The same steep slopes that provide Chiriqui with the dramatic backdrop of Volcan Baru also give rise to some exhilarating outdoor recreational opportunities. Pouring off the sides of the volcano are the Chiriqui, Chiriqui Viejo and Majagua rivers. These waterways flow through the highlands, creating a dynamic course for travelers discovering the pleasures of river rafting in Panama – churning into frothy white rapids, easing into peaceful stretches, and opening into tranquil pools…
Several other rivers nearby, notably the Dolega, Gariche, and Esti, let you ride the current past the scenic beauty of Chiriqui’s tropical rainforests. Whether you’re a vacationing family in search of a mild thrill or a veteran of whitewater rafting, you’ll find your ideal adventure on the rivers of Chiriqui.
River Rafting Basics
Who Can Raft?
Well, that depends. General age guidelines: Class II – 5 years old and up, Class III – 12+ years, and Class IV – 18 and older.
What to Wear
Swimsuit or shorts, sneakers or strapped sandals with good soles, and sun protection. And bring dry clothes to change into.
What to Leave
Don’t bring anything you don’t want getting lost or wet. Phone, cash, credit cards, watches, jewelry, etc.
When to Go
Year-round! The rivers never get too low for a river-rafting adventure, thanks to abundant rains. The highest water levels occur October – November, and the lowest March – May.
The Ultimate Whitewater Rafting Experience: Chiriqui Viejo
Adrenaline-junkies delight in the epic Chiriqui Viejo, a river born on the northwest side of Volcan Baru that weaves a serpentine path along the Panama-Costa Rica border before literally tumbling off the slopes. The breathtaking scenery alone makes the trip worthwhile. Take in phenomenal views of untrammeled rainforests and teak plantations while cruising the tamer Sabo section (Class II-III), but hold on for dear life throughout the Palon section (Class III-IV) as your raft careens through its narrow channel, makes the steep drop and slams through a wall of whitewater into technical rapids involving boulders and rock gardens. The Chiriqui Viejo is the hardest river to get to of any of these, but it’s also the most pristine.
A number of hydroelectric damming projects threaten the ruin of this beautiful river, and a coalition of environmental groups in Panama known as ADATA is rising up in opposition. Interested? Learn more about opposition to hydroelectric damming in Panama.
More Excellent Options
- The Rio Chiriqui offers a fun Class III experience with an exciting Class IV stretch of some pretty technical rafting; only a 35-minute-drive from Boquete.
- Located near David, the Majagua (Class II and III) River is ideal for families and beginning river-rafters. Glide on the peaceful waters, swim in beautiful jungle pools, and play among the natural waterfalls for a wonderful soft adventure experience.
- The Gariche, Dolega , and Esti rivers are all Class II-III, offering serene rides through verdant jungle. You’ll witness an abundance of birdlife, including cormorants, kingfishers, and egrets, along the banks of the river as you slip through the lush Chiriqui rainforest.
River rafting is one of the best ways to get up close and personal with the intoxicating wilderness of Panama. If you’ve already experienced Panama by trail, it’s time to take the road less traveled – head out on these natural highways to gain a new, intimate perspective of this incredible country.