Kayak Ecuador

Your source for paddle sports information in Ecuador

Kayak Ecuador
Where it all began...

Ecuador is a country about the size of Colorado, located along the earth's equatorial band on the western edge of the South American continent and bordered by Colombia to the North, and Peru to the South and East. About 16 million people live in Ecuador and 17 indigenous ethnic groups are represented.

The Andean Cordillera divides the country between the Pacific Coast region and the Amazon region. This uplifted chain of snow-capped volcano peaks gives rise to the varied climate zones which form distinct habitats for the wealth of plants and animals found in the country.

Ecuador has the greatest biodiversity of any country in the world in relation to its size. Over 15,000 types of vascular plants, more than 1,600 species of birds, 1750 freshwater fish, 413 species of amphibians, 374 reptiles, and 324 mammals have been documented in Ecuador. Close to 80% of the biodiversity in the country is found in the Amazon region, which is the least populated and undeveloped part of Ecuador.

The cultural and biological megadiversity represented in Ecuador make the country an important world heritage site, as well as an exceptional destination for year-round whitewater kayaking and rafting. Most rivers are fed by rainfall, and the Ecuadorian Amazon receives up to 20 feet of precipitation each year, so there is no shortage of water.

Since 1999, Ecuador uses the US Dollar (USD) as its official currency. ATM machines can be used to withdraw cash from major bank networks at larger cities in the country. Internet service is widespread, but often has low-bandwidth with slower connection times. Electrical service is reliable and follows the US-standard of 110 AC/60 Hz. If you are coming from Europe, you will need to have plug adapters that work in the United States.

Direct flights from the USA to Quito make travel connections convenient and economical. Free, 90-day Tourist Visas are granted to visitors from most countries upon entry, with passports valid for at least 6 months.

Traditionally, most of the rafting and kayaking activity has centered around Tena, a small town and paddling mecca in the Amazon region about 5 hours southeast of Quito. Tena is located in the heart of the Napo watershed, and is within an hour's drive of more than 20 paddling trips on over a dozen different rivers for every skill level including the Piatua, Jondachi, Hollín, Misahuallí, Inchillaqui, Tena, Pano, Calmitoyacu, Napo, Anzu, Pusuno, and Arajuno Rivers.

The Quijos Valley is another major paddling "hub" on the Amazon side. The town of Baeza is located mid way between Quito and Tena, and offers a variety of dining and lodging services. The Quijos, Papallacta, Cosanga, Oyacachi, Salado, Dúe, and Coca Rivers cater mostly to the advanced and expert-level paddlers.

The town of Baños at the entrance to the Pastaza River Canyon is the best place to go to paddle the Class V classics like the Topo, Zuñac, Verde Chico, Ulba, and Encanto Rivers.

Macas and Sucua are other favored destinations for paddling rivers that are off the beaten track in the heart of the Upano River Basin. The Upano, Yukipa, Seipa, Tutanangosa, and the Namangoza Gorge offer sections for nearly all levels and abilities.

On the western slope of the Andes, most paddlers base out of Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, where all the runs in the Mulaute, Blanco and Baba river basins are easily accessible.

See our Travel Information page for a variety of helpful links and more information.


KAYAK ECUADOR started in 1997 as a mission to explore and document all of the unique and exceptional whitewater river resources in Ecuador, with an interest to share that information with fellow paddling enthusiasts, and to promote Ecuador as a global paddle sports tourism destination.

Along the way, KAYAK ECUADOR evolved into a platform for the organization of the first whitewater river competitions and river festival events in the country, and led to the formation of the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute (ERI) and the Fundación Río Napo (FRN), which are leading river conservation organizations that represent and defend the interests of recreational river users and work to protect and conserve unique whitewater river resources in Ecuador.

In January 2001, KAYAK ECUADOR launched the first Napo River Festival as a special annual event to raise awareness of the Napo watershed and its importance to everyone.

Over the course of an entire decade, this unique annual gathering served as a model for many other river festival events and initiatives as it brought the local population and the global paddling community together and became an important educational forum to address watershed issues, and to promote sustainable resource planning, development and management, as well as spawning an intercultural celebration of the common thread between water and life.

The Napo River is important because it is the last major free-flowing tributary of the Amazon River in Ecuador with protected headwaters which drain from the Llanganates National Park. The rivers and creeks of the Napo watershed basin are world class rafting and kayaking destinations.

Altogether, the tourism from paddle sports, resorts, lodges, bird watching and jungle excursions in the Napo watershed contributes to a significant sustainable economic alternative for the people of the region.

The Napo watershed hosts some of the greatest levels of cultural and biological diversity found on the planet. Indigenous Kichwa, Huaorani, Cofan, Secoya and Siona Indians live in the area, and more than 500 different species of fish have been found in the Napo River alone.

In January 2010, the Napo River Festival was cancelled (Festival Río Napo cancelado) due to the widespread loss and deterioration of river resources due to informal and illegal instream gravel mining, alluvial gold mining, deforestation, shallow-depth tar sands oil development, and other inappropriate development activities.

Over the next few years, an onslaught of legal processes were initiated and pursued with government authorities in an attempt to control and regulate the illicit activities, and seek restoration and remediation of affected sites and areas. Unfortunately, most of these processes have stagnated and we continue to lose valuable riparian river resources to informal and illegal activities and inappropriate development.

Returning to our roots, in January 2015, KAYAK ECUADOR supported the organization of the first edition of JONDACHI FEST to celebrate the legendary Jondachi River - one of the most famous and emblematic whitewater rivers in Ecuador and one of the last, high-quality, free-flowing Andean Amazon wilderness watershed corridors in the country which remains principally intact.

Meanwhile, KAYAK ECUADOR continues to monitor river conditions and explore and document new whitewater rivers throughout the country and remains the best and most reliable source of information about whitewater paddle sports and river conservation in Ecuador.

If you have questions, suggestions, or need more information, please write to: info@kayakecuador.com

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Photos by Matt Terry
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