5 Reasons to Never Kayak Chile

As the leaders of NOC Paddlesports and Pucon Kayak Hostel we are avid promoters of kayaking Chile’s rivers. Funny enough we more often than not hear a series of objections why to not kayak Chile. We’ve decided to address the most popular objections to never kayak Chile.

#5 – “Why go to Chile to paddle with other Americans?”

Kayakers from Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, US, Chile, and Slovenia merged into one kayak trip and hot spring pool. PKH attracts kayakers from around the globe.

Hahaha… Tip – You might want to refer to yourself as a North American when in Central or South America.

“It’s common to see 8 different countries represented having dinner together around the fire after a day on the river.” – Pro Kayaker Clay Wright observing dinner at PKH

Pucon Kayak Hostel attracts kayakers from around the globe including Japan, Russia, Germany, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Austria, Spain, France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the list goes on. It’s a whitewater hub of excitement, logistics coordinating, story swapping, booty beer chugging, and international kayaker games and bonding. And yes, kayakers from the US come too.

 #4- “I’m not good enough to kayak Chile’s rivers.”

Rio Liucura has a beginner section, a class III development section, and a world class play wave great for mastering loops or your combat roll.

Most kayakers realize Chile’s rivers and turquoise waterfalls attract pro kayakers like flies to a porch light. But beginner and intermediate kayakers may not know that Chile’s Lakes and Rivers District is congested with rivers full of excellent development features flowing from the Andean and volcanic peaks to the Pacific. We would even go far as to say that the rivers reliably guarantee year round flows  and Pucon has the world’s best development rivers for beginners and intermediates. Heck. If it’s too cold we’ll just go do a roll session in the hot springs.

“We chose Chile over destinations like Ecuador and Costa Rica because of the number of remarkable development rivers. Our (NOC) kayakers are middle aged seeking great instruction on safe beautiful rivers. Chile has it all.” – Tosh Arwood, NOC Kayak Program Director

#3- “Chile cost more than Ecuador or Costa Rica.”

Yes. Chile logistics of getting to the waterfalls and road trips can be expensive. PKH offers economical solutions.

“If it weren’t for Pucon Kayak Hostel’s economical options I don’t think our program would be able to do Chile.” – Capo Rettig, Director World Class Academy  

What if we get creative and give kayakers options that make Chile affordable? Here are a few options that make Chile trips affordable.

  • Regular trip guests can opt for a DISCOUNTED Trip Extension at 40% DISCOUNT.
  • Refer a friend and group organizer discounts make it so cheap that we’ve seen organizers earn a free trip.
  • Choose the camping option and save even more on any of our trips. Campers get all the trip benefits of 3 meals/day, daily kayak instruction, select kayak usage, transport to world’s best rivers, and access to the ambiance and community of PKH.
  • Email to discuss DISCOUNT options.

#2- “It’s not easy to find cheap Chile airfares.”

It’s true that Chile, for US kayakers, is twice the distance as destinations like Costa Rica and Ecuador. But we’ve learnt a few budget saving airfare tricks of interest. We’ve seen Chile tickets as low as $US700. Some budget saving tips:

  • Know the cheapest airports to get to Chile. US cheap ports include: Washington Dulles -Copa Airlines, JFK, Houston, Dallas, and Miami.  
  • Try Air Canada. Shocking. Flying through Air Canada can be cheaper than US routes.
  • BEST TIP – Try our recommended travel agent. After researching online for hours, being frustrated by the airlines bait and switching prices we reluctantly went to our travel agent. She first locked in lowest airfares giving her time to research even more.

“Mary Jo got my ticket for $300 less than I found and I didn’t have to do a thing. +PLUS, she knows kayaker travel needs. So, I’ve got a lifeline if I need to change ticket or anything happens.” Email – david@puconkayakhostel.com for travel agent referral.

#1- “We’re going to kayak Chile next year.”

You’ve worked hard. Everything is aligned for you to kayak Chile this year. Haven’t you earned it.

Really? Why does it take some kayakers 2 to 3 years, if ever, to make the mental leap? Why not advance your passion for kayaking, desire to become a better paddler, and attraction to explore beautiful rivers with great people? Come on… this is your invite with everything setup for your kayaking vacation. 

Could this be your new attitude? “I promised myself I’d become a better kayaker. I’m going to make Chile happen this January. Kayaking is my craft for exploration, adventure and meeting kayakers from around the world. I’m going to email my friends and rally…”

Is this the year to kayak Chile?

PKH offers several discount promotions for the 2017-2018 season. Email or call to learn more. David@puconkayakhostel.com or +1-828-788-5135. 

