If you are looking to escape the gloomy Northern Hemisphere winter and don’t want to have to stress about logistics like food and shuttles, then Mexico is the place for you! Right off the Gulf of Mexico you will find a region jam packed with big waterfalls and amazing rapids! Veracruz.

Hover in a bit closer and you will find yourself in the town of Tlapacoyan which is home to the Rio Jalacingo and Alseseca as well as the Aventurec kayak hostel. Having this hostel as your disposal makes Mexico a great kayak/holiday destination with easy logistics and warm rivers. Aventurec takes care of all your food, breakfast and dinner. They sort shuttles and drivers to and from every put-in and take-out. All you have to do is organise the team you want to paddle with the night before (and there are always people there who want to paddle) – let the staff know where you want to go and they make it happen. In this region there is water all year round but the best time to find the people are from October through to January with things starting to slow down shortly after. The average amount of time that people tend to spend here is around two weeks. This is mostly because running waterfalls every day is not the most sustainable activity for your body. 

Rio Alseseca

The Rio Alseseca has a lot going on! There are at least eight sections and loads of waterfalls ranging from ten to over a hundred feet. The Alseseca is home to Big Banana Falls which once held the record for the tallest waterfall ever run, but now sits in third place. There is a section called Big Banana that flows from the base of the falls down and is probably the more scenic sections on the river, taking you through lots of deep jungle coloured gorges with vines hanging all the way down to the river. There are a bunch of quality rapids in this section and a few big boofs.

You know you have made it to the next section when the gorge opens up to farmland and right in front of you is one of the most famous Mexican boofs, Silencia. Silencia is a thirty-five foot boof that starts it all off and from there down you can expect a ton of outstanding rapids and boof. This section zigs and zags it way down giving you a true taste for Mexican whitewater. Another big rapid to name in this section is Meat Locker. This is a pretty committing double boof move. It is committing because the only way out of the pool that you land in is to run a five foot drop called Boof or Die, which is pretty much a drop that is suited to the name. People often portage this entirely but if you are feeling good, it is definitely worth it!

Meat Locker – photo Lucas Quintero

Normally people take out after this section ends because just downstream are the Tomata waterfalls. The first waterfall is the seventy foot Tomata One, which is one of the cleanest, most picture-perfect waterfalls in the game! Just try not to boof it or go over the handlebars. Just downstream from this Tomata Two follows, which is quite a different beast! A tight rapid flows very fast into a sixty foot waterfall. There have been so many different variations of ‘success’. In the lead-in you have to boof over two pass or fail holes. If you successfully make it through these without back looping or flipping over, you’ll then find yourself hitting a large curler which shoves you to the left. And if you make it through this without flipping, you then have to fall sixty feet without hitting the auto boof or landing on your head at the bottom. Yeah, it’s a lot.

The next and final paddleable section after the Tomatas is the Seven Sisters. The only way to reach this section is to either run both Tomata One and Two, or do a fifty-metre rope rappel down to the river below, which is still scary but such an epic way to enter the river. The Seven Sisters section consists of seven unique smaller drops flowing through a super deep and beautiful canyon. This stretch in particular is a perfect one for anyone comfortable paddling class IV whitewater who is looking to huck themselves off a few good drops!

Side Chick Falls park ‘n’ huck right outside of Tlapacoyan – photo Lucas Quintero

Way, way upstream of all these sections are quite a few more good big paddleable waterfalls and stretches of river. I personally never got to see or paddle anything above Big Banana but I have heard they’re a lot of fun! The kayak hostel even holds a race on one of the upper Roadside section in January.

Rio Jalacingo

The Rio Jalacingo is a little simple than the Alseseca as there are only two sections; the Upper and Lower. Both sections are mostly class V but there is an option to put on halfway down the Lower Jalacingo to paddle the class III/IV section to the take out. 

The Upper is the longest section of the two and depending on your style of paddling and how well you know the river, it can be a full day adventure or can take just a couple of hours. This section pretty much starts you off with a twenty minute portage which takes you away from the river, around an unrunnable sixty foot waterfall and then back down to where you put in. Once you are back in your kayak you are greeted with clean boofs and long steep slides which give you the sensation of being in a waterpark. There are a handful of short portages in this section and a fair amount of bumping and grinding as you make your way down. But there is a lot of quality whitewater and drops to enjoy. This section is probably best known for one rapid in particular called Bukkake (don’t ask who came up with that) which is one of the rowdier slip’n’slides on the river with big curlers that push you from left to right and off towards a fifteen foot waterfall which sees the vast majority of paddlers getting sent over the bars and landing on their face!

The lower Jalacingo is a completely different story from the Upper as it is a lot shorter, cleaner, with no portages (if you are feeling brave) and has three of Mexico’s most well-known waterfalls ranging from thirty to sixty feet. This section starts off with the biggest drop of the day – Twisted Pleasure (sixty feet) and works its way down from there. It’s is a pretty unique waterfall, which twists from river left to right through the entrance and then sends you off. If you can link it up and get it all right it is one of the best feelings in the world! Almost immediately after you run Twisted you get to the next waterfall, Dirty Sanchez (forty-five feet). This one is much stouter and sees a fair amount of people portaging. But if you are feeling good and decide to buck up, you have to run this drop as a mandatory boof so that you can skip out at the bottom to avoid caves on both river right and left at the bottom. Yeah I know, that is a tall waterfall to be boofing! If you portage, you put in a little bit downstream and this is where you also put in if you only want to run the grade III/IV section. After a few really fun rapids and boofs you find yourself at the Dungeon (thirty feet). This waterfall is super sick – you are literally boofing into the darkness of the deepest part of the canyon on the river. To leave the Dungeon you have to boof a biggish ledge and then you get to flow through the deep crack in the earth until you reach the light again. A few more slides follow this to reach the take-out. Don’t miss the take-out, because if you do you will find yourself committed to going off a ninety-foot waterfall called The Black Hole which lands on a lot of rocks …

There are a few more waterfalls and runs in the area to explore but what I have just gone over is pretty much the meat of it. Mexico is a tough place on your body and a lot of people who go to paddle often end up hurting themselves! So my advice to anyone wanting to go and send big is to make Mexico your last stop before heading home. There’s no better place to heal than in your own home, versus some other South American country that is next on your destination list. However don’t let that put you off. Go enjoy the warm weather, warm water and don’t be scared to try some street food because damn it is good!

Thanks for reading.

video Lucas Quintero

Honorable mention

San Pedro Falls is a perfect fifty-footer but is a little further away than the main classics. It is without a doubt one of the cleanest and easiest fifty-foot falls you can find. Perfect for anyone who is wanting to get their first taste of what it feels like to fall off a waterfall.

San Pedro Falls – photo Taylor Hawkins