If you haven’t yet, it’s time to take a couple days off from Puerto Vallarta and head to the mountains!
(This article was commissioned by Gay Entertainment Directory, and it first appeared in their March 2019 edition.)
Located approximately 90 minutes east from Puerto Vallarta in the Sierra Madre mountain range the small town of San Sebastian del Oeste has become a favorite weekend getaway for many locals and visitors looking to escape Puerto Vallarta’s warm weather and tourist destination pace. The appeal is readily apparent. This former mining town’s prosperity peaked at the beginning of the 20th Century—population 20,000—but growth pretty much came to a halt once the mining was depleted. Nowadays, a humble population of approximately 5,000 keeps the town moving at a very quiet, very laid back pace. Because of this, spending time in San Sebastian today is very similar to what it was like, say, 75 years ago, making it a must-visit authentic Mexican town, should you find yourself in Puerto Vallarta with a couple of days to spare.
The tree-lined rural road connecting Puerto Vallarta with San Sebastian starts just north of the city’s international airport, traveling first through agricultural valleys and then quickly wrapping itself around increasingly high mountains, providing spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. Upon reaching the small town of La Estancia, a clearly marked turn indicates you are less than ten minutes away from your destination. The cobblestoned road will make you wonder how this journey was undertaken some 100 years ago, Puerto Vallarta serving as the connecting point for shipping the silver extracted from the town mines.
Upon entering the town, a winding, one-way road will inevitably lead you to the town’s main square, where you can easily park your car and proceed to exploring the surroundings by foot. The town is small—it will take you less than 30 minutes to walk it from end to end. But first, head over to Cafe Montaña on the square. This small coffee shop is located on the second story of one of the original buildings in the plaza, providing an excellent view of your surroundings and light fare to enjoy as you plan the rest of your day.
While the town itself is a dream to explore—particularly for photographers or selfie fans, a trip to the nearby Cerro de la Bufa, or Bufa Hill is a must. The top of the hill sits some 8,730 feet above sea level, and on a clear day, allows for breathtaking views of Banderas Bay in the distance. Climbing up to the lookout from San Sebastian requires an ATV vehicle, renting a quad motorcycle from one of the local providers, or for the brave at heart, a three-hour uphill hike. Regardless, the view at the end of the road is more than worthwhile.
If all this activity is increasing your appetite, there are a half-dozen excellent lunch options in town. Located one block away from the Main Plaza, Montebello features Italian favorites that can easily compare to those found in much larger cities. Craving a hefty burger or meat cut? Try Mi General. Close to the town entrance, Comedor de Lupita serves traditional Mexican food and nearby Jardin Nebulosa provides a gourmet experience in a beautiful garden setting with an awesome wine selection and the restaurant’s own line of craft beer.
Of course, once you’re there and feel the calling of its mountainous surroundings you will want to know what to expect in terms of lodging. There are several options for different budgets, ranging from basic hotels where you’ll want to simply spend the night, to more splendid ones. If you are getting away from Puerto Vallarta on a budget, Hotel del Puente and Hotel Posada El Oeste are basic, no-frills rural hotels located only one block away from the main plaza, making them ideal for discovering San Sebastián by foot. Both hotels feature basic amenities (linens, towels, bathroom and shower with hot water) for less than $25 USD per night. And with the recent arrival of high-speed internet to the town, it’s easy to remain connected with your loved ones.
Several Puerto Vallarta-based tour companies make day-trips to San Sebastian del Oeste, if you do not have your own vehicle. For more information, contact your hotel concierge, Superior Tours (www.superiortoursvallarta.com), or Vallarta Adventures (www.vallarta-adventures.com). Either company can offer you pointers on what to wear and bring. If you are travelling solo and staying overnight, load your tablet with good movies, or your Kindle with good reads and escape to San Sebastian today!
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