Hello everyone, and welcome to OnVallartaTime! It’s February — did the groundhog see his shadow where you are?
Even though I hear there’s a bit of a break this week, our Oregon friends and family have had to hunker down because of cold, rainy and damp winter weather. It’s that dreary time of year when you get up when it’s still dark, go to work while outside everything is gray and dripping, and then go home in a sullen mood after it gets dark again. Well, folks, do I have the solution for you! Come on down to Puerto Vallarta where it’s sunny and warm every day, where everyone smiles and greets you as you pass on the street, and if it doesn’t get done today it makes absolutely no difference because there’s always tomorrow!
Yes, the weather has been beautiful — highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. It can feel hot if you are in the sun, but there’s always a shady spot to cool off, and it gets cool enough at night for good sleeping. Groundhog Day was bright and sunny, as it is most days. As one of our friends down here, Hank Lindsey said, “The groundhog saw his shadow today, which means we’re in for another six weeks of this terrible winter weather!”
With all the great weather, we’ve been having fun doing our favorite activities like going to the beach, having cozy dinners at home, and going out to some of the amazing restaurants here. One day slips seamlessly into the next, and often I have to think hard to know what day of the week it is. It’s idyllic, for sure. Still, there’s a kind of sameness about it all. I (more than Peggy) tend to get a little restless. I’m always wanting to do something new and see something different. So we finally agreed — let’s take a vacation!
We had wanted to see some of the little towns to the north of Vallarta for some time. We had been to Bucerias and Sayulita, but we knew that a little farther north the coastal towns would be worth seeing. I wanted to go as far north as San Blas, which is almost halfway to Mazatlan, because I had spent some happy times there in my misspent youth. Then, we could work our way back to Vallarta, checking out some of the little towns on the way. But then Peggy started doing some research, and she read about how bad the jejenes are this time of year.
Jejenes (he-heh-nes) are a type of biting gnat, and San Blas, because of its extensive mangrove estuary has clouds of them sometimes, which can be pretty miserable. Here in Vallarta we have a similar critter called a barrilete, so called because when they’re full, they look like a little barrel. These are the dreaded no-see-ums, which are stealthy, gone before you know you’ve been bitten, and that leave a nasty, itchy welt that can last for days. Anyway, San Blas was nixed due to the jejenes, so we decided to scale the trip back a bit and go only as far north as Rincón de Guayabitos and explore from there.
Rincón de Guayabitos (mostly just called Guayabitos) is a town of about 2,000 people, located on Jaltemba Bay about 70 miles north of Vallarta. The name of the town in English means “corner of the little guava trees,” and in our research it looked like a great place to check out. The town had been recommended by my friend Brenda Brecke, whom I used to work with. She visits annually and gave us the name of the hotel where she stays. I called and was able to get a mid-week reservation, which was lucky because the town fills up on the weekends. It’s a popular spot for Mexican tourists from Tepic and Guadalajara as well as longer-term visitors from the US and Canada. Brenda was even going to be there!
We decided to stay three nights at the Bungalows El Rinconcito and explore the nearby towns of Lo de Marcos and La Peñita, where we had heard there was a big market on Thursday. All these little towns are in the neighboring state to the north, Nayarit. For marketing purposes the area is called “Riviera Nayarit.” To get there, you take a Pacifico bus from the main bus station by the Puerto Vallarta airport. It’s about a two-hour ride. The buses are very comfortable, not like a city bus. Our single suitcase was stored underneath, and off we went.
This is the route from Vallarta to Guayabitos. Google Maps says it takes an hour and 20 minutes; that’s by car. The bus takes longer with all the stops. We are located at the dot at the bottom, about as far south as you can go and still be in Vallarta.
Here’s a closer look at our destination. Strangely enough, because of the configuration of the coast, the ocean is due north in Guayabitos. The beach from the point northeast to the mouth of the river is about two kilometers.
Here’s Peggy in the bus, on the way. That look is pure eager anticipation, I’m sure, not that she doesn’t like to get her picture taken.
The bus dropped us off at the side of the highway and the driver got out to get us our suitcase. We had to scurry across the road and hike a few blocks into town.
