Enjoy your own private pool at Hacienda el Carmen.
Double-digit tourism growth predicted at Jalisco’s haciendas and manors
They’re pricey, but visitors can expect much more than just a place to lay their heads
Published on Friday, October 11, 2019
Double-digit growth is predicted in visitor numbers this year to rural Jalisco, where an overnight stay at a historical hacienda or manor is one of the unique experiences on offer.
Both Mexican and foreign tourists are increasingly willing to pay rates of between 2,500 and 10,000 pesos (US $130 to $520) a night to stay at properties that provide a rich experience full of culture, history and art, according to a report in the newspaper El Economista.
Antonio Gutiérrez Martín, president of the Association of Haciendas and Manors of Jalisco (AHCJ), said that visitors who opt to stay at such properties can expect much more than just a place to lay their heads.
“For example, in the city of Sayula, you could have a rate of 2,500 pesos [per night] but that doesn’t mean that they’re only going to give you a bed and a bathroom. It implies a complete experience, your senses – sight, smell and touch – will be awakened . . .” he said.
Gutiérrez added that visitors to Sayula, a municipality about 120 kilometers south of Guadalajara, can visit the house where acclaimed writer Juan Rulfo was born.
Sampling regional specialties such as cajeta (caramelized goat’s milk) and ponche de granada (pomegranate punch) and visiting workshops where knives are handmade by skilled artisans are also popular attractions in Sayula, he said.
Returning to the subject of unique, traditional accommodation, Gutiérrez said that the target market for historical haciendas and manors is people aged 40 years and older.
“Due to the rates we charge, it’s not easy tourism, it’s tourism in which the standards are quite high,” he said.
“We have rates of up to 10,000 pesos. For example, there are rooms at Hacienda El Carmen in Ahualulco de Mercado [a municipality 75 kilometers west of Guadalajara] where it’s quite an experience . . . [having] a private space with a private pool and spa,” Gutiérrez said.
He said that AHCJ data shows that 80% of people who stay at the organization’s 40 properties are Mexicans and the other 20% are foreign tourists.
The latter mostly stay at properties in or around the better-known tourist destinations of Tequila and Puerto Vallarta, Gutiérrez explained.
People who choose to stay at the haciendas and manors in Jalisco can expect a high-quality and memorable experience, the AHCJ chief added.
“. . . We have committees that review quality standards of each of our associates and that means there is a guarantee that the experience will be positive.”
Relaxing in Bucerías can be very easy, with its wide range of entertainment including excellent restaurants, a thriving music scene, an art walk and both residential and commercial areas. The town’s name comes from the word “bucear” (to dive), as this activity is related to fishing, which has sustained the town since its founding. The Estatua del Buzo (Statue of the Diver), close to the main square, perfectly captures this tradition and is an ideal place for souvenir photos.
After breakfast at one of the various options in this Riviera Nayarit micro-destination, a short walk along its streets is the best way to begin. Thanks to its oceanfront location, Bucerías’s main square is the ideal place to get a feel for the town’s lifestyle and relaxed pace. To one side is the Artisans’ Market, which is very lively on weekends. A little hidden, but easy to reach, is Paseo del Beso (Alley of the Kiss), a pedestrian passageway connecting the market with the town, featuring curious murals highlighting romance.
Bucerías’s long, wide beach, with its fine sand and gentle waves, is undoubtedly one of its main attractions and one of the favorite destinations for families with young children. You will find many restaurants here, especially near the center of town. Due to its excellent climate throughout the year, this beach is an ideal place to practice and admire extreme watersports such as kitesurfing and windsurfing. And it is consistently included in SEMARNAT’s list of the cleanest beaches in Mexico.
From the simple to the gourmet, there are a number of options to consider here, many located on Lázaro Cárdenas and nearby streets, right next to shops and art galleries. Starting from the main square and heading north along the Pacific, a wide variety of oceanfront family restaurants offer exquisite specialties based on fish and seafood.
One of Bucerías’s busiest areas is the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), where there are lots of boutiques, shops and galleries with different types of art. Consider taking the opportunity to admire the mystical and colorful Huichol crafts, especially the yarn paintings and beaded animal figures—not to be missed!
You can start the evening at one of Bucerías’s coffee shops, where you can enjoy blends from different parts of Mexico and the world, as well as exquisite fine pastries.
During the winter season, there are events such as the Farmers Market and the Bucerías Art Walk, which organizes art-related festivities. Throughout the year, there also are workshops in various disciplines.
When night falls, many bars have live music, performed by residents or some of the renowned musicians who visit. And the town’s culinary offerings have increased recently, with the addition of gourmet restaurants featuring various specialties, including Mexican, Asian and Italian dishes, among many others.
