Wave Expeditions Tubing in La Fortuna Costa Rica

Wave Expeditions White Water Rafting in La Fortuna

In Activities, Costa Rica, Outdoors by Erik21 Comments

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

White Water Rafting is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica!

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 like we did here at DIY Travel HQ 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.

* Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before any trip to Costa Rica. We’ve been using World Nomads for over 10 years – it’s the best-value provider we’ve found & we’ve also never had any issues on the few occasions we’ve had to make a claim.

Wave Expeditions Office La Fortuna

Wave Expeditions is conveniently located in downtown La Fortuna.

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.

Wave Expeditions Shuttle Bus

Hop on board Wave Expedition’s shuttle bus & enjoy the ride.

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.

Wave Expeditions Getting Rafting Gear

All dressed & ready to go rafting with Wave Expeditions!

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.***

Wave Expeditions Rafting Drills

Time to practice the drills you were taught on the bus.

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.

Wave Expeditions White Water Rafting La Fortuna

Group shot during a lull in the white water rafting action. (Photo courtesy of Wave Expeditions)

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.

Wave Expeditions White Water Rafting Adventure

The lull didn’t last long & it’s all hands on deck during our rafting trip. (Photo courtesy of Wave Expeditions)

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.

Wave Expeditions Tubing Balsa River

Control your own adventure when tubing down the Balsa River in your own tube with Wave Expeditions.

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.

Wave Expeditions Tubing Instructions

Sheena just scraped by Tubing 101, while I rafted right through.

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.

Wave Expeditions White Water Tubing

Get ready to get wet when white water tubing! (Photo courtesy of Wave Expeditions)

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.

Wave Expeditions Rafting Fruit Snack

Grab some sweet watermelon & pineapple for hydration & quick energy boost.

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.

Wave Expeditions Rafting Conclusion

All great adventures have to come to an end, but thankfully this is just intermission.

You can then exchange your towel for a hard earned beer to enjoy on the way to lunch.

Wave Expeditions Beer

Grab a beer after rafting. You’ve earned it!

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.

Vida Campesina Buffet Lunch on Banana Leaf

Help yourself to a wide range of flavors with the excellent buffet.

Coffee Demonstration

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.

Vida Campesina Coffee Demonstration

Who doesn’t love fresh, organic coffee?

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.

Vida Campesina Sugarcane Demonstration

Get ready for good, better, & worse tastings. 🙂

***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.

Wave Expeditions Making Sugarcane Juice

Someone has to take one for the team & crank the sugarcane press.

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.

Vida Campesina Alcoholic Sugarcane Shot

This sugarcane drink will put hair on your chest. Cheers!

Know Before You Go

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

Contact Information:

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Rafting & tubing with Wave Expeditions is a fun & adventure packed day in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Enjoy the Class II & III rapids on the Balsa River, buffet lunch, & educational demonstrations at Vida Campesina!


***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?

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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


  1. This looks like a loooot of fun, exactly what I could need now being here in winterish cold Switzerland 🙂
    And obviously the best is to grab, as you show it, a cold beer afterwards and have a great dish and on top the self brewed coffee – perfect day!

    1. Brrrrr. I could picture there being some white water rafting in the spring after all the snow melts in the Alps, but I’m not sure if the rivers are shallow enough.
      You are correct with that one! By the end of rafting you need some food & liquid energy to get back to normal from rowing & being in the sun for a few hours.

  2. Wow that looks awesome! I haven’t been to Costa Rica yet but having been to every other country in Central America I can definitely say it’s a fun region to be in. Thanks for the post 🙂

    1. We view Central America as Southeast Asia part II for backpackers since there are a lot of different budget countries right next to each other. Curious how you managed to skip Costa Rica since that seems to be where most people dip their toes into the region. 🙂

  3. Ah, I’ve been rafting at the exact same place! I found it rather terrifying and fell out A LOT. The meal after made it worth it, though. 🙂

  4. La Fortuna is such an amazing place. Thanks for the tubing/rafting tips about Wave Expeditions. We love adventure sports, but we also want to make sure to use a good company like Wave that prioritizes safety too.

    1. Wave Expeditions came highly regarded from staff at other companies in La Fortuna, which doesn’t come easily. It was great to be able to raft & tube in the same trip for a bit of variety.

  5. I have done it once and it was so much fun but the water was bit calm so there was no risk.

    Love the video and all the pictures. We would definitely keep the tour operators in mind if we plan to visit La Fortuna someday 🙂 Safety is utmost importance in such kind of sports.

    1. For us the risk, or at least perceived risk, is the reward. Haha

      The tour we went on is family friendly with Class II & III rapids so it would be perfect if you wanted just a bit of danger. The guides are really good & they have someone in a kayak ready to help should you fall in. You would be in good hands with Wave Expeditions.

  6. Wow, looks fun fun fun! Is the rafting difficult? I’d always wanted to try it but never dared.

    1. You can choose between two different rafting tours with Wave Expeditions. The more adventurous tour takes you through Class III & IV rapids while we did the family friendly Class II & III rapids. You are in good hands with your guide & safety specialist in a kayak!

  7. White water rafting is so much fun. The max I have done is Grade 3 and 4 rivers. The Grade four was just one or two rapids along the entire course and I absolutely loved it. You should get to India and try these out.

    1. I plan on it in the future, but Sheena spent a few months there recently so it may be awhile. I think most places that offer Class IV for the casual rafter have that recipe for safety reasons. We haven’t done Class V, & only a bit of Class IV.

  8. Love all these water sports. River rafting and tubing is a great exhilarating experience. You really had a rocking time indeed.

  9. What a wonderful experience and it seems you really enjoyed your time there!! I can say it looking at your pictures and your beautiful smile!! 😀 Unfortunately I have never done it, I will have a chance to do it! thanks for sharing your great adventure in Costa Rica

    1. We’re glad you enjoyed reading about our adventure! White water rafting and/or tubing is a blast so definitely give it a try when you get the chance. You won’t regret it.

  10. It looks like a real adventure. I love your detailed description, useful tips and informative pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  11. How fun! I’m not sure if I’m adventurous enough to do this though. I’d probably chicken out.

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