<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> A Guide to Mexico's Pacific West Coast
NOTE: While this is designated as an ARCHIVE FILE, it is retained despite the date of first publication because it offers information of continuing current interest and/or for its historical perspective. Please be guided accordingly.



Mexico's Pacific Riviera

By David Eidell

This area is located on Mexico's Pacific coast from approximately 200 road miles south of the border (Nogales AZ) to approximately 1,200 road miles south of Nogales. As such Manzanillo is located about halfway on Mexico's coastline.

The Lay Of The Land

The access route (Mex 15) follows the coastline and a majority of it enjoys relatively flat and straight landscape. About three-quarters the way down to Manzanillo, from near San Blas onward, a series of low mountains bi-sect the coastline at almost right angles. This creates a series of rocky headlands with coves and bays (beaches!) in-between.

The Roads

From the border to Mazatlan, the entire route is multi-lane toll expressway that allows even the largest rigs to be driven at 55 MPH (the speed limit is 110 kilometers per hour). There are few hills or curves of any degree.

South of Mazatlan Mex 15 is 2-lane blacktop. Most RV'ers opt to depart Mex 15 at the San Blas turnoff and use "The New Road" which connects San Blas to Las Varas some forty five miles to the south. This route by-passes Tepic on Mex 15 and the twisting highway that connects Tepic with Las Varas (Mex 200). Mex 15 bends Eastward at Tepic and heads for Guadalajara. The new road isn't exactly straight itself but eye popping scenery and vistas will make up for the 30 mph average speed (some will go faster).

As mentioned earlier, bi-secting mountain ranges lie crossways in your path but for the most part the highest elevation you will attain will be about eight hundred feet and there is but light traffic on the bypass road.

Joining Mex 200 at Las Varas brings slightly more traffic but Mex 200 is a faster highway and as you approach Puerto Vallarta the traffic will gradually get thicker.

From Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo those bi-secting hills will allow for continuous ups and downs (with curves to match). Lucky for us, traffic is always very light and in between the jutting headlands you shall discover beaches of every size and description. Some like Rincon de Guayabitos, and Barra de Navidad, have sizeable communities located on them. But this is "vacationland" for Americans and Mexicans alike. There will be a wealth of restaurants and perhaps even an RV campground on some of the beaches.

The Weather

To about five hundred miles south of the border (Los Mochis) a desert-like climate prevails which means that summers are blazing hot and winters are tepid but not necessarily very warm. Rocky Point, and San Carlos for instance are close to the US border but they have many winter days in the 50's and low 60's. For dependable always warm winter weather you will have to go south of Mazatlan. (This is a bit tricky, because Mazatlan can get quite balmy even in January). The temperature in San Blas for instance is usually five to eight degrees warmer than Mazatlan, day and night.

Summers bring very warm temperatures in conjunction with high humidity which most RVers shy away from. Few RV parks along the coast have dependable electrical service that can safely power a roof air conditioner. Torrential rain, thunderstorms, and an occasional hurricane can affect a wide area ranging from about Los Mochis to Manzanillo. The rain and hurricane season lasts from June through October. If you are planning on avoiding the humid months I would not choose May onward to November for that reason.

Note: There are exceptions to the observations above. Micro climate conditions can bring a chilly wind onshore in Manzanillo, and a few January days in Rocky Point can reach eighty degrees.

Availability Of RV Parks

Aside from the obviously undeveloped beaches (and there are more than Three Hundred beaches from Rocky point to Manzanillo), perhaps a hundred and fifty RV parks are located between the border and Manzanillo. Few become crowded to to the point of no vacancy during the high season and those that do, are located on the most pristine beaches or locations and offer a greater degree of amenities such as cable TV, or an on-site restaurant bar.

There is a very current, excellent book in print that lists just about every RV park in Mexico, along with hand sketched maps that guide you to the park. The name of the book is "The Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping, written by Mike and Teri Church and published by Rolling Homes Press in the state of Washington. In the spirit of being non-commercial I won't list the website of the authors, but rather will suggest looking it up in a search engine such as "Google" and type in the title or Author's name. The book is available at amazon dot com as well.

Rocky Point A Description

It's close to the border. Fairly barren desert landscape with no shade. The gulf of California here has a very large tidal range. There is lots of sand and a small community nearby for groceries and sundries. This is a very popular area with RVers

Guaymas (San Carlos) A Description

A well developed recreational seaport with a sizeable community of winter homes and RV parks. The terrain is desert with little shade, and there is a good beach. The nearby city of Guaymas while not especially exotic or attractive, offers a taste of "the real Mexico" along with seafood restaurants, ultra-modern shopping in state-of-the-art malls, and supermarkets. This area may be the number one most popular destination in Mexico in sheer numbers of visiting RVs.

