Flying from Tijuana to Puerto Vallarta on a Thursday, the two airports boasted their share of travelers, many enjoying the Mexican holidays of summer. After a comfortable, fast flight with Volaris airlines, I arrived in Puerto Vallarta just in time to catch a bus into the Centro as the after-work traffic had thinned out.
A 50-stair climb carved from hillside and stone led to a small apartment with outstanding views of the ocean and sunset. After unpacking, a quick walk to 60-year old Restaurant “Lolita”, where a delicious meal of sopes and cold Corona was devoured for less than $100 pesos (about $8.00 US) . Even though this small, historical eatery sits right on the main avenue, it lacks the trendy prices of the Malécon, serving comfort Mexican food, even until the late hours, if you knock quietly and the cook is still willing.
Friday night in Puerto Vallarta almost always means a party, with weekend revelry and tourists visiting the area. Meeting at La Mesa del Coco (est. 1986), we celebrated the birthday of our friend Calamardo with an asado of grilled steak and shrimp, followed by an incredibly rich cheesecake-like pastel, complete with a candle that took several attempts to ignite (sparkler-type, beware!)
The evening wrapped up nicely with a walk along the waterfront of Bahia de Banderas, watching families pose for photos, avoiding vendors shouting “Hey amiga, free tequila!” and a final salute of fireworks from the replica pirate ship Marigalante.
A day trip to the small village of Quimixto brought gentle adventure and the type of green paradise that causes you to appreciate nature. Meeting Calamardo by the OXXO (corner of Basillo Badillo and Constitucion in Old Town), we took a half-hour bus ride along the ocean’s coast towards Mismaloya, stopping at a few hotels before getting off at Boca de Tomatlan. After helping our water taxi driver load supplies for the day’s haul into the panga, we set off for about a ten minute ride to Quimixto.
Arriving to a long, white sand beach, we were greeted by Bruno, whose owner manages Los Cocos, a delicious dining establishment on the beach, and part of the same family from La Mesa del Coco. After unloading the boat, we were offered a horse and mule to ride to the nearby waterfall.
Following a twenty minute journey through some fairly narrow crevices and several shallow rivers, we approached a small lake with a waterfall at one end. Local burro handler, Nacho, who has lived in Quimixto for over 25 years, tied our horses together as we navigated across wet terrain and rushing waves.
To some surprise, the island-dwellers have taken over the area, slightly stifling the feel of nature. The bridge to cross and footpath into the water, pretty much the only way into the cool pool below, are “owned” by the restaurant nearby, with signs posted asking for payment to sit at their tables regardless of a purchase. While others have criticized this harshly, we were able to cross over without a hassle, and an owner of the restaurant kindly approached us at one point, ensuring our camera was safe on the rocks while we relaxed in the water.
After the waterfall, we rode back to Los Cocos to enjoy a mountain of delicious, fresh ceviche, crisp tostadas and cold beer, watching the afternoon slide by as workers noshed on late lunches nearby. Returning by the same water taxi, we picked up several families with babies, supplies and pets, ducking into small beach coves as we made our way back to Boca de Tomatlan.
Many thanks to Oscar, our friendly, helpful guide and part of the family that owns La Mesa del Coco and Los Cocos!