Pure Nature Safari in Rio Frio – Peaceful Wildlife Watching From Arenal

Samantha recommends you:

Pure Nature Safari in Rio Frio – Peaceful Wildlife Watching From Arenal

A river-rafting guided #nature tour in #CostaRica was an #aspirational experience for me. Our guide was hugely knowledgeable and great at spotting the local wildlife. Within minutes, we'd seen sloths, monkeys and lizards, as well as enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the river itself.


I’d been on quite a few river boat rides in Costa Rica such as Palo Verde and Rio Tarcoles but the Rio Frio was by far, the most enchanting and peaceful. This 2 hour nature safari in Rio Frio quickly climbed to the top of my list of things to do in La Fortuna and Arenal and even Yeison couldn’t deny my glee as I excitedly told him about the safari float.

The Rio Frio is a slow moving river in the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve, stretching from the hills of Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border in Alajuela to Guatuso, about an hour drive from La Fortuna. The Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve is considered to be one of the most bio-diverse areas in Costa Rica and can only be visited by boat, which makes this tour even more special. This is an unspoiled area in the country that only few people get a chance to visit!

This is an unspoiled area in the country

This nature safari in Rio Frio ranks as the best way to explore the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve. If you’re looking for an unique wildlife watching experience out of Arenal or La Fortuna, put this one high on your list!

Wildlife Watching and Nature Safari in Rio Frio

We arrived in Guatuso for the start of the rafting trip in the backyard of a local’s home, which sits on the bank of Rio Frio. I went with a family of four so our group was small, one of the reasons why I loved this tour so much. It was just the five of us plus our guide so we had the best attention.

This nature safari isn’t like others, it’s on a raft instead of a boat with an engine. Our guide did the majority of the paddling, navigating the calm waters to get us as close as possible to the wildlife. With engines, animals scare easily and you can’t get into the tight corners as you would with a small raft.

This nature safari isn’t like others

So there we were, the 6 of us on a raft, floating down this small but peaceful river when no more than 2 minutes after we pushed off, our guide pointed to the trees for our first wildlife encounter.

Why hello there!
Why hello there!

This juvenile three toed sloth was climbing down a tree right above our heads! Our guide got us into the right position so we could see him in full view as he clambered down. As sloths only touch ground to go potty once a week, we caught right in the act. We watched him climb down until he disappeared out of view into the bushes.

We hadn’t even been on the river for more than 5 minutes and we already saw one of my favorite animals in Costa Rica, and one I’d never seen in the wild before! From that point and on, I couldn’t wait to see what other exciting wildlife encounters we’d have.

We floated down the river, quietly admiring its natural beauty and wondering what other animals called these waters home. Soon, we found out.

We floated down the river, quietly admiring its natural beauty

We saw adult, baby and juvenile Jesus Christ lizards scampering on the water, male green iguanas in orange breeding colorations, a huge troop of white face and howler monkeys flying from tree to tree, an otter slyly slinking into the water, a caiman sunbathing and tons of birds including kingfishers, trogons and anhingas.

No matter how boat rides I’ve done before, Costa Rica still awes and impresses me!

The quiet beauty of the river
The quiet beauty of the river
Jesus Christ lizard
Jesus Christ lizard
A horse cooling off in the river
A horse cooling off in the river
Beautiful bird
Beautiful bird
A howler monkey in the wild
A howler monkey in the wild
Another sloth sneaking away from us
Another sloth sneaking away from us

Tips for the Nature Safari in Rio Frio

You can bring a small backpack on the raft, preferably waterproof in the rainy season

Bring a good zoom lens for your camera!

It is really hot in this area so bring sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen

I wore long hiking pants to ward off mosquitoes and KEEN sandals, but definitely bring mosquito repellent

The tour provides water and binoculars

Tour is all day from approximately 8 AM to 3 PM

You won’t get wet in the raft (unless you want to jump in) so no need to bring a change of clothes

Snacks and drinks are provided after the rafting

I went with Jacamar Naturalist Tours who we love. Our guide was excellent, super funny and had a knack for spotting wildlife. He even got out of the raft a couple times to push us to get closer! I loved that the 5 of us had our guide all to ourselves so we had the best and most intimate experience.

Loved this story?

Subscribe to our newsletter

to receive new story and activity ideas in your inbox.

Keep inspired By other stories