No wonder legions of Mexicans, Americans, Canadians (including many, many French Canadians from Quebec we discovered), and increasing numbers of Europeans roll out their beach mats in the Riviera Nayarit, particularly in the small beach town of Rincón de Guayabitos. Family-friendly and ridiculously affordable, this laid back resort is situated in a protected bay with 2 km of sandy beach and gentle waves and is a mecca for Mexicans and tourists alike.
One of our goals while in Puerto Vallarta was to find a car and driver (not a taxi or bus) to take us to this West Coast spot which is approximately a 1 ½ hour drive from Puerto Vallarta. We found Carlos, or rather he found us, as we walked by the restaurant where he was perched on a stool trying to entice people to come in and eat. A lively, fun conversation ensued as Carlos entertained us with stories using his own brand of English, liberally sprinkled with slang. We said, no gracias, we don’t want to eat but we are looking for a ride to Guayabitos. A multi-service guy, he whipped out his business card and said he could take us. Cuánto cuesta (how much?) we asked. He told us to research prices and that he would do much better. After a quick google search on how much taxis cost, we went back to him to negotiate and settled on 500 pesos. Later, we learned that this is a screaming deal, as the usual asking price for this service starts at 700 or 800 pesos. Carlos just wanted his gas covered and loves speaking English.
Carlos couldn’t have been a better driver or more entertaining tour guide as he spirited us north on highway 200. As we entered the State of Nayarit (and a different time zone) we learned that the Riviera Nayarit (http://vallartanayaritblog.com/) has the distinction of building the longest suspension bridge for golf carts in the world. The bridge is a quarter of a mile long and connects two prestigious golf courses in Nuevo Vallarta: the Greg Norman course with the Jack Nicklaus course via the Ameca River.
We passed several roadside cemeteries filled with large, colorful and elaborate gravestones; the Mexicans honour their dead very seriously, particularly on Dia de Muertos – the Day of the Dead. Famous for its sea salt, there are many places to stop and stock up on this mineral rich staple. And if only we could bring back some of the copper pots on display!
At one point in our journey near the surf town of Sayulita (to be explored in another post), a Black Ford F-150 pick up with thick, darkly tinted windows that you can’t see into passed us. What’s with that truck, we asked. “It’s the cartel,” Carlos said matter-of-factly. Holy Cucaracha!! Okay, the drug cartels and related activities are an ongoing concern for foreigners vacationing in Mexico with reports of people disappearing or being killed. Grisly movies don’t help with the perception either. Carlos explained that cartel members want to protect the tourists and not harm them. Not unless you try to hone in on their turf, of course, which most surely would not end well.
Living in Vancouver, our daily local news is littered with disturbing accounts of drug and gang related crime (particularly in certain areas) including murders and every other kind of atrocity. Often, innocent victims are caught in the warfare – being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Organized gangs thrive and operate in many other parts of Canada, as they do in every part of the world. So far in Mexico, we have felt completely and totally safe. Our friends who live in Guayabitos and Puerto Vallarta for half the year or more have reported that they feel safer in Mexico than at home. Of course, extra diligence should be taken during big holiday celebrations such as at Christmas and Easter time as thieves are on the prowl for easy opportunities in the swell of people who are out and about. This holds true for any place in the world.
Common sense always wins while traveling in any country. Keep in your wallet or bag a photocopy of your passport. Don’t do crazy things that you wouldn’t do in your country. Respect the laws, culture and customs. Be careful at night. Keep your wallet and personal belongings secure to your body when out and about.
Driving into Guayabitos, we were soon ensconced into our hotel. Our dear friend from Vancouver Island had negotiated a great deal for us and was waiting for us. What a welcome site it is to be greeted by a good friend while traveling! Especially one who fluently speaks the local language and intimately knows the culture. She had found us a bungalow (pronounced boon-guh-low) – a hotel suite with a kitchen. Ours was a one bedroom (with two double beds and a large closet and dresser), large bathroom with tiled shower, and fully equipped and furnished kitchen/living room combo. It had to be 700 sf or more and we could step right into the pool outside our door. It was fine, although could have used some sprucing up in areas. The monthly rate was a whopping $600 USD which equates to $20 USD per night! In March, the snowbirds and other long term vacationers are starting to pack up and go home so rates are lower.
Since I am working on this trip, it was imperative that I have solid internet. After three days of spotty, sporadic WIFI that drove me crazy, we had to move. Again, my friend came to our rescue and emailed one of the owners in her condo building, the beautiful Playa Linda. Luck would have it that the people currently in the unit above hers were leaving that day and we could have it for $35 USD per night. Score! Your hard-working dollars go a loooong way in Mexico. Our condo had a huge balcony with a peak-a-boo ocean view on one side and on the opposite side, a smaller balcony with a romantic table for two and an ocean view. Original, colorful artwork by local artist Victorino Mendez (whom we later met in Sayulita) adorned many of the rooms which consisted of two bedrooms (a large master bedroom and a smaller bedroom with a single bed), a full kitchen, floor to ceiling tiled bathroom, dining room and living room.
Saying hello to our new playa (beach) that is 90 steps from our door, we later joined the “Sunset Club” – Playa Linda residents who gather on the terrace nightly for cocktail hour to watch the sunset – a lifestyle that one could quickly adopt!