Kayaking Uncharted Territory: The Hidden Highlights of Honduras

Steeped in Mayan history and alive with uncharted territory, Honduras is one of the world's most rapidly developing off-season destinations, a new frontier for adventurous boaters seeking a warm-weather getaway. New river runs are being discovered each season by pioneering paddlers escaping North America's winter chills. Honduras offers numerous quality rivers with nearly continuous rapids, and since most of the runs are fairly short, you can easily sample a half-dozen waterways on a Honduran whitewater safari. A visit to Honduras offers the best of both worlds—high adventure combined with the laid-back appeal of the tropics.

Since most of the rivers in Honduras drain into the Atlantic, trips commonly begin in La Ceiba on the Caribbean coast. The nearest river is the Rio Cangrejal, located in La Ceiba. A descent of the Cangrejal combines intense action with classic jungle scenery. You pass through a dramatic gorge in the heart of original-growth rainforest, encountering 20 miles of steep, technical whitewater along the way. The upper sections are mostly Class IV, while the lower sections are mostly Class III. During high water, Rio Cangrejal kayakers can paddle all the way to the ocean, returning to their beach-side hotel through the surf. The Rio Cuero and the Rio San Juan, two other short runs, feature some moderately technical Class II-III rapids, and some small vertical drops. Another popular option is the Rio Humuya, one of the few dam-controlled rivers in Honduras. After paddling steep, technical rivers, the Humuya's high volume and large waves offer an interesting contrast. Most rapids are rated Class II but there are great Class III and IV play spots for surfing and enders.

For a unique introduction to Honduras's Mayan heritage, consider running the Rio Copan. This low-volume river passes through a national park containing the ruins of the Mayan city of Copan. The Copan is narrow and technical, mainly Class III with some Class IV. For those seeking a more extended trip into the heart of the jungle, consider the Rio Sico Expedition. During this four-day river descent, you'll experience both wilderness solitude and plenty of action with over sixty major rapids. Riverside camping, jungle hikes, and wildlife viewing complement your time on the river. If you really want to get away from civilization, this is the place.
Practically Speaking
Most trips to Honduras are scheduled for November and December, at the end of the rainy season. The rainfall is unpredictable and can be quite heavy but storms tend to be brief. Moreover, since few of the rivers are dam-controlled, water levels rise and fall dramatically, constantly presenting new challenges and opportunities for canoers and kayakers.

Published: 8 Jul 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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