, we made a pit stop on a small island for fresh pineapple and watermelon. And it made an excellent photo op time as well!
Let’s just take a minute to recognize the delightful, unbelievably, fantastic flavor of pineapple in Costa Rica. Nothing will taste as good after that. About 50% of the pineapples in the US come from Costa Rica and you drive past fields of them every day while in the country. However, having them freshly picked is such an amazing treat.
Then we got back on the river. The second half wasn’t quite as wild but we still had some exciting moments. The guides, including Dionis, who were serving as “safety guides” in the water were floating along in tiny, short, one man kayaks and were pulling off amazing tricks I would never have guessed possible. Entertainment on entertainment on entertainment.
At the end, we wound up right at a place where you can change your wet clothes, wash off in a quick shower, and be dry again. Then we pack up in the van to drive to our lunch location.
During the drive, we all got to sample Imperial – the most popular beer in Costa Rica. The most entertaining part is that it is legal to drive around with open containers. Bill is very sentimental about this and insists on a full van selfie with everyone proudly displaying their beer.
I’m not typically a beer drinker. Perhaps it was just the adrenaline from being on the water or excitement of existing in such a marvelous place but it was pretty darn good.
We arrived at Vida Campesina for lunch which is a self-sustained organic educational center. We were served a traditional lunch of casado — rice, beans, chicken (or beef), salad and yuca. Yuca is a local root and serve with many meals.
We then got to dry the coffee that is grown right there on the farm. According to the guides, the coffee gets its extraordinary taste because of the cotton filters that are traditionally used for brewing. They are used over and over again so the coffee becomes more and more flavorful.
After that, we headed over to the building next door to experience the sugar cane that is also grown on the farm.
There are 3 different ways to enjoy sugar cane on it’s own without processing:
- Chewing on it (don’t swallow – just chew on the fibers and suck the juice out)
- Juice (there is a sugar cane press that extracts the juice from the stalks). The sugar cane is 75% juice/water and 25% fibers
- Guara de contrabando (aka sugar cane moonshine)
The contrabando is 60% alcohol (120 proof) and 100% illegal.
A few other random facts:
- Sugar cane was brought over from New Guinea in 1523 (not native to Costa Rica). Coffee wasn’t brought over until 1803
- Authentic brown sugar is made from sugar cane and sadly is not available in the US. Our brown sugar is white refined sugar with molasses added in.
- They harvest it once per year (February-April)
- Juice has medicine properties because it contains antioxidants, calcium, iron and phosphorus
- They used to use sugar cane to clean their teeth!
In case you’re wondering, the photos of us on the water were taken by Dionis with a super fancy water proof camera from his tiny kayak – I’m not brave enough to hand over my iPhone under those conditions.
Have you been white water rafting? Where did you go? Would you go again?
For any other questions regarding travel in Costa Rica, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
All opinions, as always, are mine and mine alone.