Rivers, waterfalls and lakes

According to the mouths, the river system in Costa Rica is divided into three areas: the north, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The mountain chain, which stretches from the northwest to the southeast, is the natural border of the areas and is the origin for most rivers. On their way into the valleys, the rivers cross the indescribable vegetation of the rainforests and cloud forests, occasionally forming impressive waterfalls in breathtaking scenarios.

Northern region

In the north, you will find the rivers Sarapiquí and Colorado, which are particularly suitable for rafting. There is also the San Carlos River, the rich fauna of which you can admire from Boca Tapada by boat. It ends in the San Juan River, which forms part of the border with Nicaragua and belongs to the neighboring country. In the Tenorio Volcano National Park runs the Celeste River, which is a popular tourist destination due to its impressive turquoise color. The Arenal Lake, which is located at the foot of the volcano of the same name, is the largest fresh water reservoir in the country and of great importance for the generation of hydroelectric power. Near the Arenal Volcano is the imposing La Fortuna waterfall, which plummets 230 feet (70 meters) into a beautiful lagoon and attracts many visitors.


A popular destination in the Caribbean is the Tortuguero National Park, through which runs the river and canal of the same name. A boat trip through the lush vegetation with the remarkable flora and fauna is a sensational experience. If you like to go faster, you can also find several rafting opportunities in the Caribbean region. The Reventazón and Pacuare rivers invite you to the world class of wild water.


The rivers in the Pacific region are shorter than in the Caribbean and the North, because the central mountain chain is closer to the Pacific coast. The longest river on this side is the Tempisque River, which crosses Guanacaste and flows into the Gulf of Nicoya. The last part of this river runs through the Palo Verde National Park, an important wetland area and bird paradise. The Térraba-Sierpe in the South Pacific is another significant wetland area. It is located at the mouth of the two rivers Térraba and Sierpe and houses the largest and most important mangrove forests in Costa Rica. You can cross them on the boat trip from Sierpe to Drake Bay or Corcovado National Park. We highly recommend this route because of its beauty and particularly during the rainy season when the roads can be partly flooded.