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Academic Trips & Language Classes

For Spanish-language instruction, IMAC (tel. 866/306-5040; www.spanish-school.com.mx) offers programs in Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Playa del Carmen. The Spanish Institute is affiliated with intensive Spanish-language schools in Puebla (tel. 800/554-2951; www.sipuebla.com) and Mérida (tel. 800/539-9710; www.simerida.com).

To explore your inner Frida or Diego while in Mexico, look into Mexico Art Tours, 9323 E. Lupine Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85260 (tel. 888/783-1331 or 480/730-1764; www.mexicanarttours.com). Typically led by Jean Grimm, a specialist in the arts and cultures of Mexico, these unique tours feature compelling speakers who are themselves respected scholars and artists. Itineraries include visits to Chiapas, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende, Veracruz, and the Yucatán -- and other destinations. Special tours involve archaeology, architecture, interior design, and culture -- such as a Day of the Dead tour.

The Archaeological Conservancy, 5301 Central Ave. NE, Ste. 402, Albuquerque, NM 87108 (tel. 505/266-1540; www.americanarchaeology.com), presents various trips each year, led by an expert, usually an archaeologist. The trips change from year to year and space is limited; make reservations early.

ATC Tours and Travel, Av. 16 de Septiembre 16, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis. (tel. 967/678-2550, -2557; fax 967/678-3145; www.atctours.com), a Mexico-based tour operator with an excellent reputation, offers specialist-led trips, primarily in southern Mexico. In addition to trips to the ruins of Palenque and Yaxchilán (extending into Belize and Guatemala by river, plane, and bus, if desired), ATC runs horseback tours to Chamula or Zinacantán, and day trips to the ruins of Toniná around San Cristóbal de las Casas; birding in the rainforests of Chiapas and Guatemala (including in the El Triunfo Reserve of Chiapas); hikes to the shops and homes of textile artists of the Chiapas highlands; and walks from the Lagos de Montebello in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, with camping and canoeing. The company can also prepare custom itineraries.

Adventure & Wellness Trips

Mexico Sagaz (Asociación Mexicana de Turismo de Aventura y Ecoturismo) is an active association of ecotourism and adventure tour operators. It publishes an annual catalog of participating firms and their offerings, all of which must meet certain criteria for security, quality, and training of the guides, as well as for sustainability of natural and cultural environments. For more information, contact tel. 01-800/654-4452 toll-free in Mexico, or 55/5544-7567; www.amtave.org.

Baja Expeditions, 2625 Garnet Ave., San Diego, CA 92109 (tel. 800/843-6967 or 858/581-3311; www.bajaex.com), offers natural-history cruises, whale-watching, sea kayaking, camping, scuba diving, and resort and day trips from La Paz and Loreto, with the kayak trips from Loreto. Small groups and special itineraries are Baja Expeditions' specialty, including an exotic 7-day yoga/massage/kayak expedition to a secluded private island in the bay.

The California Native, 6701 W. 87th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90045 (tel. 800/926-1140 or 310/642-1140; www.calnative.com), offers small-group deluxe 7-, 8-, 11-, and 14-day escorted tours through the Copper Canyon. Many trips visit the towns of Batopilas, Urique, and Tejeban, as well as the customary destinations of Creel, El Fuerte, Divisadero, Chihuahua, and Cerocahui. The guides are known throughout the area for their work with the Tarahumara Indians. They also cover Baja and the Yucatán.

Canyon Travel, 900 Rich Creek Lane, Bulverde, TX 78163-2872 (tel. 800/843-1060 in the U.S. and Canada, or 830/885-2000; www.canyontravel.com), specializes in the Copper Canyon and has a variety of adventures, from easy to challenging. It designs trips for special-interest groups of agriculturists, geologists, rockhounds, and birders. The owner works with the Tarahumara Indians.

Two private companies that run ecotours throughout Chiapas are Ecochiapas (Primero de Marzo 30, San Cristóbal de las Casas; tel. 967/631-7498; www.ecochiapas.com) and Latitud 16 (Calle Real de Guadalupe 23, San Cristóbal de las Casas; tel. 967/678-3909; www.latitud16.com).

The Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance (tel. 800/682-0584 in the U.S.; www.travelwithmea.org) offers award-winning ecotours recognized by National Geographic to the Yucatán and Chiapas.

Mountain Travel Sobek, 6420 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530 (tel. 888/831-7526 or 510/594-6000; www.mtsobek.com), takes groups kayaking in the Sea of Cortez and hiking in Copper Canyon and Oaxaca. Sobek is one of the world's leading ecotour outfitters.

Natural Habitat Adventures, 2945 Center Green Court, Ste. H, Boulder, CO 80301 (tel. 800/543-8917 or 303/449-3711; www.nathab.com), offers naturalist-led natural history and adventure tours. Expeditions focus on monarch butterfly-watching in Michoacán, sea turtle- and gray whale-watching in Baja, and hiking through Copper Canyon.

