When whitewater rafting destinations come to mind, most adventurers are inclined to think of the rapids of the American Colorado River or the Chilko River in Canada, both destination options a bit closer to home. If you are wanting to up the angst and go international, the thrilling experiences of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe or the Noce River of Italy may be among your top choices. And as well they should, all highly ranked, thrilling, and beautiful!
But what if I told you, that there exist several places in Panama, all hidden gems in remote locations with equally as thrilling, challenging, and beautiful rivers! Further to this, Panamanian rivers feature some of the world’s most exotic tropical jungle wildlife and luscious vegetation creating a heavenly feeling.
Whitewater rafting in Panama provides scenic landscapes and spectacular views where all the bloggers (myself included), and Instagramers of the world, would want to visit.
Panama Serves Up an Exquisite Whitewater Rafting Menu
Over the past several decades, whitewater rafting in Panama has gained popularity amongst adventurers and tourists alike. The region’s topography, biological diversity, and numerous watersheds serve up a dish of astonishing and rare views you will not find anywhere else on the planet.
Whitewater rafting in Panama allows thrill-seeking travelers to witness, otherwise remote jungles only accessible by helicopter, and enjoy breathtaking scenery while acquiring an adrenaline rush of course. Panamanian rivers offer tropical rainforest paradise, lush green vegetation, filled with tropical jungle life.
Stay tuned, we are about to uncover the best whitewater rafting destinations in Panama!
Panama Whitewater Rafting Classification
As one might anticipate with any whitewater rafting destination, Panama offers up variant levels of difficulty for its whitewater seeking rafters. It is a good idea to check which whitewater rafting classification is awarded to each river or tour before packing for and embarking on your rafting adventure! Classifications begin from I and continue to VI.
Each classification is then paired with its subsequent level of skill, starting from easy/beginner, novice, intermediate, and advanced. This allows for a family-friendly afternoon or an intense rapid excursion with your adrenaline-seeking pals! Either way, this is a great system ensuring safety, and ensuring no one is left behind!
|II||Up to two feet waves||Novice|
|III||Up to five feet waves||Intermediate|
|IV||Requires previous inspection||Advanced|
|VI||For suicidals||Extreme and Exploratory|
Whitewater Rafting Businesses
Most whitewater rafting businesses in Panama are a package deal including transportation, gear such as rafts and kayaks, lunch, and human guides. All guides are trained in whitewater rafting navigation skills and are equipped with first-aid and CPR training. Price is usually around $135 USD.
Time of Year
From the months of July through December, water depth is at its highest. From December to February, the water level is intermediate. By March, water levels tend to be low and replenishing just a couple of months later during the rainy season, May and June.
Chiriquí Viejo River
It doesn’t get better than white water rafting in Panama! High in the highlands of Panama, one of Panama’s best rafting offerings, the Chiriquí Viejo River offers a lot of waves and promises drops of 12meters per kilometer. Chiriquí Province has Panama’s tallest mountains, its highest elevation is Volcan Baru, with a peak reaching an altitude of over 13,000 ft above sea level. This volcanic landscape offers one of a kind views. With such elevation, fortunately, the province also contains the country’s longest river! The whitewater run passes through amazing topography, numerous watersheds, and wildlife diversity.
The rapid will offer wildlife views at every bend, including monkeys, herons, and egrets. But it doesn’t stop there. Passing through the countryside, you’ll set your eyes on farms with local farmers and cowboys, horses, and cattle. Talk about a river safari.
Chiriquí Viejo River provides experiences for all ages, and all experience levels.
Chagres River Helicopter Ride
Close to Panama City, the Chagres River goes unnoticed as it passes through the Chagres National Park and the lack of accessible roads. As such, the only viable option to get there is… a helicopter ride! Talk about an adventure. You will be visiting rarely seen portions of the jungle, and find yourself amid an alluring and exotic atmosphere of a deserted tropical rainforest.
