El Tuito Church

Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2009 issue.

Puerto Vallarta’s southern thruway will gradually shift your surroundings from palms to pines in less than an hour. But given the amount and variety of attractions along the way, you may wish to relax the pace and take your time getting there. With its varied destinations, Puerto Vallarta's southern highway (Carr. 200 Sur) is ideal for a day trip's worth of exploration.

It’s difficult to imagine that, even in the middle of Puerto Vallarta’s humid summer months, one can travel less than an hour and witness a radical change of scenery and temperature. As you set out from Puerto Vallarta, the winding two-lane highway travels through Conchas Chinas, one of our city’s neighborhoods originally populated by American and Canadian retirees. The road continues along the ocean, passing through several beaches, such as Punta Negra, Garza Blanca and Gemelas, popular with locals and visitors looking for a more secluded beach day. And for those who like to be pampered with cocktails and meals while burying their feet in the sand, several South Shore hotels offer day-pass service for a nominal fee.

Right before Mismaloya, a small fishing village, Le Kliff offers one of Puerto Vallarta’s most dramatic sunset views, so you may want to stop there on the way back. But if you are in search for a basic Mexican breakfast, feel free to explore one of several beachfront eateries in Mismaloya. Three different companies offer tequila tours, and the Puerto Vallarta Zoo is just five minutes away.

The next town, Boca de Tomatlán, serves as the water taxi “depot” for many South Shore daytrips not reachable by car. At this point, the road veers away from the ocean and starts a steep climb into the Jalisco mountains.

 El Tuito Main Plaza

At Las Juntas y los Veranos, you’ll find Chico’s Paradise, a popular Mexican restaurant, another tequila tour (Don Crispín) and a couple of popular canopy/outdoor tours offered by Los Veranos Canopy Tour and Vallarta Adventures, respectively. Just beyond, the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens has quickly become one of Puerto Vallarta’s not-to-be-missed landmarks with its unique plant collections, lush gardens and peaceful mountain surroundings, not to mention a delectable restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. The Gardens, along with many of the places mentioned in this article, are spearheading awareness of the “Palms to Pines Highway” concept, inspired by California’s Route 74 in this website.

Drive 20 minutes past the Gardens and you’ll reach El Tuito, a traditional and quiet Mexican town, where, contrary to most towns mentioned in our North Shore Loop, very little English is spoken. Nonetheless, El Tuito is famous for its production of artisan panela cheese, among other native products.

No Car? No Problem!

One of the best and least expensive ways to take in Puerto Vallarta’s scenic South Shore is to take a public bus to Boca de Tomatlán from the corner of Insurgentes and Basilio Badillo streets. Other suburban buses, clearly labeled “Tuito” or “Vallarta Botanical Gardens,” travel beyond Boca (not as regularly, however) all the way to these landmarks.