And News on Mexican Hideaway with Sun, Surf and Sacred Trails from the February 2006 Getaway
The 1960′s film classic “Night of the Iguana,” starring Ava Gardner and Richard Taylor, put Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico on the exotic destination map. Forty years later the fabled hideaway boasts pricey boutiques, hi-rise hotels, a Samy’s (the Mexican equivalent of Cost Co) and heavy traffic. Vallarta’s still beautiful, and it’s a wonderful place for shopping, dining and sight seeing, with surrealistic sculptures showcased on the oceanfront Maricon, and smooth tequila samples available in tasting-room storefronts on cobble stoned streets. But, if you’re looking for a more affordable Mexican sun and surf holiday, drive forty miles up the coast to Rincon de Guayabitos and La Penita in the state of Nayarit, on Jaltemba Bay. Rincon, which means “corner” or “hideaway”, is a favorite vacation spot for Mexicans. It’s also home for many north of the border snow birds. Really, you can’t swing a dead Pelican on the beach without hitting at least three Canadians. Having spent my first 8 years weathering Canadian prairie winters I understand the mass migration. The result: an upscale neighborhood in Rincon with Moorish inspired mansions built by USA and Canadian transplants. Come twilight the skyline formed by these homes with their crowning cupolas will make you think you’re in Casa Blanca. Last month, along with my HHT friends, I enjoyed a week’s worth of exotic sunsets, warm hospitality, easy beach access and frothy Marguerites here. I was the lucky house guest at the family home of this getaway’s co-hostess, life coach Veronica Raya of The Raya Group (www.RayaCoaching.com) Other vacationers stayed with salt-of-the-earth hosts Mona and Charlie at nearby Casa de Ensuenos, www.casadeensuenos.com. High-season rates of $70.00 for a spacious beachfront double, full breakfasts and sunset refreshments clue you in – this B&B is a deal. Add morning Pilates and yoga sessions on the rooftop terrace (my contribution to a good thing) and you’ve got a prime venue for intimate retreats. I mention this for other retreat organizers. If your group outgrows this B&B there are others and several well run hotels – just down the beach. Be warned though, that part of the bay is a lot more crowded and quite commercial, so give Mona and Charley a call first, and please say hi!
From here you can stroll south to tourist friendly restaurants and shops, or drive or walk north to the fishing town of La Penita for a taste of daily Mexican life. A replica of the Aztec God of fishermen stands proud on the main drag, just one example of the blend of indigenous and Spanish culture prevalent in the area. For further cultural contact be sure to attend the colorful market, held every Thursday. Tourists and locals comparison shop for arts, crafts, produces and designer label knockoffs of bras, t-shirts and baseball cap. There’s a wide assortment of vendors, from Mexican Punks and Hippies to clean-cut local shop keepers and the real locals, Native Huichols. Canadians may now call this home, and Spaniards claimed it in the 1500s, but the Huichol (pronounced Weechol) are the descendents of the true settlers – the Aztecs. Huichol live in Sierra Madre mountain settlements, which have been inhabited for at least ten thousand years. The Huichol’s name for themselves is the healers. 80% of the men are shaman, and as a community they continue to practice the timeless healing rituals and ceremonies of their ancestors. In recent years, like many indigenous peoples, they’ve begun sharing their ancient knowledge and practices with non-natives.
During our week’s holiday we didn’t visit a Huichol settlement, but we did hike in a sacred place actively utilized by the Huichol, known by various names: “La Pila del Rey”, “el Santuario”, “los petrolïfos” and “the Altavista petroglyphs.” We hired a taxi and drove half hour up mountain roads to unmarked Altavista. This isn’t a regular stop for tourist busses – YET. I pray it stays that way. Alters adorned with fresh candle drippings and recent offerings attest to the fact that ceremonies take place at this archaeological site. Along the well maintained trail are abundant rocking carvings of universal symbols like spirals and crosses. The trail ends at an amazing natural amphitheater sculpted by the eons of water flow. Storyboards along the way in Spanish and English, tell history and legends of this place. For further information try these links:
For me sitting quietly with a new friend, met via Health Habitravels, in this ancient amphitheater was a high point of my week long Nayarit getaway. If you visit this part of the world, and are at all interested in cultural heritage, take a few hours to explore this bit of living history. Bring $3.50 to give the caretaker. Other nature outings are readily available and affordable in Rincon. You can sign up for tours at most of the hotels, but if you’ve rented a car, it’s easy to venture out on your own. If you’re a wildlife lover then head a couple of hours scenic drive north of Rincon and follow signs outside the port town of San Blas, to La Tobara. There, board pangas (small boats) and tour channels that thread through mangroves. This is camera safari time, with exotic birds, wild orchids, tropical fish, turtles and crocodiles posing for close ups. We opted to include time at the nature sanctuary. My advice, skip it, as it is actually a rather sad zoo. Another fun excursion that gets you close up to wild creatures is the $15.00 thrill of whale watching, or should I say whale chasing in Jaltamba Bay. I’ve whale watched from a good sized catamaran in the Santa Barbara Channel, but this day we were in boats dwarfed by the whales. Being eye and ear level to gray whales breeching and bellowing does raise your heart rate. It was fun. Later that afternoon, sunning on the beach, the whales showed up again, and played very close to shore. It seems that their old fears of being hunted by Captain Ahab have faded, and these magnificent creatures are now calm near humans, as if they know we revere them. They regularly migrate to these waters January through March for mating and breeding, and feeding on the plentiful fish. Not unlike the snow birds on the shore – who also feast on fresh fish and seafood at the town’s many reasonable restaurants. One thing Guayabitos has plenty of is great food. Throughout the week we feasted, on guacamole, home made tortillas and salsa, the fresh catch of the day, flan, and margaritas that packed a punch. The fresh air, beach walks, and morning mind-body sessions, evened the playing field as far as calories in and calories out. For our last supper we dined at a fairly new restaurant, Vista Guayabitos, up on the hill, which true to its name has a fabulous view of the bay. Colored lights from a tourist cruise boat and the growing town of Rincon, glazed the waves. As we celebrated the end of a pleasant week of sun and surf it gave me pause to wonder – forty years from now will Rincon and La Penita be upscale resorts like Vallarta, with prices to match? If that’s what’s in store, then, for those of you on a budget, seeking a Mexican holiday that won’t break the bank plan a Rincon vacation. Here are some links to help you organize your stay:
CULTURE, LODGINGS, RESTAURANTS, ACTIVITIES:
Adios – Tannis Kobrinsky