This is the third post in my Mexico tour review series, covering tours you can do from Puerto Vallarta. This time it's all about the mountains and nature - a Sierra Madre hiking tour.
Tour: Sierra Madre hike
Tour company: Canopy River
Price paid: $62 (booked online)
Places visited on the tour: You get driven to the Canopy River base in the mountains of Occidental Sierra Madre where the groups for the different tours get split up; the hiking group then gets driven to the start of the hike in the jungle. You also stop by El Salto waterfall for a dip at the end of the tour before heading back to the base where you can do a tequila factory tour/tasting.
The tour summed up in just over a minute:
Reasons to do the Sierra Madre hiking tour:
- If you want to see the nature, but not keen on extreme sports - the most extreme you will get here is when you get a chance to jump into the water from a rock by El Salto Waterfall, but that is of course optional.
- If you are interested in the local plants and wildlife - our guide was extremely knowledgeable and gave us lots of information about the flora and fauna of the Puerto Vallarta area.
- If you like small groups - everyone tends to go for ATVs and ziplining, so we were the only people on the hiking tour. Now obviously I can't guarantee that the same would happen to you, but the guide did say that more often than not it's just a couple or a family taking part in this tour.
Reasons to avoid the Sierra Madre hiking tour:
- If you are expecting guaranteed sighting of the birds up close - we heard the birds and saw them far away in the distance, but they never got close enough that we could see them clearly or take good photos
- If you have mobility problems - whilst it wasn't a particularly challenging walk, you will be walking on unpaved woodland trails with uneven surface.
- I can't stress enough how important it is to put on insect repellent. We visited in the dry season and since it didn't seem too bad at the start of the hike we decided not to spray on the insect repellent - BAD IDEA! Massive red and swollen mosquito bites left us itching horribly for weeks...
- Make a sensible shoe choice - the path is very dusty, so wear shoes you can wash off easily afterwards.
- Bring some money for food/drinks - after the hike there's a bit of waiting time at the base while they gather enough people for the transfer back and get the bus ready. Guacamole and chips were included in the price of our tour, but we did have to pay extra for the drinks.
Long review for the nitty-gritty detail:
The first part of the tour is the transfer from Puerto Vallarta, which is also the most tedious part in my opinion. We arrived at the meeting point at the time specified and after signing the waiver forms and getting bracelets indicating what tour we were doing we were left to just sit and wait for another half-hour with nothing to do. The bus eventually arrived and after one more pickup we headed to the Canopy River base in the Sierra Madre mountains.
On arrival, you can use the toilets before being split into groups for your tour (all the different tours that Canopy River does share the same pickup, so there were also people going on ATV or zip-lining adventures. We were the only people doing the hike, so having met our guide we were taken to a pickup truck that would get us to the starting point of the hike.
From then on it's just walking along a forest trail and trying to spot birds and other animals. The trail isn't too technical, but it does have some ups and downs as well as uneven surfaces, so you have to watch where you're going. Our tour didn't turn out particularly exciting in terms of wildlife - the birds were extremely far away, so whilst we could hear them, there are no impressive photos to show as a result.
However, we did learn a whole lot about the local plants, including a spiky poisonous tree and a plant that has ants living in it and acting as its protectors. Because we had the guide to ourselves, we could also ask tons of questions about the local weather, way of life and anything else that spiked our curiosity.
After walking for a while we ended up by the car again and were driven to the highlight of the tour - El Salto Waterfall. Now that was truly spectacular! Whilst not a high waterfall, it is incredibly picturesque and it was fun to wander around in the water and check out the fish. You can also swim and jump from the rocks by the waterfall into the water for some awesome photos. We were also given a small picnic of fruit and water to eat by the waterfall.
This was the end of the tour and having left the waterfall we were driven back to the Canopy River base and deposited in the restaurant for our guacamole and tacos. It is an outdoor restaurant (with a roof though, so it's shady) and the view is spectacular:
At this stage you can also visit their tequila factory, but we didn't feel like it and, having finished the guacamole and tacos, started to wonder when we would be getting back to Puerto Vallarta.
To go back, you talk to one of the Canopy River people wandering around and they just group whoever is available at the time and try to organise transport. Not sure how frequently this is done, but since we expressed the wish to go straight away, we only had to wait for 10-15 minutes before they managed to get a minivan for us and a few more people, so off we went back to Puerto Vallarta - all in all, the tour was a bit longer than we expected, but we got back to our hotel in the afternoon rather than evening.
If you are preparing for your trip to Puerto Vallarta, please do check out my other tour reviews below as well as the main section on Puerto Vallarta sights that can be found here.