The first destination of sizable proportions beyond San Pancho, in Riviera Nayarit, Jaltemba Bay has long been a favorite vacation spot among Mexican families due to its calm waters, fine sandy beaches and gentle surf. Within it, two contiguous towns, Rincón de Guayabitos and La Peñita de Jaltemba, plus the tiny Los Ayala at the lower tip of the bay, offer visitors a variety of experiences, all framed within the context of typical small-town México.
The origin of the peaceful town of Rincón de Guayabitos (or simply Guayabitos, as it’s commonly known) can be traced back to pre-Hispanic times. The bay was first explored by the Spaniards in the 1500s and subsequently used by British and Dutch pirate ships looking to benefit from the area’s riches.
It was during the 1970s that México’s government put the area in the limelight with the creation of the Banderas Bay Trust (Fideicomiso de Bahia de Banderas). As a result, Guayabitos was developed as a vacation destination, with a number of small hotels, tourist shops, restaurants, trailer parks and a residential area.
Today, Guayabitos continues to be one of the most sought-after beachfront vacation destinations for thousands of middle-class Mexican families, who flock to the area throughout the year, particularly during Semana Santa, México’s Spring Break equivalent. By the same token, an increasing number of budget-conscious tourists from Canada and the United States are including Guayabitos in their “must-visit” lists as they explore Puerto Vallarta and surroundings.
Considered by many as the service town for Guayabitos, La Peñita de Jaltemba (or simply La Peñita) is located immediately north, only a river separating the two communities, which combined are known as Jaltemba Bay. But don’t think for a moment that La Peñita is not an intriguing destination in its own right! While Guayabitos looks and feels like a planned resort, La Peñita is the epitome of a small Mexican town.
The main avenue (Emiliano Zapata) is bustling with activity, day and night, lined with all sorts of restaurants and small stores offering everything from house wares to clothing and so forth. But perhaps, its most popular attraction is the Thursday tianguis, or street market, by far the largest in the entire region.
Located just south of Guayabitos, the tiny beach town of Los Ayala features a handful of small hotels and bungalows, and a very nice, swimmable beach.
From Puerto Vallarta and points south, take Carr. 200 Norte passing Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías, Sayulita and San Pancho. Beyond San Pancho, you will pass Lo de Marcos, a small but increasingly interesting town. You will know that you have reached Jaltemba Bay less than 20 minutes past Lo de Marcos, as the highway will widen to four lanes.
Bus transportation to Jaltemba Bay is possible through any of the bus lines departing from Puerto Vallarta's Bus Terminal that serve Guadalajara and Tepic, capitals of Jalisco and Nayarit, respectively. All of them combined offer a number of departure times throughout the day.
Each one of the towns has it's own, aptly named beach. The surf at Playa Guayabitos is as gentle as it gets, perfect for toddlers! Many restaurants and vendors along the beach offer all the amenities you'll need.
Not nearly as swimmable the beach at La Peñita is frequented by fishermen, getting ready to pursue the catch of the day. Just north of it, the secluded El Playon beach is also not very swimmable, but a great option to spend the day.
Barely one kilometer long, the beach at Los Ayala is perfect for swimming!
All three towns have their own share of small hotels bed & breakfasts and bungalows. The largest concentration of hotels is located in Guayabitos, however.
Real Estate here is mainly comprised of homes and beachfront condominiums in the $500,000 range, but there are also a few large homes for sale specially in Rincón de Guayabitos inside what is know as the "Zona Residencial". Prices can go up to $2,000,000 USD.
Time Change: while all of Banderas Bay share the same time zone regardless of the state boundary, towns north of San Pancho, (beginning with Lo de Marcos) follow Central Time, resulting in a one-hour difference from Puerto Vallarta time.