One of Riviera Nayarit’s most visited micro-destinations, Bucerías is ideal for anyone looking for a quiet weekend getaway and/or spending the day in the company of family or friends.
When director John Huston came to film The Night of the Iguana in 1963, Puerto Vallarta was just a sleepy little fishing village. A little Hollywood glamour, provided by the famous cast and scandalous and media-drenched affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and this little pueblo suddenly became an international beach hideaway for starlets and regular folks alike.
Palm-lined beaches, turquoise waters, brown sugar sand and a sultry year-round climate — there’s a lot to love in Puerto Vallarta.
Unbeknownst to a lot of travelers that beach-hop north – to the beaches of Punta Mita, Sayulita and San Francisco – Puerto Vallarta’s southern shores are dotted with delicious little inlets and a handful of quaint towns that boast some of the coast’s most beautiful beaches. It takes a little effort to get to these off-the-beaten track expanses of sand, but I think you’ll find it worth it once you arrive.
From Boca de Tomatlán to Yelapa
The road south out of central Puerto Vallarta is a jungle-lined trek past luxury hotels, public beach accesses and a half-dozen, half-built dream houses. Despite the constant construction, a dense fog of humidity and heat permeates everything, slowing even the most ambitious projects and most energetic tourists.
Along this road you’ll pass the now-closed Night of the Iguana hotel, and several exclusive housing developments in pre-sale before you reach the highway entrance to Boca de Tomatlán, a small village about 30 minutes down the coast. Whether you go by bus or by cab, it’s easy to find the town’s boat dock as you enter Boca’s small handful of streets. This is one of the bigger towns along this stretch of coast and the take-off point for the boat that takes you down the shoreline.
You’ll see handfuls of locals and Mexican tourists waiting for the next water taxi to set out. Boats to Yelapa leave every hour on the hour starting at 8:00am with an additional final boat at 6:30pm. Sounds prompt, but everything here is variable, so arrive with sunscreen and patience. The Yelapa taxi will drop you off at any of the beaches between Boca and Yelapa (about a 40-minute ride) but you have to ask the boat’s captain in advance.
Alternatively you can ask around to see which boats are going to the specific beach you want and you can often find someone leaving sooner and getting you there faster. There is a single walking path that will take you overland to both Animas beach and Quixmo beach but it is a long and hot walk. The boats are infinitely faster and more enjoyable. In the case of the water taxi you pay when you get off; a private boat ride requires you to set a price in advance.
I suggest riding the entire way to Yelapa to take a look at the beaches as you decide what suits your fancy. There is a first tiny, rocky-edged beach called Madagascar as you pass a palapa “house” on the edge of a cliff heading out from Boca. There is nothing here as far as amenities and not much shade, but it is an isolated pinpoint of a beach to drop anchor and swim for a bit.
A little farther down and you will see a short, palm-lined strip of beach that is absolutely lovely called El Caballo. This has little human presence to speak of although there are a few hotels on either end tucked up into the mountainside. Just past the rocky outcrop at the end of Caballo is Animas beach. Animas has a decent strip of beach and a long dock in the center.
This a popular beach for tourists because there are a couple of dozen restaurants that sit between the sand and the jungle backdrop. The water is nice but not as crystal clear and gorgeous blue as some of the others.
The next big beach is Quimixto, which you will recognize by the terracotta-roofed house that sits to one edge, almost in the water. This is a splendid beach for an afternoon, and many locals told me it was their favorite. There are a handful of restaurants and hotels but much fewer than at Animas.
Next is Caletas, which is the home to the Ritmo de Noches show put on by Vallarta Adventures at night. This was also the once home of director John Huston and the beach is absolutely adorable, even though there are just a few hotels and no restaurants open to the public. Majahuitas beach (the next down) is similar in that there are a few hotels but not much with open arms to the public. Still the beach is delicious and small.
Yelapa is next up, with an ample beach to one side of the town, home to about 1,500 people. Several restaurants, including the most famous, Fanny’s, sit center-stage on the beach and boats bob in the water near the town dock as many of the locals you see working in this area either live here or in Boca. Yelapa is a nice town to make your base if you’re comfortable depending on water taxis for transportation or paying exorbitant rates for private boats (someone quoted me US $70 an hour for a private ride).
The town has some nice hotels including Hotel Lagunita, Casa Pericos and others that sit along the edges of Yelapa’s tiny bay. The rock outcropping to the south end of the bay down the little coast to Playa Isabella has nice snorkeling.