Most Popular Pucon Chile Whitewater Kayak Trips

Teacups +PLUS (III+ to IV+), $US1200 Camping/$US1500 Lodging, November – This waterfall road trip for advanced kayakers explores the world’s most iconic waterfall destination.Rio Claro’s Seven Teacups National Park has 70 +PLUS clean waterfalls in a 57,000,000 year old polished basalt canyon. Make that five canyons +PLUS one of other river valley. 

Pucon Classics (II to III) and (III to IV+), $US1950 Camping/$US2250 Lodging, January and February – This trip offers more rivers and private instruction. Kayakers really wanting to improve their skills and explore lots of rivers love this trip.

Week of Rivers Chile for Clubs (II to IV+), $US1950 Camping/$US2250 Lodging, January 13 to 23 – We took our most successful Pucon Classics model and tweaked it just for clubs and schools. Now, whitewater groups can bring every skill and receive members discounts. 

Road to Futa, (III to IV+), $US1950 Camping/$US2250 Lodging, Feb 21 – Mar 1 – Maybe our guides favorite trip is to drive the Patagon roads to the world famous Futa Valley. Based right in the middle of the Bridge to Bridge section our daily tasks are to eat, drink, kayak, play games, sleep, repeat. We have 50 +PLUS miles of river to explore ranging from beginner to all-you-can-eat. While, some are scared of big water we time for the lowest time of year when the Futa is at playful levels. Still big and exciting making for the kayak road trip of a lifetime. 

KEEP KAYAKING. 

When is the best time to kayak Chile?

The best time FOR YOU to kayak in Chile depends on two things: the type of kayaking you want to do and the Chilean climate. Chile’s diverse, four-season climate has defining impacts on when to kayak depending on location. It’s important to remember Chile is as long as the United States is wide, so you’ll experience a range of weather around the country at any given time. Where the U.S. is divided up into states, Chile is separated by region. In the extreme north, you’ll find dry, desert-like conditions (and the Atacama desert). As you move south towards the central valley and the capital of Santiago, the climate remains warm and arid, but includes a rainy season that has eroded some of the country’s basalt river beds into picturesque canyons as water makes it’s way from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Then there’s Pucón, which is located in the aptly named Araucanía (or ‘Rivers & Lakes’) district. And what about the world famous Futaleufu? 

Three Chile Kayak Trips Determined by Weather and Season

TEACUPS +PLUS

Staring down the Throat of the Devil. This iconic swirl around cascade is the ride and celebration of a lifetime.

This is the world’s best kayaker destination for waterfalls and rivers. Kayakers drop into the remote Teacups canyon to ride the cleanest waterfalls on the planet. Combine this road trip with Pucon’s best cascade and creek season and you are guaranteed a remarkable whitewater experience.

  • Best Time – Because the Teacups are located in the arid Central Valley you must get there during the November snow melts to catch the waterfall wonderland with proper flows.
  • For whom? Class IV Kayakers with excellent rolls and fit conditioning. 
  • Tips – Kayakers get the most out of this trip by coming with both experience and physically fit to hike your kayak into and out of canyons. Bring your camera. Most kayakers want to do the Teacups +PLUS Pucon. Ask about a discounted Trip Extension. 

ROAD TO FUTA TRIPS

Anyone whom has ever dreamt to whitewater kayak the Rio Futaleufu will enjoy the Road to Futa road trip of a life time. Road to Futa not only embraces the challenge of just getting to Patagonia’s world famous Futaleufu River we highlight every kayaker’s mission to get to the remote Futa Valley. PKH arranges logistics via Chile’s famous Carretera Austral, Southern Highway, taking kayakers along a series of ferries, fjords, volcanoes, glaciers, and Patagonia magnificent en route to the Futa. Once there kayakers fall in love with one of the world’s most magical rivers. Ultimately, kayaking the Futaleufu is every kayaker’s dream come true.

  • Best Time – With rugged Patagonia weather we recommend late January to mid March for best levels and sunny days. Pre-season the Futa is often dangerously high and flushed out and kayakers are smattered by heavy weather.
  • For Whom? Most kayakers think the Futa is only for experts. And the river certainly keeps the best kayakers in the world happy. But it also has remarkable sections for beginners and intermediates. 
  • Tips – Bring your camera, good coffee, and winning attitude. Ask about adding a Pucon leg. 

PUCON CLASSICS TRIPS

Where else can you boof with a volcano as your backdrop? Just 30 minutes upstream of your hot shower, dinner and copa de vino tinto. Is this real life?

