Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias and San Pancho: A Road trip
Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias and San Pancho were worth checking out since we were in the area. A day’s car hire took us on a road trip out of our little Sayulita cocoon.
Car Hire for Puerto Vallarta trip
A car hire of only £18 for the day (National Car Rental)
Petrol cost £10 for the miles we drove.
We headed straight to Puerto Vallarta, which was an hour and a half drive to the furthest point, the old town, on our itinerary. It seems a long time for only 48km distance. The reason being, once you approach the airport, traffic and traffic lights slows the whole drive down. We made a stop off at a supermarket too. That added more time to our journey.
The old town
Also known fondly as Zona Romantica, we were pleasantly surprised with Puerto Vallarta’s old town white sandy beach. For a city beach it was very clean and the area around it well maintained around the Malecon Promenade.
You can walk along the Malecon promenade, which is 12 blocks long. It is filled with different sculptures. They are very impressive as one strolls along. Cameras ready, there are plenty of photo ops. Some had that Peculiar Children monsters vibe, especially the Roundabout of the Sea; constructed by the world renowned artist Alejandro Colunga. They are a set of creepy bronze chairs, taking on humanoid form in a weird fascinating way, of long trumpet or tentacle noses, a single claw as a hands, octopus heads all exhibiting a weird and wonderful thought process.
There is a long line of restaurants and bars along the street. They are quite pushy wanting you to go in and try their place. You can avoid this by walking along the boardwalk. We wanted to try an Italian, Veggitalia Pizza & Osteria Vegetariana, which sits just off the promenade in a quieter street, however it was closed as it was a Monday. It gets great reviews! Address: Corona 172, Proyecto Escola, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal
Plenty of surfing goes on all along this coastline. We checked out Anguila Surf & Skate Shop, (AV. MEXICO 1320 LOCAL 5,6 Y 7 P/B, 5 de Diciembre, 48350 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.), for a bit of retail therapy. There is plenty of choice in the store, maybe even too much! They also connected to another shop, in a different location, if they didn’t have the correct size. This was called Squalo, housed in the Galerías Vallarta.
Playa Los Muertos
The pier at Los Muertos has a lively feel, with seating in the area, to take in the ocean views. We only had a second to snap this pic before the crowds descended! At night the pier is lit up and changes to all the different colours of the rainbow. Los Muertos beach is over saturated, every inch of the beach space was filled with loungers, umbrellas, and the people to go with them. A quick stop to take a photo was all we needed.
The relatively low rise buildings, and tight bustling streets behind the beach, give the Zona Romantica a vibrant feel. Colour abounds and a slightly chaotic atmosphere breathes life into the old place.
Puerto Vallarta Marina
Marina Vallarta isn’t that of Monaco’s standards, but does have some expensive yachts and boats to fantasize over. The area was deadly quiet when we were there and we didn’t feel much heart and soul. Again, maybe the reason being that it was a Monday. There was a cool looking, 110 foot high lighthouse, El Faro, turned into a cocktail bar. They don’t serve food, other than peanuts and popcorn. Sip on a cocktail, listen to some live music and stare out at the amazing views.
We wanted to check out the beach here so took a drive down. It was a wasted journey as the large scale hotel resorts and condos blocked the view. We’re sure there is a public access point somewhere but it’s not easy to find along the stretched out boulevard running behind the high rise buildings. The feel is very staid and soulless.
Before arriving in Mexico, we were torn between Bucerias and Sayulita. We are so glad we chose the bohemian town of Sayulita. Bucerias beach isn’t as pretty nor is the town. There are palm trees and fairly low rise buildings backing the beach. As well as this, we easily found public access points. This made it better than Nuevo Vallarta. We didn’t feel the magic unfortunately. Maybe it’s because we were already in love with Sayulita. Coming off the highway, you are straight into the town. There is a bit of an edge around this part that eases once you approach the beach.
Is much quieter and smaller than Sayulita. One afternoon we tried to walk the trail which starts at Sayulita, which we heard can bring you straight to it in 30/60 minutes. However, after an hour and a half hike, we met with a dead end, well a mansion, and the security guard on duty wouldn’t let us through. It was frustrating after hiking all that way. We could even see the beach! Knox tried to ignore the security guard and headed for the trail, but the security started yelling at him in Spanish. It wasn’t nice.
I called Knox back. Never argue with someone with a gun! The trail close to the mansion wasn’t in close proximity to their property and we had a suspicion that the trail to the beach was public, but they just don’t want people walking it. We could have headed up to the highway and into San Pancho using the main road. That would have been another half hour at least. From the mansion’s cobbled road, we found the jungle entrance again and decided to head back.
On the up side, we were afforded the chance to see some cool wildlife. The jungle trail had plenty of butterflies and we saw some dragonflies with yellow tipped wings. There are also plenty of birds about such as the small green parakeet that we managed to glimpse. the loud cackle of the West Mexican Chachalaca alerts you to there presence high up in the trees. We were also very fortunate to catch sight of a coatimundi (Mexican Racoon). The tree leaves rustled and then it appeared on the branch. It’s piercing eyes detecting us before the coatimundi scuttled away into the undergrowth. All happening before either of us could grab a camera.
Easy by car
We did go by car to see the place. Turn off at the highway and head along the dusty tarmac. Following the one way system, we dawdled into the town, past a football pitch, a selection of small businesses; stores, cafes, real estate etc, and reached the central square.
The beach here is smaller than Sayulitas stretch. The small town of San Pancho (also known as San Francisco) still has a nice enough vibe in the place, especially down the main street with the restaurants and bars.
At the back of the beach, south side, is the estuary/lagoon that supports a wide variety of wildlife. Flocks of birds can be easily observed chilling on its shores, and showing respect to their space, will allow one to get fairly close. Coots ducks, gulls, vultures, egrets among many others make this rich feeding ground their home.
Hasta la vista Sayulita, estaremos de vuelta! It is quite a tug to leave this wee surf town. Yes, the weekends can be quite brash and tacky. Add to that, the central part of the beach is jammed with umbrellas and loungers. Yet, there is a magical spirit about. There is a freedom of expression that is embraced by locals and visitors alike. North Sayulita beach is quiet and offers some breathing space. Then there are the beaches and towns close by as well as the City of Puerto Vallarta within easy reach. There is a big draw to come back.
We are, though, on a bigger trip. The road calls to destinations new. We hope you have enjoyed Sayulita with us and look forward to telling you about the next leg. Part of it is a bit off the beaten track, with sketchy WIFI, so we will do our best to update each week. This maybe impossibile so keep tuning in as we’ll post eventually.
Our favourites eating and drinking places in Sayulita:
La Rustica: Delicious Italian restaurant, serving yummy pizza’s and salads. Try the the la princesa and veggie land pizzas, as well as the gnocchi and caprese salad. Wash is down with some sparkles! To die for! Address: Av Revolucion 40C, Centro 63734
La Empanadería: Pasty shop. Try one of the delicious Veggie pasties, the Lola Maria, Chata guadalupe or, my fave the Gabriela. They also do meat options and sweets. Find them at Address : Av Revolución 15
Casa Gourmet: Yummy French bakery seeling quiches, crossaints and sweets etc. Try the fruit tart, brownies and lemon tart. Beauitful! Behind the oxo!
Club de Playa Camarón: Situated right on the beach, this colourful beach bar, with painted surf boards and cool reggae music, is a great place to be to watch the sun go down. Even more cooler due to the resident dogs!