It's easy to overdose on adrenaline before actually doing any activity in Pucón – the wealth of adventure operators lining Av O'Higgins and the bounty of activities on offer in and around Pucón can easily overwhelm. The standards, climbing Villarrica and rafting Río Trancura, are offered by many, but consider some of the other activities – those that allow you to appreciate the area away from the masses, such as horseback riding, snowshoeing, skydiving, mountain paragliding, snowmobiling or exploring some of the smaller nature reserves on foot.
Like every other place in the region, the crowds do trickle in in winter, and skiing and snowboarding become the focus. In summer, if you're not hiking it, jumping off of it, riding it or climbing it, you'll likely find yourself planted on Pucón's gorgeous black-sand beach, tucked behind the Gran Hotel Pucón – blink and you'll swear you're in the tropics!
There are a few spectacular options for horse treks in this region. Most rides take in various environments and may include stopovers so riders can meet with local huasos (cowboys) or Mapuche communities. Half- and full-day rides hover around CH$30,000 to CH$65,000 depending on the grade of difficulty, number of people going and location exclusivity. Antilco is far and away the most recommended outfitter.
Hot springs are everywhere you turn around Pucón and La Araucanía, none more fantastic (or expensive) than Termas Geométricas (technically in Los Riós, but sitting 82km south by road from Pucón, it's most often visited from La Araucanía's adventure capital). Other popular hot spots to catch a soothing soak in the area include the new-agey and low-key Termas de Panqui, 56km east of Pucón; the once-popular (but fading) Termas Los Pozones, 36km east; the upscale Termas Peumayén, 30km east; and the traditional Termas de Huife, 35km east. Pucón tour operators offer day trips (including transport) to the most popular hot springs for between CH$20,000 and CH$25,000 (Termas Geométricas runs CH$35,000 to CH$45,000); and a few are reachable on public transportation.
Hydrospeeding, Kayaking & Rafting
Pucón is known for both its river sports and the quality of the rafting and kayaking infrastructure. Most of the larger travel agencies run rafting trips. The rivers near Pucón and their corresponding rapids classifications are: the Lower Trancura (III), the Upper Trancura (IV), Liucura (II–III), the Puesco Run (V) and the Maichín (IV–V), among many others. Bear in mind, rafting here is not as good as Futaleufú.
When negotiating a rafting or kayaking trip, recognize that the stated trip durations often include transportation, not just the time spent on the water. Prices can range from CH$10,000 full-day rentals to CH$50,000 excursions depending on the season, the number of people per raft or kayaking trip, the company and the level of challenge. Many of the rivers are swollen in the winter and closed for most sports, although it is still possible to raft or kayak in some.
In spring and winter hydrospeeding (CH$25,000) is an excellent option – some say better than rafting.
Mountain bikes can be rented all over town. Daily rental prices are negotiable but shouldn't be more than CH$10,000 to CH$14,000 (unless it is a brand-new bike with full suspension).
The most popular route is the Ojos de Caburgua Loop (though increased traffic has killed some of the joy here). Take the turnoff to the airfield about 4km east of town and across Río Trancura. It's a dustbowl in summer, though, and tends to irritate all but the most hard-core riders. Extensions off the same route include the Lago Caburgua to Río Liucura Loop and the full Río Trancura Loop. Two other popular trails that are close to town are Correntoso and Alto Palguín–Chinay (to the Palguín hot springs). It's also possible to tackle the volcano on a downhill run (per person based on two/four people CH$70,000/55,000).
Any bike-rental agencies will be able to give you more details and should provide a decent trail map. You'll pay slightly more, but Freeride Pucón has the best bikes and maintenance in town.
Cerduo, at the foot of Volcán Villarrica, offers 40 climbing routes graded from 5.8 to 5.12d. There's sport climbing as well as traditional, all surrounded by native forest. For more intense and physically demanding routes, head to pristine Las Peinetas near the Argentine border, where climbs consist of five to six pitches and can last up to 12 hours (guide recommended). It is a three-hour hike-in to where the climbing commences. For experienced and certified guides, check out Summit Chile, where, in addition to advanced options, owner Claudio Retamal has opened up five routes at Cerduo for all skill levels.