Many in the kayaking world know David Hughes by name, but few know his story. David spent his childhood on a farm in rural Tennessee where his parents still live today. He comes from a family of preternaturally gifted athletes who instilled grit and work ethic. David’s relentless drive to succeed combined with athleticism lead him to become an NCAA Division I wrestler. It was his first year as a Georgia public school teacher and head wrestling coach when the Georgia Associated Press voted David “Wrestling Coach of the Year” for taking an unknown team to medal in the state championships. David continued to find mainstream success through his tireless drive and patient coaching methodology as he became consumed with another passion – whitewater. David quickly realized his talent as a teacher and coach not only transferred to the sport of kayaking – his skills were in demand. David instinctively combined his increasing notoriety as a kayak instructor with his academic background, ultimately leading him to start a traveling high school for kayakers, the New River Academy, which he directed for more than a decade. New River Academy produced 4 World Freestyle Champions and as many Olympians under David’s leadership.

As the founder of the original Pucón Kayak Hostel (today known as the retreat) David continues to be active in teaching and coaching kayaking to all ages and ability levels. In addition to managing daily operations at the retreat, David oversees kayak program development and staff training. On most mornings you will find him up with the sun, checking river levels, drinking a cup of fresh drip coffee and leading a custom cross-training workout with guests or students. David is most happy when he is sharing his knowledge and experience with others, which in reality translates to running lots of shuttles, writing blog reports, answering questions, drawing maps, and entertaining guests with tall tales of remote canyons, epic waterfalls, and flawless tango dance moves. David believes that achieving a harmonic work and life balance is the key to happiness, which his infectious optimism makes difficult to dispute.

Today, David continues his academic passion via developing the Patagonia Study Abroad program and affiliating with numerous global universities and school groups. It was during leading a Chile trip in river sustainability for the Colorado Mountain College where David and CMC professors John Saunders and Matt Jost planned a Chile based study abroad program for CMC. Jost and Saunders described the academic credits David would need to help facilitate the program. So, he immediately enrolled in university to secure his MBA Marketing Research and Social Media Analysis to both improve the retreat business and to advance study abroad programs.

Whether is new kayak destinations, expanding into the world of multi-adventure trips, or affiliating with universities David is enthusiastic to share Chile’s wonders and culture with travelers.


As a business owner David enjoys content writing and finding win – win solutions for partnerships. It is here in Chile sharing the rivers and the many adventures that David calls home. 


Chile Kayak Trips

Instructor DISCOUNTS for Chile Kayak Trips

Recruiting, training and retaining kayak instructors to lead Chile kayak trips. Instructors can earn 50% DISCOUNTS to kayak Chile rivers.

Pucon + Valle Puelo Multi-Adventure Trip

Pucon riverside, basalt canyons, volcanos, y hot springs. Valle Puelo via horse support to AR border gaucho farm. Pack raft Rio Ventisquero to Rio Puelo.

Students Kayak Chile Rivers + AWFA CERT

Students kayak Chile rivers and earn Wilderness First Responder Certification over holiday break. Daily after WFR classes instruction for BEG-INT-ADV kayakers.

First Descents Alumni & Friends Chile Kayak Trip

First Descents friends Chile kayaking trip for BEG-INT-ADV groups. Kayaking daily safe and proper development features for best learning.

Week of Chile Rivers with Colorado Whitewater

Colorado Whitewater members DISCOUNTS to kayak Chiles best rivers. Daily instruction and destinations to beginner, intermediate, and advanced rivers.

Women of Chile Rivers Kayak Trip

Chile kayaking trip for intermediate and advanced women kayakers led by kayak school owners, competitors and expedition leaders on Chile’s best whitewater.

Pucon Classics Advanced (III to IV)

Multiple WEEKS Available
Advanced Chile Whitewater Kayaking Trip guarantees blue rivers, waterfalls, slides, and boofing all on world class creeking and big rivers.

Beginner Whitewater Kayak Chile Trips

Multiple Dates Available
For beginner and wannabe whitewater kayakers. Equipment, rivers, fun adventures, and challenges included. Bring a friend or meet new ones while you learn to kayak Chile rivers.

Fuy Plus Pucon Rivers

Advanced kayaking in Chiles best waterfall destinations of Rio Fuy and Pucon. Blue waterfalls with Pucon rivers and basalt canyons offers multiple sections for advanced whitewater kayakers.

Pucon Multi-Sport Adventures

Pucon’s best multi-sport adventures travelers choose from raft, horse, hot springs, wine tasting, volcanos and glaciers while living riverside.

2022-23 Trip Calendar

All TripsNovember Trips - Experts Only This is the Chilean spring time and that means optimum levels for creeking, more rivers and waterfalls options. Dates Trip Details OCT 29 - NOV 4 Pucon Creek Week (IV - V) Book Trip Mark Taylor/David Hughes OCT 29 - NOV 11 Custom...

Student Certifications AWFA + SRT + Chile Kayaking

Students can kayak Chile rivers whilst earning certifications in wilderness first responder and swiftwater rescue tech. Credits available.

Huilo Huilo Plus Pucon Multi-Sport

JAN 18 – 25
Choose from Pucon and Huilo Huilo Biological Reserves best adventures and comfort activities. Riverside lodging, and reliving your failures and summits with friends and warm fire. Is this real life.

Kathy Zerkle and Friends Chile Birthday Party

Happy birthday Kathy. Over the years nurse/ranger/psychotherapist Kathy Zerkle has mended more broken river bodies and minds than all of us put together. It is with great pleasure that Pucon Kayak Retreat offers Kathy & friends a birthday week of retreat Chilean river style amongst her besties.

Pucon Classics Intermediate (II to III+)

Multiple Dates Available
15 INTERMEDIATE sections to learn self-scouting, piercing eddies, boofing, edge control, and explore Chile’s beautiful rivers. Bring a friend or bond with new ones during your daily challenges.

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Our Scheduled Chile Kayak Trips