Rafting Colombia with Guanabana Tours – Colombia Adventures

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Many great Colombia adventures involve water. For example, you have mangroves, island hopping, and surfing in Cartagena. Then there are the pueblos in the lake-locked Guatape region. But when it comes to true Colombian adventure, one of our favorites is white water rafting. Read on for our rafting Colombia experience with Guanabana Tours. We’ll talk about what we did, where we went and why we think rafting is one of the best day trips from Medellin, Colombia.

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Rafting Colombia with Guanabana Tours

Anyone who’s interested in rafting Colombia will find many options to choose from. There are several good rivers for Colombia rafting adventures, with a number of rapid classes to choose from. We teamed up with Guanabana Tours because of their record of safety and customer satisfaction. I’m glad we did. Whitewater rafting in Colombia is set to grow as tourism continues to expand. That’s why we’re thrilled to partner with one of the most respected Colombia adventure outfitters in the country. Guanabana Tours offers a wide variety of adventures in Colombia. In fact, you’ll read about a few of them here. One of our favorite Colombia adventures will always be rafting in Colombia. Below I’ll describe our day rafting Medellin and why we think Guanabana Tours is the way to go.

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Rafting Colombia Guanabana Tours PIN 2

Why Guanabana Tours?

rafting class Medellin

There are lots of Colombia rafting expeditions to choose from, so why did we choose Guanabana Tours? We worked a lot with Guanabana Tours on this Colombia trip, and I’m thrilled to say we made the right choice. Here are a few reasons you should choose them for rafting Colombia and many other Colombia adventures.

Safety: Rafting Colombia Safely

When it comes to paddling as a family, this isn’t our first rodeo. We’re not seasoned river rats, but we’ve paddled in Japan, Borneo, and Spain before this. So when the opportunity for some Colombia white water rafting came along, we jumped at the chance. That said, safety is essential to any Colombia adventure company we partner with, and Guanabana Tours exhibited this fully. All of our equipment was up to standard and fit appropriately. Guides were well trained. Helmets, lifejackets, rafts, and paddles were in good condition. The pre-rafting safety instruction was short but comprehensive.

Watching the Water

checking water levels

Most importantly, there were several judgment calls made that had our safety in mind. For example, the night before our trip, there was a freak storm in Medellin. Any good rafting company is constantly monitoring the weather. On the morning of our trip, they had to make some hard decisions. For example, our plan was to go canyoning with Guanabana Tours, as well. However, the waterfall we were to rappel down flooded enough that they had to cancel. Yes, it was a drag for us to miss out, but it felt good to know that they were more concerned about our safety than making a buck.

The river was swollen too. In fact, the river is usually the color of jasmine tea. Thanks to heavy rains the night before, runoff transformed it into a churning café latte. After more weather monitoring, they decided to let us have our Colombia rafting experience. More on that below.

Professionalism & Personalities: Guanabana Tours Staff

rafting colombia gopro collage-min

It takes a certain type of person to be a rafting guide. You must be strong, experienced and have an intuitive relationship with the water. But you also must be a people person, as there is a strong performative aspect to the job. After all, a white water rafting guide must lead groups of complete newbies down dangerous stretches of river. Then he/she must also keep these newbies entertained and at ease during stretches of flat water. You could be the most talented person to ever hold a paddle, but if you can’t tolerate squealing tourists and other punters like us? Then this is not the job for you. Conversely, the best river guides are both skilled at navigating rivers and people. They know how to assure one person while making another laugh. They make you feel safe yet thrilled at the same time.

The guides and staff we dealt with had these traits. The brief training and safety instruction was taken seriously but remained entertaining. Once in the boat, our guide knew how to push my son and me harder while making our girl still feel like part of the team. During flat spots, he kept us engaged. For example, he told us about the flora and fauna of the area. Later, he answered our questions about Colombia, Venezuela, and how the Spanish language differs across the continent. He was funny, patient and entertaining — all while remaining in complete control of the raft.

Rafting Medellin: Our Rafting Colombia Adventure

lunch in Cocorna

Our day rafting Colombia started with a driver from Guanabana Tours picking us up at our Medellin accommodation. In a culture where being late is the norm, we were very happy to see him waiting for us five minutes before the pickup time. After a brief itinerary review, we were off to Cocorná, a fertile valley around 2 hours from downtown Medellin.

Close to the river, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant overlooking a misty valley. There we watched paragliders soar through the clouds below as we ate a typical Colombian lunch. There were rice, plantains, our choice of meat, salad and an arepa, which is a bread made from corn. (I fell in love with arepas on this trip but that’s a story for another time). All washed down with guandolo, a drink made from sugarcane.

Our Rafting Colombia Adventures Begin

rafting near Medellin after rain

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Then it was on to the Calderas river. We met the guides and then drove down a bumpy road to the riverbank where we’d set off. As mentioned earlier, a huge storm the night before had raised the river level considerably and turned from emerald to beige. In fact, we discovered that the river was nine feet higher than normal. Nine feet! This can make things safer or more dangerous. Sometimes both but at different places. For instance, certain rapids may disappear under the deluge of water, while new rapids may form elsewhere. Regardless, the speed of the river picks up considerably after huge rains.

In the end, Guanabana Tours decided to let us go, and we’re so glad they did! We had one guide in the boat, with two additional people in kayaks along for the ride. The river was churning and boiling at various points, then calm for brief moments here and there. This stretch of river is usually class 3 and 4, which is pretty big. Certainly, the biggest rapids that our girl had ever done. It was a roller coaster ride, to be sure, and the girl did great.

Riding the Rapids

The Butchery Rapid after rain

moving the raft past a rapid

Rapids has names like Ghost Rider, Las Torres, and Austin Powers. One of the biggest of all has a formidable name: La Carnicería, or the butcher shop. Because of the water levels and speed of the river, our guide decided to pull ashore for a moment and see the rapid from a distance before we hurtled toward it. It was the right decision. The swollen river changed the dynamics of the rapid, so our guide decided to circumvent it. He and the kayakers carried the raft from one side of the rapid to the other. We merely watched. I asked if they needed help but they politely declined.

snack after rafting colombia

On the other side of the rapid, there were three more waiting for us — each bigger and wetter than the last. The entire experience required focus and working as a team, so by the end, the kids were immensely proud. I was too. Once we pulled out of the water there was drinking water, sports drinks, and fresh-cut pineapple waiting. Then we changed into dry clothes for the drive back to Medellin. I think all four of us were sound asleep 20 minutes down the road. Rafting Colombia is a workout!

Verdict: Rafting in Colombia with Guanabana Tours

rafting colombia adventures

Do we recommend rafting in Colombia? Yes. Do we recommend doing Colombia adventures like this with Guanabana Tours? Absolutely. This was our first of three cool Colombia adventure tours with them and we loved all three.

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Rafting Colombia Guanabana Tours PIN 3

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Disclaimer: Our rafting trip was sponsored by Guanabana Tours but we really did have a great time. Also, this rafting Colombia travel blog post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something or book a hotel using one of the links here, we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places, activities, and gear that I believe will genuinely help you get most out of rafting in Colombia. If you have any tips for Colombia rafting expeditions or other Colombia adventures, please let us know! 

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