Top 10 most exciting paddle (canoe, kayak, SUP) destinations

10- Okere Falls, North Island, New Zealand (12 in the global 100 list)

Emerald depths turn to rushing white water at the Okere Falls, a fun drop for progressing paddlers to tackle that’s tucked into the northern corner of Lake Rotoiti in the Bay of Plenty. This area of the North Island is a centre of rafting and kayaking, with awesome paddles to the natural Manupirua geothermal hot mineral pools on the other side of the lake, or to ride the rapids of nearby Kaituna River. Camping out here afterwards means seeing the Milky Way with spectacular clarity.

9- Futaleufú river and Rio Azul, Patagonia, Chile (11 in the global 100 list)

Called “Big River” in the local Mapuche dialect, the Futaleufú, in the north of Patagonia, is as wild and dramatic a river as you’ll find anywhere. Huge white waves, Class V rapids with intimidating names such as Terminator, a section called the “Wild Mile”, chunky boulders and a forested Alpine setting are the ingredients for an adrenaline-fuelled adventure for experienced paddlers. But there are some chill sections too, where paddlers can relax and admire the dazzling blue water, including on the calmer tributary, the Rio Azul.

11- Futaleufu & Rio Azul Basecamp, Chile @discover_patagonia #Paddle100 Canoe Kayak SUP

8- Kasai Rinkai Park, Japan, Tokyo (20 in the global 100 list)

The whitewater venue for the summer Olympics 2020/21 looks set to be a smasher. The new purpose-built canoe slalom course, adjoining Kasai Rinkai Park beside Tokyo Bay in Edogawa, will be the first man-made course in Japan, and is set to become a leisure venue after the event. Easy paddling of the sightseeing rather than competitive variety can be enjoyed on the Bay, and along the Sumida, the main river through the city, and its backwater canals.

20- Kasai Rinkai Park, Japan 葛西臨海公園, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Slalom Venue @takuya_haneda

7- Rio Jalacingo, Veracruz, Mexico (22 in the global 100 list)

Narrow rapids and canyons, portages and a 20-foot drop make this a seriously thrilling river run— no wonder our judge Jessica Fox gave it 10/10 for excitement. The river has only recently been tackled by paddlers; it’s tricky to get in and out of, not to mention down, making it one for the experts. The guys from Kyiv Kayaks described it as a “very cool place” with “picturesque gorges and a lot of fun”.. though they also mentioned they did find a broken oar at the end of their session there!  

6- Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (35 in the global 100 list)

Surfer’s Paradise might be the most famous beach near the loud, proud coastal city of Gold Coast in Queensland, but paddlers will find lots more to explore along its 44-miles of honey-coloured sand. A little way off shore, Wavebreak Island is a great spot to snorkel with subtropical fish, nearby South Stradbroke Island is home to wallabies, and inland are endless creeks and rivers to explore. With crystal water and white sand beaches as it nears the sea, mangroves, natural canals and tempting swimming holes higher up, the long Currumbin Creek is popular with paddlers of all kinds: nature lovers, families and sprint kayakers wanting to get some speed up on steady water.

5- Antarctica (18 in the global 100 list)

Icebergs and silence. Glaciers calving into the sea. Whales and penguins dipping and diving close by. Kayaking in Antarctica is unfathomably epic.It may not be the most accessible, or affordable, place for a paddle, but all those who make it there are rewarded with a life-defining experience in a place of awe and wonder.

18- Antarctica @dhkireland #Paddle100 Canoe Kayak SUP

4- Soca and Koritnica rivers, Slovenia (10 in the global 100 list)

Deep gullies in smooth white limestone, mint green water, forested banks and the mountainous backdrop of the Julian Alps make the River Soca and its tributary the River Koritnica set the scene for some of the most stunning paddling in Eastern Europe. 

Expert and progressing paddlers can tackle Grade 1 to Grade V rapids and the Koritnica’s 70-metre-deep Kluze Canyon, though even beginners can learn here too, on water that’s clean enough to fill your water bottle with. 

Multi-world champion Slovenian canoeist Nejc Žnidarčič, recommended the Soca as his beloved local river; it’s where he trains and has won whitewater sprint events.

3- Iguacu Falls, Parana state, Brazil (9 in the global 100 list)

Between Argentina and Brazil, the semi-circular Iguacu Falls are some of the widest, mightiest and most impressive waterfalls in the world, with almost 300 separate falls and cataracts. No one is suggesting paddlers go over the top of them, but the contributor of this tip, Luciano Menghello, of Aloha Spirit Media, claims to be the first to make an SUP expedition to near the foot of the falls, a place, he says, is “known worldwide for the beauty and strength of the waters”. 

As the Iguacu river pours through subtropical rainforest, home to howler monkeys, tapirs and giant anteaters, lower sections feature Grade 3 rapids to test proficient paddlers. 

9- Iguaçu falls, Brazil @pepehgoncalves #Paddle100 Canoe Kayak SUP

2- Rio Claro, Maule Region, Chile (43 in the global 100 list)

Deep, narrow, gnarly and frankly terrifying to anyone but the top experts, the Rio Claro pours down from the Planchon Volcano through some of the tightest paddlable rock corridors on earth. Overhanging rock walls, chutes and drops treat the paddler like a pinball. Not surprisingly this one was highly rated by the judges for its excitement factor.

1- The Nile, Egypt (29 in the global 100 list)

A river as legendary, historic, romantic and unique as the Nile was always going to rank highly. Its 4,000 miles pass through 11 countries, but in Egypt, paddling beside the sultry, palm-lined riverbanks is a calm, escapist method of exploring the frenetic city of Cairo. Equally amazing is the still water at Aswan, where paddlers can admire the ancient temples from the water. Both spots are recommended by Charif Khedr, co-founder of the Nile Kayak Club, Egypt’s first recreational kayak club. Thos up for a bigger challenge could take on a seriously epic 200-km paddle from Aswan to Luxor, stopping at temples and to speak to fishermen along the way.

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