Caribbean River Kayaking
Enjoy Caribbean river kayaking through mangroves, guided eco kayaking adventures
Caribbean river kayaking is a peaceful way of discovering the unique eco-systems and natural beauty of the region, where different islands offer different kayaking options.
Caribbean river kayaking in crystal clear warm waters is something all the family can enjoy but kayakers should always exercise care when kayaking on rivers during the rainy season in the Caribbean. Showers can be torrential during the rainy season so rivers can rise very quickly and the flow of rivers can be strong. Debris being swept downstream can be an additional hazard.
Depending where you are on vacation, you may be able to rent a single, double, or sit-on-top kayak. You can go it alone, join a small group tour which combines kayaking with snorkelling or hiking, or learn about the Caribbean environment on guided kayaking eco-tours amongst mangroves.
Destinations with Caribbean river kayaking opportunities
Options of taking a guided kayak tour in the beautiful mangroves of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean are various. You can learn about the beautiful endangered mangrove forests and have the option of either one or two hour tours kayaking in the mangroves, and also with or without combining mangrove snorkelling.
You can go on a kayaking adventure in Dominica from river to ocean or glide silently through the mangroves of Bonaire. Go kayaking in a lagoon and through canopied mangroves in St Lucia, and enjoy amazing birding kayaking adventures in Sian Ka’an in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico.
There are calm, protected waters on the island of ST Croix in the US Virgin Islands where you can take a historical kayaking eco-tour on Salt River and learn about the Indians and Christopher Columbus at the same time.
Hop on a kayak for two for a white water adventure in the Ocho Rios area of Jamaica. Start your adventure up-river, paddle through challenging exciting waters as well as pretty pools before reaching the sea. Combine Caribbean kayaking with ziplining in Jamaica on and around the scenic Great River – gentle rapids, three ziplines, and a rope swing by the river.
In Trinidad you will find that kayaking on the Godineau River offers a range of habitats and birdwatching opportunities on marshlands and mangrove wetlands. You’ll find year-round kayaking available in Trinidad on a number of rivers, wide and narrow, lined with mangroves, jungle and bamboo. Trinidad is renowned for its birds so there are plenty of birding hotspots along the various kayaking routes. Birdwatching kayaking tours through the swamps of Blue River and kayaking in the Caroni swamp are favourites.
On the French island of Guadeloupe kayaking can be organised on several rivers and can cater for different levels of skill. Organisers can also arrange shuttle services. Kayaking routes in Guadeloupe range from 2-3 hours to 7-8 hours and cover distances from 2.5 miles to 17 miles.
You can go Caribbean kayaking for half-day or full-day adventures in the Dominican Republic, near Cabarete, on the Yasica River, and a creek tributary, and also the Jamao River. There’s also an option of kayaking for two days, camping overnight, with a visit to a reptile farm. You need to be fairly fit but this kayaking is suitable for all the family (children under 4 go free).
Whether you are visiting on a cruise ship or staying in a hotel, considering taking a half-day excursion to discover St Lucia on a Caribbean kayaking adventure. Some sea kayaking, from Marigot Bay to the river mouth, is involved – about 20 minutes kayaking. Then you will kayak through a calm lagoon and mangroves, and up the river. Enjoy birdwatching on the way, and maybe a short snorkelling session.
The Spanish Lagoon in Aruba was, long ago, the hiding place for Caribbean pirates – this is where you can go kayaking before exploring the coastal mangroves, learning about local folklore, nature and history as you go. Combine this with a guided snorkelling tour in the South Coast Barrier Reef of Aruba. The all-inclusive resorts in Aruba often include kayaking in their packages, so check before paying to hire a kayak.
Mangroves are making a comeback on the island of Curacao, but not without help. Development was the cause of the dramatic reduction of mangroves. They are an important ecological resource and Ryan De Jongh, together with the Carmabi Foundation, are re-planting masses of mangroves. Ryan runs kayaking tours of the mangroves, exploring inland, during which you’ll learn about these important salt-cleansing plants.
Caribbean river kayaking in Central America countries that border the Caribbean
Exciting kayaking trips are waiting for you in Belize on the Mopan and Macal Rivers with Class 2 and Class 3 runs. You’ll see lush rainforests, fauna and exotic flora. Half day and full day river kayaking adventures are available. The shoreline of the Macal River is a perfect habitat for tropical birds, iguanas and butterflies, and there are several places to stop during your canoeing adventure if you wish. There are some botanical gardens, a butterfly farm and natural history centre, as well as bars and restaurants along the river’s edge. Go canoeing accompanied by a bird guide to appreciate the wildlife – you’ll see quite a few species. There are also multi-day kayaking river trips accompanied by experienced Mayan rainforest guides – you will experience great scenery, wildlife viewing, flat water paddling as well as exciting whitewater challenges.
Cave kayaking with a Mayan guide is another option in Belize – you’ll learn a lot of interesting Maya snippets and stories. There’s an overnight cave kayaking adventure option too. Also, if you can bear to sit in an inner tube for several miles, you can take one down the river through the caves.
Costa Rica is a fantastic country to explore and the kayaking options are many. Combine kayaking across a lake with mountain biking, or take a birding and wildlife kayaking adventure on the Buena Vista River. Go kayaking in the mangroves in the Damas Island Estuary, explore the Tamarindo Estuary, or go on a four-hour kayaking expedition on Lake Arenal. Explore Costa Rica’s exquisite rainforests, home to exotic wildlife, while whitewater kayaking on the Pacuare River which flows 67 miles from the Talamanca Range to the Caribbean.
In Honduras, serious kayakers – from June to November – can find some of quality rapids and some of the best paddling in the Santa Rosa-Gracias area during the rainy season. Expect IV to V (and more) rapids in the long gorge sections. Kayaking adventure multi-day (camping) itineraries can be custom-made to suit visitors’ needs and take in coral reefs, waterfalls, inland streams and coral reefs.
Imagine kayaking into the heart of the Panama Canal Zone… how cool is that. Panama kayaking adventures take you kayaking along the banks of Gatun Lake. Wildlife is amazing – you might see toucans and sloths and will learn interesting facts about the area’s flora and fauna.
Check out these Caribbean river kayaking destinations
Bocas Tranquilo Bay, Eco Circuitos
Mangroves, Cayman Islands
Kayaking in Antigua
Bioluminescent kayaking, Cayman Islands
Kayaking in Bonaire
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Images on this Caribbean River Kayaking page are copyright of Eco Circuitos Panama (main image Panama Canal & Bocas), Tourism Corporation Bonaire, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (mangroves, bioluminescent), Antigua & Barbuda Tourist Office