Mazatlan A Description

Mazatlan lies halfway between the desert to the North and Jungles to the south. Extensive landscaping and an occasional coconut grove allow for some shade in many RV parks, and Mazatlan is just bursting with RV parks. A fifteen mile long beach runs by "The Golden Zone" of ritzy hotels in the center, Olas Alt as, the original hotel zone to the south and to the North past even more RV parks. Mazatlan is a bustling port city with a ferry service to La Paz. Because the city is a favorite destination of summer vacationing Mexicans, the city (downtown) is absolutely jam packed with restaurants and tourist shopping facilities. Along the wide seacoast boulevard, miles and miles of restaurants, bric-a-back and specialty shops, make for a dazzling temptation for even the most frugal shopper.

San Blas A Description

Located about six hours south of Mazatlan this sixteenth century Spanish Galleon port is everything Mazatlan isn't. San Blas does not bustle, and there are only a limited number of curio and tee shirt shops. But once you sit on a bench in the town square and people watch for a few minutes, you will soon come to appreciate the quaint atmosphere. I stay in San Blas to recuperate from too much partying in Mazatlan. The town's RV park is located in the middle of a coconut grove. The main drawback to San Blas are its notorious no-see-um biting insects that haunt the beaches. I apply Cutter's or Crocodile herbal repellent before I take a stroll on the beach. One of the main attractions in San Blas is the La Tovara jungle river excursion which should not be missed. You can take one the boats (which are located at the WEST end of the bridge that you crossed coming to San Blas. Don't take your rig as there are no parking spaces for anything larger than a car or pickup -- instead use a cab. The bartender at the RV park (Los Cocos) will call a cab for you. The driver will know when to come pick you up after the Jungle River excursion is over. There is swimming and snacks and a bathroom at the Springs. There is a lot more that I haven't covered about this attraction but suffice it to say that if you miss out, it will be a shame (bring a camera, lots of film or digital camera batteries -- you'll need it!).

Puerto Vallarta A Description

Other than having nearby beaches Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan could not be more unlike. "PV" as locals refer to it, literally exploded to life after John Huston filmed "Night of the Iguana" in 1963. Today "PV" has an international airport (like Mazatlan), is a cruise boat port-of-call (like Mazatlan), but the downtown area is almost exclusively comprised of restaurants and tony shoppes, something like an out-of-doors shopping mall. Jungle rules the hillsides (The movie "Predator" was filmed just south of town). There are four major RV parks here and a really fine, modern bus transportation system (like Mazatlan's). Surprisingly most people have a definite choice of a favorite: Either Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta. Few tourists like the two destinations equally well. To me it's like a choice between Mango or Peach ice cream -- although it took longer for "PV" to grow on me.

La Costalegre

If you desire tropical villages and a parking spot beneath a coconut palm swaying in the afternoon trade winds, then this area may be for you. "La Costalegre" is a contraction meaning "The Happy Coast" and I must admit when I'm there, I'm pretty darned happy. Beautiful beaches abound and the area is far less developed than the beach cities to the North. Lo de Marcos, Tenacatita, Boca de Iguana, La Manzanilla, Melaque and Barra de Navidad, all conjure up visions of warm tropical wavelets curling onto the beach with a small slap, palm frond restaurants with sand floors and signature shrimp entrees, bitterly cold beer sweating damp rings onto tablecloths. The thought of me swaying in a hammock along with those palms is almost irresistible. The small town of Melaque has an RV park as do some of the others. No matter where you end up you soon have a grin plastered across your face.


Except for some highbrow hotels, Manzanillo isn't much of a destination. I used it as a marker because it lies about twenty eight miles south of Barra de Navidad and it is a snap to find on a map.

Check These Places Out Using A Package Air Tour!

A really efficient way to check these destinations out is to book a three or four night package air flight/hotel and then rent a car and drive to outlying attractions and check things out for yourself. Here's an example:

LAX To Manzanillo ZLO

Fly Alaska or Aerocalifornia to Manzanillo, Colima, rent a car and then drive eighteen miles North to Barra de Navidad. No hotel reservations needed (package tours are to really toney hotels with toney price tags) except during Christmas and Easter. In more than twenty years I have NEVER booked a reservation here and have never experienced a problem in finding a good hotel room right off the bat. Using an RV guidebook (see above) you can check these places out for yourself. You'll get to drive on and experience one of the more narrow and curvy sections of highway, so if you nod your head "This isn't bad at all" the rest of the route all the way to the border is wider, less hilly and curvy.

Mazatlan And Puerto Vallarta

These destinations would require a package air flight hotel arrangement for the simple economic factor that it's cheaper than doing it separately. A four night trip would allow plenty of time to check things out. In Mazatlan, drive south for perhaps twenty miles to get the feel for the 2-lane section of Mex 15. In Puerto Vallarta, also head south, and you will soon experience all there is to know about the road to "Barra" and Manzanillo.