Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger

Finding relaxation in Mexico is like finding a good slice of pizza in New York: It’s everywhere. But lately more and more travelers are trading in their bathing suits for hiking boots and hitting Mexico’s many, many trails and rivers for a taste of soft adventure.

Mexico has some of the world’s most diverse topography, including ocean, desert, forest and jungle, as well as a range of climates making it possible to enjoy activities like surfing, kayaking, rafting, skydiving, hang gliding, hot-air ballooning and scuba diving, to name a few.

“Staying in Baja California, nature is the name of the game. The town of Loreto on the Sea of Cortes is a good spot to stay because you can see the whales in Magdalena Bay,” says Hope Smith, president of Born to Travel. “There is also Espiritu Santo island, where you can snorkel, kayak and spot dolphins. Mexico is still a big beach destination, but the interest in adventure is definitely rising.”

“We’re seeing a dynamically growing interest in ‘active travel light.’ What I mean by ‘light’ is that guests are more and more interested in peppering their sun and sand vacations with activity, including hiking, biking, cenote swimming, snorkeling, diving, zip lines, scuba, surfing, Stand Up Paddling and more,” says Zachary Rabinor, director general of Journey Mexico. “Where Mexico still struggles, however, is positioning itself as a multisport destination where guests have a keen and deep interest in multiday active travel, like hiking the Copper Canyon, Volcano Climbing Expeditions, Baja Multisport and dedicated surf trips.”

It’s only a matter of time before American travelers catch on to the wealth of adventure opportunities at their fingertips just south of the border, where serious adventure abounds. Travelers who get their adrenaline rush from heights should visit the states of Jalisco, Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur as well as the state of Mexico; there states are home to many volcanoes, slopes and hills for hang gliding or hopping aboard an ultralight airplane.

A need for speed will bring you to Oaxaca and Veracruz for great river rafting, while mountain biking enthusiasts will hit the trails of Quintana Roo. Climbing is also popular in places like Yucatan and Chiapas. Visit the website for Kayak School Mexico to learn the ins and outs of kayaking Mexico’s rivers. There are two- to five-day intermediate or advanced courses where kayakers will hone their technique. The tours will take travelers to rivers of Veracruz, San Luis Potosi, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Morelos.

For deep-water adventures, diving and snorkel sites can be found among Mexico’s already well-known tourist destinations. Quintana Roo, Oaxaca, Baja California Sur and the Yucatan have a great variety of destinations with beaches, reefs, caves, underground rivers and underwater archaeological sites.

Consider a company like Nautilus Explorer, a Canadian charter company that creates diving itineraries for experienced divers. One of their top tours sails 220 miles south of Cabo San Lucas to the Revillagigedo Archipelago. This chain of volcanic islands is known for giant manta rays. It’s also possible to spot yellowfin tuna, humpback whales and whale sharks.

Other tour operators to consider for adventure travel, whether active or light, include Vallarta Adventures, Cabo Adventures, Geckos Adventures and Adventures Mexico.

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