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According to the comments of several recent groups to have taken the Los Veranos Canopy Tour in Puerto Vallarta, it’s either the most fantastic adventure you can have, the scariest, or both. Just ask a woman who requested simply to be called “Susan from Sacramento”, and she’ll tell you how she had to get talked into the idea of riding a pulley on a cable 100 feet above a rushing mountain stream, and had such a good time she wants to go back again.


“I am SO afraid of heights” said Susan, rolling her eyes. “My friends are telling me ‘relax, it’s perfectly safe’ and I’m thinking that I KNOW it is, but STILL, this is nuts and I’m not going to do it.” Finally, she is goaded by her friends into getting fitted to a harness and trying the first, very short, not-very-high ‘zip line’. “The tour guides said if I didn’t want to continue, they’d walk me back down and refund my money. Given the ribbing and pressure I was getting from my friends, I hardly had a choice to back out by that point.”


Everything about the Los Veranos Canopy Tour in Puerto Vallarta is first-class. This is no bunch of Mountain Dew-swilling thrill junkies risking their limbs on a dare; rather, a professionally-operated tour of the tropical forest that just happens to take place several stories above the ground. You’re looking DOWN at the jungle instead of craning your neck to look up.


Canopy tours made their start in the Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica, and have since moved north to Puerto Vallarta’s lush jungles. The concept is fairly simple…run steel cables from tree to tree and across the canyons and chasms, hook yourself up to a pulley with handles on those cables, and zip across on a bird’s-eye tour of the eco-system. The only real work involved is a couple of short hikes to gain some altitude…gravity takes care of the rest.


The tour’s open-sided truck picked us up in Puerto Vallarta and drove us down the winding highway next the ocean, through beautiful neighborhoods, petering out to small villages and lush jungle. On our arrival at the ‘base camp’, we’re checked in, given a last chance to use the restrooms, and begin getting fitted for our harnesses. The harness is kind of like a jockstrap on steroids…it supports us around our legs and waist, with two heavy-duty straps and clips attached to the front of the waistband. Having all been fitted and sitting on benches in a tiny theater, our group which ranges in age from 12 to 69, makes nervous jokes and waits for our instructions from the guides.


There’s 10-foot length of cable tied between two poles for demonstrating the few moves we need to learn. Basically this involves regulating your posture for speed, and how to brake (a simple procedure, and rarely used). The harness supports a body in perfect balance…you don’t even really need to hold on to the substantial pulley-with-handles that will be our “Mexican Jungle Harley Davidson”. We get an in-depth instruction on what to do, when to do it, what to look for, etc. It’s all very re-assuring, and there’s a bit of fun and “rah-rah” thrown in to get everybody into the spirit.


Off we hike to the first platform. This is actually the scariest part for those afraid of heights, standing on a steel platform above the jungle floor. It feels perfectly solid, but it’s not so smart to look down at this moment, even though we have a safety cable attached to prevent falls. It’s one of only three platforms on this tour-the rest of the trips are from and to ‘land-based launch-pads’. The first trip is a very short and slow, just a warm-up for the longer runs to come. It’s so short it’s almost an anti-climax.


But the zip-lines to follow get longer and longer, and after another short climb we’re at the top of a ridge for the longest run of the day, 350 meters (over 1000 feet) across the canyon, the rushing river far below, even BIRDS below us. The views are amazing, and the feeling of freedom, of FLYING through the air above the jungle (without having to do more than hold on with a light touch) is liberating. It’s a view you can’t get anywhere else, and the adrenaline rush of the first few zip lines gives way to the pure joy of seeing the jungle in a way that you never have before.


The guides are with us all the way, sending us off, meeting us on the other side, checking our ‘fear-factor’ to make sure everybody’s having fun. As we take the last 5 zip lines, criss-crossing the river and slowly descending to the jungle floor, some of our group are on zip lines below us and above us…the air is full of humans placed into the world of the flying, and whoops of excitement and joy can be heard echoing about the canyon walls. The 15th and final run is a long and gentle descent to the riverside, and we wait a bit to see if Susan is still with is or if she wimped out.


Finally she comes down the line, barely making a peep, casually looking at the beauty that surrounds us. “Oh, that was SO cool” she gushes. “The first run was so quick I didn’t get a chance to scream, and the second run was so beautiful that I forgot to scream, and by the third run I was so into it I could only laugh!”


We spent the next hour or so at the property, some of us swimming in the river, others lounging at the bar, and still others indulging in the tour’s restaurant next to the river. The restaurant has a great selection of lunch food and snacks…we had the chicken chimichanga and give it high ratings, and our table guests enjoyed the enormous seafood platter for 2 people, which included lobster, crayfish, shrimp, filet of fish, and octopus. The guacamole is freshly made and delicious.


There are several canopy tours in Vallarta, and our survey of visitors who had taken the others made us glad we chose Los Veranos. One of the other canopy operators does not allow you to bring cameras, and while you’re not likely going to let go of your pulley to take a shot, lots of people in our group were getting great photos of their friends launching or arriving. Other tours are considerably shorter, although one operator has an additional adventure feature...a 'Tarzan Swing'. Bring your loincloth!




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