If you’re seeking a safe, affordable, family-friendly beach vacation destination, Jaltemba Bay in the Riviera Nayarit is a great option. Conveniently located just 60 kilometers north of the Puerto Vallarta airport, this vacation retreat is a tropical oasis offering tourists plenty of sea, sun, and sand and some of Pacific Mexico’s best swimming beaches.

Jaltemba Bay is comprised of four delightfully authentic Mexican beach towns, Los Ayala, Rincon de Guayabitos, La Penita de Jaltemba and La Colonia which offer plenty of things to do. Here are some favorites:

Top Six Things to Do

1. Experience Tiangus

Tianguis, is the celebrated authentic weekly open-air Mexican market which is held in the (main square) of La Penita de Jaltemba every Thursday. The market operates year round, opening for business at 8:00 a.m. and lasts until about 2 p.m. Tourists and residents flock here every week to shop for artisan crafts, hand embroidered clothing, blankets and rugs; silver, turquoise and leather jewellery, colourful Mexican ceramic dishes; copper cookware, extraordinary multi-coloured hand woven baskets; and the fine hand crafted beaded work of the native Huicholes – all at prices that will make your heart sing!

However, to truly experience Tiangus you need to walk the full length of the market which extends for several blocks past the main plaza. Here you will find the authentic Mexican market experience which includes shopping for herbal medicines; fruit and veggies, fresh off the local farmers truck; Tupperware, CDs and pirated movies; colourful generously padded bras; socks and underwear; second hand clothing; tinted baby chicks; puppies, and spare parts for absolutely anything you may need.

Feeling peckish? In the main plaza, opposite the church, you will find an extravaganza of tasty snacks including: warm sugared churros, fresh baked bread, croissants, donuts, muffins, an assortment of Mexican flans and cakes; scrumptious dried tropical fruit including mangoes, papaya and pineapple; and a plethora of roasted nuts – cashews, pecans almonds, pistachios and peanuts. If you only indulge in one treat check out everyone’s favorite: sweet roasted pecans. Simply to die for!

Finish off your shopping experience by taking in the local art exhibit at Xaltemba Restaurant and Galeria and dropping by Hamaca Maya to purchase an authentic hand-woven Mayan Hammock. Meeting the amiable Hala Hazzi in person is a definite must, even if you do not intend to purchase anything.

When you are tired of shopping, stop to enjoy a cappuccino or a hearty breakfast at Soley’s Restaurant and Café which is located in the main plaza, the perfect spot to meet local folks and watch the comings and goings of the market.

2. Explore!

Hike the local trails leading to Playa del Beso, Playa del Torres, Punta Raza, El Monteon and Lo de Marcos. The start of the hiking trails are found at the south end of Los Ayala beach, and will lead you on a journey through luxuriant, tropical rainforest where you will experience some of the incredible flora and fauna of the Riviera Nayarit and discover a beach to call your own. A definite must do for bird watching aficionados!

Rent a car or hop on a bicycle and explore the vast open farm and ranch land which is situated at the base of the Sierra Vallejo Mountains and easily accessed through La Penita on the south side of Highway 200. Your journey will take you through some very pretty open fields, farms, ranches and rivers and along the way there are many treasures to be found including, the delights of swimming in fresh water rivers and pools.

Take a horseback riding tour through the back country of Los Ayala and into the surrounding area of Villas del Tropico where you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful scenery in the Riviera Nayarit. Fine tune your tennis game at the public outdoor court in Guayabitos or try body boarding on the north end of Guayabitos beach. Rent a jet ski or go on a banana boat ride just for the thrill of it. Rent a kayak and paddle the entire coast line of Jaltemba Bay stopping at one of the many hidden beaches along the way for a picnic and a dip in the warm ocean waters.

Walk the spectacular beaches from in Los Ayala all the way to La Penita. Take the local Collectivo back and enjoy the ride back to your hotel or bungalow lodging and practice your Spanish by chatting with the warm, friendly locals. Head out to La Colonia and visit the turtle sanctuary on the beach, and make the time to stroll at least part of this beautiful pristine, still-to-be-developed beach.

