Listed in our guidebook as a kayak company (gasp!) we went to San Gil partly because of them. Arriving at their office, we were given a rundown of the few river sections available in the dry season. Wanting to put us on the Class II/Class III river before letting us go down anything more technical, we signed up to follow a river raft the following day. Unfortunately the equipment was very old and in poor shape. 2/3 of Danny’s warner paddle blade was missing, leaving him rather vulnerable upside down in the river. The equipment had seen better days and I wouldn’t want to be running a Class IV with any of it. Essentially we functioned as the safety boaters for the raft trip, but the river was more 2 than 3 so it turned out to be an extremely easy run. Disappointed we went back to the office to try to repeat the run that afternoon, but they were not inclined to offer us any discount, even without a guide. Their next trip was two days later, but we declined to go with them again partly because of their refusal to let us do the run again on our own at a discount, but mostly because of the poor quality of the rental kayak equipment.
Boquete Outdoor Adventures offers the usual array of adventure activities: whitewater rafting, canopy tours and multi-day trips. Luckily for kayakers they also have whitewater kayaking equipment and tours. We’ve contacted a number of adventure outfitters throughout Central America looking for whitewater kayaking equipment. 90% of them never got back to us and the other 10% tried to sell us on rafting tours. Jim, owner of Boquete Outdoor Adventures (Boquete, Panama) returned our email [ad#reviews] within 24 hours and not only ran down our options but gave us plenty of information on the surrounding area and other activities. We opted to attach ourselves as kayakers to a pre-booked rafting trip, but when we arrived in Boquete we found that the group had canceled. Without a second though Jim told us that the two of us could do the river anyway with just kayak guides so we headed out early the next morning on the Rio Chiriqui. Our guides, Demus and Jose were excellent, really experienced kayakers who knew how to have fun on the river. The guided us down without babying us and despite my hesitations (my previous river run was awful), they made sure we challenged ourselves. Although they were professional and focused on safety, it was more like kayaking with friends who knew the river rather than paid guides, which made the experience even better. The Rio Chiriqui was a pretty straightforward Class III at lower levels, and we were able to read and run most of the sections without a problem.
Although we did not do any other tours with Boquete Outdoor Adventures, our experience kayaking was great. We highly recommend them for adventure activities.
This should be a post about whitewater kayaking on the mighty Rio Cangrejal. This should be a post about getting thrashed on a giant Class V river. This should be a post about how we’ve completely upped our kayaking skills in do or die situations. Instead this is a post about how we enjoyed the chance to play in nature for a few days, and save a few bucks at the same time, because the river was about 5 meters (reminder, that’s 15 feet) too low.
We arrived here at the lodge of Omega Tours early in the morning prepared to hit the river. We started asking questions about the river and realized that on account of the low water, the usual run was shortened to less than 3 kilometers…about an hour of boney, pain in the ass whitewater. Unable to justify spending that much money (it was a little expensive for our long term adventurer budget) we passed on the kayaking and spent a few days hanging out at the lodge and Pico Bonito National Park.
With temperatures probably in the 90s, we headed out on an uphill hike around the property through orange groves and jungle. Led by the lodge’s very fat Rotweiler who was more interested in chasing pigs and swimming in the streams than in actually showing us the right way, we huffed and puffed our way up and down the mountain. Hoping to cool off we headed down to the Rio Cangrejal for a quick dip. Met by a group of Hondurans at the river, we splashed around in the strong current and watched rafts squeeze through rocks no more than a yard apart.
Usually when we find USAID projects the money has paid for nothing more than some tourist brochures for a local travel company…however Pico Bonito park was paid for by USAID (which probably costs a fraction of what our national parks cost). Complete with a very fun suspension bridge, we hiked through the jungle for what seemed like hours until we came to a beautiful waterfall. Hiking in the jungle of Honduras is about as hot and humid as it gets and the weather coupled with limited food and water made us hustle back to the lodge.
Our Swiss friends, Eton and Myeka, who we met at the CA CS meetup joined us at the lodge that night and we spent the following day swimming, climbing, caving, falling, and sliding our way upstream. We swam rapids, climbed over some as well, and generally had a great time playing against the current.
At the lodge we slept in the ‘Grand Tent’ which cost us a mere $7 a night and has space for all our stuff and a double bed…sweet! Falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle and having flushing toilets and working showers just meters away…. life is good.
We planned to whitewater kayak with Omega Tours, but unfortunately water levels were low and ultimately we found out that only 3 km of the river was available to Kayak. [ad#reviews-image-only]Being adventure travelers on a budget we decided that $50 for a 3km whitewater kayak trip was unjustifiable. Having gotten ourselves out there we decided to spend two days at the Omega Tour lodge exploring the surrounding Rio Cangrejal valley. Omega tours offers a number of tours in the area from hiking to whitewater rafting to horseback riding in and around the Rio Cangrejal. None of these were within our budget, but other guests seemed to have great time on all of them. We spent our two days hiking from the Lodge up the mountain through orange groves and hiking in the Pico Bonito national park which is just down the road. With the water level so low it was also easy for us to hike along the Rio Cangrejal, taking a swim whenever the weather got too hot.
Accommodations at the lodge range from tent space to a guest house, to private upscale cabins. I highly recommend the outdoor solar shower in the afternoon. Meals were reasonable compared to US prices and a daily happy hour kept guests chatting all night. Despite not whitewater kayaking we had a great time at the lodge. It would be a great place for a vacation, and even though the tours are expensive for backpackers, its a great place to just enjoy the surrounding environment on a backpacker budget. Tours are reasonably priced for families or couples on vacation from the States, Canada or Europe, especially because tour prices include accommodation and lunch. The atmosphere is laid back and comfortable with plenty to do in the surrounding areas. Overall this is a great place to stay, the grounds and accommodations are clean, the staff is fun and friendly, and the tours sound like a lot of fun.
We were introduced to Kayak 360 through the good people at Kayak Huasteca who had showed us the way down the waterfalls at the Rio Micos only a few short days earlier. Working out the logistics of where to be and when proved to be a bit of a challenge [ad#final-review-ad]was Kayak 360 is located off the beaten track, down by the river, far away from the city of Xalapa where we were staying. Had we had a car, this wouldn’t have been so difficult as Kayaking is just not a public transportation friendly sport.
Once there we had our choice of boats, mostly wavesports which suited us well, and were able to try on PDFs and skirts as well. All gear was in great shape and, even better, dry! Within a matter of minutes we were loading up the truck and hitting the river. As it was only two of us on the trip, one guide was plenty and the other members of the lodge who joined us in a raft were a welcome addition. Our guide, Tio Memo,has been paddling the area for 18 years and knew every nook and cranny of the river. He was a great guide, telling us everything we needed to know in advance. As the river is in Mexico, it was doubly appreciated that Memo spoke fluent English and we never had to be concerned with a language barrier.
For a full trip report click here but suffice to say we had a great day on the river. The folks at Kayak 360 were a pleasure to kayak with and, despite the fact that our group numbered only 2, were willing to handle all logistics and give us a very private day on the river. Thank you Kayak 360!