Can you think of anything more fun than floating down a crystal-clear river, a drink in your hand, on a hot summer’s day? Nope? Didn’t think so. River tubing is one of the most fun things to do in Texas, and the town that takes the crown for tubing in Texas has to be New Braunfels. It has not one but TWO rivers to relax on. Read on for a guide to everything you need to know about tubing in New Braunfels.
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Where to go tubing in New Braunfels
There are many places to go river tubing in Texas, but we chose New Braunfels because, as I mentioned earlier, it has TWO rivers! It’s also a lovely little town with plenty of other things to do when you’re not having fun in the water.
New Braunfels is a town of 74,000 people located in the gorgeous Texas Hill Country. It’s about 4 hours’ drive from Dallas and only 50 minutes from Austin.
There are two rivers in New Braunfels: the Comal and the Guadalupe. Both are spring-fed, so they are deliciously cool on a hot summer day. You can float on tubes down either river.
The Comal River winds through New Braunfels and around Schlitterbahn waterpark. Locals bill it as the “longest shortest river in the world” because it’s the shortest river in the country. It’s only 4 kilometres long and floating down here will take you 2-3 hours. The best part about Comal River tubing is the fun chutes that divert around the dams – they’re like mini waterslides! The Comal River is super easy to get to, and there are a couple of bars and restaurants on the river bank that you can stop at along the way.
The Guadalupe River is known as the party river – here you’ll find college students and people looking for a good time. Trip lengths vary from 2 hours to 5-6 hours for the longest route. There are some rapids along the river to keep the excitement levels up.
For our trip, we chose to float the Comal River – mainly because the chutes looked so fun. Also, at the time we visited, it hadn’t rained in a while, so the Guadalupe River was apparently quite low.
Whichever river you choose, you’re going to have a great time.
One thing to note is that it can get very crowded – as you can see from my photos. Floating during the week is far quieter, as is floating at the start and end of the season.
Choosing a company for floating the river in New Braunfels
You can either go with a tubing company or float the river by yourself. Unless you’re a resident or you’ve been floating the river in New Braunfels for years, I’d recommend finding an outfitter to organise everything for you. It makes the trip so much easier and means you won’t have to bring a whole lot of stuff with you.
Tubing companies will provide tube rentals and shuttle you to and from the access points. Some hire out coolers and other essential equipment. You’ll pay $15 to $20 per person so it’s also a pretty cheap day out. I’d recommend hiring river floats with a bottom for a bit more comfort.
Reserve ahead if you can, to save time and to make sure you do actually get a tube during the busy weekends. Most of the tubes were gone by the time we arrived to pick up our tubes from the company we’d booked with.
Pick your company carefully. We had a sort-of bad Comal River tubing experience with a disorganised company with staff that weren’t very helpful, even though we’d booked ahead online. Read the online reviews carefully.
Some of the recommended tubing companies in New Braunfels include (I haven’t listed the company we used here):
These are just a few of the companies in operation. River outfitters organise trips on both rivers or they’re experts on either the Comal or Guadalupe River, so check this out as well when you’re making your choice.
If you want to go it alone, you’ll need to do a lot more planning: buy a tube, figure out parking, know where to find the river access points and then get back to your car when you’re done floating. In my opinion, it was far easier to have someone do all the organising for us.
New Braunfels river float: Rules of the river
Your New Braunfels river tubing experience will be so much more fun if you follow a few rules. The rules change regularly, so make sure to do you research beforehand. This is a good site to stay up to date. The company we used did not have the latest information on its website, so we broke a few rules (ahem, don’t tell!) about the containers we brought with us.
Yes, you can drink alcohol on the river (woo hoo!) but you cannot bring your food and drinks in disposable containers. Everything must be packed in non-disposable containers.
- Hydration packs
- Reusable jugs
- Sports bottles, insulated bottles and cups
What’s not allowed:
- Anything that’s made from a disposable material. Think plastic, glass or Styrofoam – that includes foam coolers
You can bring one cooler per person on the New Braunfels river float and it needs to have a locking mechanism.
Bring your music, but it can’t blast sound beyond 50 feet.
Your tube can’t be bigger than five feet in length or width (so unfortunately something like this is out of the question!).
Most importantly: DON’T LITTER and take your rubbish out with you. If everybody did this, there wouldn’t be a need for so many rules!
Finally, there are no lifeguards along the way, so stay safe and keep an eye on your friends, especially if y’all are drinking. Pack life jackets for weak swimmers and kids.
If the water is flowing at more than 1000cfs, tubing isn’t allowed, so check first with your tubing company.
What to pack for floating the river in New Braunfels
Alright, so now you know the river rules. What do you need to take with you when tubing in New Braunfels?
Bathing suit – obviously! For the ladies, I’m loving these affordable Cupshe bikinis and bathers
Sunscreen – there are some shady parts but for most of the time you’re going to be out in the open, so take plenty of sunscreen
Hat and sunglasses – it’s bright out there!
Cooler – bring a floating cooler like this one filled with ice to keep your drinks cool. Remember, no Styrofoam coolers
Insulated cup – when tubing in Texas, it gets hot! We found that our ice melted pretty quickly, so you might want to mix up some drinks and sip them out of this insulated cup or a hydration pack (yep, they’re not just useful for hiking). If you’ve got a group, consider something a little larger like this
Drinks – beer, wine and liquor is all allowed on the river. Take plenty of water, too – stay hydrated people!
Waterproof phone case – this was the best thing I packed! You’ll have plenty of fun taking photos and sharing Instagram Stories from your river float, just make sure you keep your phone dry with this waterproof case. It comes in a pack of three
Dry sac – this bag was a great item for us as we could keep our sundresses, sunscreen, car keys and a small amount of cash dry
Shoes – I wore flip flops and was constantly worried about them slipping off, so I’d suggest packing river sandals with straps. There are times when you may need to get out of your tube and walk over the rocky bottom of the river. Nothing expensive though, you’ll probably end up losing them!
Cash – take a small amount of cash or a credit card if you want to pull up to one of the bars alongside the river (again, make sure you put it in a waterproof bag)
Rope – this is one thing I wish I’d known about beforehand! Bring some thin rope so you can tie your group together, tie your cooler to your tube or your shoes to your tube. It’s easy to get separated from your gang, especially after going down the chutes
What else is there to do in New Braunfels?
When you’re not out having fun on the river, what is there to do in New Braunfels? I wrote a post about the best things to do in New Braunfels, and below are some highlights.
- Check out a show at Gruene Hall, the oldest music hall in Texas
- Wander historic Gruene. Visit Gruene General Store and buy some fudge or souvenirs and browse through the antique stores
- Sip local Texas wines at the Grapevine. There’s live music every Friday night
- Visit the New Braunfels Farmers Market, held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Enjoy more water activities at Schlitterbahn, spread out over a whopping 70 acres
Where to stay in New Braunfels
We booked Chardonnay Cottage, the smallest of the three, and it was perfect for our stay. The two bedrooms had their own bathrooms (one with a huge bathtub). The kitchen and lounge room were small but cosy and had everything we needed for the weekend. There’s a decent-sized private garden with a fountain.
I hope this guide to tubing in New Braunfels was helpful for planning your next Texas summer adventure!
Have you ever been tubing in New Braunfels? Let me know in the comments below.
This post was published in September 2018, and was updated in May 2020.