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
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.
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.
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).
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.