For rafters and kayakers, the Río Cangrejal  is one of the premier destinations in Central America. Depending on the water level, the four distinct sections of the river boast dozens of different rapids, ranging from Class II to Class V, offering stretches exciting enough for river-running enthusiasts of any skill level.
Total novices can take a several-hour trip, in which they will be shown the very basics of boating skills and sent down an appropriate stretch of the river with a group of trained guides. More experienced rafters and kayakers can tackle the more daunting rapids. Although it’s not common, rafters and kayakers have been injured and even killed on the Cangrejal, so don’t take river trips lightly.
Most rafters will go down the lower section of the river, also known as the “commercial” section. Although fairly safe all in all, this section has a couple of long rapids, Class III–IV depending on the water, more than sufficient to get your adrenaline flowing.
Above the lower stretch is the middle, starting at the bridge at Las Mangas. This is considered the most complex stretch of the river, littered with boulders of all sizes, a veritable labyrinth of drop-offs, chutes, and all manner of problems. One particular drop-off is not overly difficult, but on the far side is an underwater hazard known as El Submarino, which can suck an unsuspecting boater under. Most boaters wisely portage around El Submarino. Although it is possible to raft the middle, usually only kayakers brave this stretch.
The top, between the gorge and El Pital, and the upper, between El Pital and Las Mangas, both have several Class III–V rapids, plenty of boulders and drop-offs, and stretches shooting through bare rock riverbed. Like the middle, these stretches are more frequented by kayaks than rafts, although Omega Tours regularly rafts the top section. This section is recommended for expert rafters only.
The rapids can be enjoyed year-round but are best run during or just after the fall rains when the river is deep. September–March are considered the best months, with the most water in November and December. That said, tour operators do occasionally cancel their trips during the November rains, because the water gets too high.
With Omega Tours (tel. 504/440-0334, www.omegatours.info ), half-day rafting trips cost US$49 per person, everything included. Omega Tours is the only operator in La Ceiba  with internationally licensed rafting guides, some with more than 10 years of experience rafting around the world, and the only one that rafts the upper part of the Río Cangrejal , with its Class V rapids.
With Garífuna Tours (tel. 504/440-3252, www.garifunatours.com ), rafting trips on the Cangrejal cost US$39 per person.
Check out the La Ceiba Tour Operators  page to see a full offering of tours from these, and other, tour operators.