Costa Rica and Ecuador: it is not which country to visit, but which one to visit first.
When trying to decide where to travel internationally – whether kayaking is your number one priority or not, both Costa Rica and Ecuador should be on your wish list. The repeat rate of our trip participants between the two countries is not only a reflection of the quality of trips we run in both countries, but the quality of the countries themselves. Both Costa Rica and Ecuador are known for their eco-tourism, warm cultures, appealing climates and ease of travel. Both countries are so special that they are rarely a “once in a lifetime” experience. In fact, we often have guests who travel to both in the same year, or who flip flop between the two countries every year. Following will help you decide which you will choose for this year’s travel plans.
Destination Costa Rica
Along with a great variety of rivers, Costa Rica offers an abundance of fascinating wildlife and flora. Costa Rica is one of the most popular vacation destinations for international travelers. The country boasts vast ecosystems to explore — from rain forest to cloud forest to lovely beaches.
- If you have never traveled outside the US, Costa Rica is a good place to start.
- Tourism is one of the top three economies of the country.
- English is commonly spoken in any tourist area.
- The “colón” is the currency of Costa Rica, but dollars are widely accepted.
- The infrastructure is very accommodating to a traveler looking for a comfortable vacation.
- Adding additional must-see stops during your visit to Costa Rica are easy to plan.
- Wi-Fi is in nearly every hotel in areas close to a city. When traveling to isolated lodges or travel areas, check ahead of time. Cell phone coverage is universal, but you absolutely want to set up an international plan with your phone carrier (including for data) before you arrive.
- Almost every airline flies in and out of Costa Rica, flights are easy to book and times vary for more options. . San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and where you should fly into unless you are headed straight to the west coast.
- We do not have our own lodge in Costa Rica, but we have been using the same hotels for 25+ years, so they feel like home.
The diversity of this country is amazing! In this Inca nation, you have the opportunity to experience the towering Andes, climb snow-capped volcanoes, the Amazon jungle, the Galapagos Islands, and the Pacific Coast–all in one amazing country.
- Ecuador is becoming known as the eco-tourism destination of Latin America.
- Plan on a bit more of an “adventure travel” vacation in comparison to Costa Rica.
- English is not as commonly spoken throughout Ecuador, so bring your dictionary.
- The currency of Ecuador is the dollar, but do not bring large bills (a $20 bill can be considered “large” to a small shop keeper or taxi cab driver.
- Do not be surprised that flights tend to arrive in Quito late at night. The international airport is new and state-of-the-art. Taxis into Quito are readily available.
- It is easy to set up additional tours, particularly out of Quito.
- Wi-fi is nearly universal throughout the country. Cell phone coverage is universal, but you absolutely want to set up an international plan with your phone carrier (including for data) before you arrive.
- The Oriente of Ecuador – destination for the paddling segment of our trips, boasts a “wet season” and a “wetter season,” with weather patterns coming from both the Pacific and the Amazon.
- Our base in the Oriente is our lodge – the Rio Quijos EcoLodge. Once you settle in, you will not want to leave!
Which Level International Kayak Trip Is Best for You
For whitewater kayakers, once you decide on the destination, then it’s a matter of which trip is right for you as a boater. Following are a breakdown of the levels of trips we offer in each country and a sampling of the rivers that will make you feel prepared. In both Costa Rica and Ecuador we offer trips from Class II-III up to Class IV+. Our trip itineraries are designed to paddle classic runs with fellow-boaters, and to enjoy the culture of a foreign country. You are planning a paddling vacation, so please be sure to choose a trip with which you will be comfortable and enjoy. Paddling in a foreign country adds variables not found on “backyard runs” paddlers are used to back home. Rivers can often be remote and access off the river can be limited to impossible. Water levels can fluctuate dramatically in a rain-forest setting (a setting you have in both Ecuador and Costa Rica). It is important that you choose a trip that is suitable for your skill level.
In an effort to help you choose the trip most enjoyable, following is a sampling of rivers under each skill level that we feel are accurate comparisons:
Class II-III Trip: Paddlers on this trip should have a fairly consistent whitewater roll. Rivers that will help you enjoy the trip include:
- N. Fork of the American, CA (Shirttail Run), CA
- Wolf River, WI (Sec III),WI
- Lehigh River (Whitehaven to Rockport),
- Nantahala River, NC,
- Section III of the Chattooga River,GA
- Hiawassee River, GA
- Lower Pigeon, NC
Class III Trip: Paddlers on this trip should have confidence rolling in Class III rapids. To enjoy a Class III trip, the following rivers will help you prepare:
- Ocoee, TN (from Second Helping to the takeout)
- Shoshone Section of the Colorado,CO
- Lower Section of the Roaring Fork,CO
- Section III of the Chattooga,GA
- Chili Bar Section of the South Fork of the American,CA
- Brown’s Canyon of the Arkansas,CO
- Westwater Canyon of the Colorado,
- Deerfield River,
- French Broad River, NC
- Pigeon River, NC
Class III-IV Trip: This trip is for paddlers who run an occasional Class IV rapid, but prefer a Class III river with the option of Class IV rapids. Paddlers should be comfortable on rivers such as:
- S. Fork of the American (Riverton to Peavine), CA
- Kern River (Miracle Run), CA
- Numbers of the Arkansas River, CO
- Wolf River (Otter Slide to Big Smoky), WI
- Ocoee River (with no trouble at Broken Nose), TN
- Section III and III+ of the Chattooga (including Bulls Sluice), GA
- Lower Gauley River, WV
- New River, WV
- Lower Youghegheny, PA
- Lower Tellico River, TN
Class IV Trip: Paddlers on a Class IV trip should have a solid whitewater roll, preferably on both sides.Boaters should be comfortable catching eddies and making moves on Class IV rivers such as:
- Section IV of the Chattooga
- the Upper and Lower Gauley
- Upper Yougheghaney,PA
- Lower Tuolome, CA
- Royal Gorge of the Arkansas or Slaughter House Section of the Roaring Fork, CO
- Upper Ocoee River, TN
- North Chick Creek, Gorge Section, TN
- Little River in the Park, NC
- Upper Tellico River, TN
- WIlson’s Creek, NC
Class IV+ Trip: This trip is for paddlers who paddle Class V rapids, but prefer Class IV runs. On Class IV+ trips, paddlers should be comfortable paddling on new, unfamiliar runs, where boat scouting is more the norm than the exception. Paddlers should have and use a roll on both sides. Class IV+ paddling includes being able to handle running high water runs on:
- Section IV of the Chattooga, GA at levels of 1.8 – 2.2
- Slaughter House, Numbers of the Arkansas, CO
- North Fork of the Skykomish, WA
- the Cal Salmon
- Upper Gauley, WV
- Pine Creek of the Arkansas, CO
- Cheoah River, NC
- Cain Creek, TN
- Narrows of the Green River, NC
- Wautaga River (Guys Ford to Lake), NC
If you need help with the scale of difficulty, resource the American Whitewater International Scale of Difficulty to help you determine which trip is best for you. And never hesitate to speak with us personally about your river experience and the right trip for you.
Have a mixed group of boaters that all want to paddle together – or a non-paddler or two that wants to come along? We have more flexibility in Ecuador, so check our trip dates for a week that would work best for the group as a whole, and then we will work with you on a custom trip that will satisfy everyone’s idea of a great week both on and off the river.
A note about the roll:
Your trip is scheduled for later in the season, when many boaters have already called it a season at home. Come on this trip with confidence in your whitewater roll. If you have been having problems with your roll this past season, plan on spending a day or two at the pool before your trip or book a day of instruction with us. You will have a much better time!