Never winter family whitewater adventures (Mexico)

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It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and you can’t go with kids! This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Destination #3 is Mexico, which is located in the southern most part of North America and is a beautiful country. The majority of the kayaking is on the eastern side in the regions of Valles and Vera Cruz, which are north east and south east, respectively, of Mexico City. The peso is the national currency but you can get away with US $$ in some places.

At the time that we went, this region of Mexico was considered fairly safe but that can change so be sure to check with the local tour operators. The only sketchy part was the drive through the northern region near the Reynosa border crossing as we drove from San Marcos, Texas down to Valles on both of our trips. Being in a van for 16 hours is not the most family friendly experience so we would definitely recommend flying into Mexico City (for trips to Vera Cruz) or Tampico (for trips to Valles).

Mexico is not as clean as Costa Rica of Ecuador and the water should not be assumed to be drinkable. The roads are a work in progress in many regions and armed military guards are the norm as you drive through every town. Don’t be surprised when you get stopped – just stay friendly and in most cases, all is fine.

The rivers in the Valles region are the most family friendly however it is a bit harder to mix and match things here. Neither of the outfitters that we worked with had the ability to provide multiple itineraries within a trip. This is a great region to learn how to do drops and slides, with most being between 5-10 feet. We did this trip the first time when Hunter was ten and anything he (or we) weren’t comfortable with him running, we tossed his boat over and then he and Tim would jump off the drop.

Our second trip was when he was 11 and by then he was more comfortable with the idea of slides and drops and we would allow him to do anything up to around 10 feet. There was only one drop bigger than that (20 ft) and Hunter and I took out before it and hiked around it on the road.

Rivers that we have paddled in the Valles Region:

  • Rio El Salto – an amazingly azul blue river full of pool drops and slides over travertine
  • Rio Micos –  Upper and lower sections – more travertine slides and small drops and super warm water
  • Rio Tampaon – big water wave trains and canyons

We have not yet paddled in the Veracruz region but have heard great things about it. Aventuretec is where most paddlers base out of and there is a range from class II to class V runs all within a few hours.

Things to think about when considering Mexico:

  • Most of the water is warm but you can get cooler days as you are up in the mountains – bringing an assortment of gear allows you to have choices to match the weather as well as a better chance of your gear drying if you can alternate sets each day
  • Long pants and tops are important for both the sun and the bugs – don’t forget socks as the sand flies can get pesky
  • Bring both bug spray and sun screen for on and off the river
  • You can use US $$ in some places but be sure to have small bills. You will get a better exchange rate / price if you are using pesos so consider changing some before you travel
  • Assume that the water is NOT drinkable and always ensure that the water you are drinking has come out of a bottle
  • We have invested in break apart paddles so we can bring our own paddles easily with us on the plane. For those that don’t have them, you can rent paddles in most places, which is often easier than checking full paddles as luggage (no matter how well you pack them)
  • The travertine can scratch up hands, which can turn into infections. We learned and brought gloves for that extra layer of protection on our 2nd trip
  • Experiencing the culture of a new country is half the fun – be sure to check out the fun foods that can be found at the corner stores and the small community restaurants
  • Everyone is quite friendly so be sure to stop and say hi and experiment with your spanish

When we travelled we went with Ben Kvanli of Warm Whitewater. He has been travelling to the region for years and takes a group down once a month from October to March each year. It is a more economical way to go as the group drives down in a van from San Marcos, Texas, and shares travel costs. It is a VERY long drive to be in a small space with kids…On our second trip to Valles we met up with Tom McEwan of Calleva’s Liquid Adventure School. He has also been running trips to both Valles and Veracruz for many years and is well respected in the region. He trailers his boats down there in November and then has guests fly in for the week. We would recommend flying in for your first trip – it is safer and will have everyone in a good mood when you get there rather than grumpy from a 16 hour car ride.

The Vincent Family ( // // // )

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