Ummm…This is NOT a Class 1 Rapid! (Rafting in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic)

Ummm…This is NOT a Class 1 Rapid! (Rafting in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic)

When traveling, a mild dose of adventure is right up my alley. You won’t ever catch me jumping out of an airplane, diving with sharks, or hang-gliding. I’m really not one to risk life or limb for the sake of a thrill. Nope, a day spent kayaking, a surf lesson, or ATV’ing is about as adventurous as I’ll get. So when we visited the Dominican Republic a few years ago, I thought that river rafting would be the perfect fix for my slight adventure craving. Plus, it would give us the chance to visit Jarabacoa, a mountainous region in the Central Range of the Dominican Republic whose rainforest-like climate has earned it the title of “The City of Everlasting Spring”. Strawberries, coffee, pimento, aji pepper, and flowers abound in this region which is about a two-hour drive from Puerto Plata.

We were picked up from a location near our Cabarete townhouse rental, and off we went to Rancho Baiguate to spend the day rafting on Yaque del Norte River, the Caribbean’s longest. Prior to booking this excursion, I clearly explained to the booking agent that my travel mates and I were river rafting virgins, and that we definitely didn’t want a strenuous (or deadly) rafting experience. While I was at first considering booking a tubing adventure instead, the agent explained that we’d probably be bored and that if we wanted a bit of adventure (keywords: “a bit”), then we should try rafting.

We were up for the challenge, but under one condition – the rapids had to be Class 1, which I thought meant that we wouldn’t encounter any rough patches of water.  But soon enough, we learned that Class 1 actually means that you will encounter some rough waters, but you only need very basic skills to maneuver them.

After a brief training session on how to hold our oars and an explanation of the meanings of our guide’s commands, off we paddled down the river.

One of our rafting guides
Another rafting guide
Trying to pay attention to our brief rafting lesson

Soon enough, we went down our first slope which drenched us, and my stomach dropped as if I was on a roller coaster. After the first drop, the other slopes kept getting steeper and steeper. As our guide briefly anchored our raft to a rock while we waited for other rafts in our caravan to catch up to us, we noticed that the raft behind us looked like it was going to tip over as it made its way down a slope.

A few slopes later, we encountered the steepest slope of our rafting experience. As he braced himself for the drop, my cousin Travis who was seated in front of me, bucked backwards with his helmet slamming into my mouth at full force. As blood seeped into my mouth, I ran my tongue across my teeth to see if any were missing. Before I could scream at Travis (who was completely oblivious) for busting my lip, I felt our raft start to go down yet another decline and Jave suddenly shouted, “Jesus!”

“Someone grab Aaron,” I shouted, as my brother, who was sitting in the front of the raft, started to tip out of it. Fortunately, Travis was sitting behind Aaron and was able to grab him by his life jacket just before Aaron plopped out of the raft which was inches away from slamming against a rock. Close call!

The expressions on our faces say it all!

With Aaron safely in the raft and with the river starting to calm, I looked toward our guide who was navigating from the back of the raft. As I revealed the inside of my busted bottom lip to him I said, “Look at my lip! Are you sure this is a Class 1 rapid?”

After our guide assured me that we had, in fact, just survived a Class 1 rapid, we wandered amongst ourselves, Well what in the world is a Class 5 like?!

*All photos provided courtesy of Passporters – LIVE, Don’t Merely Exist.



Have you ever been river rafting? What rapid grade have you braved?


  • Sechat

    Hi Dana, planning our 3rd trip DR, and looking for something new to do. Ee have stayed on the Samana peninsula and enjoyed it. I agree with Arianwen, you can have a great time on class III, and you can fall out of the raft in class I when someone else is frightened and makes the wrong move. I’m pretty sure that was NOT class I. Peace, sechat

    • Dana Carmel

      Hi Sechat! I’d LOVE to go back to the DR soon. We didn’t make it to Samana when we were there, but from pictures, it looks gorgeous! I wouldn’t mind giving river rafting another shot…maybe this time around I can find a mellow class I. Hope you have a great trip to the DR!

  • I’ve rafted in class 5 water before in New Zealand. The river had a seven metre waterfall. Thankfully, we stayed upright. Great fun!

    • Dana Carmel

      A 7 meter waterfall?! Geez! I guess my water rafting experience was child’s play after all! 😉

  • I’m glad you at least got a good story out of it. I’ve rafted class 3 and 4 and I remember them having pretty scary moments. I don’t think I’m ready for a class 5 either *shiver*

    • Dana Carmel

      I know that I’m going to have to work my way up to a Class III and IV. The thought of those grades gives me shivers. Brrrr….!

  • I rafted Class III and Class IV rapids earlier this summer – and must say I always get a little bit of stomach churn happening before the really big ones. Your photos suggest that it’s more than a Class I rapid – but fun in hindsight – right??

    • Dana Carmel

      Yes – it was definitely fun in hindsight!

  • Rafting can get crazy! I did class 5 in Zimbabwe, Victoria falls and nearly died!! I had booked for a full day, but ended up leaving after the lunch break! Too intense!! I won’t be rafting again, what about you? 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Rafting in Victoria Falls sounds like an opportunity of a lifetime. Thankfully you lived to tell your story! I’d be game for a Class 2-3 but nothing more!