Yelapa to Chimo
Twice daily from Yelapa runs a taxi that heads farther south down the coast to Chimo beach, about 30 minutes away. Again, beware of trusting timetables too much and always be early and prepare to wait. Catch the morning taxi to head to La Manzanilla, a minuscule beach that glitters like a jewel just 10 minutes down the coast by boat. There’s nothing there to distract from the beauty of the crystal-clear water but a shady palapa for picnics.
From Manzanilla you can walk south over the rocks (watch out for iguanas!) to the next beach ingeniously called Playa del Medio, or beach in the middle. This is another gorgeous little gem, and quiet, unless there is a rowdy yacht parked just off the coast like the day I was there.
From Playa del Medio you can walk along a cement path to Pizota, a small fishing village at the farthest end of this strip of beaches. Pizota has that same lovely water, but the beach is scattered with locals’ kayaks and canoes and the water with taxis and fishing boats. Most days you will have a little audience if you want to swim there as the local boat operators hang out in the shade near the edge of the beach, gabbing and drinking beers.
Pizota is a regular stop on the Chimo taxi’s route, but be sure to ask the taxi captain and not the locals what time they will be coming through – answers varied wildly and I ended up missing it altogether. There is a small convenience store on the edge of beach with some surly women running it – a fine place if you need to get a beer or water or snacks.
Inland and then out again
Too far to go by water (unless you have your own boat) there are a handful of places farther south, what is commonly called Costa Alegre, that I think you should know about.
Mayto beach is absolutely divine. The water makes a deep drop just past the sand-dune style coast, but while it looked rough, the day I went the waves were a joy. A single hotel sits on the beach, the Mayto Hotel (what else?), and they serve cheap beer and delicious food in an exclusive setting. This beach is starting to be on people’s lips, but it’s still so far out there (about an hour from the closest town of Tuito) that it’s yet to be overrun with tourists.
The day I went (albeit during the low season) there were only about six other people (and most of those eating at the hotel). The beach stretches lazily around a 12-kilometer bay that the staff of the Mayto says can have rougher waves in the winter season. There is no shade here so bring that umbrella or prepare to fry. There is a small tortoise refuge that releases turtles in the evening if you stick around. You can camp at the tortoise refuge for about $8 a person a night.
The Riviera Nayarit is in the headlines again, thanks to a visit from Chris Evans: the famous “Captain America” from the Marvel Universe is filming a new series for a streaming platform in the destination. Evans is also the series’ executive producer.
The news that “Captain America” was in Mexico’s Pacific Treasure began circulating this Wednesday on social media. It was quickly picked up by local journalists and later confirmed by the Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
Over the course of more than a week the production took full advantage of the destination’s beautiful natural scenery and luxurious hotel infrastructure for its shoots, which also included extras from the local community.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series “Defending Jacob”—developed by Mark Bomback and directed by Morten Tyldum—consists of 8 episodes and is based on the homonymous novel published in 2012 by William Landay. Although there’s no date set for the premiere, it’s rumored to be by end of year.
Chris Evans has become a world-class star thanks to his role as “Captain America” in the Marvel series. The character has its own film trilogy including: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014), and “Captain America: Civil War” (2016).
Though “Captain America” has appeared in cameos and small roles in other Marvel films, he’s one of the main characters in the Avenger movies, which feature several superheroes from the comic book universe.
Over a hundred movies, including the well-known “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” “Limitless,” and “Elysium;” programming from top stations including Univision, Telemundo, Televisa, TV Azteca, Canal 40, BBC, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, MTV, NHK Japan, ESPN, and Redneck Island Reality Show; plus a long list of music videos and TV commercials have been filmed in the Riviera Nayarit.
GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN PUERTO VALLARTA AND RIVIERA NAYARIT
Rich culture, outshining natural beauty, a popular gastronomy scene, and host of activities, means Puerto Vallarta, in the state of Jalisco, and Riviera Nayarit, in the state of Nayarit, have become two much-loved destinations. Despite their popularity, there are still many amazing offbeat spots to discover – see 6 of them here:
Explore Authentic Tuito
Buried in the mountains, about 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta, is El Tuito. Cobbled streets, yellow and orange mudbrick houses and time-worn petroglyphs give this little town immense character. Themain square is surrounded by gardens, restaurants, cafés and artisan shops.
Find Serenity in Yelapa
In a beautiful natural cove at the foot of the majestic Sierra Madre mountains, surrounded by jungle, nature and the Pacific Ocean, is the small community of Yelapa. The tranquility and privacy make Yelapa the perfect place for artists and writers. It’s even completely free of any roads! The only way to reach the town is by water taxi, a 40 minute trip from Puerto Vallarta.
