San Blas and Vicinity
San Blas (pop. about 15,000) is a small town slumbering beneath a big coconut grove. Life goes on in the plaza as if San Blas has always been an ordinary Mexican village. But once San Blas was anything but ordinary.
During its latter 18th-century glory days, San Blas was Mexico’s burgeoning Pacific military headquarters and port, with a population of 30,000. Ships from Spain’s Pacific Rim colonies crowded its harbor, silks and gold filled its counting houses, and noble Spanish officers and their mantilla-graced ladies strolled the plaza on Sunday afternoons.
Times change, however. Politics and San Blas’s pesky jejenes (hey-HEY-nays, invisible “no-see-um” biting gnats) have always conspired to deflate any temporary fortunes of San Blas. The jejenes’ breeding ground, a vast hinterland of mangrove marshes, may paradoxically give rise to a new, more prosperous San Blas.
These thousands of acres of waterlogged mangrove jungle and savanna are a nursery home for dozens of Mexico’s endangered species. This rich trove is now protected by ecologically aware governments and communities and admired (not unlike the game parks of Africa) by increasing numbers of ecotourists.
By Car or RV: To and from Puerto Vallarta, the highway coastal cutoff at Las Varas bypasses the slow climb up the mountain to Tepic, shortening the San Blas–Puerto Vallarta connection to about 94 miles (151 km), or about 2.5 hours.
From the east, Nayarit Highway 76 leaves Highway 15 at its signed “Miramar” turnoff at the northern edge of Tepic. The road winds downhill about 3,000 feet (1,000 m) through a jungly mountain forest to shoreline and continues along the Bahía de Matanchén shoreline to San Blas, a total of 43 miles (70 km) from Tepic. Although this route generally has more shoulder than Highway 74, frequent pedestrians and occasional unexpected cattle necessitate caution.
By Bus: From Puerto Vallarta, bus travelers have two ways to get to San Blas. Quickest is via one of the Transportes Norte de Sonora (tel. 323/285-0043) departures, which connect daily with San Blas. They depart from the new Puerto Vallarta bus station north of the airport; get your ticket at the Elite–Estrella Blanca desk (tel. 322/290-1001).
If you’re too late for the Transportes Norte de Sonora connection, go via Transportes Pacífico (tel. 322/290-1008) to the Tepic bus station, where you might be early enough to catch the last of several daily local buses that connect with San Blas, run by Transportes Norte de Sonora (tel. 311/213-2315) or Transportes Noroeste de Nayarit (tel. 311/212-2325, go by taxi to their Tepic city-center station).
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition