Hidden gem on Mexico’s Pacific coast

Los Ayala, Nayarit, allows travellers to take a step back in time to the simpler days and experience a truly authentic Mexican small town

Los Ayala

Los Ayala

Imagine a place with velvety, gold-flecked beaches, surrounded by crystal blue waters and majestic mountains.

A place where the local fishermen arrive just after sun up with the fresh catch of the day, where children play games on the cobblestone streets and there are local parties in the town square with a 13-piece mariachi band entertaining the neighbourhood.

This is Los Ayala, Nayarit, a hidden gem on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Here you can take a step back in time to the simpler days and experience a truly authentic Mexican small town.

Located about an hour’s drive north of Puerto Vallarta and nestled at the south end of Jaltemba Bay, I discovered Los Ayala after a friend vacationed there and recommended the place to me. Two friends and I first stayed there for a week in January 2011, renting a two-bedroom condo at Villas Marena, with our own kitchen, a large patio and an ocean front view just steps from the beach.

We spent our days hiking the mountains, snorkeling in the ocean and soaking up the local colour. Surrounded by local vacationers enjoying the weather and beach, we ate fresh oysters washed down with ice cold cervezas as we were captivated by all of the activities around us.

What separates Los Ayala from other destinations is the untouched nature of the community. Having travelled to many countries, I always took pleasure stepping outside of my comfort zone and experiencing how the local people really lived. Part of the adventure was finding a local to take us on day trips. Not only was the cost cheaper than established businesses, it was much more personal and we were able to go to sites that were not your regular tourist traps.

One day we hired Rogelio as our taxi driver and asked him as part of our tour to take us to his home and the secret places he used to go to. Besides the beaches and towns, we visited the family ranch, stopping in at his aunt’s home and had a bite and a beer at his uncle’s tavern in the mountains.  The day was amazing, the sites absolutely beautiful and the moments, unforgettable.

For a mere six pesos, we could catch a local bus to the next town of Rincón de Guayabitos, or 12 pesos would get us to La Peñita, where there is a large flea market every Thursday morning. Another day we booked a whale watching tour ($35 a person) and cruised up to a humpback whale, so close, if I had the nerve I could have reached out and touched him with my hand. We were surrounded by these gentle giants, as dolphins playfully jumped in front of our boat, leading the way.

One evening, while eating our dinner at an open-air restaurant, there was a Mexican wedding on the beach just outside. With at least 300 guests celebrating, and an 11-piece band, we ate in delight at the experience of it all, including a display of the most amazing fireworks, mirrored beautifully in the ocean.  What I didn’t understand at the time was this was quite typical for the area.

By the end of our week, many of the locals knew who we were, greeted us with sincerity and offered us any assistance or advice we sought, making us feel safe and secure in this small-town atmosphere. However, the week went by too fast, so I felt compelled to go back again. And I did! I was interested in the development of Villas Marena, knowing it’s the place I want to come to when I vacation and eventually stay for a few months of the year once I retire.

My love of the area and Los Ayala convinced me to purchase a studio apartment at Villas Marena, feeling secure in my investment as the owners of the development are from Saskatchewan. My apartment is already rented out from Dec. 24 into March and six weeks into 2013.

Like me, those who have stayed are absolutely delighted at the area and have re-booked, bringing their friends with them. For more information on Los Ayala you can visit www.villasmarena.ca or www.magicallosayala.com.