The entrance to our hotel.
The entrance to our room. It had two double beds and was clean and comfortable. Not ocean front, but with an ocean view from the balcony, at just $28 a night.
The hotel pool.
Happy hour! Every night, at 5:00 on the dot, all the hotel residents bring drinks and hors d’ oeuvres to the ocean-front balcony on the main floor. Our addition allowed some of them to crow that the Americans finally outnumbered the Canadians! That’s our friend Brenda on the right in the green blouse.
Wanda’s Burgers and Ribs, the restaurant connected to the hotel. It’s a popular gathering spot with good food and drink, and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. The balcony of our room is one of those on the second floor to the left.
The ocean right in front of the hotel. There are two islands in the bay; the larger one is Coral Island, and the small one is Crab Island. After I asked the names of the islands, I said to the man I had asked, “Hmmm… It does kind of look like a crab.” He replied, “Oh no, señor, it is called that because there are many crabs there! And there is much coral near Coral Island.” So much for whimsy!
View to the left.
View to the right. Note the lack of beachside restaurants, organized forests of umbrellas, and high-rise hotels and resorts. Quite different from Vallarta, and refreshing! The tourists here bring their own umbrellas, chairs and blankets or mats. There are some restaurants, but they generally don’t have beach service. Instead, there are pushcarts selling fruit, grilled fish, ice cream and more.
Part of a mural next to the hotel.
The entrance to a trailer park. There are lots of them in Guayabitos, some with bungalows or hotels attached. This pic was taken from the street that runs behind all the beachfront hotels. In spots, it is a traffic-free walking street, which is very convenient. In fact, the main activity of the winter residents here seems to be walking, either on the beach or on this street. People compare their miles walked and Fitbit results. Listen to me; I said the word “Fitbit!” I’m learning a foreign language!
Brenda, Peggy and I out for dinner at Wanda’s. Yummy ribs!
Later that evening we were treated to an impromptu concert by Craig Caffel. He is based both in San Miguel de Allende and in the SF Bay Area, where he has his own band and is part of the backup group for Maria Muldaur. What a treat! Craig is good friends with the owners of Wanda’s and he traded a few evenings playing in the restaurant for a room and a restful break from all his traveling.
One of the activities we had planned was to go to the large tianguis (market) held every Thursday at the town of La Peñita. Peñita, as it is known, is only two miles from Guayabitos, across the river, and is the commercial hub for the more tourist-oriented areas, with banks, larger stores, etc. The market is huge, and attracts local people and visitors from miles around. The market is set up around the town square and radiates out into the surrounding streets for many blocks.
A ceviche pushcart at the market.
Decorative masks and wall art.
Peggy loves these cute little baskets. We got her one.
I’m sure you could find just about anything here. These are blender parts.
The seawall and malecón adjacent to the market in Peñita.
A look back at the market from atop the seawall.
Back in Guayabitos, of course we had to have a beach day! Since we didn’t have our own umbrella and things (and didn’t want to buy them just for one day) we went in search of a restaurant that would let us sit in front at one of their tables as long as we kept eating and drinking. Not a problem!
This is where you buy your beach chairs, mats, sand toys and umbrellas for the beach.
Here’s another shot of Peggy at our chosen beach spot.
The Mexican tourists set up close to the water, and it can get really crowded, especially on weekends. I’m not sure if those tents are set up as sunshades or if someone is camping there. Since it’s largely unregulated here, as opposed to Vallarta, people do camp on the beach.
The beach is safe and flat here, no rips or undertow, and the kids (and adults) have a really good time in the water.
Here’s a look down the beach.
This is one of the grilled fish pushcarts. I watched this lady for some time — she fillets the fish as she goes, and the pelicans get the scraps. They are really tame and you can walk right up to them.
Here are her wares. She did NOT want to be in the picture!
Some watchful Pelicans on the roof, with a frigate bird above.
Here we are at breakfast on our last morning in Guayabitos. Our vacation is over, so it’s time to catch the bus to take us back to the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Well, that’s it for this post. I hope you enjoyed participating in the vacation from our vacation! See you next time on OnVallartaTime!