Chile vs. Costa Rica - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-04-2012   #1
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 86
Chile vs. Costa Rica

Hello all,

Looking for input on where to go. Looking at either Chile or Costa Rica. I'm more of a rubber pusher, but a class III hardboater Which would you recommend going to? How easy is it to get a hold of some rubber down there? How easy to get some plastic? What about the number of fun Class III runs?

What are the boating seasons in each location?

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Old 09-23-2012   #2
Pucon Chile Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 133
Info about Chile

First, you should know that I am the owner of Pucon Kayak Hostel based in Pucon, Chile. I'll give you an honest assessment of both Chile and Costa Rica.

As the former logistician of a kayak high school I led trips to both Costa Rica and Chile. And both have their advantages.

if you have a shorter period of time then you may prefer Costa Rica because the transportation and costs. I personally found Chile superior in whitewater to the point I bought land there when comparing destination countries.

If you are solely rafting then the Futa is a worldclass gem. I had some friends who came to Chile with a 12 foot raft stopping at the Maipo, Pucon and Futa.

Costa Rica has rivers much closer together that might be more advantageous for a rafter.

Re: Kayaking

Pucon Kayak Hostel (again owned by myself) makes it easy to rent boats, hire shuttles, and have food and lodging at one place. So if you come to Chile it would be a pleasure to host you.

When I was in Costa Rica there were a handful of kayakers in both Turrialba and Sarapiqui that rented kayaks they had bought from travelling kayakers. These same renters are a great resource for anything you need. Your kayaks may be a little older than newer but quality enough to give you a great ride. Challenge is to trust that you can find these guys after arriving. Just trust that they are there and they want to make money renting their gear.

Mario Vargas in Turrialba has boats and shuttle support.
Stanley Esquiel- if still there should be able to help you with both boats and shuttles in Sarapiqui.

If you need more info on Chile then feel comfortable to ask.

You're invited to check out Pucon Kayak Hostel.

Keep Kayaking.

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Old 09-24-2012   #3
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 417
I've spent 2 weeks kayaking in Chile and it was all class IV-V. Would have loved a class III section by the end as I was overdosing on adrenaline. It may be there, we just didn't find it.

My time in Costa Rica was mainly class IV but there seemed to be plenty of class III options as well. Several outfitters run class III trips down there, and that is a good way to experience an area if you have the money.

I'm not an expert at either of these spots, this is just my personal experience....

Good luck and have fun!
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Old 09-24-2012   #4
Pucon Chile Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 133
Class III Runs in Chile

There are class I, II and III runs throughout Chile. They often get overshadowed by the photogenic big cascades. I lead a commercial guided trip that is full of class III runs through Pucon Kayak Hostel.

Pucon area rivers with links below:
Rio San Pedro - Class III with two IVs. This is a gorgeous day run about 2 hours from Pucon.
Lower Trancura - I'm proud to say I have a putin for this run on my property. There is also a lower lower Trancura that is class II known as Trancura Delta.
Lower Fuy - Most hear about the Upper Fuy's cascades. But the Lower Fuy is a fabulous class II-III stretch.
Liucura - The Liucura has a great little play hole and is more known to Pucon companies for intermediate kayaking, ducky and family trips and fishing.
Rio Nuble - has over 50 miles of freeflowing river. Most is playable class III. The upper stretches have some class IV.
Los Quenes area has the Claro and Teno rivers that are class III. Go higher up for harder stretches.

There are plenty more but this should get you started. If you want more specifics then let me know and I'll be happy to help you plan your trip.

Keep Kayaking.
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Old 09-25-2012   #5
Arkansas during the off-season Nomadic during the summers! :), Arkansas & Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 950
What if you have a whole month off for Chile or Costa Rica...Is there a better option (rent an apt for the month)?
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Old 09-25-2012   #6
Pucon Chile Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 133
Month off Costa Rica or Chile

Your best money saving option is to rent an apartment for a month. Apartment means you will be staying in one location. This is the formula that crews like Demshitz and Bombflow are doing in Chile. They come back year after year to base in an apartment in Pucon and keep notching first descents. When they get tired of Pucon they go do road trips returning to Pucon with hard drives full of footage. For seasonal boaters I think this is the only way to go.

Apartment rent challenges in Pucon: Peak season (Jan and Feb) you will be challenged to find a place. But November and December should be OK. Ultimately, you have to get someone on the ground to find a place. It's par for Pucon boater shacks to be overpacked with kayakers. So, know your comfort zone. In order to make the apartment economical you may need a group of 3 or more.

Pucon Kayak Hostel is offering a house rent rate special at $US100/week for pre-December dates. The ideal is that lots of Class V boaters are all on the same property, car pooling, shuttling, and getting on the water. We'll see how it goes. Yes. You can find cheaper by renting an apartment. But I've seen guests leave and come back to PKH based on crowding problems and the transportation challenge they had.