Throughout the year, one can expect clear waters due to dense tropical forests covering the basin of the river. Tropical rain forest features such as an abundance of flora, and large mammals including rain forest monkeys, iguanas, and plenty of fish.
The Chagres River is given a Class II to Class III, suitable for ages 12+.
In 1998, The Mamoni River was first pioneered for whitewater rafting and kayaking by daring adventurers. Due to safety considerations, there are sections of the river that guides will choose to hike. However, the views are well worth it! Views include a beautiful waterfall. Surrounding the Mamoni River, economic activities include gold panning, forestry, agriculture, and banana plantations. You will also be given the opportunity to visit a rain forest conservation site.
The Mamoni River is given a Class III to Class IV with an experienced river guide, suitable for ages 18+.
The Rio Fonseca River is located in the Ngöbe-Buglé, an indigenous Territory of Soloy and is one of the few rivers in Panama left untouched by hydro-electric power construction projects. The river’s flow is ideal for family-oriented activities and contains many swimming holes with crystal clear waters. A neat feature of this rafting river, are the many chances to interact with the Ngöbe-Buglé Indigenous people!
The Rio Fonseca River is given a Class III & IV, suitable for ages eight and up.
Rio Grande in Coclé Province
Coclé Province has become the mecca of beach tourism for Panama, largely due to the white sands of Playa Blanca, Spanish for White Beach. Playa Blanca boasts some of the whitest sands you have ever seen.
Aside from the beautiful beach, the province has attracts tourist for its mountain village, El Valle, residing inside of an extinct volcano! Now that’s a sight to be seen! The Rio Grande River was first pioneered for rafting in 1999. Its upper section received a whitewater rafting Class III due to breathtaking gorges and drops, while the lower section of the river received is given a Class II difficulty rating, running through mostly planes and a few hills.
This section of the Rio Grande River is described as perfect for whitewater rafting and suitable for the whole family!
For this river, ages 12 to 70 is recommended, as long as you are prepared to walk for about an hour and a half through muddy paths.
The Boqueron River is characterized by peaceful and tranquil waters gliding ever-so-gently by raft or kayak through the rain forest. Floating gently down the river, you’ll have the sensation and a feeling that the river and forest are a private place just for you (and your tour guide). If you can conjure up such a relaxing image, well, then this will be what you are in for, and a fun-filled afternoon with your family!
The river is classified at Class II, suitable for ages six and up.
With a name like “La Batidora”, or The Shaker, you know you will be in for some fun in the water! The nickname was conjured up in response to the Pacora River’s drop into a rocky and narrow channel, forewarning to not flip in this rapid.
The river is classified at Class II, suitable for ages 12+.
Just Do It
Whitewater rafting in Panama is one of the best places to experience the beautiful culture of the Panamanian people. Our Panamanian whitewater rafting countdown is full of adrenaline-inducing river rafts, with twists and turns at every river bend.
Whether you are being flown by helicopter to a remote location of the jungle, or whether you are looking to gently drift downstream on relaxing and mellow waters on a lazy afternoon, Panamanian rivers guarantee you will be immersed on an actual rainforest paradise. Luscious vegetation, exotic wildlife, local activities, and interactions with the Indigenous people are also promised.
Book your next holiday for some fun in the sun, just don’t forget the sunscreen. Several of the rivers allow chances to interact with the Indigenous population of the more remote locations.
Many world-class hotels have flocked to the area, including Marriot, Sheraton, and others, ready to accommodate eager rafting thrill-seekers. Professional whitewater rafting businesses have established themselves along with various access points of the rivers, catering highly trained in rafting and medical responder scenarios.
If you are looking to create and share memories with family and friends, most rafting businesses offer professional photo sessions for solo or group pictures, ensuring your pulse pumping moments, or calm and serene moments, are captured and displayed all over the internet!
“where the nights are cool, the coffee is steaming and locally grown, and anyone who visits is tempted if only for a moment, to ditch their old lives and relocate.”As best stated by National Geographic Adventure Magazine (of Panama):
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