Discover the Charms of San Sebastián
Nestled deep within the hills of the Sierra Madre mountain range, the historic Mexican town of San Sebastián del Oeste dates back to 1605! It’s one of the few places in Mexico to conserve the charm of colonial architecture. You can admire all sort of wonderful views including of Cerro de La Bufa and Banderas Bay. And watching the sunset above the mountains in tranquility is one of the best things to do here!
Visit Local Lo De Perla
A 3 hour guided tour takes you through the rainforest and Lo de Perla orchidarium, an amazing scene for wildlife lovers and those seeking a connection with nature. It’s a truly unique experience where you’ll encounter a marvelous diversity of colorful butterflies, orchids, mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects. The tour is a perfect day out for the whole family!
Take a Scenic Drive to Offbeat Punta El Custodio
An hour and a half drive through popular seaside towns will have you enjoying isolated beaches, creative artisans and pristine nature in Punta El Custodio. Visit Platanitos Beach, a traditional fishing village and enjoy the delicious seafood dishes in thatched-roof huts lining the seashore. Don’t miss the “Hummingbird Garden”, a sanctuary with more than 130 species, for a truly off the beaten path experience.
Marvel at the Sacred Tatei Haramara Islet
The sacred White Rock, Tatei Haramara, is an important sight located across from Playa del Rey in San Blas. For the Wixárika people, it’s the physical manifestation of the goddess Haramara and the first solid object to appear in this world. According to Huichol legend, Tatei Haramara is the origin of all life. It’s one of the most sacred spots for the Huichol, the Cora and the Mexicanero people!
A trip to Mazatlán changed the life of this expat from California
Janet Blaser enjoys the Mexican lifestyle and has no plans to move back to the US
Published on Thursday, August 15, 2019
A trip to Mazatlán changed the life of a California woman who has now been living in the Sinaloa resort city for more than a decade and can’t imagine moving back to the United States.
Janet Blaser, formerly a food and restaurant writer in Santa Cruz, California, moved to Mazatlán in 2006 after she lost one journalism job and had her hours cut back at another as a result of the rise in popularity of online news.
A trip to the Pacific coast city in Mexico served as the impetus for her relocation decision.
“I fell in love, I felt this heart connection somehow — there were beautiful old buildings, cobblestone streets, plazas with wrought iron and the beautiful glittering Pacific Ocean, warm and swimmable,” Blaser told the financial information website MarketWatch.
“It just felt deeply healing, friendly and welcoming,” she added.
Another reason for Blaser’s move was that she spotted an interesting opportunity.
There were a lot of English-speaking expats and tourists in town but little information about Mazatlán’s social and cultural life and Blaser’s journalistic experience and ingenuity could fix that.
So in 2006, the writer and surfing enthusiast packed up her car and set her sights on starting a new life in northern Mexico. A plan to move to New Orleans was put on the backburner.
Blaser admitted to having doubts about the move but knew that staying in California would stretch her budget and leave her with an uncertain future.
During her first year in Mazatlán, Blaser worked part time as an online editor as she planned how to start an arts and entertainment publication that would provide information to the English-speaking residents of the city and the tourists who visit.
In 2007, she launched M! Magazine and continued to run the successful publication for nine years. In the same period, Blaser started a local organic farmers’ market.
The 63-year-old is now retired but remains busy: she has just published a book entitled Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, in which 27 essays of women living happily in Mexico are compiled.
Even though her magazine publishing days are over, Blaser is not thinking about relocating north of the border even though she says she misses her three adult children and three grandkids, all of whom live in the United States.
“I can’t imagine living in the U.S. again,” she told MarketWatch, explaining that the cheaper cost of living in Mexico – Blaser lives on about US $1,000 a month – was one but not the only reason why.
“I couldn’t afford to live in the States again” Blaser said before adding that she prefers the “easygoing Mexican lifestyle” in any case.
“It’s a very different vibe here that’s kind of hard to explain. It’s not about being retired, because I wasn’t that until a year ago. It’s just a different understanding of what’s important in life, and a more relaxed live-and-let-live attitude. If something doesn’t get done today, there’s always tomorrow, or the next day. What’s the big deal?” she said.
“. . . I’m able to actually live a more simple life and be satisfied in a way I could never before in the U.S.”
The highway then passes near Talpa with its celebrated maple forest, which has been around since the Pleistocene, through Mascota, renowned for its majestic casonas (mansions) with walls a meter thick, and on past San Sebastián del Oeste, the gorgeous mountain village “forgotten by time,” finally arriving at Puerto Vallarta, six hours distant.
There are so many picturesque towns along this route through western Jalisco that most travelers whiz right by a true jewel of natural beauty and surely the most bizarre little mountain I’ve seen anywhere in the world: La Campana (“the bell”).
