December 11, 2020

What Is Waterfall Rappelling [Complete Guide]

When you rappel, you don’t just get down from a climb. This unique activity can also take you to exciting places globally and sometimes where no one has ever gone.

You want to know what waterfall rappelling is. In this activity, you are lowered near or through a waterfall while rappelling. The most exciting part of this unique rappel is that you can feel the rushing water right there.

Such rappelling activities can be easily seen in places like Hawaii or Costa Rica. It is almost essential for a canyoneering trip.

In this type of rappel, you lower yourself through the flowing water of fall. It may both be deliberate or unintentional. At times, you may try waterfall rappelling to experience it in a different surroundings.

At other times, it could be part of other activities like canyoneering. People like this unique activity to experience the additional force of rushing water. It is an exciting experience to feel the intensity of water pounding around you while you rappel.

This article talks about the scenarios where you may need to use the waterfall rappelling technique and prepare for it.

A Guide on Waterfall Rappelling

You know by now what it means to rappel in or around waterfalls. But you can argue about what is the point of even trying it.

In usual rappelling, we descend as a part of other activities, e.g., rappelling is an extension of caving or climbing. But, waterfall rappel is an activity in itself. Such activity can take an entire day and can create life-long memories.

First of all, waterfall rappelling is much more than usual rappelling. Mostly, you will be required to hike through some unusual terrains. For instance, you can appreciate nature at its best in the rain forests of Costa Rica on the way.

Along the way, you might get several opportunities to climb, socialize, and scramble. You will see the terrain from different viewpoints: from the bottom or the top of it. You will also get to set up rappel in a safe way.

What Is Waterfall Rappelling

Besides, you can combine waterfall rappel with other activities, such as cave rappelling, to get adventurous. While canyoneering, you may get the opportunity to experience waterfall rappelling several times. 

For your information, canyoneering involves weaving your way across the canyon’s length, crossing rivers, and lowering from cliffs to reach the bottom. At this point, you may ask me about the best places to do waterfall rappelling. As for me, Costa Rica is the most popular place for water rappelling.

It seems that this place is built for this purpose. Intense tourist scenes, pleasant forests, and warm water make it an exotic gateway. Besides, the Philippines and Hawaii are equally great.

After all, you will not need an exotic gateway to start a waterfall rappel. If you have got the proper gear, excellent anchors, and of course, a waterfall, you are good to go. If you want to learn how to take care of your hand calluses, I’ve gathered my best tips in a blog post on hand calluses removal.

Difference Between Waterfall Rappels and Normal Rappels

We know that waterfall rappel is a type of rappelling. Hence most of your usual rappelling skills will also be used for waterfall rappelling. However, a waterfall rappel brings with it quite a few unique challenges. Before attempting it, you got to be aware of them.

The first challenge is water itself. However, it is quite evident that you will get wet during the waterfall rappelling. Wet is an understatement; you will be drenched to the extreme. Getting thoroughly wet is part of the fun, but it brings with it the following challenges.

1) Cold

Based on the environment, If you are drenched head to toe, it can pose serious health risks. It will not be an issue in the Caribbean waterfalls.

However, if you plan to do this activity in Jasper, Albert, the water will be just above the freezing point. In such a scenario, you will need proper clothing.

2) Terrain

Water makes the terrain challenging to navigate. In some cases, if you are lowered mid-air, it is not much of a problem.

But in other cases, you may be stepping on walls that are bound to be slippery and slimy. You will need suitable footwear with excellent traction. They will prevent you from falling.

What Is Waterfall Rappelling [Complete Guide]

3) Rope Control

It is generally tricky to hold on to wet ropes. Both the string and the palm of your brake hand will be soaked with water. Furthermore, freezing water can add to numbness. All this can slow down your drop.

You can use either a static rope or a dynamic one in dry conditions based on availability. However, for the waterfall rappel, you will have to use the static string. The elastic fibers of dynamic ropes can soak up water. The cord will become heavier and might get damaged.

It can lose almost 70% of its dynamic catching power when it is wet. Since you are making static movements, it is not much of a concern. But the rope life will get reduced as a long-term effect. Hence, we always recommend using the static rope for waterfall rappelling.

4) Specific Belay Device

Besides, you will need particular belay devices to help you in the drop. Usual belay devices like Black Diamond ATC can also work. However, using canyoneering belay equipment can provide specific advantages in waterfall rappelling.

Firstly, you will have a better grip to resolve the issue of wet hands. Secondly, you can usually adjust the friction levels. Such devices can be handy while crossing over the cliff ledge.

Things to Bring for Waterfall Rappelling

Like other activities, you will need appropriate gear for waterfall rappelling. I have already touched upon this topic above.

Let us get into a little more detail to decide about the things you need to bring for the waterfall rappelling activity.

Guide to Waterfall Rappelling

1) Clothing

You will need clothing according to the place of rappelling. If you are visiting Australia, you may wear t-shirts and shorts. However, in a cold place, you need to invest in a proper wetsuit. It will help to keep you warm.

Please ensure to keep your clothing comfortable. Also, it is better if the material is a quick-dry type because, in any case, you are going to get wet.

2) Footwear

Proper footwear enables an excellent grip to increase your safety. Ensure to have ideal rubber soles irrespective of the terrain.

You will be able to have better traction on rocky surfaces.

3) Gear

I have already covered two essential points above. Firstly, use static rope in place of dynamic ropes. Secondly, it is worth choosing a belay device designed for canyoneering environments to help you quickly go down.

It is not an all-inclusive list at all. The idea of telling these things was to provide you with a few necessary insights. You will be in a better position to choose what to bring for waterfall rappelling.

There is an excellent aspect of many tour companies which offer trips to experience waterfall rappelling. These companies provide you with a list of gears that you need to bring. Besides, they also explain how to use those gears.

Finally, you can now imagine that waterfall rappel lets you get closer to nature to experience it differently. If it is done correctly, you will never forget such an exciting experience.

Related Questions

1) Which are the best places for waterfall rappelling?

Most people would prefer to go to warm and exotic places. You will enjoy the tour and make excellent memories.

The areas that best fit this scenario are locations like Costa Rice, India, and Maui. 

They make for the best waterfall rappelling destination because they are warm as well as exotic.

2) What Is Canyoneering?

It involves movements along the canyon’s top to the bottom. Along the way, you will experience activities like hiking, scrambling, swimming, and waterfall rappelling.

Canyoneering is fast gaining popularity and offers an entire day full of unforgettable memories.

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About the author 


Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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