Ballpark Estimate: $100 to $150 per day per person
Whitewater rafting can provide an exciting outdoor adventure for people of all ages and experience levels. Want to get your heart pumping faster? Looking for a taste of danger? If you feel most of home when you’re close to nature, running a whitewater river may be your dream vacation. No matter where you live or the level of whitewater challenge you desire, you should be able to find a river that meets your specifications.
According to adventure experts, as many as 10 million people have tried whitewater rafting at least once in their lifetime, and almost a third of this group enjoyed their experience so much that they make it a priority to go at least twice a year. Of course while most people engage in whitewater rafting for recreation, it’s also been a part of the Olympics Games since the 1970s. As a result, a very large audience has been exposed to this sport, making it an extremely popular pick for people of all ages and interests.
Even if you’ve never been white water rafting yourself, you’ve probably seen pictures of an excursion. It usually consists of a group of people crowding on a raft and traveling through the whitewater or rapids of a river. If you want to try whitewater rafting yourself and experience the thrill of the experience, there are many rivers to choose from and it can help to become familiar with your choices so you can find the best fit for your preferences and goals.
Whitewater River Classifications
Not all whitewater rapids are created equal. They vary a great deal in difficulty levels. It’s important to select one that meets your experience level. To help guide you through the choices, there’s a classification system that rates whitewater rapids from the easiest to the most difficult. Here is a brief overview of the whitewater river categories what’s involved in each:
This is the easiest whitewater rafting setting. Whitewater rapids that fall within this category are very calm without many waves or obstacles to worry about. If you plan to take your children whitewater rafting, this is the safest pick for them.
This type of whitewater rapid is still somewhat predictable, but the waves will be bigger and there could be some rocks in the rapids that the whitewater raft will need to navigate around.
These whitewater rapids are more challenging to predict, with faster currents, larger waves and passages that can be difficult to maneuver, offering you the chance to kick your adrenalin up a notch.
This setting is best left to more advanced whitewater rafters. The rapids are very fast, the waves and currents are powerful and the water is turbulent, which requires you to be on your guard throughout the entire trip.
Class V and Class VI
These types of whitewater rapids are extremely challenging, with big cross-currents, drops and holes that take real expertise to navigate. Only very advanced whitewater rafters should attempt these settings. (Note that you probably won’t find a Class VI river available for commercial trips.)
When booking a whitewater rafting trip, beyond the classifications, you also need to consider the size of the river, since the easiest rivers aren’t always the smallest and the largest rivers aren’t always difficult, making it important to find out all the details before you book your trip. Smaller rivers can be easier for young children and very inexperienced whitewater rafters, while larger settings can pose more challenges for experienced whitewater rafters. Therefore, if you’re looking for a family trip, consider a Class I or II river that’s small in scope. On the other hand, if you crave a challenge and are physically capable, consider a Class III or IV whitewater rapid that’s large in size. It’s also important to keep in mind that a whitewater rapid’s conditions can change suddenly, so it’s possible for a river’s classification to vary depending on the season and weather conditions. In addition, some rivers may have different classifications on different parts, so be sure to specify what level experience you want when you talk to a whitewater rafting tour company.
When shopping for a whitewater rafting trip, you can find half-day, all-day and multi-day excursions, depending on your goals and ability level. These trips also come at a wide range of price points, so there’s something for almost anyone. Just keep in mind that the location you select can have a big impact on your overall experience. If you’re looking at whitewater rivers on the East Coast, you can expect them to be more challenging than those on the West Coast. This is because East Coast rapids generally have more obstacles to navigate. On the other hand, West Coast rivers can be deeper and have more steeper drops, so they can still provide a thrilling experience for whitewater rafters. If you want a very remote experience, you can also look to rivers outside of the United States.
Where to Find
You can ask a local travel agent to recommend some whitewater rafting tour companies that offer excursions in the areas you are considering. Keep in mind whether you want to pick a location that’s within a reasonable driving distance from where you live or whether you are prepared to fly to your destination. You can also do a search for whitewater rapids online. You can use searchable directories to find whitewater rafting tour companies, such as those offered through sites like Rafting America or WhiteWater.com, or you can go directly to the tour operators own websites, particularly if you know the region you want to explore. A few of the types of regional whitewater rafting tour companies include Tributary Whitewater Tours, Montana Whitewater Rafting Company, O.A.R.S., American River Rafting and Adirondac Rafting Company. But many similar whitewater rafting companies exist in the United States and in other countries.
Most people wear a bathing suit and t-shirt for a white water rafting trip. If the air is cool, you might also add some layers for extra insulation. Your best bet is to steer away from jeans and cotton sweat pants and shirts, since when wet they won’t provide any warmth. Instead, clothing made polar fleece, polypropylene, nylon or polyester will be better choices. Most whitewater rivers also provide splash jackets and pants to keep you dry, and they may also offer wetsuits for rent. You’ll also need secure footwear that won’t be ruined when it gets wet. Sneakers, wetsuit booties or athletic sandals can be good picks. You will also need a life jacket, which most whitewater rivers will provide. This essential in case your whitewater raft tips over or you get thrown out as you go along.
Most whitewater rafting tour companies suggest you leave cameras and camcorders home, since they can get ruined as you run the rapids. Many whitewater rafting tours offer a professional filming your run which you can purchase a video or photo of the experience without having to risk your own equipment.
Cost for Whitewater Rafting
The cost for whitewater rafting depends on many factors. The classification of river you select, how large a tour you join, how long the tour lasts and what’s included will all affect the price. For instance, some whitewater rafting tours include food, while others will require you to bring your own picnic. In addition, whitewater rafting prices are usually lower on weekdays and can increase by as much as 10 to 20 percent on the weekends.
With these factors in mind, here are some ideas of what to expect for whitewater rafting prices:
- A half-day whitewater rafting trip costs between $60 and $100.
- A full-day whitewater rafting trip costs about $125+.
- A two-day whitewater rafting trip cost starts at about $200, usually with a few meals and camping included.
- The whitewater rafting prices normally increase for more difficult rivers and/or more remote settings. For instance, a one-day trip in Costa Rica costs about $300 a person, while a two day version of this trip can cost about $500. A whitewater rafting expedition in Alaska can cost from $1,450per person for 3 days to $2,400 for 6 days.
So, you can expect the price for a whitewater rafting adventure to cost between $60 (for a few hours of whitewater rafting) to $2,400 (for a week-long excursion).
If you’re organizing a group of family, friends and co-workers for a whitewater rafting trip, it’s worth asking the tour company if they offer discounts for a large group. Some will give you a percentage off or will offer a free tour for the person organizing the whitewater rafting trip. Some whitewater rafting companies also offer a discounted rate for children.
While whitewater rafting can prove to be an exciting and rewarding activity, it also carries some risk. It’s important to listen to your tour guide and be prepared to follow all of the recommended protocols for the safest and most enjoyable experience.