Nayarit Road Trip — Real Version

posted in: Nayarit Road Trip 2021 | 1

I feel like I already wrote about our Nayarit road trip. Having planned so well, the actual road trip was a lot like what I already described.

As usual, I took way too many photos, which you can find in my Google photo album. The ones in this post will, I hope, whet your appetite.

On the road

We started out right on time, about 8:30 Sunday morning. After about an hour we were hungry for breakfast, so we picked a place along the road that was serving carnitas (pulled pork) in tacos and tortas ahogadas (basically a drowned submarine sandwich). The coffee was instant. (Actually it was hot water served with a jar of Taster’s Choice.) But the food was delicious. Eating Mexican-style breakfasts is still a learning opportunity for me. I still generally crave bacon and eggs and hash browns rather than tacos and beans and such, but I’m enjoying trying new things.

The first part of the drive went through a number of small towns, but eventually we started climbing into the mountains of the Sierra Madre, and we drove quite a lot on narrow, twisting roads. We only covered about 300 kilometers (187 miles), but driving time was close to six hours. So a lot of very slow going.

Talpa de Allende

Our first stop, Talpa de Allende, was about 14 km off the main highway. But before we got there, we came to a mirador with a monument of some kind that looked like a chapel. We climbed up a narrow spiral staircase to the very top of the mirador, which is called Mirador Cruz de Romero.

The view was spectacular. The town in the valley is Talpa de Allende.

There weren’t a ton of sights to see in the town itself. The church at the main plaza, Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa, was nice, and the streets were pretty. Lots and lots of candy shops. And lots and lots of people.

Mascota

From Talpa we drove to Mascota. Overall, the town didn’t impress us a great deal. The plaza was nice, though the church, Basílica de la Virgen de los Dolores, was fairly ordinary. And there were few interesting shops. Also few people.

The most photogenic sight in town was Templo Inconcluso de La Preciosa Sangre, an imposing structure that was never finished. It’s surrounded by gardens that are used for cultural events. When we were there, some people were taking quinceañera photographs.

Mascota’s main plaza
Basílica de la Virgen de los Dolores
Templo Inconcluso de La Preciosa Sangre

We actually only discovered the “unfinished temple” because we were on our way to the Presa Corrinchis, a lake formed by a dam outside of Mascota. We passed it and I asked Luis, “What’s that?” and we stopped to check it out.

The lake was pretty, but we never found the road to access the actual dam. In fact, the road to the lake was mostly dirt and gravel and not easy to follow. We made several wrong turns along the way. Once we got there, a lot of people were enjoying the various restaurants and some folks were swimming in the lake. We didn’t spend a lot of time there.

San Sebastián del Oeste

By the time we got to San Sebastián, we were hungry. By a remarkable coincidence, my friends Tom and Abby were also spending the night in San Sebastián, and we’d made plans to meet them for dinner.

(Actually, we are sort of related. Abby’s mother’s brother was my uncle by marriage; we have three cousins in common.)

I got a hold of Abby and we made plans to meet at the plaza; then we found a spot for dinner and enjoyed a nice evening.

The plaza in San Sebastián was decorated for Christmas and all lit up.

Our Airbnb was a cozy, delightful cabin adjacent to a stunning house. Just outside the cabin, the owner kept goats and chickens. 

The next day we got an early start and explored the town, which is charming and beautifully situated in the mountains. We tried to find a way to go to the viewpoint at Cerro de la Bufa, but we couldn’t find anyone to take us up there, and the road is apparently not suitable for regular cars. Still, the town was so pleasant that we were happy to spend a few hours just wandering the streets before heading to the beach.

The drive from San Sebastián to the coast was especially scenic, with lots more twisty mountain roads. We made a quick stop in Punta Mita just to see the beach before continuing up along the coast to Sayulita.

Sayulita

I had a very inaccurate picture in my mind of what Sayulita would be like. “Everything I’ve read suggests that this is a typical upscale beach resort,” I wrote in my previous post about our plans. But there is really nothing much upscale about Sayulita besides the prices. 

