San Blas, on the Nayarit coast between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, sits on an almost-imperceptibly high spot amidst a sprawling, swampy, jungly mangrove. This means many things, both good and bad. Mosquitoes and other mercilessly pesky and blood-thirsty insects abound, for example. It also means that the sleepy town’s secluded, wide, white beaches aren’t the only watery thrill to be had.
For around 360 pesos (about $25) for four people one of the captains for hire who loiter in a median in the road as you enter town will take you on a three hour cruise up the Estuary San Cristobal through the federally protected mangroves and jungles and waterways that lead to the La Tovara fresh water spring (add about an hour and another 80 pesos if you want to continue past the spring to a crocodile farm where the animals are bred and released).
After waiting around for over an hour hoping two other travelers would show up to share the cost of the boat, we finally gave up and convinced a captain to take just the two of us for 300 pesos. The moment we stepped into the small, open, brightly painted wooden boat and started to move we relaxed thanks to a shockingly quite and non-stinky motor, a languid pace and plenty of eye candy. All told we saw dozens of birds, at least a dozen crocs and just two other boats.
You can get the trip for less if you walk or drive across a bridge or go even further out of town moving closer to the springs itself. However, if you ask us, the most serene and “mangrovey” sections of the trip occur in the first 20 minutes so cutting out that stretch to save a few pesos doesn’t make sense, even to us.
Our ultimate destination was the La Tovara fresh water spring where the boat docked and we got out to gawk at the amazingly crystal clear water (this spring actually feeds the town of San Blas) and its population of happy fish. There’s a restaurant here, shady tables and you can even swim in the natural pool that’s been discreetly built up at the mouth of the spring. Be warned, however: at least one swimmer has been attached by a croc here and though there’s now a big weighted chain link fence separating the large natural pool at the mouth of the spring from the river itself we decided against taking a dip.
San Blas’ other (absolutely unprovable) claim to fame is as the birthplace of banana bread. All over town bakeries swear they invented the stuff and you can hardly turn a corner without bumping into a chance to buy a slice or loaf of pan de platano. We sucumbed at a bakery called Juan Bananas. Why there? No idea, but the bread WAS tasy and the label that came on it can’t be beat: it’s a crude line drawing of a palm tree and a banana tree with a hammock strung between them in which a sated customer (one supposes) slumbers as gargantuan mosquitoes swarm about. We told you there were epic bugs here…