Although San Blas ’s extensive mangrove and mountain jungle hinterlands are renowned for their birds and wildlife, rewarding bird-watching can start in the early morning right at the edge of town. Follow Calle Conchal right (southeast) one block from Suites San Blas, then left (northeast) to a small pond. With binoculars, you might get some good views of local species of cormorants, flycatchers, grebes, herons, jacanas, and motmots. A copy of Peterson and Chalif’s Field Guide to Mexican Birds or Steve Howell’s Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico will assist in further identification.
Rewarding bird-watching is also possible on Isla del Rey. Bargain for a launch (from the foot of Juárez, about $4 round-trip) across to the opposite shore. Watch for wood, clapper, and Virginia rails, and boat-billed herons near the estuary shore. Then follow the track across the island (looking for warblers and a number of species of sparrows) to the beach where you might enjoy good views of plovers, terns, Heermann’s gulls, and rafts of pelicans.
Alternatively, look around the hillside cemetery and the ruins atop Cerro de San Basilio for good early-morning views of hummingbirds, falcons, owls, and American redstarts.
You can include serious bird-watching with your boat trip through the mangrove channels branching from the Estero San Cristóbal and the Río Tovara. This is especially true if you obtain the services of a wildlife-sensitive guide, such as Oscar Partida (tel. 323/285-0324), “Chencho” Banuelos (tel. 323/285-0716), or Armando Santiago (tel. 323/285-0859, dolpacarm [at] yahoo [dot] com). Expect to pay about $60 for a half-day trip for four people.
Besides the above, Armando Navarette (Sonora 179, no phone) offers bird-watching hikes, especially around Singayta in the foothills, where birders routinely identify 30–40 species in a two-hour adventure. Such an excursion might also include a coffee plantation visit, hiking along the old royal road to Tepic, and plenty of tropical fauna and flora, including butterflies, wildflowers, and giant vines and trees, such as ceiba, arbolde, and the peeling, red papillo tree. Armando’s fee for such a trip, lasting around five hours, runs about $20 per person, plus your own or rented transportation.
Others suggest bird-watching tours and packages. One of the best organized, known simply as San Blas Birds (www.sanblasbirds.com ) lists tours varying from one to seven days. The longer tours include lodging; for example, three days including lodging at Hotel Posada del Rey runs around $400 per person; the same out of Hotel Garza Canela, about $600 per person.
For more details on bird-watching and hiking around San Blas, if possible get a copy of the now-out-of-print booklet Where to Find Birds in San Blas, Nayarit ($4) by Rosalind Novick and Lan Sing Wu, at the shop at Garza Canela Hotel. The hotel shop also usually sells the Checklist of Birds Found in San Blas, Nayarit or the new Birder’s Guide to San Blas, published by San Blas Birds.