Zip and Rappel Tours, Maui, HI
Skip to Content

Our Blog

What is Canyoneering and Rappelling?

Another Frequently Asked Question we get from a lot of first-timers who are interested in taking a tour, but are new to rappelling and canyoning in general is, of course:

What exactly IS canyoning, anyway?

We’re glad you asked!

What is Canyoneering? Woman rappelling down a clif into a lake

The simplest description of canyoning is: The exploration of canyons.

To go a little more in-depth, let’s take a page (literally) from Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons, second edition, by David Black. (pp. xi, 1-2.)

First off, a canyon is a deep, narrow valley or chasm with steep sides or cliff walls that have been carved and shaped by moving water. (For you trivia fans, a gorge is usually steeper and narrower than a canyon.) The exploration of a canyon (and descending/ascending it) may require any number of activities, such as hiking, scrambling, jumping, sliding, rappelling, and swimming.

In North America, there is a vague distinction between “canyoning” and “canyoneering,” but more often than not, the terms are used interchangeably, with “canyoning” being the favored term in English-speaking countries outside the United States. Other names for canyoning include “kloofing” (S. Africa) and the Welsh phrase “cerdded ceunant.”

One thing that separates canyoning from hiking is equipment, such as ropes and harnesses. It can be summarized as a hybrid of rock climbing, hiking, river running, and wilderness skills.

For those of you who are wondering, we keep our canyoning day tours on the recreational side. There is some hiking and swimming during the tour, but no technical rock climbing, navigating or camping.

Canyoneering in America is at least several hundred years old, but during the late 20th century, canyoning became popular with aging climbers who had the skills and penchant for exploring some of the world’s loneliest places. Word spread via guidebooks and the media, and by 2000, canyoning was one of the fastest growing adventure sports.

You can sample a tasty morsel of canyoning during a Rappel Maui day tour.

These are recreational experiences for the uninitiated and experienced alike, and last about 3 hours. The tour is great for those looking for a unique outdoor activity that weds incredible tropical scenery with excitement and fun. It’s great for families, couples, groups, conferences and solo travelers. Call us at 808-270-1500 to ask your questions.

For a deeper dive into the principles and practices of canyoning, take a one-day or multi-day class in canyoning. Classes cover the full range of canyoning subject matter, with lots of hands-on practice, from introductory to advanced, plus the availability of specialty classes.

Have something special in mind? Call us at 808-270-1500 to talk.