By: Dave Helgeson
Riding Ports of Call on the Mexican Riviera
Welcome to the jungle.
When a cruise ship docks at a Mexican port of
call, it is like dropping a sugar cube into
an ant hill. “Hey Señor, do you want a ride in
my taxi”? “Señor, come and look at my stuff,
what do you want to buy?” You can’t blame the
locals for trying to make a living in an
impoverished third world country. However, it
does wear on you until you just want to get on
your ATV and ride. Well, if you didn’t pack your
ATV in your suitcase, not to worry. Guided
ATV tours are available for your enjoyment. On a
recent Mexican Riviera cruise, the opportunity
to go ATV riding was available at each port of
call. The ports were: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan
and Puerto Vallarta. We chose to ride in Puerto
Vallarta as we have been there before and didn’t
have the energy to resist a thousand sales
pitches from the local vendors. After riding in
Puerto Vallarta and talking with other cruise
passengers that rode with other vendors there
and the other ports, I can offer the following
suggestions when riding in Mexican Riviera
Rolling down the river.
The first decision you will have to make is, do
you deal directly with the Mexican rental
company or book through the cruise line? Booking
through the cruise line is like buying a hot dog
and a coke at a major league sports stadium. It
is convenient, but it would have been cheaper to
go to the store yourself. Cruise lines take a
large cut of the sale when you book through
them. Dealing directly with the ATV rental
company will save you the money the cruise line
normally earns plus some. It also means that you
may ride with a smaller group other than with a
throng of fellow cruise ship passengers.
However, there are three things the cruise lines
offer that you need to consider. First, is peace
of mind; the cruise line guarantees not to leave
port until you are back on board; second, your
transportation to and from the ATV rental leaves
from or very near the cruise pier, and third, if
the ship can’t make port due to weather or other
factors, your rental fees will be refunded.
Next is to find out what kind of machines they
are renting, and most important--find out if
they have a governor on them. You can’t satisfy
your need for speed with a governor limiting
your ponies. The rentals my wife and I rode were
ungoverned semi-automatics. My wife rode a Honda
250, and I was placed on a Honda 350.
Sweet dual track.
Plan for your ATV trip before leaving home: This
means packing clothes you won’t mind getting
ruined and old shoes you can throw away. You
will get dirty and hitting the water in fourth
gear assures you will get wet!
When you arrive at the rental company, they may
break you into groups based on riding
experience. Based on what I saw, anybody reading
this will probably qualify as an expert.
Taking a break.
Many in our group were first timers; some had
ridden a time or two before. Very few rode on a
regular basis. My wife chose the intermediate
group as she normally rides a fully automatic
machine, but after riding and viewing the skill
level of others in the group, she should have
classified herself as expert. Expert riders were
given the larger displacement machines and were
left to ride at the back of the pack. Being in
the back of the group meant a less watchful eye
from the guide and a little more freedom to pick
your own path. This also allowed you to fall
behind a little to let the dust settle.
Heading out on the asphalt.
Our tour consisted of a luxury bus ride to the
rental company in the country side, instructions
from the guide, helmets, bottled water, a
bandana (to keep the dust out of your mouth and
nostrils) and a pair of scratched goggles. I
chose to skip the goggles and ride with my
sunglasses. The tour started on the asphalt, but
quickly turned onto a dirt road through
farmland. After passing through a small village
with rustic cobblestone streets, we entered a
river bed with just enough water to keep things
interesting. We followed the river bed,
gradually making our way back towards the
starting point, then popped out on some nice
dual track and finally the paved road we started
Time to play.
All in all it was a fun ride and much more
exciting than shopping the tourist traps, which
some on your ship will consider a recreational
To find an ATV rental company in Mexico, just
Google: ATV rental and the port of call.
If you want to book through the cruise company,
just check out the shore excursions on their
Adios amigos, and I hope to see you on the