High on Mexico: Parasailing in Acapulco


Parasailing on the beaches on Mexico“Now remember to hold onto the harness and run toward the water when the boat starts up, and everything will be ok.”

The face of the 14-year-old strapped in the parachute harness betrayed his sudden reluctance to go on with this activity. The instructor continued with his last minute advice, and the kid glanced up at the incoming parachute.

Peer pressure was going to win out. He’d never live it down if he chickened out now. The person in the descending harness was his older sister.

Peer pressure works on all ages; if he could do it, then I knew I’d have to. I was in line behind him.

The dozens of beaches that surround Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific Coast are a good place to both relax and enjoy a number of sports. Some recover here from the previous night’s fun and games and rest up for the upcoming night with the “universal sport” of just relaxing and people watching. For those with excess energy, there are a variety of water sports and other activities available. Among the water sports available along the beach, parasailing is one that has become synonymous with Acapulco, where it was first invented.

This activity is one of the better value experiences one can indulge in on vacation. It is relatively inexpensive here, averaging around US$ 20 for an eight to 10-minute ride around, or rather above, the bay. Prices and trip times are fairly consistent among the numerous operators who line the water’s edge on Condesa Beach. While it looks both dangerous and exhilarating, it is quite safe, and the operators are very professional.

The 14-year-old boy comes in for a landing near where I’m waiting. The look of terror has been replaced by one of sheer exhilaration and pleasure. It’s my turn now.

The boat starts to move. I grab the harness and begin to run toward the surf, feeling the “chute” billow out behind me.

Just before I hit the water, convinced that I’m to never going to take off, there is a surge of power and lift. Tucking my knees up, I skim across the wave tops for a few breathtaking seconds, and then begin to slowly rise higher and faster. Within moments I’m high above the bay, gently drifting and enjoying the view.

Time seems to slow down as you float suspended under the canopy, waving at seagulls and other parasailors. Your hands are free now, so there’s time to drag out the camera, secured with a strong safety cord, and take a few pictures, the skyline, your own happy face framed by the parachute, the speed boat and the fishing boats far below. Mostly you can just relax and enjoy the sensation. After all, that’s what vacations are for, right?

Below you lies a panoramic picture of Acapulco Bay. Acapulco was the Grande Dame of Mexican resorts.

Featured in hundreds of films, Mexico’s first resort was a hotbed of Hollywood stars and jet-setting playboys in the 50s and 60s. Elizabeth Taylor chose Acapulco for one of her weddings. The Los Flamingos Hotel, built on top of the highest cliffs, was a favorite hangout for John Wayne, Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller and Errol Flynn. Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, J. F. Kennedy and Brigitte Bardot all sunbathed on Acapulco’s beaches.

But the fame has faded in recent years. There is fierce competition from Cancún and other resort areas boasting more beautiful beaches, newer resorts and more sophisticated hotels. Even nature conspires against Acapulco as witnessed by the damage caused by El Niño.

Despite all this, there is a determination to return to that grandeur of old. The beaches and streets are cleaned on a regular basis, both literally and of the beggars. The numerous street vendors have almost all been relocated into designated market areas where their unique sales pitch can only be heard by those who go looking for it, and not those who don’t wish to be disturbed.

There are even bilingual special tourist police, youthful and enthusiastic, to help solve those small annoyances that sometimes can upset one’s vacation. There is almost continual construction as hotels are upgraded and renovated and new structures built.

Exclusive shops and trendy stores still line the Costera Miguel Aleman, the main boulevard. The numerous restaurants are the perfect place to take a break from shopping or start an evening on the town.

The hills are full of enormous discos and clubs. There, the party goes on all night, and one can literally dance until the sun comes up or longer, every night of the week.

All of this is visible with your bird’s eye view as you parasail above the water. To the north is the old town with its tiny streets and impressive Central Square and Cathedral. Beyond them are the cliffs where the famous the famous death defying cliff divers of Quebrada thrill audiences. The massive cruise ship terminal, the impressive arts and crafts market and the water theme park are all below you.

Running south are the beaches that line the bay and give this place its reason for being. All are full of people enjoying the sun or frolicking in the surf. The waters are alive with jet skis, wave surfers, powerboats and even the occasional ancient fishing boat looking somehow out of place.

All too soon the operator’s whistle signals that the ride is over. A quick look down and I realize I’m over the beach again, slowly descending.

The landing drills are simple, and I make a soft pinpoint landing back on the beach, almost exactly where I started. Easy, and I didn’t even get my feet wet.

One ”flight” is all it takes, and I’m hooked. Now every day for the rest of the week I’m down on the beach when the operators set up around 9 a.m., one quick early morning flight to start my day off right, and sometimes a second to end it before they close down before dusk. It becomes my regular routine for the rest of the week.

If You Go

Mexico Tourism Board