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Top 3 Whitewater Rafting Rivers in Ecuador

An Intro to Rafting in Ecuador

Rafting in Ecuador is wholly defined by the Andes mountains that cut north to south through the middle of the country. World class rafting is to be found on both sides, the eastern Amazon side and western Pacific side of the Andes range.

The confluence of the Amazon jungle and the Andes mountains is the crossroads of adventure for adventure-seeking rafters and kayakers. As water plunges down from the summits of these towering Ecuadorian peaks it creates some of the most exciting whitewater on the planet.

On the western side, most of the action is in the fast flowing Toachi and Blanco rivers just a couple of hours away from Quito.

The Andes are big and steep. The rivers are steep and fast. Water levels can change rapidly, so if it’s raining hard up in the mountains, your guide may take you to a different river than planned that’s better for the current conditions.

Your Ecuador rafting adventure usually begins in Quito, and depending on your choice of itineraries, can also be based out of Tena.

And, the Top 3 rafting rivers in Ecuador are…

Rio Jatunyacu

Cliffs, and canyons, and jungles, Oh my!

This raging river is the upper branch of the Rio Napo, extending west from the town of Tena. Its name in Kichwa means “big water,” which pretty much guarantees you an adventure like none other. On your trip, you will witness Ecuador’s beautiful Amazon jungle, as you navigate through the splashing rapids.

This is a great option for travelers of any skill level. It’s a one-day river run, and you will encounter Class III+ rapids along the way. But don’t fret – you will have proper instruction beforehand and expert guides along the way ensuring your safety.

Between the rapids are gently flowing pools surrounded by breathtaking rock formations that you will have a chance to swim through. 

Day trips to the Jatunyacu river usually start and end in either Quito or Tena.

Jondachi-Hollin Rivers

This is one of the newest rafting opportunities in Ecuador. Before the put-in, you will be able to explore a hidden river cave and go for a refreshing dip to start the day. Then you can take a short hike to get to the put-in point and set off on the 38km run for the day.

This is a solid class II-IV river and not a good option for beginners, as many of the maneuvers are technical and require precise navigation in whitewater between granite boulders. But if you’ve had some whitewater experience, then this will be an exciting adventure!

Quijos River  

Higher in the Andes between Quito and Tena is one of the world’s premier single-day rafting runs. Intense successions of class III-IV rapids feature crashing holes and towering waves all day. The 16 km is usually run in about two and a half hours. Take some time to check out the views, as the Quijos canyon is gorgeous. These same runs that 250 competitors in the 2005 Rafting World Championships experienced.

The Quijos is best for experienced rafters or strong adventurous beginners. The water here is cooler than lower altitudes, so we’ll put on our wetsuits most days to stay a bit warmer.

The Quijos is generally run as a day trip from Quito, but being the premier run in Ecuador, is included in most multi-day trips based out of Tena as well.

Planning a Rafting Trip to Ecuador

Ecuador Adventure has been rafting the rivers of Ecuador for over 20 years and are the experts in putting together trips that include several different rivers that go from single day up to 8 days or more if you request a custom designed rafting expedition.

The 8-Day Rafting the Headwaters of the Amazon trip includes the Jatunyacu, Jondachi-Hollin, and Quijos Rivers, in addition to the legendary Rio Upano.

There’s always more to see in Ecuador

In Ecuador, there’s always another adventure to be had or another mountain to climb (literally!). Every trip to Ecuador is unique, and it all depends on what you want your experience to be.

While you’re in the Sierra-Amazon region, consider combining your rafting adventure with some of these activities:

Sierra

  • Mountain biking
  • Volcano hiking
  • Trekking
  • City tours of Quito

Amazon

  • Kayaking & Canoeing
  • Nature hikes and birding
  • Piranha Fishing