Imagine floating on a small inner-tube down a mountain river with gentle rapids. It’s in the middle of a rainforest on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and it’s raining. The dream always includes a gentle rain falling. But this isn’t a dream. It’s the glorious finale to an unforgettable day in the rainforest-covered mountains above Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This was an awesome time discovering Puerto Vallarta adventure.
Since childhood, I’ve wanted to float down a mountain river with gentle rapids. Not the kind of rapids that are dangerous, but just enough boulders and curves to make the float interesting. The waterparks of my youth always included a river rapid ride. It remained my favorite attraction.
But on this day in the mountains above Puerto Vallarta, this river rapid journey was just the final piece to an afternoon adventure of rappelling, zip lining and crossing questionable bridges that aren’t exactly for the faint of heart on an adventure with Canopy River.
When we arrived in the mountains for our zip lining excursion, getting there was already half the fun.
We rode an open-sided truck of sorts, one filled with long benches and open sides to let the breeze in on a hot June afternoon in Mexico. As we drove along the city streets of central Puerto Vallarta on our way, it was a chance to get away from the resort and see more of this city. As we pulled off for the picturesque drive up the mountain, the real journey began.
In a way, we felt like voyeurs looking into the lives of these people in their simple homes and businesses along the dusty road up the mountain along the Rio Cuale.
Many of these people were either sitting in the shade of their business, or plopped down in the middle of the river cooling off from the brutal heat. I imagine that’s an everyday occurrence for these people, and we were there to cool off and enjoy ourselves in their river.
The zip lining experience itself was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve done, certainly since childhood. It’s not just zip lining high above the river from one mountain to the next. Yes, that was intense, especially in the beginning.
But once we’d finish one line, we’d hike up a trail through the beautiful rainforest to our next zip line. Or we’d find an interesting swinging bridge to traverse on our way to the next destination.
I’m not exactly scared of heights, but I am scared of unstable things that have me high up with the great possibility of falling. Ladders are the biggest fear. But interestingly enough, I never felt unsafe while zip lining the distance of a football field hundreds of feet above the river.
The closest I came to being scared was the first of two times we rappelled. I was the first to go off the ledge in both instances, so I couldn’t exactly watch someone to get a feel for what to expect. I just grabbed the rope with my left hand, stepped off the ledge and sat down as I was instructed.
And you want to know what happened? I just sat there in the air. I turned around and then slowly let myself down the ledge.
It was exhilarating, scary and something I usually would never do. But it got me out of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t be happier that I took on this challenge.
The story of my Puerto Vallarta zip lining experience really begins with the people who I trusted my life with up in the mountains. Less than 10 years ago, a group of several families who lived along the river came together and bought this land so there would be employment opportunities for their children.
In the distance, the cleared fields are still noticeable where these families once grew their corn to make tortillas. But more and more of their children were moving to America. So to keep their children home, they created the Canopy River company.
Our experience was about two hours of exhausting fun. I loved the zip lining. I loved coming in too fast because I was terrible at braking myself as I approached the platform. But that was OK because the tour guides were always there to slow me. I can’t recall laughing so much while coming to a jolting halt.
But it wasn’t just because of the enjoyment I was having. I was in a group with three other adults and a 12-year-old girl. I enjoyed watching one person seemingly overcome her fears and get out of her comfort zone. But I really was proud of the daughter of one of the writers in our group. This young lady was an unbelievable trooper. The constant theme was that if she could do it we could do it. Her giggles, and constant statements of how much fun she was having was so wonderful.
As a traveling parent, I want my son to have great educational experiences, but I also want him to have mindless fun, the type that removes all stresses of the world and just puts us in the moment. I believe we all had two hours of those moments on the river.
Just as we were wrapping up the zip lining part of our day, it started to rain. It was a gentle rain, the type that is clearly noticeable but not too hard that it makes you want to go inside. We were doing one of the final zips, one where we went just above the river and when instructed, let go of the handles and let our bodies fly into the water.
It was a thrill, and I was perfectly OK with the fact that I was wearing my nice running shoes as I was submerged in the river.
And it all ended with the glorious rapids float down the river in the rainforest rain.
I also learned something on this experience other than how amazing these men are who went flying through the mountains with us. Their homeland is home of tequila. In fact, the state of Jalisco is the only legal spot where tequila can be made and labeled as such. Kind of like Champagne from that region in France.
If you have a few moments at the conclusion of the experience, take the time to do the tequila tasting.
I was a guest of the Puerto Vallarta tourism board. As an unbiased journalist with more than 15 years’ experience in the industry, all opinions here are my own.
Photo Note: All photographs that I or other people are in were taken by the Canopy River photographer, who was actually pretty daring to get in the positions he did to take pictures. Photography is not allowed on the zip lines for safety reasons.