The local people call it “The Bell” because that’s what it looks like when you glimpse it — for all of two seconds — as you zoom around one of a hundred curves on the ever-twisting highway approaching Mascota.
This spot is a two-hour drive from Guadalajara and at this point your stomach is probably growling and you can almost smell the tantalizing aromas awaiting you at the excellent Navidad restaurant in Mascota. What could I ever say to convince you to pull off the highway onto a little dirt road barely visible among the tall pine trees?
Well, if you drive down that road only 20 meters, step out of your car and gaze upward, I know you’re going to be hooked. With only a bit of imagination you might swear you were looking at a very bizarre sculpture of a giant puma battling a gargantuan hammerhead shark.
“Well, well, that definitely does look interesting,” is the reaction I have heard from every soul I have coaxed into stopping here. No matter how loudly their stomachs were growling, they would inevitably ask, “How long do I have to walk to go see it?”
When I tell them it’s only five minutes to the base of La Campana, believe it or not, curiosity always wins out over hunger, and off we go to visit what I call “The Psychedelic Bell.”
After that short walk, you suddenly step out of the forest on bare volcanic rock. As you walk up the smooth, undulating surface, you come upon one after another strange, sweeping shapes you’d swear must have been sculpted by Antonio Gaudí or Salvador Dalí. Who else would put frozen waves of rock on top of a mountain? Of course, instead of breaking waves, you may see something quite different.
Whatever the case, please watch your step. There are no guard rails or rangers here to protect you and a false step could be fatal. It’s not a hike for small children unless you’re carrying them in your backpack.
After soaking up this semi-psychedelic view, feast your eyes on the panorama below stretching into the distance. No matter how you felt when you started up the mountain, by the time you reach the top, you will surely be inundated with good vibrations! The length of this walk, by the way, is only 428 meters from your car to the peak of the hill.
I first stumbled upon La Campana some 30 years ago. Seeing so many smooth, clean, sweeping, baby-pink surfaces, I couldn’t help but wonder how long they would remain in that pristine state. But every time I have returned, including very recently, I have found the mountain free of trash and the wave-like formations entirely free of graffiti.
Credit for this must surely go to the local landowner, Tino López, whom we first met years ago when we stepped out of our cars and were hailed by a friendly voice — in English, mind you:
“Welcome! Do you want to visit La Campana?”
Don Tino then showed us the short and easy route to the base of the mountain, which we continue to use today. “My house is close by,” he reminded us before leaving. “Just tell people to shout my name when they arrive, and I’ll be glad to guide them.”
Another reason why La Campana is in such good condition — and the surrounding forest free of wildfires — is because the local headquarters of Conafor, the National Forestry Commission, is located only a few meters above the spot where you parked your car and the rangers are always vigilant.
Another view of La Campana.
If you are interested in camping, there’s a nice flat area — no facilities of any kind — 500 meters east of the gate (at N20.37170 W104.59058). But a high-clearance vehicle may be needed to reach the spot. In the rainy season you’ll find a small brook next to your tent.
One advantage of camping is that you could visit La Campana both early and late in the day, when the light gives it very different looks. And don’t be surprised if you scare up a deer or two as you hike from the campsite to the peak.
If you’d like to visit “The Psychedelic Bell,” ask Google Maps to take you to “La Campana, Atenguillo, Jalisco.” Upon arriving, you will see a sign saying Puerto La Campana. Continue past the sign and make a very sharp right turn onto an easy-to-miss dirt road.
If you go up there with children, be sure to keep them tightly in hand because a strong gust of wind could blow a child right over the edge.
Enjoy the good vibrations!
The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.
DON’T MISS THESE RIVIERA NAYARIT FAIRS, FIESTAS, AND TRADITIONS
The true essence of Mexico is best experienced through its traditions, the legacy of the Spaniards and indigenous people. Fairs, religious festivities, and other colorful ancestral celebrations are part and parcel of Mexican life, all of them vibrant with music, chants, food, and fun.
In the Riviera Nayarit, these events also help to promote tourism in coastal towns such as Bucerías and Sayulita, for example, where every year religious festivities attract thousands of visitors. Gastronomy and music are a fundamental part of the celebrations.
Consider the Riviera Nayarit for your next vacation! Here’s a list of the Fairs, Fiestas, and Traditions you cannot miss!
Bucerías’ Feast of Our Lady of Peace
The Bucerías Patron Saints Feast in honor of our Lady of Peace has traditionally been held between January 16 and 24 for the past 59 years. Besides being an essential part of local tradition, over the past few years, it has become a tourist attraction as well. Cultural, artistic, and athletic activities take place during the festivities, but there’s no doubt one of the most colorful is the fishermen’s seafaring pilgrimage. The fishermen deck their boats out with flowers, colorful ribbons, and religious motifs. The plaza is dotted with stands selling Mexican treats; there is folk dancing, fireworks, and lots of other activities that involve both locals and visitors.
