Panama Rafting | Chiriqui River Section Class & Descriptions

Habla Ya Spanish students rafting in Boquete, Panama

Class II, III, IV & V Panama Rivers

Chiriqui has the best whitewater rivers for Panama rafting!

  • Chiriqui Viejo River: world class epic river. Class III-V sections. Intense rapids within the tropical rainforest.
  • Chiriqui River: a classic among Panama's whitewater river rafting trips. Lots of fun spots. Class III-IV rapids.
  • Caldera River: one long continuous rapid packed with fun & technical Class IV action very close to Boquete.
  • Gariche River: an immersion within Panama's tropical beauty. Class II-III rapids for families and beginners.
  • Dolega River: a Class III within the jungle and very close to Boquete at an affordable price.
  • Majagua River: a favorite section among beginner rafters & kayaking trips. Class II rapids and many pools.
  • Esti River: the perfect choice for families with young children. Mild and scenic class II rapids.
SIGN UP TO LEARN SPANISH IN BOQUETE...
We apologise if certain river descriptions on this page are not up to date. Panama's government, against our people's will, have been damming certain sections and destroying ecosystems in the name of profit. Some battles have been won, but unfortunately many have been lost.

Chiriqui Viejo River

When whitewater enthusiasts talk about epic rivers, the Chiriqui Viejo always makes one of the top spots in everybody's list. Many rafting experts have proclaimed it to be a World Class River and possibly the best river for whitewater rafting in Central America. It is a river that has it all: constant breathtaking rapids, virgin tropical forest, dense jungle, spectacular waterfalls, plenty of wildlife and exotic birds.

Come and see it for yourself: the Chiriqui Viejo offers an amazing opportunity to experience some of the most exciting and intense rapids in Central America. If you're looking for the most extreme river rafting in Panama, the Chiriqui Viejo is your river, well known for its thrills. It has more than 60 kilometers of Class IV rapids and during the rainy season it also has various Class V features. Its biggest rapids are called Misterioso, La Bomba and Bajo Méndez II (with 3 big holes in it).

The Chiriqui Viejo, located near the Costa Rican border, is 128 km long and is born in the heights of Cerro Picacho, on the northwest side of the Volcan Baru, the highest elevation in Panama at 3,475 meters above sea level. Within the peaceful towns of Cerro Punta it rapidly evolves from a creek into a crazy river at about 2,000 m above sea level. It then meanders along the Panamanian-Costa Rican border until it flows into the Pacific from Panama.

Its watershed is between 1,000 and 1,500 square km. Although the water level is at its top during the rainy season, and especially between October and November, there is always enough water to encounter class IV sections.

Cormorants, kingfishers, vultures and other birds glide across the sky over the river, landing on rocks to fish, or soaring into the jungle on the other side. Rafters may be lucky and also spot a toucan. Along the journey river runners can stare in awe at the waterfalls pouring into the river or try to spot elusive spider monkeys climbing in the trees and iguanas sunning themselves on fallen logs.

Chiriqui Viejo River Sections: Descriptions & Classification

In this river you'll encounter 5 different sections, several of which are worthwhile rafting together. The upper sections pack a real punch of adrenaline and advanced whitewater rafting, ensuring that your day on the river will be a once in a lifetime experience and the lower sections offer a shorter day with tons of rapids and an easy access to the river. Anyway you choose, it is sure to be an unforgettable day of fun.

  • Cerro Punta section: Class IV+ and V, gradient of about 35-50 meters per kilometer during 24 km. Long and continuous rapids.
  • Río Sereno section: Class IV, 32 km, steep gorges makes this undoable unless broken down in shorter sections.
  • Caisan section: Class IV-V, 12.8 km, strenuous at high water flows. Beginning of dry season.
  • Palon section: Class IV, several class V's during end of rainy season, average gradient of about 25 meters per kilometer during 16 km.
  • Sabo section (Salsipuedes section): Class III, big water style rapids, 11.2 km.

