Best Rivers in Costa Rica
The best rivers in Costa Rica are certainly the most beautiful in Central America. They are also among the most beautiful rivers in the Americas. Arguably, Costa Rica’s rivers are in the conversation for most beautiful in the world.
Cerro Chirripó is second highest peak in Central America. Not a coincidence, the rains spilling off it headwater Costa Rica’s best rivers. Included are the Pacuare River, the Rio Pejivalle, the Chirripó Atlántico, the Rio Naranjo, and the Savegre. All five have have remarkable scenery, thrilling whitewater, and they are all dam-free for now.
There are outstanding rivers all over Costa Rica, but not in the same concentration as found in La Amistad.
Costa Rica’s Rivers Off Chirripó
Cerro Chirripó is on the continental divide. As such, three of its biggest rivers spill into the Caribbean Sea and the Naranjo and the Savegre feed into the Pacific Ocean.
The Pacuare River is the most famous river in Costa Rica. On the east side of Cerro Chirripó begin its headwaters. One of the country’s largest rivers by volume, The Pacuare also travels a greater distance to the Caribbean than other river in Costa Rica. There are three whitewater sections. The Upper Pacuare is class V and the Upper Upper is class IV+. The lower Pacuare is the most popular commercial section.
The lower Pacuare is a class III section with one class IV rapid at low water, Lower Huacas. Upper Huacas is a class III+ rapid. Though not as technical as Lower Huacas, it is considerably longer. The entrance of Lower Huacas is the crux.
Other rapids of note on the Pacuare include Cimarrones (wild horses), Dos Montanas, Bienvenidos, Double Drop, Pin Ball, and Indio. In total, there are more than ten miles worth of rapids on the Pacuare.
The Pejivalle River begins on the north side of Cerro Chirripó. It travels for more than 30 miles before finally spilling out of the forests of La Amistad above a small community named Taus. A tributary of the Reventazon River, the Pejivalle is a small volume, class III river at low water.
The four mile stretch from Taus down through the town of Pejivalle and out to the flats near Ouray is the section run commercially. At high water, the Pejivalle is more dangerous than a high-water Pacuare because of its hard curves and steep gradient.
But, at medium to medium high levels, the Pejivalle may be the most fun of any of the Cerro Chirripó rivers.
Río Chirripó Atlántico
The Río Chirripó Atlántico is the heart of Costa Rica.
Almost exclusively run by kayakers, the Río Chirripó Atlántico is a class IV/V river. Without question, the Chirripó Atlántico is also Costa Rica’s most beautiful river. With no road access, the Chirripó Atlántico runs through virgin forest. The water of the Chirripó Atlántico is the bluest of blue.
The Chirripó Atlántico is comperable to the Pacuare in volume. Big water by Costa Rican standards, it typically runs around 800 cfs but can get as high as 3,ooo or 4,000.
If not the best, it is certainly one of the top two or three best rivers in Costa Rica. With respect to water quality, scenery, remoteness and sheer beauty, the Chirripó Atlántico exemplafies Costa Rica.
A low volume river similar the the Pejivalle, the Savegre has bigger drops. A riot in an 8 or 9-foot raft, the Savegre spills off the west side of the Cerro Chirripó as does its sister river the Naranjo. The forest around the Savegre is as visually stunning as the river is exciting to run.
The Naranjo is the Savegre on steriods. Steep, narrow, and chocked with big drops, the Naranjo is the Chirripó Atlántico minituraized. Run commerially at low to medium levels, of all the rivers worth running in Costa Rica, the Naranjo should be on everyone’s list!
Without question, the Rio Naranjo is one of the best rivers in Costa Rica!