In honor of this week’s #Travel Tuesday , I decided to highlight one of the most AHH-MAZING cruise shore excursions I have taken to date: The Extreme Canopy Adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I purchased this excursion during my 2006 Mexican Riviera cruise on the Carnival Pride. The experience is also offered on Norwegian Cruise Line under the same name, although the actual vendor (Vallarta Adventures) calls the excursion the “Outdoor Adventure“.
Let me start with a disclaimer: Despite my love for travel, I am not overly adventurous (read: scaredy-cat). I didn’t ride my first roller coaster until I was 16 (and now I love them), and the thought of bungee-jumping or skydiving makes me tremble to this day. I’ve had a habit of doing things conventionally, a tendency I am slowly trying to break.
I’m saying that to say, booking this particular excursion was a big deal for me. I was on a family cruise with three other family members, and when I pitched the idea of a “Canopy Adventure” to them, they looked at me like I had just slapped them all in the mouth. Open-handed. So I knew I was on my own.
I found myself, alone, at the Shore Excursion desk on the Pride getting ready to book the Canopy Adventure for $89.99. Reviewing the excursion brochure and speaking with the employee behind the desk, I realized that I could upgrade to the EXTREME Canopy Adventure for $50 more. The word EXTREME scared me, but I was already about to be flying through the rainforest on zip lines, so why not?
That decision to upgrade was one of the best I’ve ever made.
The morning of the excursion I was nervous. I followed instructions and packed an extra pair of clothes for after the tour. I kissed my family good-bye (I think; they may have been at breakfast) and headed to the pier where I met the tour group. I was the only person who was alone. (cue sad violin music)
We set off from the pier in the fastest boat I’ve ever ridden, bouncing over waves for 20 minutes until we arrived to our destination. My knuckles were white after that boat ride, but it was exhilarating!
Once we arrived to dry land, we all jumped in Unimogs and rode 15 minutes up the mountain to the tour site. We had to use grips on the roof to stabilize ourselves – bumpy roads and no seat belts! That was a very UNIQUE transportation experience, to say the least.
We arrived to the “base camp”, as I’ll call it, where we were debriefed on everything we needed to know to survive the next three hours: how to use the zip lines, BRAKING (some people should’ve recieved extra time with this step), the logistics of riding a mule and how NOT to get kicked. (I should’ve received extra time with this step).
Yes, mules. I didn’t mention this part. After our Unimog ride, we then rode mules further up the mountain until we had to dismount them to hike to the first zip line. The only four-legged animal I’d ever ridden to that point was a carousel horse, so this was a BRAND new experience. Rule #1 that the staff members gave during our briefing was “do NOT walk behind the mule – they kick”. Rule #1. So the first thing I did? Walked behind the mule. Various Vallarta Adventures employees started fussing at me and I quickly realized my mistake. My bad. My mule showed mercy to me and did not kick me, so I think it was a successful day in all.
We dismounted our mule and continued the trek up the mountain. It was a tallll mountain, and I’m pretty sure we lost one or two companions along the way – this was a pretty strenuous and tiring hike. But once we got there…wow. The view was incredible. We were up high. Naturally, I couldn’t take my camera on this adventure so my personal photos from this adventure are quite limited.
Anyway, the first zip line was…intimidating. Long. High. I did not go first. But once I stepped off of that ledge? Wooooooooooooooooooooooooow. The whoosh of wind in my ears, the feeling of flying, the view: it was all incredible. And the excitement of knowing that we had 13 more zip lines to tackle. This experience was just GREAT.
One by one, we flew across zip lines, crossed a rope bridge and even rappelled down a waterfall. Things I’d NEVER thought I’d do, I was doing. And having a blast! The tour guides were complete professionals. One woman didn’t retain her braking instructions and flew right into one of the guides at full speed. Like it was nothing, he popped his dislocated shoulder back into place and kept it moving. O_O. (This must happen a lot. )
At the end of it all, we changed out of our soaking wet clothes, had a snack and reviewed the photos snapped by the professional photographers along the way. We jumped back in the Unimog, back to the speedboat, and re-boarded the ship.
…Where I collapsed into a heap of nap.
I shared all of this because I wanted to show how much FUN you can have by simply stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. This excursion positively affected my perception of Puerto Vallarta and not knowing if/when I’ll ever return, I’m thankful to have this memory to retain for the rest of my life.
It’s easy to go into sticker shock at times when pricing the cost of the shore excursions on your cruise sailing, but if you take the experience into account, it’s more than worth it. Those $139 are gone, but 6 years later I’m still talking about this excursion. That means something.