For those rafters wanting to experience a Class V river run, we can arrange customized rafting trips. In this particular case, as long as every member of the group has sufficient experience with whitewater, is in good physical condition and water level permits... it is a possibility. At the end of the day it will be our call, so feel free to CONTACT US and tell us about your rafting group and about what crazy things you want to do!

Palon Section - Class IV River Section - Advanced

Immersed within the tropical rainforest it is perhaps one of the most beautiful river sections in Central America and is also packed with non-stop excitement due to its constant rapids, the technical maneuvers required, deep canyon gorges and its spectacular tropical scenery.

In several parts of the Palon section, the Chiriqui Viejo turns into a very narrow river and drops with considerable abruptness at high speeds, demanding rapid and precise maneuvering to get through its many rocky passages and immense boulders. It continually delivers plenty of adrenaline ranking it as a Class IV section.

Throughout the rainy season the river obviously carries more water and runs even faster. This time of the year is ideal for those in search of even more of a challenge. At some stages it may have Class V features and because of this, caution and the guide's experience play a major role in order to avoid or prevent any type of danger. Fooling around is not the name of the game, as falling into the water could mean getting dragged by a Class V sucking machine into the mouth of a passage of huge rocks, falling down a 1.8 meter drop and being washed over by a huge standing wave. Only experienced rafters will be taken to this section during the rainy season. Obviously scouting is always required.

If the level of water is too high, this section will be done from the Quebrada las Vueltas until the beginning of the Salsipuedes section, covering 14 kilometers in length with a gradient of 13 meters per kilometer descending a total of 182 meters.

During the descent of this section rafters will stop for lunch at an incredible site of mesmerizing beauty. After a short hike they'll reach an amazing 10 meter waterfall within the tropical rainforest and they'll be able to contemplate nature's grandeur in its entire magnificence.

Compared to other rivers with sections of similar ratings within Central America, it is accessed with relative ease. To reach this section, for example, after a 3 hour drive from Boquete through gorgeous cloud forest views, rafters only have to hike for around 15 minutes downhill and assist the guides to get the rafts to the river.

Sabo Section - Class III River Section - Intermediate

This lower section of the Chiriqui Viejo River offers a fun ride with many high and deep wave trains bordered by the wild tropical jungle. The first course of the Sabo section is packed with big rapids while the second section is great for birdwatching featuring kingfishers, cormorants and egrets. This less technical section is great for beginners looking for some excitement or is a good section to start with if you plan to have another day of rafting to then build up the difficulty.

This section starts at the beginning of the Salsipuedes section and ends in Paso Canoas, averaging a gradient of 12 meters per kilometer during 10 kilometers. Depending on the water level, this rafting trip will take between 2 to 3 hours.

River Section Class Trip Type Raft Time
Dry Season Rainy Season
Chiriqui Viejo Palon III/IV IV/IV+ Full Day or Overnight 3 - 4 hours
Chiriqui Viejo Sabo III III/IV Full Day or Overnight 3 hours

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Full Day Rafting Trips $65 - $95 $75 - $95
Overnight Rafting Trips $175 $195

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales. Prices include: transportation to and back from Boquete (we can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel), rafting equipment, professional guides, drinking water and meals (lunch for full day rafting trips, and every meal for the overnight rafting trips). Please note: a minimum of 4 persons is required for full day rafting trips. A minimum of 4 persons is required for an overnight rafting trip. If you're traveling to Boquete on your own and you're really interested in Panama rafting, please go ahead and CONTACT US, and we will let you what options will be available during the time that you'll be in Boquete. For certain full day rafting trips we can also pick up and drop off passengers up in David, Caldera or Gualaca.