NatureQuest, P.O. Box 22000, Telluride, CO 81435 (tel. 800/369-3033 or 970/728-6743; www.naturequesttours.com), specializes in the natural history, culture, and wildlife of the Copper Canyon and the remote lagoons and waterways off Baja California. A 10-day hiking trip ventures into rugged areas of the canyon; a less strenuous trip goes to Creel and Batopilas, in the same area. Baja trips get close to nature, with special permits for venturing via two-person kayak into sanctuaries for whales and birds. Special horse-packing adventures are available as well.

Sea Kayak Adventures, P.O. Box 3862, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83816 (tel. 800/616-1943 or 208/765-3116; www.seakayakadventures.com), features kayak trips in both the Sea of Cortez Loreto Bay National Marine Park and Magdalena Bay, with a focus on whale-watching. This company has the exclusive permit to paddle Magdalena Bay's remote northern waters, and they guarantee gray whale sightings. Trips combine paddling of 4 to 5 hours per day, with hiking across dunes and beaches, while nights are spent camping (as well as staying in a hotel in Loreto). They have added a suite of yoga and spiritual retreats that combine extensive outdoor activity with twice-daily yoga sessions.

Sea Trek Ocean Kayaking Center, P.O. Box 1987, Sausalito, CA 94966 (tel. 415/332-8494; www.seatrek.com), has been alternating sea-kayaking trips between Alaska and Baja for 20 years, which has provided them an intimate knowledge of the peninsula's coastline. Eight-day trips depart from and return to Loreto. An optional day excursion to Bahía Magdalena for gray whale-watching is available. Full boat support is provided, and no previous paddling experience is necessary.

Paddling South, P.O. Box 827, Calistoga, CA 94515 (tel. 800/398-6200 or 707/942-4550; www.tourbaja.com), offers sea-kayaking, mountain bike, and mule-pack tours in the Loreto area. Owner Trudi Angell has guided these trips for more than 20 years. She and her guides offer firsthand knowledge of the area. Kayaking, mountain biking, pack trips, and sailing charters combine these elements with outdoor adventures.

Trek America, 16/17 Grange Mills Weir Road, London, SW12 ONE, UK (tel. 800/873-5872 in the U.S., or 0844/576-1400 in the U.K.; www.trekamerica.com), organizes lengthy, active trips that combine trekking, hiking, van transportation, and camping in the Yucatán.

Veraventuras, Santos Degollado 81-8, 91000 Xalapa, Ver. (tel. 01-800/712-6572 toll-free in Mexico, or 228/818-9579; www.veraventuras.xalapa.net), offers specially trained guides on well-organized adventures into the state of Veracruz, including rafting through the rapids of the Antigua and Actopan rivers.

The Sports Scene in Mexico

Mexico has more than 120 golf courses, concentrated in the resort areas, with excellent options in Mexico City and Guadalajara. Los Cabos, in Baja Sur, has become the country's preeminent golf destination; the Puerto Vallarta area enjoys a growing reputation. Visitors to Mexico can also enjoy tennis, racquetball, squash, water-skiing, surfing, bicycling, and horseback riding. Scuba diving is excellent, not only off the Yucatán's Caribbean coast (especially Cozumel), but also on the Pacific coast at Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, and off Baja in the Sea of Cortez. Mountain and volcano climbing is a rugged sport that allows you to meet like-minded adventurers from around the world. The top peaks are just 80km (50 miles) south of Mexico City -- the snowcapped volcanoes Ixtaccihuatl (5,255m/17,236 ft.) and Popocatépetl (5,420m/17,778 ft.). Popocatépetl is an active volcano and has been closed to climbers since a massive eruption in 1994. For information on visiting and climbing the volcanoes, contact Mountain Guides International at tel. 800/766-3396 (www.mountainguidesinternational.com).

Food & Wine Trips

If you're looking to eat your way through Mexico, sign up with Culinary Adventures, 6023 Reid Dr. NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98335 (tel. 253/851-7676; fax 253/851-9532; www.marilyntausend.com). It runs a short but select list of cooking tours in Mexico. Culinary Adventures features well-known cooks, with travel to regions known for excellent cuisine. Destinations vary each year. The owner, Marilyn Tausend, is the author of Cocinas de la Familia (Family Kitchens), Savoring Mexico, and Mexican, and coauthor of Mexico the Beautiful Cookbook.

Volunteer & Working Trips

For numerous links to volunteer and internship programs throughout Mexico involving teaching, caring for children, providing healthcare, feeding the homeless, and doing other community and public service, visit www.volunteerabroad.com.

If you're interested in teaching English to Mexican university students in the colonial town of Dolores Hidalgo or Queretaro, Global Volunteers, 375 E. Little Canada Rd., St. Paul, MN 55117 (tel. 800/487-1074; www.globalvolunteers.org), arranges 2-week programs for a fee.

ProWorld Service Corps, 600 California St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94108 (tel. 877/429-6753 or 415/434-5464; www.myproworld.org), organizes rural outreach internships in the areas of health, environment, and economic development, particularly to Oaxaca.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.