San Blas Patron Saint Festivities
Every February 3 the people of San Blas celebrate the Patron Saint who protects hunters with a very colorful and unique party. The activities begin at dawn with a heartfelt rendition of “Las Mañanitas” and the traditional Midnight Mass. The celebration includes dances, processions on land and sea aboard gaily decorated boats, and the main pilgrimage lead by an image of the saint. The procession leaves the church to bless the ocean so the seamen can have a successful fishing season and prosperity comes to the port.
Bucerías Oyster Festival
Every April 28 Bucerías hosts one of its most symbolic events. The Oyster Festival celebrates local oyster divers with a party that emphasizes togetherness and brotherhood within the community. That day marks the end of the season for the El Punto oyster bank (separate from the general conclusion of the season on June 1). Other festival activities include crowning the festival queen, who represents the divers and is chosen by the festival attendees. Of note is the fact this event is unique in the region and is one of the many great attractions offered by the Riviera Nayarit.
The Battle of the Saints in Mexcaltitán
The Battle of the Saints is one of the most representative traditional ceremonies on Mexcaltitán island, located in the municipality of Santiago Ixcuintla. The festivities are in honor of San Pedro and San Pablo; the community prays to them for a good shrimp season. On June 29 a pilgrimage is made emulating the Mexicas or Aztecs, who are said to have left Aztlán to establish the great city of Tenochtitlán.
Jala and Xalisco Corn Festival
The communities of Jala and Xalisco—located a short distance from the coast of Nayarit—celebrate several events to commemorate their Corn Festival (Feria del Elote). This celebration takes place on August 13-15 and includes cultural activities and artistic presentations. In Jala, they also host horse races and a traditional contest for the biggest ear of corn in the world. Of note is the fact this particular celebration takes place during the patron saint festivities in honor of the Virgin of the Assumption.
Feast of St Francis
The Cultural Capital of the Riviera Nayarit celebrates its patron saint festivities in honor of St Francis of Assisi from September 26 – October 4. During those days the Plaza del Sol and the town itself are brimming with athletic, religious, artistic, and cultural activities. As tradition dictates, the Friendship Torch is raffled off, and the novena begins in honor of the Patron Saint.
Day of the Dead in Sayulita | Bucerías
According to legend, the souls of the departed return during the first days of November to visit their loved ones. The Magical Town of Sayulita prepares a welcome from October 31 – November 2 with the ¡Vivan los Muertos! (Long Live the Dead!) Festival with a program filled with music, flowers, processions, and delicious offerings, not to mention a colorful riot of altars for the dead. The festival has been held for the past nine years to help preserve Mexican tradition. It’s an experience much beloved by both locals and visitors from abroad.
This year, Bucerías will join in the festivities with a cultural and artistic program, though it’s well-known that the town already hosts a traditional exhibit of altars for the dead in the main square.
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sayulita
The Magical Town of Sayulita celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe from December 1 – 12. The festival and its demonstration of faith bring together families, businesses, and civil associations from around the community as well as neighboring towns and tourists. During the novena, the different neighborhoods host processions with floats in honor of the Virgin. The townspeople then accompany the floats through the main road to the sanctuary created in the Virgin’s honor at the town’s central plaza. The organizing committee also coordinates other cultural activities besides the pilgrimages, with the main festivities occurring on December 12.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – About 8 years ago we moved our family to Mexico. I wrote an article then about the trials and tribulations of the move and thought it would be timely to give an update.
When we moved to Puerto Vallarta our kids were 4 and 5 years old so we felt the timing made sense for the transition to a new country and a new culture. And, as it turns out, we were right. The kids picked up Spanish with ease and quickly became fluent. Their Spanish is perfect and they can switch between English and Spanish – depending on who they are speaking to – on a dime. As for their parents? Well let’s just say that it hasn’t been as fast for us to master the language. The proof is when our kids give us blank stares when we speak to them in what we think is perfect Spanish!
Finding a School That Meets Your Needs
In my last article I wrote about the terrific private school options for children in Puerto Vallarta. Because all schools are not the same, if I had to start the process all over again I would likely be more thorough in my analysis. There is a standard Spanish curriculum that all schools are required to follow, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Some schools offer extensive sports programs, while others don’t. Some are heavier on theatre and music. Some offer swimming lessons on site. Some are more rigid and others more relaxed. In terms of academia, some schools follow a project-based learning approach, while others follow more traditional teaching methods.So, when it comes to choosing a school, my advice is to make a checklist of the elements that are most important for your child to thrive. Make a short list of the three schools that fit the bill. And most importantly, if timing permits, visit those schools to experience what they have to offer firsthand.