3. Take the Party Boat Tour

Hop on Los Ayala’s Gran Fiesta or the Guayabitos Fiesta and enjoy a three hour party filled with lively music, dance, song, plenty of laughter, and the awe-inspiring scenery of Jaltemba Bay. The party cruise is one of the most cost effective and time efficient ways to take in all the beaches in the Jaltemba Bay area, including Playa del Beso, Playa Frideritas, Los Ayala, Rincon de Guayabitos, La Penita and La Colonia.

The party boat tour takes you by Isla Islote and Cangrejo island (Crab Island) and during the months of November through March you will likely sight humpback whales, dolphins, and sea turtles which are abundant in this area. Forewarned the Party Boat tour is loud, but it is also a great way to see how the Mexicans have mastered the art of having FUN!

4. Spend an Entire Day at Los Ayala beach

Arrive around 8 a.m. in the morning to see the fishermen unload their boats, and shop like the locals for fresh caught fish or prawns in a variety of sizes. Bring your camera in order to get some shots of the amiable brown pelicans, frigate birds, and Heermaan’s Gulls vying for the scraps. Enjoy breakfast on the beach! Treat yourself to a large pineapple stuffed with fresh fruit, a succulent carved Mango served on a stick, or a fresh baked corn muffin.

Take the short walk to Playa del Beso and enjoy a swim in the crystal clear green waters at this gorgeous secluded beach. Head back to Los Ayala and park yourself under the shade of a palapa at one of the welcoming beach front palapa style restaurants and feast on the many local dishes popular in this area including; ceviche, quesadillas, shrimp tacos, grilled fish and prawns cooked to perfection.

Walk the kilometer long beach and take pleasure in swimming in the calm ocean waters of Pacific Mexico’s best swimming beach. Head back to your designated beach restaurant and park yourself there for the rest of the day. Sit back and sip a tall, cool refreshing margarita or pina colada, or a local beer which still sells for just $1.20 USD per bottle while watching the many vacationing Mexican families enjoy a day at the beach. If you are still feeling peckish, try some traditional beach fare which includes cheesies doused in chilli sauce, giant coconut cookies, blackened fish on a stick, and homemade flan.

5. Inspire your Taste Buds

Explore the many local culinary delights available in Jaltemba Bay. Check out one of the many local taco stands serving a large variety of tasty tacos stuffed with beef, pork and fish dressed with a myriad of exotic salsas. The more popular food cart vendors serve delicious shrimp burritos and tasty hamburgers which come dressed with ham and pineapple, and even pork chops. Try the local ceviche which consists of fish marinated in lime and is reputed to be a powerful aphrodisiac. Or Pescado Sarendado, one of the most popular dishes in the Jaltemba Bay area whole marinated fish barbequed over authentic wood coals dressed with special sauces often derived from old family recopies.

For fine dining and a little romance, Xaltemba Restaurant and Galeria in La Penita de Jaltemba and Vista Guayabitos in Los Ayala are both highly recommended. Vista Guayabitos offers the most stunning view in all of Jaltemba Bay.

6. Attend a Community Event

Attend one of the many community fundraising events in Jaltemba Bay which include many traditional Mexican fiestas, Folkloric Dancing Shows, Jaltemba Bays annual Margarita Challenge – a fun Margarita Mixing Contest; the Jaltemba Bay Fashion Show – a fundraiser to help out local women; a horseshoe tournament; and perhaps the best event in the Riviera Nayarit – the Los Amigos de La Penita Fiesta which is held at the award-winning estate of the Thomas Bartlett in La Penita de Jaltemba.

If you really want to experience what it is like to be involved in the community of Jaltemba Bay, set aside a couple of hours of your vacation to help out with one of the many fundraising events or volunteer with one of the local committees to help organize an event. Truly a great way to meet the local folks and come away with a memorable vacation experience!

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