It was a bit like playing bumper cars in the middle of Roaring Rapids. There I was, perched very alert in my high-tech individual rafting tube, bouncing off a rock to my left only to spin off a rock on my right and now speeding backwards down the chute to smack the huge wave in the “Coca Cola” rapid dead-on. Facing the wrong way had its advantages … the wave went over my head instead of right in my face. Either way, it was exhilarating and I was very wet!
I was riding the rapids of the Savegre River near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, on outfitter H2O Adventures’ “Jungle River Tubing Adventure.” The 4-mile (6 km) trip down river is a terrific combination of adrenaline and natural beauty.
River tubing has come a long way from blowing up a spare tire inner tube with a bicycle pump and floating in a slow-moving stream with a cooler of cold drinks. The fancy river tubes that H2O Adventures uses are large inflatable round rafts with a tough canvas cover to protect against punctures, handles to hold on, an adjustable suspended seat in the center, and an optional inflatable backrest. Tour participants wear lifejackets and rafting helmets.
Savegre River Tubing
The Savegre River is one of the more impressive rivers of Costa Rica. Surrounded by dense jungle, the large pristine river flows down a wide valley with tall mountains on both sides. Regular rafting trips start further up river where there are larger Class III-IV rapids. The tubing adventure begins in the Class II rapids, with mostly “wave trains” and easy whitewater … though we had to do a good amount of rock and obstacle navigation on our trip. The river twists and turns from rushing rapids to calm pools, and over again.
Rafting in your own river tube is fun for the freedom of being able to individually choose where you want to go. Being without a paddle, like in regular rafting, however, is disconcerting. Navigation, therefore, is by your own steam – using your arms in a backstroke motion to paddle yourself where you need to line up properly for the coming rapids. I also found that using my upper body to lean my weight in a particular direction as well helped with “steering.” I was very grateful for the occasional nudge in the right direction by H2O Adventures owner Leo Vazquez, who was leading our river adventure as safety kayaker.
The Savegre River Tubing Adventure is a half-day tour, lasting 4 hours in total with about 90 minutes on river. The scenery is beautiful, the crystal clear river is a great adrenaline rush, and the trips are guided expertly and safely. As the company’s website states: “The gently flowing waters and beautiful scenery of the Savegre River all combine for a relaxing, fun and fascinating experience.” The Jungle River Tubing Adventure is appropriate for persons age 10 and up who know how to swim. H2O Adventures operates 2 trips daily.
Rio Negro Tubing
Head north to Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province near Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and you’ll find another fun and exciting river adventure tour – the Rio Negro Tubing Adventure. Operated by the fantastic eco-lodge and adventure center, Hacienda Guachipelin, the Rio Negro’s crystal clear and fun rapids flow down a small narrow canyon for an easy half-day tour.
The Rio Negro adventure begins with a 45-minute horseback ride from Hacienda Guachipelin on their trusty Costa Rican ranch horses (or you can go by vehicle). The river tubing begins at the foot of the Victoria Waterfall. Professional guides accompany the trips to ensure safety. Hacienda Guachipelin operates daily river tubing tours.
Valle Dorado Tours
Let Valle Dorado Tours arrange these river tubing trips in Costa Rica for you, and they will also take care of your accommodations in both the Manuel Antonio and Rincón de la Vieja areas, and your transport. Valle Dorado Tours offers the best Costa Rica one-day tours and custom tour packages. More than 20 years of local experience in the Costa Rica travel business ensures that Valle Dorado Tours offers you the best in Costa Rica vacations.
- Wear a long-sleeve nylon shirt to protect against the sun and arm rash from paddling.
- Use waterproof sunscreen; don’t forget your legs and feet!
- Use a sport ball cap style hat under your helmet to protect your face from sun.
- Use water shoes or strap-on sport sandals like Chacos or Tevas; no flipflops or you’ll lose them.
By Shannon Farley