Taking a holiday in Mexico often conjures up images of white sandy beaches, poolside margaritas, and evenings filled with mariachi music, dancing, and tequila. We often view the country as a destination to escape the pressures of reality and blow off some steam on a fiesta fueled holiday or a get needed rest and relaxation at a luxurious all-inclusive resort. And Mexico is a great choice for both holidays, yet many travelers miss out on the wealth of more adventurous options available. So, when looking south of the border, make a bold choice and make it an adventure. Here are five bold adventures in Mexico to consider.
1. Dive with Whale Sharks
Near the popular resort destination of Cancun, you have the chance to spend a day diving with Whale Sharks in the warm waters off the Yucatan Peninsula. No SCUBA certification or equipment required, just put on a snorkel mask and fins and hop in the water to swim beside the largest shark in the ocean. Scared? Don’t be. These fish may average 40 feet long and weigh 15 tons but are relatively harmless giants and gentle filter feeders.
Whale Sharks come to the waters off the Yucatan in mass numbers every June-August (summer vacation) which makes this an easily accessible adventure for those flying into Cancun for holiday. A similar experience is also available on the west coast of Mexico in the Sea of Cortez from the resort town of Mazatlán.
2. Chiapas, Mexico’s Frontier
Deep in the southern jungles of Mexico, an adventure awaits for those bold enough to visit the state of Chiapas. Not because it is unsafe (the tourist areas of San Cristobal de las Casas and Tuxtla Gutierrez have no restrictions as per the US State Department) but because it is the perfect place to fulfill your need for an adrenaline rush (provided you travel in the dry season from November to May).
Spend your days rappelling down the Sinkhole of Parrots or canyoning inside the Chorrdeadero Waterfall complete with climbing and scaling rocks, squeezing through tight crevices and plunging eight meters into a river flowing through the mountain itself. You can also take flight with an ultralitero aircraft, paddle through the picturesque Sumidero Canyon, visit adventure parks or designated magic towns (“pueblo magicos”). With so much adventure accessible from Tuxtla Gutierrez it’s no wonder it is known as an adventure capital in Mexico.
The adventures in Mexico don’t stop after sunset either. Head to the local town square on any evening to find locals singing, salsa, and offering up mistela—a fermented local fruit to assist with making some bold moves on the dance floor.
3. Taste the Cuisine of Puebla
The full palate of Mexican cuisine is often misunderstood and underappreciated by many travelers. But, along with France, Mexico is the only other country to receive the UNESCO distinction placing its cuisine as an intangible cultural heritage. Plus, with so many regions across the vast country, Mexican cuisine can’t be classified as simply as most people’s experience of tacos, chips, and salsa.
One of the best places to explore authentic Mexican cuisine is in the city of Puebla. Just a three-hour bus ride from the Mexico City airport, Puebla offers visitors a slower pace and plenty of delicious foods to sample. Start with its famous molé—a thick, spicy sauce often made with chocolate—and order authentic chicken molé poblano.
Two other must-tries are chalupas (nothing like the Taco Bell item) and the local sandwich, the cemita. Make sure your visit extends through a Monday night and whether or not you attend the local lucha libre (wrestling) event, don’t miss the street food outside the arena. I dare you not to Instagram your Cemita Milanese. Of course, the city and state are more than cuisine, there is plenty to see and do in Puebla.
4. Walk Among the Monarch Butterflies
In the forests encompassing parts of both the states of Michoacán and Mexico, just a few hours outside the thriving capital of Mexico City, visitors can witness one of the most magical and impressive migrations on the planet. Every winter, hundreds of millions of Monarch Butterflies migrate across North America from as far north as Canada to return to Mexico. Butterflies who’s predecessors made the journey north, incredibly know the way south without any help from google maps.
Since early morning viewing is recommended to see the butterflies in flight as often the afternoon sun causes them to rest and essentially form an orange “carpet” on the oyamel fir trees, it is best to stay local and experience rural towns close to the reserves. Plenty of tour options are available and may be the best option for those unfamiliar with this rugged part of Mexico. The best time to visit is from January to March.
5. Crossing the Copper Canyon
A trip to the Copper Canyon, Barrancas del Cobre, can be found on most Mexican bucket lists just like a visit to the Grand Canyon is on many American bucket lists. But in Mexico, the canyon system is four times the size of its US cousin and also offers an epic train journey across 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels. This multiple day adventure transverses multiple terrains and eco-systems and spans altitudes from 8,000 feet to sea level. Originally built for the local Tarahumara Indians who are native to the region, today the train focuses on tourism as travelers plan stopovers in the towns en route.
Popular stops include Creel—a local magic town, Divisadero known for its adventure park which provides the opportunity to zip line across the canyon at high speeds, and El Fuerte another magic town and the home of the legendary Zorro.
As the attraction infrastructure continues to grow with a new international airport in Creel opening soon and updated train cars designed for comfort and viewing, there is still a dearth of quality information to view online for a do-it-yourself adventure. It may be best to work with a tour company especially if you want to go further off the typical train path.
These are just five of the many adventure destinations that await travelers looking for bold holidays south of the border in Mexico. Perhaps for your next travel adventure, you can take a break from the typical swim-up bar and instead get your feet wet plunging into a mountain river, exploring Magic towns, tasting unique cuisine or jumping in the water with giants.
To learn more about Craig and his travels, visit stayadventurous.com.