Rafting and Kayaking
Several of Honduras’s many rivers have extensive rapids ranging from Class II–V and above (i.e., unrunnable), tumbling through boulder-strewn gorges lined with tropical forest, excellent for white-water adventuring. The best season for river-running is right at the end of the rains, December–February, but it’s possible to raft just about any time on the north coast, which receives rain all year. Rafting and kayaking guide companies are all based in La Ceiba. While visiting kayakers can rent all the gear they need, they may wish to bring their own helmet or spray skirt along with them.
The best-known river in Honduras, and one of the finest rafting and kayaking rivers in Central America, is the Río Cangrejal, right outside of La Ceiba, with four distinct rapids sections of varying difficulty and great beauty. Most rafters stick to the lower, “commercial” section, while kayakers head upriver to try their hand at the more treacherous and thrilling rapids, falls, and chutes of the other three sections.
Several other, smaller rivers pouring off the flanks of the Pico Bonito range near La Ceiba offer shorter but equally intense runs, like the Río Zacate, or the Río Coloradito, both just west of La Ceiba off the Tela highway. Getting to the put-in at the Coloradito takes a bit of hiking, but it’s well worth it for five tumultuous kilometers of Class III–V rapids, suitable for kayaks only and with lots of scouting. East of La Ceiba, passing through the town of Jutiapa, is the Río Papaloteca, with several Class IIIs and a couple of Class Vs on its course toward the Caribbean.
Inland from La Ceiba, through the Río Aguán valley and up a dirt road heading south into the Olancho mountains, is the Río Mame, requiring at least two full days and support with pack animals. The river has several sections on its long course down into the Valle del Aguán, the upper ones with Class III–V rapids, for kayakers only, while the Class II–III lower stretch is okay for rafts. Roughly parallel to the Mame, some 40 kilometers to the west over the mountains in Yoro, is Río Yaguala, similar but with a heart-stopping subterráneo section, almost a full cave. Trips to the Yaguala take at least three days and are for kayakers only. The countryside out this way is spectacular.
Farther east, in the jungle-clad Mosquitia region, multiday trips lead down the Río Sico, starting in Olancho and coming out near the highway crossing at La Balsa. This is a good rafting trip, with some exciting but not too intense rapids and interesting scenery of homestead farms and cattle ranches amid remnant sections of tropical rainforest. Deeper into the Mosquitia are the Río Plátano, Río Patuca, Río Mocorón, and Río Coco, to name just the main rivers. All of these are great for multiday adventure rafting through tropical rainforest.
The Río Copán in western Honduras has a decent 12-kilometer run of Class III rapids running right past the Mayan ruins, a one-day rafting trip.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition