Even when beach-basking all day long with a cocktail in hand is the full extent of your vacation goals when you visit top Mexico Pacific Coast destinations such as Punta Mita, Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta, a cultural day or two away from your leisurely poolside routine is highly recommended. While the Mexican Caribbean offers ancient Mayan vestiges, the Pacific coast is home to a number of officially designated Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns) as well as many other charming towns that certainly deserve the quaint accolade.
Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos
To make it easier for visitors—both national and international—to distinguish towns worthy of a visit, Mexico’s Tourist Board launched an initiative to identify the most enchanting towns in the country: Programa Pueblos Mágicos. This curated collection features towns that are renowned for their unique traditions, authentic beauty and cultural significance. Visiting the Pueblos Mágicos is both educational and entertaining; it allows you to discover the real Mexico beyond the incredible landscape and kindhearted people.
Below you will find a useful list of some of the official Pueblos Mágicos that can be reached on an easy day trip from Puerto Vallarta or the Riviera Nayarit, including a couple of “would-be” magical towns we feel deserve to be on the list but have yet to be crowned with the official seal of approval.
Sayulita and San Pancho
Sayulita is located about a 15-minute drive from Punta Mita and about an hour or so from Puerto Vallarta. This charismatic coastal town offers a decidedly hippy-chic ambiance for those seeking a more bohemian Mexican experience. The beach is a celebrated surfers’ paradise with incredible breaks fit for all ages, levels of expertise, and techniques. In addition to its colorful international vibe, Sayulita retains its cherished Mexican roots regularly hosting vibrant festivals and carnivals.
Just a few minutes north of Sayulita is the much quieter village of San Pancho (San Francisco, Nayarit). While it is not officially “magical”, it oozes the same unequivocal surf scene as Sayulita. Here, you can encounter more alternative, laid-back lifestyles with many options for buying organic produce and local art.
San Sebastián del Oeste
San Sebastián del Oeste is a charming ex-mining town nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains just over an hour inland from the Banderas Bay Coast. It was named a Pueblo Mágico because of its cultural and historical significance as well as its authentic beauty. During colonial times, when the Spanish controlled Mexico, San Sebastian was a prosperous silver mining center. You can still see the Spanish influence in the architecture and church that has stood the test of time in this historic town. The climate is a fresh alternative to the humid weather you find on the coast. You can either rent a car or take an organized tour to the town where you can visit an old hacienda, check out the coffee plantations, enter the old mine shafts, walk in nature and savor a delicious cafe de olla on the plaza.
A trip to Mascota can easily be combined with a day trip to San Sebastian if you get up early, or even better, spend the night for a great mini-break. Nestled high in the Sierra Madre Mountains, Mascota allows you to see the old ways of life surrounded by nature. Also called “La Esmeralda de la Sierra” (the Emerald of the Mountains), people here still live life more or less as they did a hundred years ago. The fabulous fusion of centuries-old traditions, history and culture greet you on every street corner. Take some time to admire the cobblestone streets and the distinct colonial architecture. For souvenirs, you can buy some traditional Mexican candies, mountain-baked bread, honey or raicilla (Mexican Moonshine).
Certainly worth a day-trip or overnight stay, Tequila is one of the most legendary Pueblos Mágicos thanks to the production of its namesake which has brought unfathomable wealth and character to the region. The town of Tequila is also classified as a World Heritage Site, having maintained the charm and appeal of colonial Mexico with its grand haciendas and distilleries. Today you can visit many tequila distilleries for tasting tours or demonstrations of traditional tequila production methods. Tequila is about 4 hours by car from Banderas Bay.
Last but not least, the final Pacific pueblo on our list is not, technically speaking, an official Pueblo Mágico, but it surely deserves to be on the list. The small town of El Tuito is only 45 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta and is a hub-gateway to the beaches of Mayto, Tehuamixtle and Yelapa. This sleepy town and its charming people offer an authentic Mexican experience. You might see children rehearsing Mexican folkloric dancing on the plaza or real cowboys on horses dancing through town. If you want to try authentic Mexican food, there are a few modest restaurants on the main plaza where you can enjoy tostadas and cold fruit water (agua fresca).
Be sure to ask your Tripwix Ambassador about booking a tour to any or all of these fabulous towns when you visit the Pacific coast. For more information click here.