SIGN UP NOW & BOOK YOUR SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAM IN BOQUETE...
HELP NEEDED! The Chiriqui and Esti River have already been affected by hydroelectric projects. Help is wanted to prevent another tragedy happening. Please help us stop the damming in Chiriqui and let us together protect the entire ecosystem that depends on this river, the populations who require its water for their most basic needs and Panama's most precious gem for whitewater river rafting. Write an email to ANCON, Panama's National Association for Nature's Conservation.
Top of page

Chiriqui River

A classic favorite, the Chiriqui River is one of the two largest watersheds in the province of Chiriqui. Its headwaters are located to the east of Boquete and it drains southwesterly towards the Pacific. Conveniently located, a 45 minute drive will suffice to take paddlers to the beginning of this river.

Unfortunately it has been dammed so paddlers will have to start after the Fortuna Dam and it can only be run during the rainy season between June and November. As its course has been affected by hydroelectric projects its water levels are constantly changing from very wild to complete dryness and obviously this has also affected the entire ecosystem. HELP WANTED! If you would like to know more about the consequences of hydroelectric projects in the province of Chiriqui,and about what you can do to help, Contact Us and help stop the damming and mini hydroelectric projects in Chiriqui.

In the Chiriqui Viejo you'll encounter the following sections:

  • Frijoles (Bean) Section: Class V, 13 kilometers, gradient: 55 meters per kilometer (take care at high water).
  • Witches (Brujas) Section: Class III - IV, 9.65 kilometers, tons of play.
  • Bajo Méndez section: Class II-III (IV), 16 kilometers, doubles in volume due to the dam.
  • Barrigona (Big Belly) section (this section disappeared with a dam): Class III, 16 kilometers of ultimate play spots such as "Three Wise Men".
Frijoles Section - Class V River Section - Advanced

Just after Fortuna Dam the river is steep and technical. Due to the damming, we have to make sure that there is enough water to make it runnable without becoming dangerous. This section also contains many boulders. Like most rivers in Panama it can become a high volume run during the rainy season (around 140 cubic meters per second). Due to its unpredictability we only run this section if we are contacted specifically to run it in which case we will tell you the most appropriate time for your group to come.

Witches Section - Class III River Section - Intermediate

This section of the Chiriqui contains highly technical class III rapids and the occasional class IV. Due to its pool drop nature the section has great play spots where the inexperienced will truly enjoy and the more advanced will find a challenge.

Bajo Méndez - Section Class III - Intermediate

A relatively calm section during its first 3.2 kilometers it evolves to a more pool drop nature for the rest of the way. Long wave trains and wild scenery make it a perfect starting point for the first time rafter. With the aid of the hydroelectric plant releasing water, this section always has water. In the rainy season you'll encounter fun holes and play spots. Some of Panama's classic rapids are found in this section, like Bajo Méndez, Culebra and Juan de La Guardia.

Barrigona Section - Class III Section - Intermediate - DAMNED

A perfect trip for families and beginners who would like to have a feel of what whitewater river rafting is about. This section offers a few class III rapids while the rest of the section is full of continuously moving water that keeps the excitement going. The plains of Chiriqui are the main feature of the scenery as well as its gentle rolling hills which are mainly used for crops, cattle and dairy farming.

River Section Class Trip Type Raft Time
Dry Season Rainy Season
Chiriqui Witches n/a III/IV Full Day 1.5 - 2 hours

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Full Day Rafting Trips $65 - $95 $75 - $95
Overnight Rafting Trips $175 $195

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales. Prices include: transportation to and back from Boquete (we can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel), rafting equipment, professional guides, drinking water and meals (lunch for full day rafting trips, and every meal for the overnight rafting trips). Please note: a minimum of 4 persons is required for full day rafting trips. A minimum of 4 persons is required for an overnight rafting trip. If you're traveling to Boquete on your own and you're really interested in Panama rafting, please go ahead and CONTACT US, and we will let you what options will be available during the time that you'll be in Boquete. For certain full day rafting trips we can also pick up and drop off passengers up in David, Caldera or Gualaca.

