A class three river on the Panama- Costa Rica border.
Chiriqui River Rafting
The owner of Chiriqui River Rafting, Hector Sanchez, picked me in Alto Boquete, Panama, and took me to his house on a coffee farm. He made me coffee from his farm and showed off the fresh crop that had just been picked and bagged- Geisha bean selling for $350 a pound. “Most of it goes to Japan,” Sanchez told me. He gave me a tour of the fruit trees that provide shade for the coffee; plantains, bananas, oranges, mangoes, lemons, and passion fruit. Sanchez showed me the small hostel next to his house and the rafts stored behind. The welcoming hospitality he showed was mirrored throughout my entire experience rafting with his company.
“I was the first person to start rafting in Panama,” Sanchez told me proudly. He studied agriculture at the University of Northern Colorado before learning to raft in the military in Panama. Soon after he started his own company alongside his farm. “Back then you could run all the rivers near here,” he recalled, but that was before the rivers were choked off by damns. Now his company only runs the Chiriqui Viejo and (what).
Sanchez personally trained all the guides that work for him, all Indians from the Ngobe-Bogle tribe near Boquete. When I rafted with Chiriqui, Juan Carlos was our guide, he was great at steering the boat and knowledgable about the area.
When we ran Chiriqui Viejo it was true to it’s class 3 rating with a few technical moves and consistent, boat-soaking waves. During the rainy season and high water Juan Carlos said he thought it was class 4, and admitted he had flipped a few times on the section. We stopped for lunch in an area of primary forest on both sides of the river. During the second half of the trip the river makes the border with Costa Rica and we passed under the bridge that provides the main crossing between the two countries.