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

In a hurry? This laidback daytrip through Puerto Vallarta’s North Shore will give you a good sense of what our bay is all about.

Not too long ago, travel guides and websites referred to Puerto Vallarta as a small village. And while certain neighborhoods in town can still rightly claim a certain “pueblito” feel, you may have to leave our fair city to truly experience one. Fortunately for us, Puerto Vallarta’s North Shore readily offers the opportunity by way of a half-dozen small villages that can be easily explored in one day, if you wish to get a taste of them in one serving. And just as in Puerto Vallarta’s best restaurants, if you like their flavor, you can always return for more!

Your first stop as you travel north from Puerto Vallarta along Carr. 200 Norte is Bucerías, the name deriving from the Spanish buzo, or diver. Even though the town may be small size-wise, Bucerías features a variety of food options, from basic Mexican fare to upscale restaurants. Shopping options are equally diverse. Find a parking spot near the main plaza and take a look at the beach, whose lengthy stretch and calm waters have attracted families for decades.

Just past the Punta de Mita exit, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is equally laidback, but thanks to the recently completed Marina Riviera Nayarit, the town is generating an even stronger draw for those interested in boating and maritime activities. North of La Cruz, the small beach of La Manzanilla is a popular destination for Mexican families in search of great seafood, reasonably priced.

If spending the day at a secluded beach is high on your must-do list, Destiladeras, further up the road, is a perfect place to consider. With the exception of the two weeks of Semana Santa (Mexico’s spring break/Easter combo holiday), this popular beach has just enough amenities to keep you happy, and enough space to provide you with peace and solitude.

When you reach the right-hand turn onto Litibu, don’t take it! Continue straight to the small town of El Anclote, where you will find a variety of great beachfront restaurants and a few shops – not to mention several spots that offer kayak and surfing equipment, instruction and rentals. The northern point of Banderas Bay is located within Punta Mita, an exclusive gated community that encloses the luxurious Four Seasons and St. Regis hotels, along with some of the most spectacular real estate developments in Puerto Vallarta’s North Shore.

Drive back to the Litibu turn and take it. A long-term development project undertaken by private investors and the government at state and federal levels, Litibu will eventually include a solid infrastructure of roads, schools, five-star and boutique hotels and shopping centers. In contrast, the road between Litibu and Sayulita offers some of the most spectacular views of the lush vegetation present throughout the bay.

A surfing destination of choice, Sayulita is one of those small towns whose charm will more than likely cast a spell upon you. Drive through it, and you’ll be tempted to park your car and spend a couple hours exploring its downtown area, with shopping opportunities galore, or its popular beach, where several surfing operations are ready for you to get your feet wet, pun intended!

As you exit Sayulita, the road will connect once again with Carr. 200 Norte. At this point, you can continue north along the highway for another 10 minutes, which would allow a quick drive through San Pancho, another peaceful beachfront destination, or turn right and head back to Puerto Vallarta. The road between Sayulita and the Punta de Mita exit you took earlier features nothing but lush, spectacular trees and vistas, which is actually perfect. With no other distractions, this is the best time of your road trip to think about which of these spots you’d like to visit again!

Each and every one these stops is unique. Discover them all!