Extreme Sports: Latin American Style

Travel Lists

No one is going to hate on snowboarding, but if you want to test the limits of extreme, take that board to Latin America and ride it down a rocky volcano or massive sand dune. Blessed topography and limited regulations also allow you to surf the Amazon, hike a glacier, fish piranha and swim with sharks. From the Yucatan Peninsula to the tip of Tierra del Fuego, these Latin American adventures truly take you the next level.

1. BMX Down the Death Road
La Paz, Bolivia
The death toll on North Yungas made it the World’s Most Dangerous Road, and mountain bikers now zip down the 40-mile Camino de la Muerte as it descends 12,000 feet from the Andes to the Amazon. The narrow road features few guardrails and many sheer drops.

2. Sandboard Giant Dunes
Huacachina, Peru
From the desert oasis town of Huacachina, buggies whisk passengers across rolling sand dunes to a series of hills that riders race down like boarding on powder. With the final set of dunes towering several hundred feet high, most people opt to ride belly-to-board like a sled.

3. Submarine Dive 2000-Feet Under
Roatan Island, Honduras
Stanley Submarines takes its two-passenger vessel into perpetual darkness 2,000 feet under the Caribbean Sea. But if that is not extreme enough, another dive option involves attaching bait and waiting for a six-gill shark longer the sub to come give it a stiff tug.

4. Glacier Trekking
El Cafayate, Argentina
Strap the metal spikes to your boots, and take an awe-inspiring walk atop the Perito Moreno Glacier where the rippled ice surface gives off a deep-blue glow. There might not be any Saint Bernards on the ice, but tours to the glacier often finish with a whiskey shot.

5. Swim with Sharks and Rays
Caye Caulker, Belize
In a shallow area of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, tour companies bribe the nurse sharks and stingrays with buckets of food so people can swim among them unbitten and sting-free. As soon as the motors reach their ears, the sharks and rays swarm, and you jump into the heart of Shark-Ray Alley.

6. Rockboard Down a Volcano
Leon, Nicaragua
One side of Cerro Negro, a 2,400-foot active volcano, is steep and covered in pebbled-sized black volcanic rocks. After hiking to the top, riders decked out in protective jumpsuits and glasses sit atop wooden toboggans and race down the mountainside at speeds of 40 mph or more.

7. Tow Diving Utopia
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Aquasub, or tow diving, is a mask and snorkel adventure in which divers maneuver up and down the water with a small board, which a motorboat rapidly pulls through the ocean. The sport originated on Fernando de Noronha, the paradise island that likely inspired the setting for Utopia.

8. Surf the Amazon River
São Domingos do Capim, Brazil
It only breaks twice a year, but when the Pororoca tidal bore hits the Amazon River, experienced surfers can ride the longest wave on earth. The milk chocolate-colored wave reaches up to 12 feet in height and can take riders several miles into the Amazon Basin.

9. Dive Underwater Caves
Tulum, Mexico
The Yucatan Peninsula boasts countless underground cave systems, or cenotes, many of which are filled with freshwater. Cenotes like Dos Ojos allow divers to explore stalagmite- and stalactite-filled underwater caves with amazing visual clarity.

10. Drysuit Dive the End of the World
Ushuaia, Argentina
At the tip of southern Argentina in Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia Divers offers the scuba crowd the chance to dive the frigid Beagle Channel and enjoy underwater sights like shipwrecks, Antarctic crabs and even lion seals.

11. Piranha Fishing
Amazon and the Pantanal
Leave the worms at home because these feisty fish want nothing less than red meat. Piranha fishing is available in most touristic sections of the Amazon and Pantanal, and the boney little fish are surprisingly tasty.

12. River Sledding in Patagonia
Pucón, Chile
Adventure junkies have long flocked to Pucón to snowboard, sled or motocross an active volcano, and now they can add river sledding, or hidrospeed, to the list. Grab on tight to your aquatic sled, step into the Trancura River and let its rushing water whisk you downstream.

David is a Los Angeles native. He has covered entertainment, restaurants and travel for more than 20 years as a writer and editor.

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