As the rivers to the north of Chile’s whitewater epicenter dry the rivers to the south warm and come in a perfect levels. PKH perfectly combines the best of Pucon with a remarkable road trip to the magical turquoise waters of the Rio Fuy. Add an overnight raft support trip on the San Pedro and you have yet another epic Chile kayak experience.

Pucon Rule of Thumb: When the rivers of Chile are too dry Pucon still has options. When everything is running in Chile, then Pucon has the most options. It always goes. 

  • Best Time – Every month is great. But the core months are from November to April. And the peak sunny day months are January, February, and March. 
  • For Whom? Whether you are an expert seeking clean waterfalls or a beginner hoping to learn and improve your roll Pucon is your best option.
  • Tips – Bring your camera, sleeping bag and tent, and be prepared to kayak, kayak, kayak. Want to kayak more for less? Reserve the Pucon Classics Trip with a discounted Trip Extension. 

Know Chilean Geography 

As you travel north to south you go from the warmer arid regions to the cooler temperate rainforest regions. Keeping these facts in mind, the ideal kayak adventure can be planned allowing you to hit rivers at their optimum flows with optimum weather conditions. And in Chile, water levels make all the difference. Basically, you’ll be moving from north to south OR from south to north — depending on what time of year you plan to travel (more on that in a second).

Central Valley

Santiago lies at the northern end of Chile’s central valley and wine district. There is notable whitewater to the west of Santiago, in the Maipo Valley, but 99% of Chile’s whitewater remains to the south. The Andes spine has annual snowmelt flowing west to the Pacific. Traveling south from Santiago looking east to the Andes it’s hard not to imagine what rapids lie hidden upstream.  As you travel south, the weather cools and moisture increases, meaning the snow pack lasts longer into the season. Pucón has one of the longest whitewater seasons in Chile, with quality rivers running year-round.

Kayaker Tip: Pre-December you’ll find the rivers in Pucón and anywhere to the north offer warmer climates and plenty of water in smaller creeks and classic, larger volume rivers. River flow becomes less and less reliable throughout December, with many tributaries running dry by new year. Guides from the Futaleufu and surrounding area travel north to Pucón, and even the central valley, during this time of year. We recommend the Maipo, Seven Teacups National Park, Nuble, and Achibueno Valleys.

Pucón Whitewater Kayak Epicenter 

Geographically, Pucón is the epicenter of Chilean whitewater. It lies to the south of Santiago and just north of the famous Rio Futaleufu. The summer vacation destination was originally established as a military trading route to Argentina, making it extremely accessible. Pucón is close to the Pan American highway (Ruta 5) and near a major Argentinian border. During early development the town — surrounded by lakes, rivers, and volcanoes — developed as an elite head-of-state fishermen’s destination. The perfect location with breathtaking beauty makes Pucón one of Chile’s top summer vacation destinations – for locals and foreigners.

Kayaker Heaven on Earth

For kayaker’s, Pucón is Heaven on Earth. Tourism, infrastructure,  highways, and roads to river put-ins and take-outs provide something many other countries simply cannot deliver — access. The high annual precipitation and gradient between the Andes and the Pacific make this region one of the most congested whitewater locations on the planet. Now, imagine the Andes slopes speckled with volcanoes, each with their own glacial drainage. Chile’s volcanoes were formed separate from the mountain range, during different geological events — and they exponentially multiply the number of waterfalls and runnable rivers. In Pucón, for example, the Rios Turbio, Palguin, Truful Truful, and Llancahue are all volcano drainages. Surrounded by more rivers than you can possibly paddle in an area that also offers convenience, night-life, grocery stores, infrastructure, medical facilities, restaurants & cafes, and the opportunity to socialize with other travelers or just as easily seclude yourself far off the grid — it’s easy to see why Pucón has become one of the top kayak destinations in the world.

Kayaker Tip – Pucón has one of the longest kayak seasons in Chile. October and November are rainier periods great for notching lots of class IV+ and big drops. Everything is running. December may be the most popular month due to the holidays. The peak months of summer, from January thru March, see many of Chile’s rivers dry up, but Pucón continues to hold flows and attract kayakers. The sun is shining and the rivers are running.

Weather is King!

North is hotter. South is cooler. The weather gets almostunbearable near Santiago from January to March. Chile even takes a month-long national summer break to beat the heat. Chileans flock south to the cooler weather and any sources of water in forms of creeks, rivers, lakes, and lagunas. This is one reason why you see so many tourists in the south of Chile during February. As the weather gets hotter the rivers get lower.

The opposite is true of the south. Even Futaleufu guides avoid the Futa during October to December months due to dangerous high flows and extreme cold weather. But as the rivers of the north get low during summer months the Futaleufu Valley offers the perfect summer climate and an unlimited number of river cooling spots. During these months the river is at perfect flow, attracting kayakers from around the globe.