  • Wow, if that was their Class 1, what would Class 5 have been like? Looks like you all had a lot of fun, though. Mike and the others are right, you should do Class 5 and see how much more fun it can be!

    • Dana Carmel

      I’m actually really curious now about what a Class V would be like. But I think I’ll play it safe and just watch other people’s experiences on YouTube. 🙂

  • That looks like lots of fun! Thank you for partying with us 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks for hosting!

  • I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to do any rafting and now I know I was right. It looks like you had fun, though. Thanks for hosting!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks for linking up, Jennie! I will be tweeting your post periodically. 😉

  • Pingback: Travel Diary: A Travel Trip Through Memory Lane - Got My Reservations()

  • Those rocks look like they can really hurt you. I think I would rather swim with the sharks again.

    • Dana Carmel

      Yikes – that sounds even scarier!

  • OMG, that reminded me of my first rafting encounter in Brazil a few years ago. The area was completely new to rafting and we were one of the first people to try it out (not that they told us this beforehand!). It was quite a pleasant rafting trip for the majority of time, but at some stage our guide said something in Portuguese (he couldn’t speak English). None of us understand what he wanted from us and then a girl in our group said that she thinks he said something about a waterfall. We were all freaking out, but it turned out he was just trying to tell us that it is going to get a bit rough now, which it did. Luckily nobody fell out and there was no waterfall either! Phew!

    • Dana Carmel

      I couldn’t even imagine rafting with a guide I couldn’t understand. That would be pretty scary – especially in rough waters. And especially if there are waterfalls involved. Yikes!

  • Jim

    Terrific captures.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Jim!

  • Wow! This looks a bit terrifying but I’m sure it was completely exhilarating. I can’t believe it was only a Class 1.

    Great post!

    • Dana Carmel

      Yes – it was quite a thrill! Thanks, Lauren!

  • I like adventure, although I hardly engage in such activities. This sounds like fun although it could get dangerous as well. Glad you all made it ok.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks – I rarely do these things either. But sometimes it’s fun to step out of your comfort zone.

  • Hahaha. I loved this post! I rafted down a 7-metre waterfall in New Zealand last month and somehow managed to stay in the raft, whereas, on a much gentler river in Costa Rica, I was thrown out into the rapids and had to be rescued. It just goes to show that sometimes the class of the rapids doesn’t determine how hairy your experience is!

    • Dana Carmel

      Very true. Wait a minute, you rafted down a waterfall?! I have to find that post on your blog!

  • Well, if this Class I, Class 5 must be for daredevils.
    So sorry about your lip. I bet you were relieved when it was over and that you weren’t more seriously injured.

    • Dana Carmel

      Definitely relieved but also so glad that I had the experience. Thanks for linking up!

  • You had quite the adventure! I wouldn’t want to see a class 5 either.

    • Dana Carmel

      Now I’m hearing how people have experienced Class IV and V rapids and I’m kind of feeling like a big chicken. Lol!

  • Oh you poor thing, so sorry about the lip! That had to hurt, ouch! I love white water rafting and go when I can. I’ve tried Class II without too much trouble even being a newbie at it. I’m with you on the adventure thing, I’ll do some kayaking, caving, and such, but no airplane jumping for me either haha. Not sure if yours was higher then a class I or not. The last time my family was rafting out in Durango, Colorado my mom actually did fall out of the raft. We had to chase her down the rapids as she floated and tried to avoid running into rocks. It was a bit scary. She was ok, just banged up a bit. I think I actually have some pics of it happening to her on my blog somewhere. Its funny though because my post today was about how my family and I signed up for a cave tour, without realizing that it was considered a “strenuous” tour and it surprised us as well! We had fun though. Glad to join you today on Wanderlust Wednesday!

    • Dana Carmel

      Oh wow – what a scary story about your mom. I’d be totally freaking out if I witnessed my mom being swept down a rapid! I’m glad your mom was ok and that you can look back and laugh about it now. Reminds me of a funny story of my dad’s near drowning in his swimming pool. Totally wasn’t funny at the time, but in retrospect, it gives me a good chuckle. Thanks for linking up for Wanderlust Wednesday!!

  • I gawd. Poor you! Sounds like it was a wild ride. I’ve done some class III, but they weren’t as terrifying as what you did. I think mebbe they lied to you and it was Class IV or V. 🙂 Are you gonna go again?

    • Dana Carmel

      In spite of everything, I’m very curious to try a Class II or III now.

  • Ouch on Travis’ helmet hitting you in the face! Maybe it numbed your senses for a minute to get you through your anxiety ha ha! I’m glad all of you were safe though. Rafting is sooooo much fun and yes, you should look up what a Class 5 rapid is, Dana. You will find it humbling! 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      I’m sure it would be humbling, Mike. But knowing me, I will never risk life or limb to do it. Perhaps a Class III? 😉


This site is protected by

Complete this form to join Time Card Express for FREE!
Enter your info below to join and get access to exclusive discounts on local tours and at boutique hotels and restaurants around the world!
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe.
By joining, I agree to the Membership Agreement and Privacy Policy and confirm that I'm 18 years or older.