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|
|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.