In the world of sports, kayaking is uniquely wonderful in its own way. You can do it alone or as part of a group, always outdoors (usually right in the middle of some picturesque scenery), and (thanks to the wide spectrum of skill levels and styles) it can be as challenging or effortless as you want, as well as distinct for every person who paddles. Oh, and you can pretty much kayak anywhere around the globe…as long as there’s a place to rent the equipment (or you’re willing to bring your own kayak).
And if there’s one region worth a kayaking vacation, it’s Latin America. A vast hub of kayaking spots and routes, with options that can satisfy every level of kayaker including beginners, the experienced, and those who just want to paddle by some awesome landmarks.
Here’s just a very small fraction of all the great places in Latin America to head to and hit the water:
The Apurímac River, Peru
The Apurímac River is nestled in the middle of Peru’s Cusco region and acts as a source to Amazon River and flows for almost 500 miles until it becomes the Ene River. Kayakers are welcome to join in the fun at various spots along the Apurímac which can require various levels of experience and ability. For those who are looking for a more relaxed experience, near Cusco, the kayaking remains around Class I and II, and visitors even have the opportunity to visit thermal baths in Konoc (just west of Cusco). If you’re looking for a more intense experience, the frothy, unforgiving part of the Apurímac right before it empties into the Amazon is the Acombamba Abyss. The water has crazy vertical drops, huge boulders, and tons of jungle vegetation. Similar to Grand Canyon level rapids, the Abyss is definitely not for the faint of heart.
The Futaleufú River, Chile
A hotspot for global kayakers, the Futaleufú River — or Fu as some of the locals call it — is a great place to intimately get to know the Latin American kayaking scene. The river runs through Chile’s Patagonia region and is known for being for more experienced kayakers. The icy waters are Class IV and V and great for those hungry for whitewater experiences. If adrenaline-rushes and legendary experiences are your thing, then the Fu is a place to check out. With lush riverbanks and wonderful opportunities to relax and meditate, the Fu goes beyond just kayaking — it is an opportunity to connect with nature and other similar explorers and adventurers.
With lush riverbanks and wonderful opportunities to relax and meditate, the Fu goes beyond just kayaking — it is an opportunity to connect with nature and other similar explorers and adventurers.
Sea Kayaking, Patagonia
Patagonia is known for being the go-to place for lovers of everything outdoors. But its proximity to the southern Pacific Ocean opens adventures that a lot of kayakers fail to tap into. The water route that spreads across the Andes opens up to an active and recently exploded volcano on the coast of Vulcan Chaiten. Paddling in open seas can be physically exhausting but ultimately it ends up being an incredibly rewarding experience. The weather in the area can also be daunting, but being able to kayak amongst glaciers and islands of ice is like nothing else in the world.
Sea of Cortez, Mexico
The Sea of Cortez is great for those who are just getting their feet wet with kayaking. The waters are crystal clear, calm, warm and filled with amazing wildlife. The area is famous for its impressive whale watching opportunities, and the Loreto Bay National Marine Park is actually a blue whale sanctuary. The park itself is made up of 5 islands off the coast of Loreto and kayakers will most definitely be able to catch a glimpse of a whale, dolphin or even sea lion. Watching how effortlessly these creatures cut through the water is surreal. Kayakers also have plenty of opportunities to hope off their boats and take some time to snorkel through the water and check out the diverse marine life. For a family and animal-friend kayak tour, the Sea of Cortez is the place to go.
Lake Titicaca, Peru
One of the largest lakes in South America, Lake Titicaca is located at the border of Peru and Bolivia. Visitors can check out the Uros Floating Islands which are amazing man-made islands made of intertwined reeds which feel like walking on a giant sponge. Adventurers are more than welcome to eat and drink a lot of the native dishes. After a visit to the floating reeds, kayakers tend to visit many of the cities that dot the shoreline. The deep waters and lush foliage are exciting and while the kayaking is more like ocean-kayaking than the adrenaline-pumping rush of white waters, the cultural experience on Lake Titicaca is truly one of a kind.
Lake Nicaragua, Nicaragua
Perhaps one of the best reasons to visit Lake Nicaragua is to spend some time in Granada. Las Isletas are a chain of islands that are like nothing else in the world that are found right off the coast. The islands were formed by a volcanic eruption that occurred thousands of years ago. Kayaking through the islets feels like cutting through a floating jungle. Many of the islands are bought and inhabited by very wealthy foreigners and kayak tours throughout this interesting archipelago is like a watery and natural version of Beverly Hills.
Many of the islands are bought and inhabited by very wealthy foreigners and kayak tours throughout this interesting archipelago is like a watery and natural version of Beverly Hills.
The Pacuare, Costa Rica
If lazily floating down turquoise waters isn’t what you’re looking for in your kayaking adventure, then taking time to visit the Pacuare River is in order. The river crashes and turns and reveals vertical drops and waterfalls that can be the highlight of any trip. A variety of different companies offer tours of the Pacuare, with expertise that can match your level of experience. Also, because the surrounding areas are so diverse, the tours can feature animal-themed explorations where guides bring you down rivers and point out jaguars, toucans, and monkeys. But if straight ride and drive is your thing, the river is also home to Class III and Class IV rapids that pull visitors through the Rio Pacuare gorge. If wild bumps and rides in the middle of a tropical forest is your thing, then the Pacuare is the place to go.
Damas Islands, Costa Rica
In contrast to the adrenaline-pumping exciting kayaking of the Pacuare, the Damas Islands is a lazy, calm kayak trip through mangroves. The Damas Islands are known for their amazing wildlife, and because the waters are so calm, trips can be taken at night to see animals that are only active after-hours. The estuaries are lined with mangroves which are home to black-tipped sharks, playful monkeys (that will even come and say hello to visitors on their boats) and sloths that seem to smile as the boats pass.
Nohoch Che’en Park, Belize
Also known as Caves Branch, Nohoch Che’en is a network of limestone caves that visitors can dip and dodge into using their kayaks. For the independent minded, the areas are open for kayaking, but going with a tour will offer visitors the chance to learn about how these caves were integrated into Mayan culture. The limestone caves feel extraterrestrial, with white bubbles and crystals coating the walls and ceilings of the tunnels.
Many tours offer visitors the opportunity to live in the jungle and spend time creating their own shelters, studying plants, and kayaking through the park to get a better understanding about how the Mayans survived in these areas.
Caves Branch is the best place to connect with the rich past of the Mayans and feel like a true adventurer.
Paraná Delta, Argentina
Most kayaking adventures in the Paraná Delta begin in Tigre, the small city about an hour from Buenos Aires. The Tigre Delta, in particular, is famous for its boating scene, and visitors traveling down the delta are privy to seeing into the lives of the open homes that dot the delta. The Paraná Delta itself is composed of 300 kms of waterways that make up a network across most of central Argentina. After a day of kayaking around the Tigre Delta, the best thing to do is eat. Here asado, the regional barbecue, runs as freely as water and most homes double as mini-restaurants from foreign and local tourists. Tigre is known for being a hotspot for weary Buenos Aires locals or porteños to come and relax. Most of the homes and restaurants in this area are one with nature, and a lot of things are only accessible by boat. The Paraná Delta is rough jungle living, a daily kayak adventure, and a romantic getaway that welcomes foreigners and natives alike.
Did we miss your favorite Latin kayaking place? Do you have an amazing memory kayaking at one of these locations? Let us know what it is in the comments below!