I live in San Miguel de Allende, which is a beautiful little town in the heart of Guanajuato. I’m very happy helping people find comprehensive insurance for a great price. It makes me feel good when the policy that I sold someone saved their life a year later. I have good friends, a great home, and my brand Mexico Living is really taking off.
One of the best things about my job is that it takes me across the country. I often have to go to places in the Baja Peninsula like Tijuana and Los Cabos, big cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City, or expat hotspots in the Riviera Maya like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
I often give insurance seminars and I end up meeting really great people from all around the world. Then meetings with clients inevitably bring me back to these locations. So, over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot about Mexico.
My travels have slowed during the coronavirus pandemic, but I’ve still had to make rounds. And though my job is rewarding, it’s high stress. So I’ve taken some vacations to get away from the hustle and bustle.
One amazing spot that I’ve visited this year was Tolantongo. This place is so great that I’ve gone twice in the last few months. Tolantongo is the name of a resort in the state of Hidalgo, and it’s also the name of the river that runs through the resort.
The Water at Tolantongo
This river is unique because the water is this opaque and almost fluorescent aqua color that really stands out in the middle of the Mexican desert. It’s easily one of the most stunning locations in Mexico.
As if the stunning color wasn’t enough, the river is thermally heated. Some parts of the resort are warmer than others, but the grotto at the end called La Gloria is the warmest part of the park. There, you can find pools that are as warm as a hot bath. It’s only an extra $100 pesos and you can relax in thermal pools overlooking the whole canyon. It’s a great place to get away from the grind and for a moment forget about the stresses of 2020.
Not only is the water really great for easing tense muscles from stress, but the minerals in the water are great for your hair, nails, and skin. You feel like you’ve been at a day spa after lounging in one of these thermal pools for an afternoon.
The Food at Tolantongo
There are several restaurants located at Tolantongo. They are situated around the park in different locations. All of the restaurants currently operating serve the same menu, but I noticed that if you sweet talk the waitress, she’ll give you the salsa that they have in the kitchen for themselves (and that one is different for every kitchen).
All the staff is conscious of the pandemic, wearing face shields and masks. All the silverware comes in wrapped plastic packaging, and you won’t have to worry about the person eating next to you either. Every other table is blocked off with caution tape to make sure that there’s no one sitting next to you at all.
The food at Tolantongo is delicious. It’s really authentic Mexican cuisine, but it isn’t fancy. It’s just simple, traditional food like tacos, enchiladas, and gorditas. They have some seafood options, but only a few vegetarian options (and most of those are served at breakfast), so prepare for that ahead of time. But if you’re really starving and you ask nicely, they’ll make you some vegetarian quesadillas at dinner time.
If anything, their breakfasts are the highlight of the menu. The kitchen serves really tasty classics like enchiladas and chilaquiles, accompanied by some great salsas. They have some healthy options, like cereals, juice, fruit, and yogurt.
If you’re traveling with kids, then they have a great little kids menu featuring the classic foods that no kid can turn away like chicken nuggets and fries. The best part is that everything is really inexpensive, and they come with massive plates for only like 3 or 4 dollars. You won’t be going hungry at Tolantongo.
Facilities at Tolantongo
There are several facilities at Tolantongo that you can take advantage of. They have a small convenience store that will sell anything you would expect at an OXXO or a 7-11. They also have a pharmacy in case you need any medication (though I think most of it is just over-the-counter stuff).
There are also First-Aid tents all around the park with a nurse that is there to tend minor ailments. Every First Aid tent has sanitation stations to thoroughly clean scraped knees and whatnot, and the nurse is also wearing a face shield and a mask.
Hotels at Tolantongo
As you’re driving up to Tolantongo, you’ll see a bunch of hotels. Some of them advertise wifi (and if you absolutely need wifi, you should stay at one of those hotels. There’s no wifi at the hotel on the main grounds). The problem is that these hotels seem more like they are right out of Dusk til Dawn.
The hotel at Tolantongo has really clean rooms. You can get a room with 1 bed, 2 beds, or 3 beds. They cost about $20 – $30 a night, which isn’t that bad. They have no reservations, you just have to show up and see what’s available.
However, if you want, you can always camp for a fraction of the cost. You set up tents and use the public bathrooms and showers, and you could bring your own food to reduce the costs even further. However, just remember that we are living during a pandemic. I would recommend just getting your own room to social distance.
My Favorite Part of Tolantongo
If you pay an extra $100 pesos to cross the bridge over to La Gloria (ask anyone, and they’ll point it out to you), it has a short hike up some carved stairs with isolated thermal pools all throughout. But if you get up to the top and find a pool with a view, it is EPIC. It’s absolutely gorgeous. You have a view of the whole canyon, and you can just lay back, soak, and really take it all in. Don’t miss out.
Work inevitably brings me to Puerto Vallarta. I have a lot of clients there. And whenever I’m in the area, I have to stay a week in Sayulita. It’s my special space because it has so much to offer.
