During our stay in the San Blas, we anchored off Playa Las Islitas Nayarit, which is a beach located on Bahia de Matanchen in the San Blas region. The bay is surrounded by jungled mountains that tumble down into the sea and a wetland area nestled at the bottom. The area itself is home to over 500 species of birds, some native and others migratory, as well as protected crocodiles.
The beach is relatively quiet during the week, but come to the weekend, residents, Mexican tourists and the odd gringo come out to play and enjoy the water, the thatched-roofed huts serving a variety of seafood and for some, surfing. For our kids and my husband, what they enjoyed was the opportunity to surf. Our friends on Love and Luck brought their surfboards to shore and proceeded to teach Max and Ava how to surf. They loved it and I think Max is hooked. Andrew too had a go after 23 years of not surfing and came back happy and invigorated.
Surfing photos courtesy of Mark Vannini from Love and Luck
On a return trip from the town of San Blas, we stopped so Andrew could enjoy a dozen oysters for 100 pesos at one of the beachside restaurants with a large cold beer (almost a liter). The oysters were good, but not quite the same as at Puerto Penasco. The Mexican population some with jeans and cowboy hats were also enjoying their seafood meals while traditional Mexican bands serenaded the diners and kids played on the beach. The only downside was by 5.30 the no-see-ums were out in force, which caused us to retreat to our boats shortly after.
San Blas – 4/1/2020
Love and Luck, Andrew and I went for a trip to San Blas. A short walk from Playa Las Islitas past the Tiendas/shops selling banana bread is where you catch the local transport. On our walk down the sandy path, a local showed us a very small crocodile nestled in the mangrove, I don’t want to meet his mother. We also passed a trio playing their instruments on their way to entertain the diners at the beachside restaurants.
It is a short trip to San Blas. Visiting San Blas is like stepping back in time to a place long since forgotten, yet steeped in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. This once important port was the epicenter of the Spanish colonization of Mexico’s Pacific. San Blas was named a port on the 22nd of February 1768 during the reign of King Carlos III of Spain. The Pacific’s first custom house was constructed on San Basilio Hill along with its protective fort in the San Blas and was used to store the gold and other treasures captured. The Port was used as a base for exploration of North America and for incoming ships from the Philippines. The ports usage declined in the late 1700s due to the diminishing Spanish held territories and terminated expeditions and was eventually closed in 1873.
Today the sleepy laid-back town is a far cry from its bustling past and is home to quiet streets with a small market area selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and prawns/shrimp.
The main plaza was still complete with its Christmas decorations and tree during our visit. It’s amazing how close we are to La Cruz and yet how different San Blas is. We did not see any other gringos during our visit, the souvenir markets seemed directed at domestic travelers and it had a more authentic feel to it.
We decided to explore the history of the town and walk to Contaduria San Blas (fort) which sits upon San Basilio Hill and was constructed in 1770. The walk takes you up a cobbled street through a residential area before you enter the gate and pay your 10-peso entrance fee. We explored the site with just a few other locals.
Walking towards the fort you pass the ruined church, Nuestra Senora del Rosario Temple, constructed in 1769. While the roof no longer exists the walls and arches remain strong and set an eye-catching scene and photo opportunity. Interestingly, while the church may not have had human residents for a long time, nature has taken over with plants growing within the walls, a hummingbird fluttering around, and I could hear a buzzing noise for quite a while before I noticed one of the holes high in a wall a hive of bees.
We continued uphill to the fort. The best thing about the fort is the views over the bay, the town, rivers, and surroundings. A few canons are remaining among the fort walls and a large gold statue of priest don Jose Maria Mercado, who led his towns to fight for freedom presides over the fort.
Something I have observed is the different way the Mexican culture has with dealing with loved ones they have lost. While this is seen prominently through the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration it can also be seen daily. Walking back from the fort we passed a cemetery with its walls decorated with a large brightly colored mural of characters from the film Coco and peering inside through the adorned gate, I could glimpse color and tributes left to the dead, so different from the white, austere and somber tombs and graves in western society.
If you want a more authentic and less touristy Mexican experience head to San Blas for a couple of days.