Rafting & tubing with Wave Expeditions is a fun & adventure packed day in La Fortuna. Enjoy the Class II & III rapids on the Balsa River, buffet lunch, & educational demonstrations at Vida Campesina!
Where to Find Wave Expeditions
Wave Expeditions is conveniently located one block from Parque de La Fortuna at the intersection of Calle 472 & Avenida 331 behind the church. You can choose to meet at Wave Expedition’s office, or arrange a complimentary pick-up service for most hotels in the Arenal area. More remote accommodation may be charged $25-35 so verify in advance.
Getting to Balsa River with Wave Expeditions
The last pick-up location is the office at Wave Expeditions from where you travel east to Balsa River. Along the way your guide explains the itinerary for the tour & provides a rafting 101 course. You quickly are shown the correct way to hold a paddle, row forwards & backwards along with the 4 commands, & what to do should you fall overboard.
Preparing to go White Water Rafting with Wave Expeditions
Once you arrive at the Balsa River you leave your personal belongings on the bus & obtain your equipment for rafting. This includes a life vest, paddle, & helmet. There are a few helmets mounted with a GoPro adaptor if you bring the clip to secure it, but you need to act fast to obtain one.
After everyone has their equipment it is time to head down to the Balsa River to put your knowledge to the test. Rafts consist of 4-6 people & a guide so you can group up with family & friends. Once situated in the raft, each group performs drills to internalize the commands & start working cohesively.
***Top Tip – Try to sit in the front of the raft if you plan to purchase pictures taken by Wave Expedition.***
Balsa River White Water Rafting with Wave Expeditions
When rafting on the Balsa River you learn by trial & it happens from the moment you push off from land. There is no calm section in the beginning to get your bearings so come prepared to be challenged, have fun, & get wet. Each day a dam releases water causing the Balsa River to swell & creating class II & III rapids to enjoy.
The first series of rapids lasts around 20-30 minutes as it is one after another. Thankfully, the raft guide tells you exactly what you need to do so everything is generally fine as long as you can follow commands. They take a lot of control over the direction of the boat so you don’t have to worry about steering. The important thing is to enjoy the rush with this long stretch of rapids.
Even the best of us fall out occasionally so just be prepared as it happens quickly. Most of the time the closest person in the raft can pull you back in, but there is a kayak leading the pack designated to help should you get too far away from the raft. Just remember to keep your feet first in a sitting position.
Balsa River Tubing with Wave Expeditions
We really enjoyed the trill of rafting with Wave Expeditions, but we also wanted to experience the rapids in our own tube. We were the only customers that chose this option from our group, but feel more people should! It really gives you the freedom to cruise down the Balsa River on your own terms & feel the rapids on a more personal level.
About a third of the way down the river, we said goodbye to our fellow rafters & hello to our new guides. We went through another introduction for steering while tubing & new commands to help insure our safety. Once we got the hang of turning and paddling with our hands we started our adventure.
This stretch of Balsa River is classified as I & II so the rapids are shorter & there are more calm sections in between. This is the perfect place to enjoy tubing over rafting as it feels more intense since you are sitting just above the water. You also get to spot wildlife along the quieter sections with sloths & vultures being the most commonly seen.
Part of the fun of tubing is having control over your own adventure. You get to choose if you head for the raging rapids or skirt them instead. Sometimes we felt like we were being swallowed up by the waves formed by the rapids & other times we had to avoid rock walls & trees in the middle of the river. This was exactly what we were looking for & found it with Wave Expeditions.
Rafting & Tubing Snacks with Wave Expeditions
Roughly half way into the Wave Expeditions rafting/tubing tour everyone takes a break to enjoy a snack on a rocky patch of the river. Take advantage of the tasty watermelon & pineapple to replenish liquids & provide enough energy to finish the remaining rapids.
Back on Dry Land
All great adventures have to come to an end sometime, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to come on this rafting & tubing combo tour. It just means you need to dry off & get changed before venturing to grab a buffet lunch. You can grab your change of clothes from the bus with a towel provided by Wave Expeditions & head to the bathroom to shower and/or change.
You can then exchange your towel for a hard earned beer to enjoy on the way to lunch.
Wave Expedition’s Buffet Lunch at Vida Campesina
Located just outside La Fortuna is Vida Campesina, which is an organic farm that helps educate people about the traditional Tico way of life. We started our experience here with a delicious buffet style lunch. The options included salad, rice & beans, yucca, squash, chicken with salsa, & mashed potatoes accompanied by fruit juice.
Towards the end of our meal, the hostess demonstrated how traditional coffee is brewed. Similar to coffee makers, hot water is poured over ground coffee in a sieve & drains into a holding jug. Sample mugs were then poured for those interested in tasting the brew.
Understanding Sugarcane & Tastings
Sugarcane is a great dessert after an excellent buffet lunch. Vida Campesina provides three ways to taste the crop. The first method is by sampling a piece of raw sugarcane stalk. You can chew the fibers while savoring the juice before discarding the remainder.
***Top Tip – Remember to save some of the sugarcane stalk for the third tasting.***
The second way to enjoy sugarcane is by creating juice. If you still have strength left after rafting and/or tubing, then you can volunteer to man the crank as sugarcane stalks are fed through the grinder squeezing the juice out into a jug. Once a few stalks are processed everyone gets to enjoy a shot of rich, sugary juice.
The third sample Vida Campesina provides is an alcoholic version distilled from sugarcane juice. It is 60% alcohol so the stalk from the original tasting comes in handy to take the edge off. With that night cap & a food comma, it is time to hop on the shuttle & return to La Fortuna.
In a Nutshell
Wave Expeditions Location: Calle 472 & Avenida 331 behind the church in La Fortuna
Prices: Rafting – $75; Tubing – $69; Rafting & Tubing Combo – $95; Photos – $30 for up to 3 email addresses
Tour Includes: Pick-up & drop-off for most locations, transportation, equipment, guides, fruit snacks & beer, buffet lunch, & sugarcane tasting
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***The Final Word – Enjoy rafting if you haven’t experienced white water rafting before, but consider tubing if you want a new experience or are willing to try both.***
Do you think you would try tubing in addition to the rafting?
Not recommended DIY travel; take a tour instead
* We received a complimentary Rafting & Tubing Tour; thank you to Wave Expeditions for hosting us. We only recommend fun, value for money activities & experiences that we believe our readers would enjoy. As always, all opinions are our own.
Visited in January 2017