SIGN UP NOW & BOOK YOUR SPANISH LEARNING VACATION IN BOQUETE...
During the rainy season a run down the Caldera River (Class IV) can be added to a run down the Witches Section of the Chiriqui to make it a full day rafting trip. On this run we can also incorporate a stop at the amazing natural Hot Springs at Caldera to make it a full day rafting trip. A break from the river gives us a chance to relax in the steaming hot waters, located a short 3 minute walk from the river bank.
Top of page

Caldera River

This river also drains from the flanks of the Volcan Baru and is mostly a creek with several technical, rather steep sections full of constant thrills and lots of fun. A ride on the Caldera River can be described as one long rapid as you'll be able to experience one rapid after another, with very few pauses.

It includes one portage around a big waterfall (a stretch at which the raft has to be carried by the rafters) and plenty of fun Class IV rapids. At the beginning of the trip paddlers will encounter a fun little gorge (canyon or deep valley between cliffs carved from the landscape by a river) or when the water is higher they may have to portage.

The river Aguas Blancas joins with the Caldera at the last part of the run, and the rapids change character with more volume. The rapid "Take a hit" comes up right after the confluence, and it is hard to scout and quite long. Might as well just take a hit...

This is our nearest rafting trip from Boquete and can only be offered during the rainy season when recent rainfall has taken place.

River Section Class Trip Type Raft Time
Dry Season Rainy Season
Caldera Upper n/a IV Toy Trip 1 hour

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Full Day Rafting Trips $65 - $95 $75 - $95
Overnight Rafting Trips $175 $195

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales. Prices include: transportation to and back from Boquete (we can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel), rafting equipment, professional guides, drinking water and meals (lunch for full day rafting trips, and every meal for the overnight rafting trips). Please note: a minimum of 4 persons is required for full day rafting trips. A minimum of 4 persons is required for an overnight rafting trip. If you're traveling to Boquete on your own and you're really interested in Panama rafting, please go ahead and CONTACT US, and we will let you what options will be available during the time that you'll be in Boquete. For certain full day rafting trips we can also pick up and drop off passengers up in David, Caldera or Gualaca.

SIGN UP NOW & BOOK YOUR SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAM IN PANAMA...
During the rainy season a run down the Caldera River can be added to any half day rafting trip to make it a full day rafting trip (this is what we call Toy Trip). If water levels permit (it all depends on the rain) we can also arrange to run this river two times: in this case we also consider it a full day rafting trip.
Top of page

Gariche River

The Upper section of the Gariche River offer paddlers a unique opportunity to admire the wonders of Panama's dense vegetation, pristine waterfalls and exotic wildlife. Besides encountering Class II and III rapids, rafters will enjoy spotting monkeys and refreshing swims in its waters.

River Section Class Trip Type Raft Time
Dry Season Rainy Season
Gariche Upper n/a II/III Full Day 3 - 4 hours

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Full Day Rafting Trips $65 - $95 $75 - $95
Overnight Rafting Trips $175 $195

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

SIGN UP NOW & BOOK YOUR SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAM IN BOQUETE...
Prices include: transportation to and back from Boquete (we can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel), rafting equipment, professional guides, drinking water and meals (lunch for full day rafting trips, and every meal for the overnight rafting trips). Please note: a minimum of 4 persons is required for full day rafting trips. A minimum of 4 persons is required for an overnight rafting trip. If you're traveling to Boquete on your own and you're really interested in Panama rafting, please go ahead and CONTACT US, and we will let you what options will be available during the time that you'll be in Boquete. For certain full day rafting trips we can also pick up and drop off passengers up in David, Caldera or Gualaca.
Top of page

Dolega River

When it comes to value and price, with absolutely no sacrifice in excitement, the Dolega River is your best bet if it is your first time on the river and it is no wonder why we have been taking more people down this section than any other river in Chiriqui.

