Quaint towns, neat beaches just a short drive from Puerto Vallarta
Published: Tuesday, November 27
A winter vacation in Mexico often revolves around the beaches and nightlife in one of the resort towns like Puerto Vallarta. With plenty of shopping available, large sun-soaked beaches and an abundance of restaurants, it’s easy to relax and forget about exploring the surrounding regions.
But if you’re prepared to venture further there’s a great deal to see. Some of it’s easy to get to and other areas will take more effort. Just a one-hour drive north of bustling Puerto Vallarta, where the 1963 Oscar winning movie The Night of the Iguana was filmed, is the sleepy little village of Sayulita.
Well-known for the excellent surfing there the place has a wonderful laid-back feeling that is casual even by Mexican standards. With plenty of local crafts for sale, small winding streets and a spectacular beach it is well worth the visit. Continuing on Highway 200 the route changes from the twisting coastal road and connects with the well-maintained freeway south of Tepic.
The wide roadway is comparable to any North American freeway and will reduce your travel time dramatically from the much slower secondary roads.
This comes at a cost, however, as there are frequent stops along the way to pay tolls, which can vary from 40 pesos to 200 pesos. On a longer trip you can end up paying more in tolls than what you spend on gas.
If time is not a consideration you can get to all the same locations on the free (libre) roads, but be prepared to go through every small town and village along the way and for the other unique Mexican traffic control device, the speed bump. Speed bumps in Mexico are everywhere. Some of them make sense, like the ones at intersections where the Alto traffic sign indicates that vehicles will alternately enter the intersection.
In other locations they just seem to appear, some of them like asphalt monsters blending into the road surface lying there waiting for the chance to destroy your exhaust system and ruin your suspension. Some speed bumps are so high that as you slowly approach them the moment your front tires make contact it will actually stop your car.
Leaving Highway 15 at Tequila there is the opportunity to enter the centre of the local liquor distilling area.
The surrounding fields are blue with the agave plants growing in rows. Their spiked leaves are chopped off at harvest time when the plant is in its 12th year, leaving a huge rounded “heart” that is taken to the factory to be heated in order to extract its sap which is key to the making of tequila.
This plant has been used since the 16th century to produce tequila spirit and for over 2,000 years for making fermented drinks and cloth. The mineral-rich volcanic soil of the region makes it an ideal place to grow the blue agave plant. You can visit the Jose Cuervo distillery and tour the plant. The original distillery was built in 1795. Near the central plaza of the town is a tequila museum, which shows the history of cultivation and the distillation overview.
There are also an enormous selection of bottles and label designs from over the years on display. In the town itself tequila is for sale everywhere. It can be purchased in small sample size bottles all the way up to three-litre plastic jugs. Less than an hour drive eastbound will take you to the outskirts of Guadalajara, a city of over four million and home to several universities.