MEXICO CITY, September 21, 2010 – While relaxing by the beach will always remain a popular vacation activity, tourists in Mexico are increasingly seeking hands-on vacations involving the search for adventure. And why wouldn’t they? Mexico is one of the world’s best places for rock climbing, rappelling, rafting, snorkeling and bungee jumping, among other high-energy activities. Whether the activities are land-based, sea-based or in the air, Mexico’s unspoiled natural surroundings, diverse geography and breathtaking scenery offer endless possibilities.
From cycling in Baja California to water rafting in Veracruz, adventure tourism in Mexico takes many forms to suit every taste and budget. Most tour operators offer a variety of options, from half-day trips to longer packages featuring a combination of activities. However, a must-visit locale for thrill seekers is Xplor, a unique underground world located in Riviera Maya. Xplor features 13 zip lines, which whisk riders through Mexico’s lively natural surroundings or splash them down in a refreshing water landing. Adventure enthusiasts can also enjoy Xplor’s amphibious vehicles, its stalactite rivers or its underground raft excursions.
If a traveler is feeling particularly plucky, they can take a trip to Guadalupe Island, one of USA Today’s “10 great places to swim with sharks.” In fact, due to its crystal-clear blue waters, Guadalupe Island is among the best locations in the world to photograph and film the enormous great whites.
Other locations that get the heart pumping are Acapulco’s Zona Dorada where one can enjoy the Skycoaster, a thrilling ride that swings you back and forth like a human pendulum; Aguascalientes’ Tunel de Potrerillo, whose dirt roads, trails and downhill runs are perfect to experience the thrill of mountain biking; and Guadalajara’s Lago de Chapala where extreme sports such as hang gliding and kite surfing are the norm. To unwind, Pachuca’s Ex-Hacienda of Acapulco offers amazing hot air balloon rides — an exciting way to end the day.
Can’t get enough adventure? Mexico has more than plenty of activities for every traveler:
Mountain Climbing and Rappelling
Ain’t no mountain high enough you say? Then you haven’t seen the volcanoes in Puebla. Not for the faint of heart, the Peak of Orizaba (also known as Citlaltepetl) is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third-highest in North America, soaring 18,490 feet above the colonial city of Puebla. Puebla also houses the Jamapa Glacier and Espolon de Oro, where only the most advanced hikers make it. Other popular volcanoes for climbing in Mexico are the Iztaccihuatl in Puebla, also known as the “sleeping maiden” as it resembles a reclining figure with curves, as well as the Nevado de Toluca, a snow-capped volcano near Mexico City.
Apart from shimmying up volcanoes, other popular climbing destinations are Sierra La Giganta in Loreto, the Sierra Norte in Oaxaca State, La Peña and Peñon del Diablo in Valle de Bravo and the Sierra Madre Oriental in Nuevo Leon State near Monterrey.
Ain’t No Canyon Low Enough
Canyoneering (also known as “canyoning”) involves traveling down narrow waterways in canyons by rappelling, jumping, swimming and scaling slippery surfaces. The sport has quickly gained momentum all over the world, with Mexico being one of the best places to take the plunge. Some great canyoneering locations include Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in Chihuahua and the Matacanes Canyon and Potrero Chico Canyon in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
Hiking and Backpacking
The mild climate and rocky mountains of the central Mexican state of Guanajuato make it a popular destination for hiking and backpacking. Just 15 minutes from the capital city of Guanajuato is the Las Palomas recreational zone and wildlife preserve, an important area of biodiversity and an ideal place for naturalists and birdwatchers. Trained tour guides employed by the preserve offer their expertise in the areas of botany, bird migration and the area’s flora and fauna. Furthermore, Las Palomas’ mountainous terrain is the perfect setting for mountain biking and camping.
Cycling is a wonderful way to get to know Mexico! The country offers everything from short bike hikes through archaeological sites to grueling mountain biking and backcountry camping combinations. The beautiful bay, awe-inspiring landscapes and rainforests surrounding the Pacific resort city of Puerto Vallarta, provide the ideal setting for the ultimate mountain biking experience.
For cyclists who prefer paved roads, Rosarito and Ensenada on the Baja California peninsula host an annual bike ride every spring and fall, taking place on Sept. 25 this year and on May 11, 2011. The “Rosarito Ensenada Bike Ride” is one of the largest and longest-running cycling events in the world, whose 50-mile course offers spectacular views of the Pacific coastline.
Ride ‘Em Cowboy!
Mexico boasts countless parks, wildlife reserves and beaches where horses are available for organized tours or rent. Longer organized cavalcades are common in the states of Sonora, Jalisco, Chihuahua and Veracruz, just to name a few.
Up, Up and Away
What better way to see Mexico than with a bird’s eye view? Paragliding has become tremendously popular in Mexico, with Mexicans and foreigners alike flocking to places like Valle de Bravo in Mexico State and Lake Chapala to enjoy the country’s lush scenery from above.
Getting Your Feet Wet
Veracruz State, which borders the Gulf of Mexico, is the ideal destination for whitewater rafting. With more than 40 rivers, including the popular Rio Actopan and Tio Antigua, Veracruz offers Class II and Class IV rapids. Most tour operators combine rafting with camping, hiking, visits to quaint towns and dips in nearby hot springs.
A great way to experience Mexico’s exotic marine life is through sea kayaking. Kayaking and camping adventures are available out of Loreto and La Paz on the Sea of Cortes (located on the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula) where tourists can get up close and personal with finback and blue whales, dolphins, sea lions and exotic fish. Other wonderful places to kayak include the Mayan canals in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Riviera Maya, the mangroves of Lake Sontecomapan, the Balsas River in Michoacan and the Isla de Monos (Monkey Island) and Laguna Escondida (Hidden Lagoon) in Veracruz.
Puerto Vallarta, with its ocean and jungle, is a paradise for kayakers and trekkers. Packs of humpback whales can also be spotted just outside Puerto Vallarta’s Bahia de las Banderas. Isla Mujeres, another spot in Mexico to make the list of USA Today’s “10 great places to swim with sharks,” is the perfect destination to swim with the largest fish in the sea, the gentle whale shark.
Mexico also boasts countless destinations for diving. Top spots include Los Cabos on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, as well as Loreto and La Paz. Referred to by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau as “The World’s Aquarium,” the waters that make up the Sea of Cortes are teeming with blue, black and striped marlin, sailfish, dorado, sea lions, blue fin whales, hammerhead sharks, moray eels and tropical fish.
Other top diving spots include the Yucatan Peninsula, whose cenotes (sinkholes) are increasingly favored by divers and Cozumel, Mexico’s largest island renowned for its underwater clarity and beautiful coral reefs.
Don’t Break a Sweat
Strenuous activities aren’t for everyone. For those who like adventure without the physical challenges, Mexico offers an interesting variety of activities. El Chepe is a 400-mile train ride between Chihuahua City and Los Mochis in Sinaloa State, where travelers can marvel at Mexico’s gorgeous landscapes. The train climbs as high as 8,000 feet above sea level and passes over 37 bridges throughout 86 tunnels, stopping in tiny towns on the rims of majestic canyons.
About the Mexico Tourism Board
The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico’s tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB functions as an executive agency of Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat, with autonomous management and the broad participation of the private sector. The MTB has offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.