Kayaker Tip – Go with the flow of Chile’s river levels and enjoy the Patagonia summer weather. Plan your Futa trip for the months of January to March. Since many rivers are dry by this time, many kayakers arrive to Pucón seeking to get on reliable runs like the Palguin, Liucura’s play wave, Trancura, San Pedro or Truful Truful.

You are warmly invited to white water kayak with Pucon Kayak Hostel. Email David@puconkayakhostel.com to learn more. 

Keep Kayaking. 

How to Sniff Out Cheap Chile Flights

As the host of a whitewater dream adventure destination a top priority is to help travelers save funds on airfares. Sniffing out the inside secrets of international flight deals is something every nomadic kayaker should understand. 

Advantages of Following These Tips

  • Your Chile kayaking adventure begins with your flight research.
    By following these tips you will be a well-informed consumer and know the best price when you see it.
  • If you learn just one new airfare purchasing gem you’ll save money. 
  • You may find yourself buying a ticket to your dream kayak vacation. 

Tips for Cheaper Chile Airfares White Water Kayakers Use

Browse incognito to avoid bait and switch pricing.

Just a reminder that kayaking is fun for everyone.

Airlines and booking agencies use a low fare magnet statistically knowing that everyone researches best price points. That’s how they get you… when you return to their site to buy that low cost ticket the price increased by hundreds in only minutes. Each time you search incognito you are in effect resetting your cookies and hence not allowing the sites track your site hits. For the moment you should be able to get the originally published lower fare. 

Know the cheapest day to fly.

Are you ready to fly to Chile and kayak daily? The more you research the more you save. Mark Taylor flying low on Pucon’s Upper Nevados.

Use sites like Google Flights and Sky Scanner’s “Whole Month” feature to see cheapest flights by date. As a rule of thumb Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are cheaper than weekend flights. 
Google.com/Flights – We suggest beginning your research with Google Flights because you can easily see the cheapest days to fly. It’s cool to see the costs illustrated on each day of the calendar. 
SkyScanner.com – Maybe the best comprehensive booking site for finding low fares. The “Whole Month” feature allows you to compare prices by the day equaling hundreds of dollars in savings. Easy to use and fast.

  • Now that you know the cheapest days to fly use the data to search on other cheaper booking engines.

Use price alerts and price bidding.  

Many booking sites have either price alerts or bidding. You can bid your price or by requesting alerts watch prices drop during the following weeks. 

LowFares.com – searches Travelocity, Kayak, Expedia, One Travel, Cheap Flight Now, and Trip Advisor.
CheapFlightNow.com and CheapOAir.com  – Also searches multiple engines. 
SkyAuction.com – While, Priceline.com recently killed their name your own price option SkyAuction still offers a similar service. You have the option to pay the price they publish or why not try naming your price.  

Keep Kayaking. 

Our Most Popular Pucon and Chile White Water Kayaking Trips 

Dental +PLUS Whitewater Kayak Vacation?

Have you had your teeth knocked on the river? Or maybe you just want a checkup or a cavity filled at affordable rates. In Pucon we recommend our favorite local dentist / kayaker Anita Diaz for professional dental services.

It was the summer of 2003 when I knocked out two front teeth. Numbers 9 and 10 I would soon learn were worth more than a good used SUV at around $US12,000. Ouch! As a nomadic toothless kayaker that desired to have a full smile I soon began asking about international dental pricing. The discoveries were perspective changing. 

Here are a few international dental practices that many kayakers may not know.

  • IMPLANTS – are one of the worst to experience and expensive dental eprocedures you never want to have. I was more scared getting my second one than my first. 
  • “I’ve got dental insurance. I’m covered.” WRONG. I discovered, “Implants are a cosmetic surgery under the same category as a face lift, boob job, tummy tuck…” WHAT? I was toothless and not covered.
  • Practically, every country in the world has cheaper dental services than the US. But is the quality as good? Please. Don’t ask a Chilean that.My US dentist let me in on a little secret and shared some Chile dental websites.
  • Simple dental improvements and applications like whitening, crowns, and cavity services are a fraction of the cost of US services.
  • US implant services come with a menu of ways you can get your implant. Basically, you have 3 pain options ranging in menu of price points: laughing gas, local anesthetic, and “don’t be stupid… we’re drilling into your face.”
  • Chile does not offer laughing gas but does naturally include local anesthetic. Which is all you need. “Is this real life?” 

