The most adventurous thing I did while in Costa Rica was whitewater rafting in Río Pacuare, a river located in Costa Rica’s Limón province. A bunch of friends and I organized a trip so we could go together. We had to meet that morning at Veritas at 6 a.m., which was an adventure in itself given that most of us went to karaoke the night before.
After a van ride and breakfast, we made our way to the part of the river where we would begin our journey. My friend Amanda and I were told our guide was named Meleku, and we were grouped with two other people. We got our equipment, found our boat and guide, and were given a tutorial on the commands. When our guide said “forward” or “back” we all had to paddle forward or back, respectively. Sometimes, though, he would instruct one side to go forward and the other to paddle back, to change direction or straighten out the raft.
If we were approaching a rock and wanted to not fall out of the boat, he would say “high right” or “high left,” which meant we all had to gather on one side. “Get down” meant we had to squat down on our feet, not our knees, if we were going over a particularly rocky patch. What’s more, we all had to do our best to paddle in unison, and not paddle like grandmas.
After the first small rapid we went through, our guide took our training a step further and had us practice rescuing and being rescued. In order to rescue someone who has gone overboard, you first have to get them close enough to the raft, either by having them swim to the side or by pulling them closer with a rope.
Next, you grab them by the sides of their life vests by the neck and hoist them into the boat using your body as a sort of lever against the side and falling backwards. I thought I would be embarrassed and not be able to pull my partner in (or get pulled in for that matter), but fortunately we both did a pretty good job of saving each other!
We wound our way down 18 miles of Río Pacuare. We paddled through canyons, by waterfalls, and through level 3 and 4 rapids. We swam through snake-infested waters (though fortunately I didn’t see or feel any) and had water fights with our guides and other rafters. We even went through a rapid with our eyes closed, relying solely on our guide’s eyes and instructions to keep us safe. And I got to practice some Spanish with our guide, even though he was fluent in English.
It was so invigorating to be active out in nature, having to depend on ourselves to get back safely. It’s hard to put into words, except “Pura vida!”
Anyone who has the pleasure of visiting Costa Rica should try their hand at whitewater rafting. You’ll meet some fun-loving people and get to have a great, exhausting, refreshing time on the water.