River Section Class Trip Type Raft Time
Dry Season Rainy Season
Dolega Lower n/a II/III Half Day 2 - 2.5 hours

During the rainy season a run down the Caldera River can be added to any half day rafting trip to make it a full day rafting trip (this is what we call Toy Trip).

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Full Day Rafting Trips $65 - $95 $75 - $95
Overnight Rafting Trips $175 $195

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales. Prices include: transportation to and back from Boquete (we can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel), rafting equipment, professional guides, drinking water and meals (lunch for full day rafting trips, and every meal for the overnight rafting trips). Please note: a minimum of 4 persons is required for full day rafting trips. A minimum of 4 persons is required for an overnight rafting trip. If you're traveling to Boquete on your own and you're really interested in Panama rafting, please go ahead and CONTACT US, and we will let you what options will be available during the time that you'll be in Boquete. For certain full day rafting trips we can also pick up and drop off passengers up in David, Caldera or Gualaca.

SIGN UP NOW & BOOK YOUR SPANISH IMMERSION VACATION IN BOQUETE...
If birds and wildlife, mixed with the views of Panama's indigenous culture is what you're looking for, then the Bridge Section is for you. In this fast technical river you'll encounter tranquil water spots for swimming and nature observation and several waterfall treks for your delight.
Top of page

Majagua River

A favorite for families with small children, the Majagua River is a peaceful Class II river that offers those without any previous whitewater experience an opportunity to enjoy their first rapids and some really beautiful scenery from a river perspective. The kids will certainly love taking a dive into the many pools found throughout this section.

River Section Class Trip Type Raft Time
Dry Season Rainy Season
Majagua Lower n/a II/II+ Half Day 1.5 hours

During the rainy season a run down the Caldera River can be added to any half day rafting trip to make it a full day rafting trip (this is what we call Toy Trip).

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Full Day Rafting Trips $65 - $95 $75 - $95
Overnight Rafting Trips $175 $195

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

SIGN UP NOW & BOOK YOUR SPANISH IMMERSION HOLIDAY IN BOQUETE...
Prices include: transportation to and back from Boquete (we can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel), rafting equipment, professional guides, drinking water and meals (lunch for full day rafting trips, and every meal for the overnight rafting trips). Please note: a minimum of 4 persons is required for full day rafting trips. A minimum of 4 persons is required for an overnight rafting trip. If you're traveling to Boquete on your own and you're really interested in Panama rafting, please go ahead and CONTACT US, and we will let you what options will be available during the time that you'll be in Boquete. For certain full day rafting trips we can also pick up and drop off passengers up in David, Caldera or Gualaca.
Top of page

Esti River

This river runs serenely through beautiful country scenery and hosts many migratory birds that nest among its banks. This river is a good beginning to river rafting for the whole family, especially if you have young children. Swimming along the way and experiencing quick current with a few class II rapids are the reasons to try this river.

River Section Class Trip Type Raft Time
Dry Season Rainy Season
Esti   II II Half Day 2 -2.5 hours

During the rainy season a run down the Caldera River can be added to any half day rafting trip to make it a full day rafting trip (this is what we call Toy Trip).

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Full Day Rafting Trips $65 - $95 $75 - $95
Overnight Rafting Trips $175 $195

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

SIGN UP NOW & BOOK YOUR SPANISH IMMERSION HOLIDAY IN BOQUETE...
Prices include: transportation to and back from Boquete (we can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel), rafting equipment, professional guides, drinking water and meals (lunch for full day rafting trips, and every meal for the overnight rafting trips). Please note: a minimum of 4 persons is required for full day rafting trips. A minimum of 4 persons is required for an overnight rafting trip. If you're traveling to Boquete on your own and you're really interested in Panama rafting, please go ahead and CONTACT US, and we will let you what options will be available during the time that you'll be in Boquete. For certain full day rafting trips we can also pick up and drop off passengers up in David, Caldera or Gualaca.
Top of page