If the school you choose is not in the neighbourhood in which you live, it can be a challenge for kids to hang out with their friends after school. When we grew up, our school was in the neighbourhood in which we lived and our school friends were our neighbours. So it was very easy for us to get together after school once home.
Our place in Puerto Vallarta was a 20 minute drive from school, and there were no similar-aged kids in our condo. So we needed to make a concerted effort to get to know the parents of our kids’ school friends and plan out play dates in advance so that our kids could stay connected with their friends.
The typical school day starts early, sometimes as early as 7:15, and ends at around 2:30. While our kids would love nothing more than to spend the rest of their waking hours on their “devices” we made sure that there were non-electronic-based activities for them to participate in after school.
Many schools offer after school programs, including soccer, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, archery, chorus, and the list goes on. If your school doesn’t have the specific programs that your kids are into, there are many private facilities that do. Puerto Vallarta has some great tennis and golf clubs. It seems there is a gym on every corner, offering unlimited exercise options.Advanced gymnastics programs are typically not offered at schools, due to the need for proper equipment, but group programs can be found at private gyms for around 125 pesos a week ($7 USD).
Learn About the Culture
On one of our first days in Puerto Vallarta we decided to walk through the neighbourhood to one of our favourite restaurants. On the way we met neighbours who were having a birthday party for their child. The parents gave our children two beautifully decorated eggs. We said gracias and continued our walk to the restaurant – my mother and I protecting the two eggs so as not to break them. When we arrived at the restaurant, so proud that the eggs made it, our waiter told us what the eggs were for. These eggs are meant to be smashed over someone’s head so that the confetti inside comes out.
There was a lot for us to learn.
Go With the Flow
When coming to a new country there can often be a tendency to expect things to be as we were accustomed to in the country we moved from. And when things are not, the result is frustration. Kids can sense and feel their parent’s frustration and from the beginning we did not want that for our kids.
Of course it’s easier said than done, but when in a situation where the process doesn’t quite make sense, or when something is taking a bit – okay a lot – longer than it did back home, my advice is to take a deep breath and be thankful.
Thankful for the beautiful warm weather; thankful for the gorgeous landscape from the ocean to the Sierra Madres; thankful for the warmth of the people of Mexico; thankful for being welcomed to a county and city like no other.
Warren Brander is an expert real estate agent working with Remax in Puerto Vallarta. He can be reached at 322-200-2253, or by email at warren(at)remaxinpv.com. You can also check out his website for a great selection of Puerto Vallarta condos and homes for sale at WarrenBrander.com.To learn more about Warren Brander Real Estate, click HERE.
Locals say there are about 15 pools of boiling mud at Los Negritos.
Frolicking in the mud at Los Negritos, a natural wonder in Michoacán
Restorative mud pots and ‘fools’ fire’ at Los Negritos Lake near Lake Chapala
Published on Friday, July 26, 2019
Anywhere else, Los Negritos Lake would have been turned into a recreational area and its curative and beautifying mud pots into an expensive spa.
But in El Platanal, Michoacán, the local people seem content to keep their natural wonders as they are rather than “developing” them.
If you happen to live anywhere near Lake Chapala, you should note that Los Negritos is practically in your back yard. If you love nature, you’ll be fascinated by the strange shapes and noises of its boiling mud pots and, if you suffer from arthritis, you may find an inexpensive — albeit dirty — possible solution to your problem.
I first heard about Los Negritos from José Luis Zavala, a biologist studying the fish in the area. He explained that this lagoon is unique because it contains all the aquatic creatures that used to be found in Lake Chapala.
“Laguna Los Negritos is actually hydraulically connected to Chapala,” said Zavala, “but it hasn’t been polluted. It’s a perfect laboratory for studying what Lake Chapala must have been like years ago.”
The lake is rumored to be 700 meters deep, but Zavala calls this a myth.
Tall shade trees and several roofed kiosks make the laguna shore an ideal picnic spot and the mud pots are located only 400 meters northwest of the lake, easy to reach on foot over perfectly flat ground.
The mud is black as black can be and the boiling pots are mostly less than a meter in diameter. So “Los Negritos” (The Little Black Ones) is a fitting name for the place. We came upon at least a dozen boiling, hissing, plopping mud pots interspersed with small bogs and occasional wallowing holes filled with cool mud that would bring joy to the heart of any hedonistic porker.
