It’s time to step out of the ordinary when it comes to the amazing tourist attractions that you can enjoy in Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay. It needn’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, be all sun, sea, and frosty margaritas! There’s so much to see and do when you’re in this most stunning area of Mexico.
Here are some of our favorite hidden gems which can be found just off the beaten trail:
San Sebastián del Oeste is just one of the many charming small towns nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains, and is only 90 minutes away from Puerto Vallarta when you head east inland. Nonetheless, the ex-mining village stands out amongst the rest, having been awarded the status of “Pueblo Mágico” [Magical Town] by the Mexican Tourism board. During colonial times this was a thriving silver mining town, but today it is primarily a local secret for those looking to getaway from Puerto Vallarta’s humid weather you will enjoy in the mountains. Make sure you see the old hacienda style coffee plantation and pre-Hispanic historical pieces whilst you are here. You can also enter one of the old mine shafts.
El Tuito is a small town found just 50 minutes from the downtown area of Vallarta and is somewhat of a getaway hub for those heading to the beaches of Yelapa, Mayto and Tehuamixtle (see more on these beaches below). It’s a sleepy and charming town with much to offer to people who want a slice of the real Mexico; don’t be surprised if you run into children rehearsing Mexican folkloric dances on the plaza! There’s always something interesting and fun going on here so make sure you walk around; stop for some cold fruit water (Agua Fresca) and chicken tostadas, too.
Tehuamixtle and Mayto
The beaches of Tehuamixtle (also known as Tehua, pronounced Tewaah) and Mayto are a good two hour or so drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta on the Costa Alegre and make for wonderful day trip destinations when you leave early in the morning. If you love to mix with the locals and sample seafood, the small cove of Tehuamixtle (also known as La playita de amor [Little beach of love]) is, in particular, a must visit. Upon arrival you will be able to enjoy oysters pulled fresh from the ocean, cleaned and prepared, under an enormous palapa and enjoy the view of the sparkling waves as they shift under the sunshine. Nothing sets off a day like this quite like a bucket of beer and a salsa Mexicana followed by a swim in the ocean; you may even see some pelicans when the fishermen come in.
Just a few minutes northwards of Tehuamixtle is the majestic beach of Mayto which enjoys very little development besides a turtle sanctuary and a couple of family-run hotels. The beach seems to go on forever, and you will feel like the only ones there. However, you should note that the waters are not so safe for swimming due to a strong undertow.
Cajon de Peñas
Cajon de Peñas lake can be found just two and a half hours south of Puerto Vallarta and is a fresh water fishing haven which has an abundance of crawfish and bass tilapia. If you like to birdwatch you’ll love it here, too, as there are many species native to Sierra Madre here. Life is slow and gentle at Cajón de Peñas, and that’s what most of the people who go there are looking for.
These destinations are accessible for all budgets, too, so why not rent a car, hire a taxi driver for the day, or book an excursion. And remember to always keep your heart open to the locals who will make you feel at home wherever you go.