A number of pristine creeks tumble down boulder-strewn beds and foam over cliffs as waterfalls (cataratas) in the jungle above the Bay of Matanchén. Some of these are easily accessible and perfect for a day of hiking, picnicking, and swimming. Don’t hesitate to ask for directions: “¿Dónde está el camino a la catarata, por favor?” (“Where is the path to the waterfall, please?”) If you would like a guide, ask, “¿Hay guía, por favor?” One (or all) of the local crowd of kids may immediately volunteer.
You can get to within walking distance of the waterfall near Tecuitata village either by car, taxi, or the Tepic-bound bus; it’s five miles (8 km) miles out of Santa Cruz along Nayarit Highway 76. A half-mile uphill past the village, a sign reading Balneario Nuevo Chapultepec marks a dirt road heading downhill a half-mile to a creek and a bridge. Cross over to the other side ($4 entrance fee), where you’ll find a palapa restaurant, a hillside water slide, and a small swimming pool.
Continue upstream along the right-hand bank of the creek for a much rarer treat. Half the fun is the sylvan jungle delights—flashing butterflies, pendulous leafy vines, gurgling little cascades—along the meandering path. The other half is at the end, where the creek spurts through a verdure- framed fissure and splashes into a cool, broad pool festooned with green, giant-leafed chalata (taro in Hawaii, tapioca in Africa). Both the pool area and the trail have several possible campsites. Bring everything, especially your water-purification kit and insect repellent. Known locally as Campamento Arroyo, it is popular with kids and women who bring their washing.
Another waterfall, the highest in the area, near the village of El Cora, is harder to get to but the reward is even more spectacular. Again, on the west–east Santa Cruz–Tepic Highway 76, a negotiable dirt road to El Cora branches south just before Tecuitata. At road’s end, after about five miles (8 km), you can park by a banana-loading platform. From here, the walk (less than an hour) climaxes with a steep, rugged descent to the rippling, crystal pool at the bottom of the waterfall.
While rugged adventurers may find their own way to the waterfalls, others rely upon guides Armando S. Navarrete (Sonora 179, San Blas, no phone) and Juan “Bananas” Garcia (tel. 323/285-0462), founder of Grupo Ecológico in San Blas.