At Km 52, just south of a small bridge and a bus stop, a dirt side road (beach side) leads past a gated guard station with a sign labeled Costa Careyes to the lovely honey-tinted crescent of Playa Careyes. The guard, whose job is to provide security for the beach palapa restaurants and the houses atop the neighboring headlands, will let you through if you ask.
Beyond the gate, bear left to the car-negotiable track (beware of sandy soft spots) that continues along the dune, where you could enjoy at least a pleasant day on the beach. Beyond the often powerful waves (swim with caution), the intimate headland-framed bay brims with outdoor possibilities.
Bird- and wildlife-watching can be quite rewarding; notice the herons, egrets, and cormorants in the lagoon just south of the dune. Fishing is good either from the beach, by boat (launch from the sheltered north end), or from the rocks on either side. Water is generally clear for snorkeling and, beyond the waves, good for either kayaking or sailboarding.
If you have no boat, no problem—the local fishing cooperative (boats beached by the food palapa at north end) would be happy to take you on a fishing trip. Figure about $20 per hour, with bargaining. Afterward, they might even cook up the catch for a big afternoon dinner at their tree-shaded palapa of the Cocodrilo Azul restaurant nearby.
If you want to camp, you can set up your tent, or park your camper by one of the restaurant palapas at the right, north end of the beach.
As for services, Pueblo Careyes (inland, behind the soccer field at Km 52) has a Centro de Salud (tel. 335/351-0170), with a pharmacy and long-distance telephone.
Access to the neighboring Playa Teopa is more carefully guarded. The worthy reason is to save the hatchlings of the remaining carey turtles that still come ashore during the late summer and fall to lay eggs. For a closer look at Playa Teopa, you could walk south along the dunetop track, although guards might eventually stop you. They will let you through (entry gate on dirt road between Km 49 and 50) if you get official permission at the desk of the El Careyes Beach Resort.
The pristine tropical deciduous woodlands that stretch for miles around Km 45 are no accident. They are preserved as part of the Fideicomiso Cuitzmala (Cuitzmala Trust), the local kingdom of beach, headland, and forest held by the family of late multimillionaire Sir James Goldsmith. Local officials, many of whom were not privy to Sir James’s grand design (which includes a sprawling seaview mansion complex), say that a team of biologists are conducting research on the property. A ranch complex, accessible through a gate at Km 45, is Fideicomiso Cuitzmala’s most obvious highway-visible landmark.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition