Jaltemba Bay is made up of three small and colorful towns – Rincón de Guayabitos, La Peñita and Los Ayala. It is located 40 miles north of Puerto Vallarta in the heart of the beautiful Riviera Nayarit, which stretches nearly 200 miles along Mexico’s spectacular Pacific coast and includes Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerias, La Cruz, Punta Mita, Sayulita and many other small towns worth exploring.
Jaltemba Bay is the perfect place for those who want to experience the “real” Mexico – little towns with friendly people, dusty narrow cobblestone streets and cement block houses in various states of repair. The people who live here are kind, hard-working, generous and proud, and their lives are filled with long-standing traditions and strong family values.
Rincón de Guayabitos, La Peñita and Los Ayala offer just about everything a traveler could need or want. They are close enough to the bustle of the big cities of Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara for convenience, yet still far enough away so you can escape and experience the relaxed way of life. Jaltemba Bay boasts nine beautiful beaches, hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna, and the fact that we enjoy over 320 days of glorious sunshine per year makes it even more appealing.
As I often say… “come, before the rest of the world finds out!”
The Towns and Beaches
Rincón de Guayabitos
Rincón de Guayabitos is a small resort and fishing village nestled between the rugged Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains and the gentle Bay of Jaltemba. It is widely known as a safe, friendly and family-oriented beach town, and it is quickly gaining popularity as a vacation and second home destination for Americans, Canadians and Europeans.
The Hotel and Commercial Zone is jam-packed with hotels, bungalows, condos and trailer parks that draw Americans and Canadians during the winter months, and vacationing Mexicans over the summer, Christmas and Semana Santa (Easter) holidays. The main street is lined with grocery and liquor stores, pharmacies, gift shops, jewelry and clothing stores, discos, and restaurants and stands featuring authentic Mexican cuisine. The atmosphere here is casual, relaxed and “beachy.”
In contrast, the Residential Zone consists of vacation homes large and small with beautifully maintained pools and gardens situated on winding cobblestone streets lined with manicured shrubs. There are several rental homes, a handful of hotels, bungalows and quaint B&Bs, as well as community tennis, pickle ball and bocce ball courts.
The 1½ mile beach is lined with palm trees, palapa-covered restaurants and beach vendors with colorful canopied carts selling everything from coconut drinks and coconut macaroons, to grilled fish and shrimp on a stick. The ocean water is typically warm and calm making it safe for swimming, boogie boarding and other water sports.
There are two small islands off the coast, Coral and Crab Island, which undeniably provide a physical and visual anchor for the entire bay. You can kayak to the large island, dock and swim in the shallow water – or paddle along the coast and enjoy the spectacular views of the shoreline and the Sierra Madre mountains beyond.
La Peñita de Jaltemba
La Peñita de Jaltemba is the largest of the three towns and provides the commercial and public services including a new private hospital, ATMs, post office, bus stations, as well as several small hotels and bungalows, a few trailer parks, B&Bs, rental homes, condos and apartments. The beach in La Peñita is great for shelling and quiet long morning walks. A new malecón is being constructed near the center of town and should be completed by the end of this summer.
This charming fishing village is quiet, friendly and the epitome of “real” Mexico. Locals congregate along La Avenida (main street) and in the plaza, which sits at the center of town adjacent to the newly renovated church. The bullring, located a few blocks away, is a popular gathering place for rodeos, roping, riding practice and musical events. If you venture across the highway and over the hill to the back side of La Peñita, you’ll discover a whole other world with cowboys on horseback, goat and cattle ranches, bird refuges and fields planted with sugarcane, pineapples, yaka, mangoes and other agricultural crops.
Head a little further north and you’ll come to La Colonia. While driving through this small suburb of La Peñita, one can’t help but notice the brightly painted homes, the unmistakable smell of fresh tortillas and the sound of roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing. The beach in La Colonia, called El Playón, is basically uninhabited and continues north for over 5 miles. The waves are not good for water play due to the strong undertow, so pack a lunch, your beach chairs and a good book. The main entrance to El Playón is secured by guards as it is slated to become a new tourist development… so go enjoy this pristine beach while you still can.
Los Ayala is the smallest and southern-most town in Jaltemba Bay and is located just a stone’s throw from Guayabitos. It is a quiet beach community that is especially popular during Mexican holidays. There are numerous small hotels, bungalows and trailer parks, as well as a few small mercados, gift shops and plenty of palapa restaurants where you can get a cold drink and bite to eat.
Los Ayala photos by Christina Stobbs
Playa Los Ayala is flat and the water is always calm attracting both locals and vacationers who enjoy spending the day swimming or hanging out at the beach.
There is a walking path at the very south end of the beach that goes up and over the steep hill towards Playa Freideras. This tiny protected bay is only accessible on foot or by boat. The one small rustic restaurant here is usually open on the weekends and offers traditional Mexican dishes. Continue walking on the rugged narrow walking path and you will eventually come to Playa Freideritas, a lovely little uninhabited beach. If you are feeling adventurous, you can hike from Los Ayala to Playa Punta Raza and El Monteón. This 2½-3 hour trek is not overly strenuous, however, you do have to contend with barbed-wire fences, a guard shack, rocky terrain and a herd of very large Brahma bulls along the way.
You don’t have to look far to find wonderful restaurants serving everything from authentic Mexican food to Italian, Asian and even German cuisine. You will find fresh homemade salsas and guacamole, tortilla soup, fish and shrimp tacos, jumbo garlic shrimp, spicy chiles rellenos, chicken enchiladas with salsa verde, handmade tamales, coconut shrimp with mango salsa and sizzling fajitas served in lava bowls just to name a few. Or if you prefer, you can eat at one of the many taco, torta (sandwich) and ceviche stands along the streets, which serve up some of the most popular and tasty Mexican fare. The food is always fresh and made to order, which may mean you have to wait a few extra minutes to get your meal – and the fact that you can dine on the beach and run your toes through the sand while eating, somehow makes it even better.
What to Do
There is so much to do in the Jaltemba Bay area – fishing, kayaking, whale and bird watching, horseback riding, golfing, tennis and even yoga classes. For the adventurous, you can hire one of the local tour guides to take you to a nearby coffee plantation, hot springs or waterfalls, the petroglyphs at Alta Vista or a jungle boat ride in San Blas. Of course, you can also just hang out and work on your tan, read a good book, stroll the miles of secluded beaches, swim in the warm Pacific, take a relaxing afternoon siesta, feast on authentic Mexican cuisine, shop for handmade crafts, experience the local culture or simply relax and unwind.
One of the main attractions is the Tianguis (open-air market), which is held every Thursday in La Peñita. For those who really like to shop – and even for those who don’t – the Tianguis is a must. People come from miles around to attend. From pickup trucks overflowing with poblano peppers and watermelons; homemakers displaying fresh pastries and jumbo shrimp; vendors selling table linens and beautiful Oaxacan wool rugs; to local artists displaying handmade accessories, silver jewelry, pottery, glassware and the famous Huichol Indian art – you name it, they’ve got it here.
Still can’t decide what to do? View the Top 10 Things To Do in Jaltemba Bay.
Learn More about Jaltemba Bay
For detailed information about the Jaltemba Bay area, travel tips and maps, local news, forum, community event calendar, as well as a complete list of hotel and vacation rentals, restaurants, businesses and real estate by owner, visit JaltembaBayLife.com.
by Allyson Williams
About the Author: Allyson first discovered Jaltemba Bay in 1992. She and her husband David stayed at a lovely Bed & Breakfast on the north end of La Peñita. The proprietors were amazing hosts and would take them on day trips to nearby beaches, instruct them on which restaurants they should dine at and answer their abundance of questions. In 2003, they decided to buy a home in Rincón de Guayabitos. They completely remodeled it and opened their own Bed & Breakfast for friends and family that same winter. David and Allyson decided to put all the information they had learned during those years to good use, and in 2010 they started a community website called JaltembaBayLife.com.
For Allyson, living in Jaltemba Bay is about the quiet lifestyle, the kind and generous locals, the fresh flavorful food, the interesting and ever-changing flora and fauna, the wonderful friends and neighbors they have met throughout the years – and of course the fact that you can hop in the car and drive to any one of the nearby beaches and towns for lunch and a cold cerveza is also a plus. Remember… your adventures (and misadventures) are only limited by your desire to learn and explore!
This article may be republished in its entirety providing that a link to JaltembaBayLife.com is included.