So much moisture, of course, has brought lots of birds to this area and you can see vermillion flycatchers, golden-fronted woodpeckers, house finches, egrets and if you’re lucky you may even spot a white owl.
“Lots of people have drowned in the lake,” a local rancher told us, apparently because it drops straight down from the shoreline with no shallow spots for waders. He said a few people have drowned in some of the cool mud pools whose rims look far more solid than they really are.
However, he assured us that there are great benefits from getting up to your neck in mud, particularly if you suffer from arthritis. One must, however, be careful not to confuse the cool mud with the hot sort.
“One of my horses sank into what seemed to be cool mud and the heat was so intense, the poor horse lost two of its hooves,” explained the ranchero.
Our informant also told us that geysers sometimes shoot several meters into the air, but when and where this might occur is impossible to predict. Finally, our rancher friend said it may be worth staying overnight among the mud pots because occasionally they produce “big green flames.”
We imagined this must refer to the legendary will o’ the wisp or ignis fatuus (fool’s fire), a ghostly light said to hover over bogs, supposedly leading one either to rich treasures or perdition. Science tells us the phenomenon is the result of gases released by decaying organic matter, an explanation that’s not nearly as much fun.
When my friend Mario Guerrero told me he was going camping at Lake Negritos, I asked him to check out those green flames. A few days later, he sent me the following message. I think it nicely captures the flavor of many weekend excursions in Mexico. Tongue in cheek, he described his trip as “nothing special or unusual.”
“You asked me how our trip to Los Negritos went and I can report that it was todo sin novedad (nothing special).
“We started out fine in the morning in two vehicles, but when we stopped to pick up our compañeros, one of the cars refused to start. However, by pushing it, we finally got it going.
“A few hours later, about half a kilometer from Villamar — the closest town to Los Negritos — my own car suddenly died. It was the gas pump — totally shot. So, we had to tow it to Villamar using my friend’s car which, unfortunately, again refused to start.
“However, we push-started it . . . and got to Villamar where we found only one mechanic and he was hopelessly drunk. However, he staggered over to my car, looked at the pump, said he could fix it, but declared that there was no way to get a new one the same day because the spare parts store was closed.
“So, we left my car . . . and told him he should fix it as soon as he sobered up. ‘Just leave me money for the pump,’ he replied, ‘and a bottle of tequila.’
“Then all six of us piled into the other car. It was pretty crowded . . . .
“Finally, we arrived at Los Negritos at 10:00pm It was so dark we couldn’t see a thing, not even the lake. All we wanted to do by then was hit the sack. We went to the first kiosk, but what did we find in the middle of it but a big coral snake about two meters long.
“. . . we chased it away, but nobody in the group wanted to sleep in that particular kiosk anymore, so we went off in the dark looking for another one. Like I said, nothing ‘unusual’ about this trip.
Testing out the beautifying powers of the black mud of Los Negritos.
“. . . we set up our tents inside the next kiosk and now it was about midnight. Then I remembered I promised to check out those mud pots for you. Well, I had the GPS coordinates, so we had no choice but to traipse off into the darkness looking for them.
“Since we couldn’t see where we were going, we ended up walking through mud so thick and sticky it soon looked like we had cannonballs at the ends of our legs. Finally, we found the mud pots, turned off our lights and discovered absolutely nothing: no green flames, no mysteries, no ghosts. In fact, once again nothing unusual.
“. . . two hours later we finally crawled into our tents — when all hell broke loose.
“A hurricane-like wind hit us and suddenly the surface of the lake was churning with monster waves. We had to jump on top of our tents to hold them down. I swear that wind was blowing over 200 kilometers per hour, but it finally weakened a bit and at last we were getting ready to go to bed when — it started to rain.
“Well, the wind was still blowing pretty hard and, therefore, we had rain coming at us horizontally. The roof of the kiosk wasn’t doing us any good at all and in a few minutes all of us and our gear were soaking wet . . . We didn’t get to sleep until 3:00am. It was just another one of those nights — nothing special at all.
“The next day we found the mechanic as drunk as ever, but the new gas pump was installed perfectly.
Mud pots at Lago Los Negritos
“On our way home we stopped at a taco stand under a canopy and what happened? While we were eating, another sudden downpour hits us — more horizontal rain — and we walked out of the ‘restaurant’ soaked again.
“Finally, at 11:00pm we arrived home after a rather long weekend but, gracias a Dios, a weekend sin novedad, with nothing special to report.”
To visit Los Negritos — if my friend’s report doesn’t dissuade you — ask Google Maps for directions to “Lago Los Negritos, Michoacán.” The mud pots are located at N20.06285 W102.61573 and yes, you can input these coordinates into Google Maps.
The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.