Here's the link, November House Rent Rates Pucon.

Re: Chile or Costa Rica
I've always loved kayaking Costa Rica but am admittedly biased as I chose to base in Pucon Chile over other potential kayak destinations like NZ, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Reasons being: Pucon just had more clean whitewater all in one location from beginner to expert than others, price was good, and I didn't want to live in the rainforest. With that said November in Chile you'll actually want rain and it will be colder than Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica you'd probably want to rent an apartment in Turrialba. There is plenty there to keep you busy for a month and you'd find locals to paddle with.

Here's a rule of thumb: If you only have 10 days or less go Costa Rica or Ecuador. If you have a month then go Chile.

Keep Kayaking.
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Old 09-26-2012   #7
Tent City, Liquid State
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 66
One word: Futaleufu
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Old 09-26-2012   #8
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,453
Nice info, David. The website is looking great. Looking forward to a Pucon Kayak Hostel stay next time I'm in Chile! Its been almost 14! years since I've been there.

For anyone thinking about a stay at David's place... He's the real deal. Quality guy, tons of experience with quality organizations, and he can boat a little bit.
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Old 09-28-2012   #9
Pucon Chile Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 133
Maxident and Futaleufu

I've wanted to write an article of how to travel from Pucon to the Futaleufu for a few years now. It's a challenge most Chile kayakers have to encounter with two routes: ferry from Puerto Montt to Chaiten or drive over the Andes and around Chile's Gulfo de Ancud through Argentina. And either experience always creates those memorable adventures where something goes wrong. The kind of stories that make your trip great. Thanks for the reminder.

Chile like the US has lots of phenomenal river destinations. Hence, the reason people like Kurt Casey, Demshitz, and Bombflow crews are still notching first descents. Once heard a group say about another group, "Their trip must be lame they didn't even goto the Futa."

That's akin to saying a kayak tour of the US would be lame without doing the Grand Canyon.

Class V huckers would look at Chile 180 degrees differently than say a club boater. Huckers might research the Puelo or Cochamo's (the Yosimite of Chile) multiday. While, club boaters might want an all-inclusive trip, or to be led down the Teacups, or a mellow safe trip to the Futa.

Link to an all-inclusive Advanced Intermediate Tour de Pucon Trip.

Know the Regional Whitewater Seasons
This is so so important. Don't come to Chile in November and expect a Futa trip. And don't come in February and expect to get down the Teacups.
Chile has more ecosytems than any country in the world as it crosses more latitudes. The effect is diverse weather climates and varying months of peak whitewater.

Teacups is Best Nov, Dec and early Jan
The Siete Tazas has developed from a class III boaters 7 teacups to having over 80 clean cascades for a range of skills including the best. But it begin getting bony dry sometime in January. Sections include from top to bottom: Veinte dos Saltos (22 Falls), Entres Saltos (Between Falls), Cinco Tazas 5 Teacups), Garganta del Diablo (Throat of the Devil), and the national park name Siete Tazas (7 Teacups).

Futaleufu is typically best Jan, Feb and early March
Futa is Patagonia country and that comes with rugged weather. Futaleufu Outdoor Center owner and Chile kayak pioneer Sergio Vidal is the winter caretaker at Pucon Kayak Hostel. He stays in Pucon for a better climate that still has whitewater due to the harshness of Patagonia extremes like sideways rains, snows, winds... Sergio'll stay in the Pucon area until mid or late December notching runs in the warmer climate. Have some forethought and plan your trip based on timing and regional climates.

Patagonia transportation too is a challenge to consider. Gas is over $US10/gal and a vehicle killer. I own and direct Huge Experiences' high school and will not send the school or PKH vehicles there anymore due to too many truck deaths. The solution we chose is to hire a shuttle service from Cara del Indio. There are lots of outfitters who'd love kayaker business and will offer shuttle services. I bet the forementioned Sergio Vidal could help. If someone needs one then shoot me an email and I'll send you 3 or 4 names of kayak companies and individuals down there. [email protected]

A good rule of thumb for first timer kayak nomads with transportation in Chile is:[LIST]Stick to the northern runs pre-January like Teacup, Ahcibueno, Nuble, Laja...
  • Plan your Futa trip for the warmest months and low water when the play is best and the river is at safest levels.

Pucon lies in the middle of these destinations and is super congested with rivers. The region was recently renamed, "The Rivers District." And if your a kayaker with transportation issues your guaranteed water. Thus, a reason kayakers arrive to Pucon.

If you want to do it all then rent or buy a reliable vehicle, plan a couple of months to really enjoy each destination, and research destination peak whitewater seasons.

Keep Kayaking.
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Old 09-28-2012   #10
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 443
Not to steal the thread and ask a question I should look up on my own, but what is the easiest way to get to Pucon? where to fly, about how expensive is overall travel, and once you are there what is the cost of living (dirtbag style)?
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chile, costa rica

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