There is a 1960s vibe in Sayulita. It’s a popular surfing destination, and it seemed there were visitors from all over the world. The beach was packed during the day, and the streets, bars, and restaurants were packed at night. A few nice restaurants could be found, but most of the food scene was basic and beachy. Lots of takeout. We also smelled more than a little marijuana while wandering the streets. And people were gathering in big crowds, almost entirely unmasked, all over town. It was hard to believe this was in the middle of a pandemic.

The Airbnb where we stayed was a small apartment, utterly lacking in charm or comfort, about five blocks from the beach, on the second floor, with no parking. Fortunately, we found a place to park about a block away. I usually don’t worry about packing light when I’m on a road trip, but it would have been smart this time. 

Still, the beach was nice, and we enjoyed our visit, but it is not a town I’d want to go back to. After breakfast and a short walk around town, we were happy to get an early start the next morning and head to our next destination.

This performance was going on in the main plaza in the evening. Notice how few in the crowd are wearing masks.
One of Sayulita’s prettier streets

Chacala

When we arrived in Chacala, we were met with dusty, smelly streets and a lot of construction. We checked in at a hotel, but our Airbnb was actually about a block away, a really nice apartment (except for the lack of hot water, a problem they repeatedly tried and failed to repair).

Once we got changed into swimsuits and headed to the beach, we fell in love with this laid-back, low-key, simple town and it’s perfect beach. No fancy bistros, no cute shops, just some small hotels with restaurants right on the beach, warm water perfect for swimming, and far fewer people than in Sayulita. 

We had two nights here, and we were looking forward to the relaxation. We swam, walked on the beach, sat in the sun, sat in the shade of the palapas and had snacks and drinks. On the second day we hired a small boat to take us to another beach, Playa Divisidero (also called Playa de las Cuevas because of the caves at the water line on one side of the cove), where we spent a couple of hours all by ourselves until a group of Mexicans from Aguascalientes drove in and made camp.

Chacala was just idyllic. We both can’t wait to go back.

The beach at Chacala
Chacala sunset
Another view of the beach at Chacala
Playa Divisidero

Compostela

We had to leave, finally. We headed to our fourth Pueblo Mágico, Compostela. It’s a pretty town with a nice plaza and nice church, Santo Santiago Apostol. Some nice shops, especially those selling shoes and saddles and belts and other leather goods. There’s also an old train station somewhere in the town, but we couldn’t find it. We enjoyed a coffee in a small outdoor café and headed to our next destination.

Laguna Santa María del Oro

We spent our last two nights at this pretty crater lake. There wasn’t much to do here. Luis went swimming in the lake, but I didn’t feel the feels for it. We went for a nice walk around the lake, ate Christmas eve dinner in our hotel room, saw some pretty butterflies, and just enjoyed being lazy. 

We stayed at a hotel, and if we went back, I think it would be better to stay at one of the resorts, with cabins, boats, and pleasant gardens and grounds to enjoy. 

View of the lake from a mirador
Christmas eve dinner

Jala

Our last stop on the way home was Jala, the sixth Pueblo Mágico we visited. The main draw of this town is the nearby volcano, Ceboruco. But the road to get there was a little challenging, so after a few kilometers, we turned around.

The town itself is nice enough. The church is especially impressive. We went to a mercado and had a breakfast of gorditos. Most of the shops were closed, though, as it was Christmas morning.

Basílica Lateranense de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
Mercado Principál

It was a few more hours back home. It’s always nice to get home after a vacation, but this was such a nice trip and it felt much too short. Neither Luis nor I can wait to go back and spend more time at the beach.

  1. Joy Sherman

    I love your travel blog, Lane. It’s such fun to accompany you on your travels and enjoy your pics! Thanks for sharing. I’m also glad you have a companion. While traveling alone is ok and has its benefits like meeting people along the way, it’s really wonderful to be able to share experiences and sights with someone special. Love to you, Lane! Joy

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