Dental Services Price Comparison – Chile v. USA

With 20 +PLUS years of leading international kayak trips just in Chile I’ve seen a few broken teeth get crown work, cavities filled, caps replaced, teeth whitening and a personal implant based on demand. I’ve personally been impressed with how quickly Chilean dentists will open their offices and complete work. Here are a few price comparisons based on my experience and according to https://memberbenefits.com/dental-costs-with-and-without-insurance/.

Service                        Chile                                                    USA


Fillings                        $50 – $75                                             $50 – $250

Implants                    Less than half US Rate                  My first implant was $6,000+

Whitening                 $100 – $250                                      $650*

*According to www.yourdentistryguide.com. 

Take Away Points

  • Are you covered? Check to make certain big cost procedures like implants are not categorized as “cosmetic surgery.”
  • What health care procedures could you save your budget and put back into your kayaking trip?
  • Even if you are covered you may want to research purchasing a traveler’s insurance plan for your kayaking trips. 
  • In Pucon we recommend our local resident dentist kayaker Anita Diaz seen in photo. 

Blog written by David Hughes.
Owner Pucon Kayak Hostel
Director Patagonia Study Abroad
Instructor NOC Paddlesports 

Recommended Chile Kayaking Trips

Chile’s Teacups offer 70 +PLUS clean cascades in a 57 million year old polished basalt canyon.

Teacups +PLUS, For (IV & IV+) Kayakers / November Trips Available

Pucon Classics, For (II, III, III+ and IV) Kayakers / January to February

Vacation Certification +PLUS Kayaking (All Skills) AWFA, SRT 3, & ACA Kayak Instructor Certs +PLUS daily kayaking. 

Five Kayaker Gems in Pucon Chile

Four days into our 2016 Teacups +PLUS trip we’re reminded why we first chose to come to Pucon to kayak. It’s the little things that few speak about that we cherish daily in our kayaking lives. Here are a few we identified this week. 

#5 – Putting in and taking out at your riverside base.

Where else can you boof with a volcano as your backdrop? Just 30 minutes upstream of your hot shower, dinner and copa de vino tinto.
Where else can you boof with a volcano as your backdrop? NOC’s Jonathan Ortiz gets his boof on prior to taking out on our riverside property.

For kayakers it’s a special feeling to put in just steps away from your bed. Maybe the only thing better is a class IV+ run on the same river taking out at your base to be followed by having a hot tree house shower and a cold beer. Pucon Kayak Hostel’s base is located at the takeout for the Upper Trancura and putin for the Lower (III) section right in the heart of all the local runs. 

#4 – Upper Palguin Putin.

Few talk about the Upper Palguin putin, but they should. After driving past vistas of Volcan Quetrupillan you’ll next hike into the Palguin Canyon. At the base of the 85’ boof Salto Palguin is a land bridge seal launch. Slide in and the cascades await on South America’s most popular whitewater creek. 

One of coolest putins you'll experience is the Upper Palguin land bridge. Tip - stomping the seal launch is easier than you think.
One of coolest putins you’ll experience is the Upper Palguin land bridge. Tip – stomping the seal launch is easier than you think.

 

#3 – Canyon runs on the Rio Maichin.

Driving east from Pucon toward Argentina is a pristine class III-IV gem known as the Rio Maichin Canyon. Some parts are reminiscent of the Upper Yough with slots and boofs galore. The run does have three runnable V’s with option for sneaks and portages. This river gives you that deep canyon feel… because it’s a deep canyon.

#2 – Shuttles.

Shuttle bunnies on the Upper Palguin near Pucon Kayak Hostel. Come see what all the fun is about.
Shuttle bunnies on the Upper Palguin near Pucon Kayak Hostel. Come see what all the fun is about.

With three volcanoes surrounding Pucon, farmers working the land with ox and cart, and a region known as the rivers and lakes district it’s no wonder Pucon Kayak Hostel maintains a fleet of 4 por 4 trucks for kayakers. Every kayaker knows the anticipation to new river runs and cascades. Your shuttles are grounds for making lifetime friendships.

#1 – Paddling the Rivers.

Pucon Chile has been attracting kayakers to it’s clean river playgrounds for over four decades and for good reason. Kayakers seeking a great winter destination enjoy Pucon’s multitude of cascades and rivers including from class II beginner sections, class III rolling waves and eddies under towering volcanoes, class IV big water and cascades, and even the pros come to test their skills.

Popular Trips 

Teacups +PLUS Maipo, Nov 19 – 25

Teacups +PLUS Nuble, Nov 26 – Dec 1

Pucon Classics Trips Jan – Feb 2018 

Vacation Certification Courses +PLUS Kayaking

Road to Futa 2018 Itinerary Coming Soon 

Keep Kayaking.