Riviera Nayarit, Mexico - I recently joined other members of the local press on a "Fam Trip" to San Blas, Nayarit. Our adventure started in Puerto Vallarta, where we embarked on a 90 Km (55 miles) trip north to San Blas, a busy port, popular tourist destination and surfing hot spot on the coast of the Riviera Nayarit.
The first stop on our 2 day trip of discovery was the beautiful Hotel Garza Canela so we could free ourselves of luggage. There were 10 of us on this ecological tour and, as this is a 4 star hotel with spacious rooms and superb grounds, this took some time. Since it was also lunch time, and Garza Canela is home to the 5 Star gourmet restaurant, El Delfin, we lingered over a fine meal selected and prepared by none other than the Culinary Ambassador for the Riviera Nayarit, Chef Betty Vazquez. Needless to say, it was beyond delightful.
After lunch, our tour guide, Francisco Garcia briefly introduced us to the many attractions around town. First up was the fisherman's marina, where we talked with the local fisherman. Next, a quick stop at the town's main plaza, before heading out to the Tovara Ecological Reserve. This is a Natural Park with caves, a hatchery for conserving and reproducing crocodiles, and a spring that spouts crystal-clear water. Here, we took a boat ride through the mangrove swamps where we observed a great quantity of exotic floral and fauna - tropical vegetation, crocodiles, turtles, iguanas, strange-looking fish, and hundreds of birds.
This was not my first trip to San Blas and, with so much natural beauty everywhere you look, it always brings renewed pleasure. Some species of birds that can be observed on this tour through the mangroves are: Anhinga, Garza Tigre, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Heron Dipper, Yellow-winged Cacique, Black-bellied tree duck, Great blue heron, Roseate spoonbill, and endemic birds, including the Bumblebee hummingbird and the Mexican wood nymph. A complete leaflet with all the birds that can be encountered is available. (The best months to observe them are typically October through April.)
Unfortunately we had to cut our tour short due to an oncoming storm, so we headed back into town to visit the ruins of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario Temple, which was constructed in 1769. The ruins once contained the bronze bells that are said to have inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Bells of San Blas. San Blas and its port were the scene of countless battles, one was the War of Independence in which the rebel priest Jose Ma. Market faced royalist forces trying to restore this bastion of New Spain. You can learn a lot of history from from the temple's knowledgeable curator.
After touring the ruins, we returned to the Hotel for dinner at EL Delfin. Once again, renowned Chef Betty Vazquez used her expertise to prepare a meal from fresh local vegetables and seafood. The delicious meal was made even better by great service, amicable conversations with fellow members of the press, and the opportunity to visit with the Vazquez sisters, who own and manage the hotel and restaurant.
From there, we visited the wildlife refuge and crocodile sanctuary. You can get there by road or by boat from the La Tovara excursion area. A tour of La Tovara (2 hours) costs about $25 USD per person. Entrance to the sanctuary is about $3 USD.
After the tour, we boarded the bus to Platanitos Beach, where the Playa Platanitos Ecológico group was holding its 3rd annual Sea Turtle Festival. This event was created to sensitize the community about the protection and conservation of sea turtles, an endangered species that is key to the health of the Riviera Nayarit's beaches. This 2 day event is full of simple pleasures and family-friendly activities such as a Paddleboard exhibition, a recycled-materials kite flying contest, a swimming contest, a mechanical bull, presentations by groups of local children, and an abundance of fresh seafood to enjoy.
On the way back to Vallarta, I noticed many other beaches near San Blas, like the two-mile long soft sand beach of the Bahia de Matanchen, whose waters satisfy the demands of surfers, water skiers, sailboat navigators and divers; and Las Islitas Beach, the place to go if you want to relax. Motels, RV areas and camping sites are also available.
The Best News of All!
For all the years I've lived in Puerto Vallarta (17), it's never been easy to get to San Blas, unless you own or rent a car. There used to be a tour that would take you to San Blas, but it stopped running many years ago. On this trip I discovered that is now a commuter bus that runs between Vallarta and San Blas four times a day. The schedule I was given (as of July 20 2015,) says the shuttles leave for San Blas from Vallarta's main bus terminal at 7:30 am, 10 am, 1 pm and 4:30 pm; and return to Vallarta from San Blas at 7 am, 10 am, 12:30 pm and 3 pm. Now that I know there is an easy way to get from Vallarta to San Blas and any place in between, I am sure to return very soon - and again and again.
Another Word (or two) of Thanks
I want to thank Jorge Jimenez from the Riviera Nayarit Tourism Board for inviting me to increase my knowledge of San Blas and the stunning route to this vacation destination. Thanks also to our Nature Tour Guide, Francisco Garcia, who you can find on Facebook; and last, but certainly not least, the Hotel Garza Canela for their warm hospitality and Chef Betty Vazquez, who you can also follow on Facebook, for keeping me and my colleagues well-fed and fully satisfied.Original story edited by Denise Derameé for BanderasNews.com. For more photos, visit Ray's Facebook page.