Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Mexico & Central America (
-   -   rafting in Costa Rica for non-swimmers? (

Lil1210 Dec 30th, 2004 03:57 PM

rafting in Costa Rica for non-swimmers?
Having read all of the recommendations on these boards, I would really love to go white water rafting on the Pacuares River when I go to Costa Rica this summer. My only concern is that I can't swim. Is this a real danger?

I've heard that some outfitters have rescue kayaks that accompany the rafters. Does anyone know whether Aventura Naturales or Rios Tropicales have these or other safety precautions?


shillmac Dec 30th, 2004 07:14 PM

The danger in white water rafting is not drowning due to lack of swimming ability. You'll have a very reliable life jacket on. The danger is more likely to be encounters with rocks or underwater limbs that you can hang up on. I always hate the safety talks that rafters have to listen to regarding what to do in case of a spill--and rescue techniques. Also unpleasant is the paperwork one has to sign stating that you understand the inherent risks! But it sure is fun! You'll be fine, and will whoop and holler your way through those rapids! I'm sure you'll stay right there in the boat where you belong! The odds are in your favor. . .:)

Jessie_ Dec 30th, 2004 08:11 PM

We have rafted the Pacuare several times. My husband is not a swimmer but loves the rafting. He has rafted even stronger rapids in West Virginia. On all of our trips only one of us (it wasn't me) has popped out of the raft. You do have a good sturdy life vest on as well as a helmet. Yes, there is a safety kayak nearby. Listen to the instructions on what to do and how to hold your feet so you don't get them caught should you end up out of the raft. There are even instructions on how to help someone get back into the raft. The people sitting in the very back by the guide are generally the most likely to end up being flipped out from what I have seen. My husband and I were sitting up front when he was flipped out but there were only three of us in the raft.

I have not rafted with Aventura yet(will let people who have comment on what a good time they had) but have rafted with a couple of other companies such as Rios Tropicales, Costa Rica Expeditions, and many years ago on the Reventazon...Horizontes. All had the safety kayaks and are very safety minded. It will be scary until you hit your first few rapids then you will want more. The earlier ones are training for the second half of the trip but you will be a pro by then. The nice thing about the Pacuare is that there are some nice calm spaces where you can just take in the beauty of the river. The Rio Reventazon was a little more technical and the rapids seemed a lot longer. This was before the dam so I don't know how it is now.

ps...I was in my early 40's the first time I rafted down there and I have been loving it ever since!

Lil1210 Dec 30th, 2004 09:47 PM

Thanks so much for your responses!!! I can't wait.

blearynet Dec 31st, 2004 12:41 PM

Consider taking swimming lessons for adults who are non-swimmers. They are designed to help people like you, so you can enjoy water activities safely.

A non-swimmer has no business in a boat, raft, etc!

Jessie_ Dec 31st, 2004 02:49 PM

Try telling that to my husband who has rafted and canoed a lot of rivers including the mighty Mississippi.

trevorjoyce Jan 1st, 2005 12:06 PM

We (2 adults and 1 teenager) rafted the Sarapiqui in Aug with Aguas Bravas. I had thought Pacuare may be too rough for me, since I have had 2 back surgeries...the good news was we had a fabulous time and felt proud of ourselves since at the end the guides told us the rapids had been equal to Pacuare as we were in the midst of a very rainy season. However, a number of people flew out of the rafts and 2 on our raft were then petrified. They didn't get hurt, but were so scared they didn't enjoy themselves....the moral is, it didn't have anything to do with swimming...the life jackets and guides (including guides in kayaks) take good care of you...but you need to be comfortable with the I said, we had a great day and even saw a lot of wildlife, but some on our trip did not share these feelings! Joyce

Melissa5 Jan 1st, 2005 02:26 PM

Lil1210, I shudder to think of you drowning someday! Do consider learning how to swim! If it is a problem with fear, get some support and face that fear...It will make you a safer and stronger person. (I've had to face my phobias about flying and I'm so glad I did.)

