With the Andes running the entire length of South America, the continent isn’t short of rafting and kayaking destinations. Here I’ll pick a few of the best locations out.
In Ecuador, there’s dozens of whitewater rafting tour operators and options throughout the country. Quito is a simple base from which rafting tours can be organised, or alternatively head to Banos (which also has hot springs) or Tena (one the the gateways to Ecuador’s Amazon region. Those wanting a real adventure would prefer to go balsa rafting - a type of raft that made of wood rather than plastic. The Piedra Blanca Community Ecotourism Project organises such rafting trips in the rivers near San Luis de Pambil - you even build your own raft.
Colombia’s adventure sports and whitewater rafting capital is at San Gil, plus there are some options in San Agustin (which also has amazing nearby ancient stone statues). There’s balsa rafting possible in Quindio province of the Coffee Country region.
Peru also has it’s share of whitewater rafting destinations, one of which in Cuzco, a perfect base for exploring the rivers of the Rio Urubamba. Slightly further afield is the amazing Rio Apurimac, where one can raft class 3 to 5 rapids through gorges into the Amazon basin. Alternatively, head to the rainforest around Puerto Maldonado are raft the Rio Tambopata or to Arequipa where rafting is possible in the Colca Canyon.
Chile is certainly a whitewater rafting Mecca and expeditions are generally very well organised. Rio Petrohue runs through rainforest near Puerto Varas in Chile’s Lake District and is one of the most scenic whitewater rafting tours. There’s also various grade 3 rivers near Pucon, but avid rafters will seek the grade 5 rivers Futaleufu, near Chaiten in the Palena province of Chile’s Patagonia.
In Argentina, the South of the Mendoza wine growing region has some good options such as the Canon de Atuel near San Rafael as well as the area of Malargue. There’s also lots of possibilites in the Lake District region in National Parks such as Lanin and Nahuel Huapi.
All these rivers and places mentioned also offer great river kayaking. In addition, sea kayaking is an alternative.
Various tour operators in Mexico can offer 3 or 4 night kayaking tours around Baja California. You’ll be camping as part of a group tour, and chilling out on some amazing, deserted beaches - highly recommended. Hope for a decent tour group!