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Wrapped around the gentle Bay of Jaltemba, the charming beach resort Rincón de Guayabitos (population 4000) is a little-known gem in a sparkling strand of beach towns scattered along the Pacific Coast. Situated halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Tepic, it sits amid jungle-covered hillsides and a lush agricultural valley.

Thirty years ago, Guayabitos was designed to be a resort town for Mexicans. Hoping to lure middle-class vacationers from Guadalajara, developers constructed bungalow-style hotels and modest lodgings. In recent years, new hotels have been built, but most have continued the tradition of being small, affordable, and friendly.

The town itself consists of little more than a 1 1/2-mile stretch of golden sand and two parallel streets. Along Avenida del Sol Nuevo, which curves for about a mile parallel to the beach, there are many patio restaurants offering everything from traditional Mexican food and fresh Seafood to typical American favorites such as hamburgers and hotdogs. Gift shops offering Mexican handicrafts, Cuban and Mexican cigars, and specialty coffees can also be found along this street.

The wide beach, Playa Guayabitos, lined by palapa restaurants and dotted with boats, curves for two miles along a shallow cove, which provides for excellent swimming, body-surfing, and boogie boarding. At the edge of the water, fleets of glass-bottomed launchas are available to rent for a ride around the bay or for a lunch trip to the offshore Isla Islote where colonies of nesting terns, frigate birds, and boobies roost. On the beach, vendors push colorful canopied carts serving refreshing fruit drinks while children wander up and down the sand peddling fish on a "stick," which is cooked on outdoor grills by their families.

Rincón de Guayabitos is a hideaway vacation spot with friendly people and a sleepy scenic ambiance that offers visitors a glimpse of Mexico thirty years ago, a place where there are no giant luxury hotels nor championship golf courses, but that is its appeal. It is a town with the right stuff: a quiet, pleasant disposition, an excellent beach, and plentiful, dollar-stretching hotels.

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