I would have lost a child if I hadn't made sure they all had extensive swimming lessons. When my daughter was 9 I let her go to a beach party without me, foolishly believing the parents who gave the party would watch my daughter and that the lifeguard would protect her...well, they didn't! She was swimming in the ocean with a friend and the parents were actually far away on the grass...(These parents actually stayed in the grass and told the kids to go off and play! Yikes!) So when my daughter and her friend got caught in a rip tide there was nobody to help...the lifeguard was pre-occupied with a man who had suffered a heart attack on the beach, and a crowd was surrounding the lifeguard and the man, blocking the life-guard's view of the ocean...So my daughter, only 9 years old and very petite, had to try to withstand the water's powerful rip-tide on her at one point she turned back to help her friend, who had gone under once!!! My daughter told me it's a good thing she had all those swimming lessons, because she got so tired swimming that she had to use all the strokes she knew...swimming on her side, on her back, and on her front...And when she reached the sand she and her friend just flopped down there and lay for a long while resting.

It makes me so mad that nobody even noticed all of this going on!!!

If anybody is reading this, make sure your loved ones know how to swim, and never send your child to a beach party without an adult relative! Make sure your children take swimming lessons until they can pass at least the red cross intermediate swimmer's test. Also, make sure the swimming instructor is patient and kind...You don't want to make swimming lessons a tramatic experience.

Lilian, I think you should go rafting in Costa Rica this a reward for taking swimming lessons now! do consider this. Get some private lessons from someone who understands your situation. Take a supportive friend with you...

Lil1210 Jan 1st, 2005 02:55 PM

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful and caring responses! We are definitely booking the rafting trip, and I will try to sign up for swimming lessons before we go, though it does sound like the guides have good safety precautions in place. Thanks again!

Jessie_ Jan 1st, 2005 09:19 PM

Good advice about finding someone kind and patient for the swimming lessons. I grew up around water and did have good lessons. My husband was just thrown in and told to swim by his instructor. This terrified him so much he never went back.

Swimming lessons are very good to have if done right but the lessons do not stop when the classes stop. Some of the most important lessons are learned from the parents such as not swimming alone, how to swim with the shore and not to the shore when caught in a rip tide, what to do if you flip out of a boat...things that don't come up in a calm pool where most swimming lessons take place.

Despite my lessons I still had to be pulled out a couple of years ago down off the Osa after a huge wave hit me. I was told it was called a washing machine by the surfers because it throws you around so much you don't know which end is up. Fortunately, I was taught by my parents to never swim alone. Another time I was flipped out of an inner tube in some rapids on a river in Texas. Again, didn't know which end was up. Again, I was pulled out. What saved me was that I didn't panic. It was more my understanding of the situation than any ability to swim that saved me both times.

Despite the fact that he can't swim my husband has enjoyed himself immensely canoeing and rafting, Ocean kayaking, deep sea fishing and snorkeling for hours. Always with a life vest. He enjoys and respects the water and knows his limitations. Even when his canoe was swamped on the Mississippi and they flipped, he had his vest on. He might enjoy the water more if he knew how to swim. Who knows, his mom finally took lessons when she was in her 60's, maybe he will someday.

As Joyce said, the rafting is less about swimming than having your wits about you if you flip out. You have to be prepared for that eventuality even if it doesn't end up happening. You have a good life vest on, a helmet, and very good experienced support. Swimming ability in that situation really doesn't help much. Knowledge of the situation is what will help. People who are not comfortable around water even with a life vest probably should not go.

LA_FadeAway Jan 2nd, 2005 03:59 PM

I agree that you should take the rafting trip, but also should take some lessons between now and then. Even if swimming isn't all that important if you get tossed from the raft, I bet you will still feel more comfortable knowing that you can swim. It also opens up so many more options for you, such as snorkling.

Melissa5 Jan 3rd, 2005 12:02 AM

Lil1210, good for you! good luck with the swimming lessons and have a wonderful vacation in Costa Rica.

tanya0070 Jan 3rd, 2005 08:41 AM

I rafted a Level III on the Sarapiqui River in October, and I do not know how to swim. I was indeed nervous, but quickly came to ease as I saw how competent our guide was and how alert the safety kayaker was. The life jacket is all you really need.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:03 AM.