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It was a white Christmas in Ecuador this year with more whitewater than we knew what to do with! Too many awesome rivers were at the absolutely ideal flow and we just didn’t have enough time to paddle them all…

But, if that’s all I have to complain about over the holidays, then I’ll take it!

If the cold-weather blues and frozen local rivers have your spirits down in the dumps, you should think about a winter paddling vacation. Down here in Ecuador the rivers are flowing, it’s roughly 80 degrees everyday and monkeys and parrots are common sights along the rivers.

The great thing about Ecuador is that it truly can accommodate any style of paddler. It’s got such a great variety of rivers in such a small area that there really is something for everyone.

From Small World Adventures’ riverside lodge, paddlers can access over 250 miles of whitewater. If you like super steep, continuous boulder gardens, head to the creeks. Ecuador’s creeks pour directly off the Andes Mountains and, while there are very few waterfalls in this country, there is no lack of gradient. You’ll lose count of the 2-8 foot boofs that you keep falling off!

If you like pools intermixed with your rapids, you’ll want to head a bit lower down in elevation where you can enjoy bigger water runs such as the Class III Jatunyacu or the Class IV Quijos. Big powerful rapids will get your attention, but then you will still have time to enjoy the incredible basalt canyons while relaxing in the pools!

Here is just a sampling of what you can expect down in Ecuador:

Upper Jondachi: The Upper Jondachi is truly the quintessential jungle run! It’s got everything you’d expect from a creek run in the tropics—big granite boulders, fern-covered cliff walls, parrots, and clear, warm water. If you are a solid Class IV+/V boater, you’ll love this run. It’s only 10 kilometers long (roughly 6.5 miles) but there are over 80 rapids—yes, someone counted! The river drops 140 feet per mile and the tallest drop is only 6 feet tall, so you know you can expect continuous boulder-garden drops. There are pools between drops, but the average pool size is about 40 feet, so bring your boof, your elbow pads and your A-Game to this run!

Rio Quijos: The Quijos River is the like the Arkansas River of Ecuador. It’s got over 100 miles of boatable whitewater ranging from Class III to Class V. Those seeking “The Gnar” can head upstream to the steeper reaches of the river; while those more interested in playboating or paddling larger volume Class IV can head downriver where amazing basalt canyons frame the backdrop for powerful big water rapids.

Jatunyacu: Jatunyacu in Quichua means “Big River.” To us kayakers, it means big water, warm water, wide-open Class III with huge, fun wave trains! For beginner to intermediate paddlers or hard-core play boaters, it just doesn’t get any better than this. The pristine Llanganates Mountains loom in the background of this incredibly fun and friendly big water run just outside the town of Tena. After a day of fun on the Jatunyacu you can head back to Tena and visit the local market where you can buy fresh mangos or passion fruit, or just wander around taking in all the sights and smells.

Rio Piatua: This is a slightly toned down version of the Upper Jondachi. For those not quite ready for 10 continuous kilometers of Class IV/V, the Piatua will satiate your hunger for boofs, clear water, and classic whitewater. This is a Class IV run with a wide river bed dotted with car to house size granite boulders. You’ll dodge and weave your way through incredible boulder mazes, all while boating in a shorty top! Don’t forget to look up every now and then as toucans are a common sight on this run.

This is just a glimpse at all the whitewater Ecuador has to offer. You could paddle here everyday for 1 month and still not do all the runs listed in the guidebook!

What’s more is that Ecuadorian people are some of the friendliest people I’ve met on this planet. They love to speak Spanish with you (even if you don’t know how, they’ll help you along), and get to know a little more about the crazy gringo kayakers that come to their country. It’s definitely worth taking a little time out of each day to explore their culture and you’ll be rewarded with unique experiences that you certainly won’t find in North America or Europe.

If you are short on time or don’t want to deal with the logistics involved in paddling in a foreign country, a guided trip with Small World Adventures is definitely the way to go. We take care of all the logistics down to the last detail to ensure you get 7 days of paddling while only having to miss 1 week of work! We work hard to make sure your paddling vacation in Ecuador truly is the trip of a lifetime. With our incredible riverside lodge, Mercedes Sprinter shuttle van, and our 19 years of experience guiding on Ecuador’s rivers, you know you’ll be in good hands! Plus, we’ve got a full line up of Jackson Kayaks at your disposal. So whether you want to grab a Super Star and throw huge blunts on big breaking waves, or get into the Villain or Hero and push your limits on steep creeks you’ll be stoked with our fleet of Jackson Kayaks in Ecuador! We look forward to adding the Fun Runner to the line up as well as the “go to” boat for all around river running.

For a trip, or beta on Ecuador, contact Small World Adventures at