Food in Sayulita
If you know me in person, then you know that I’m a massive foodie. I run 8 kilometers almost every morning so that I can eat whatever I want. And boy do I! So I can tell you some of the best spots to eat in Sayulita.
The Original Fish Tacos
The Original Fish Tacos was the first place to begin making Baja-style fish tacos in Sayulita. They are these massive tacos, and you can either get battered fish or shrimp. They also have other meals like ceviche, but their shrimp and fish tacos are the real selling point.
First they beer batter the fish or the shrimp, then they grill the flour tortilla, and finally, they put it all together and load it up with lettuce, and a tomato and cucumber slaw that really makes the taco seem fresh and healthy. For $40 pesos a taco, you can get a massive taco right on the main walk leading up to the beach. Be sure to load up on that chipotle mayo!
Coco’s Beach Club
Coco’s Beach Club is one of my favorite spots. Seriously, people know me there. Of all the spots that are right on the water, Coco’s is my favorite. I often show up and get a drink and a bite to eat while taking in the sights and sounds. They have some good food, but more than anything, it’s really just a great place unwind.
Barracuda is one of the best spots in Sayulita for their food, but you have to get there before like 4:30pm. After about 4:40pm, they switch to their dinner menu, which is overpriced and not really my style.
But if you show up before 4:30pm, you can order the beach classics that are in my opinion the best food in Mexico. They have two dishes that you must try. The first is their Taco Gobernador. This is a shrimp and cheese taco with caramelized onions and peppers served on a blue tortilla. It’s absolutely delicious.
And the second is their Tuna Especial Tostada. It’s a massive tuna tostada that comes with some of the freshest, raw tuna I’ve ever tried. You also get like 5 different dipping sauces. I’m such a sauce guy!
Burrito Revolution is one of my absolute go-tos in Sayulita. I’m there twice a week at least. For this burrito, surprisingly I don’t recommend the shrimp or seafood classics. No, you have to try the carnitas burrito. It’s a massive American-style burrito with beans, guacamole, cream, cheese, lettuce, caramelized onions and peppers, and especially loaded with carnitas. OMG, it’s to die for!
Right next door to Burrito Revolution is Itakate. This is an amazing location, and all the locals will tell you that it’s the best food in Sayulita. They serve an itakate, which is a cheese crust taco. They take melted cheese and brown it on a griddle until it forms a crunchy crust, and then they use that as the base for their taco!
Itakate serves a lot of other Mexican cuisine, but you have to try the itakate taco. You won’t regret it!
Beaches in Sayulita
There are lots of amazing beaches in Sayulita. I’m only going to cover the basics, enough to get around, but there are a lot of hidden treasures to explore. Just ask the locals, they are friendly and helpful in Riviera Nayarit.
Beach Conditions in Sayulita
The beaches in Sayulita are pretty warm. They have a steep slope that lowers into the ocean like most beaches along the Pacific Ocean. The beaches will fill up with natural debris like sticks and shells at certain times of the year, but they are manicured by paid locals that collect the wood and burn it.
The sand is a little bit coarse, but the water is some of the cleanest along the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. Much of this is because sewage from Sayulita is piped out into the sea about five kilometers off the coast.
Sayulita is really a large cove that bends around. Playa Sayulita is the main beach that runs along this cove. It’s the beach that borders all the shops and restaurants. To the north, you have some better waves for surfing, and if you want to distance a bit, then you can get some space to yourself.
To the south, you have an inlet where all the boats dock. This is better for wading if you have little kids with you. You’ll see tourists setting up umbrellas and listening to music while they swim. Vendors will walk around the whole beach selling homemade wares, grilled shrimp, and drinks if you feel like supporting the local economy.
Playa Los Muertos
Los Muertos is a small beach further to the south. It’s separated from Playa Sayulita by a rocky inlet, and you just have to walk along a path for about ten minutes before you get to it. You’ll see a lot of local kids hanging out there. There are also fewer vendors selling wares and more vendors selling food.
The kids hanging around can get you anything you want. If you want a pack of cigarettes, they’ll have it. If you want some beers, they have some. This makes Los Muertos a great place to hang out and mingle with the locals as opposed to being surrounded by the shops and restaurants where you’re really just surrounded by tourists.
The next town over is San Pancho. This is a charming little pueblo that has a lot better feel that you would expect from the Riviera Nayarit. You can hike to it, but it’s 5 miles away, or you can just take a taxi there for less than $5 dollars. I personally like to jog there!
The beaches in San Pancho are more virgin and less manicured than those in Sayulita, but they are great for picnicking and getting away from the masses if you want to social distance during the pandemic.
Hotels in Sayulita
Sayulita is not massively developed, so the hotel options are really small boutique hotels and hostels. A lot of these are really nice though, but don’t expect to find a Marriott Hotel in Sayulita (though there are several farther south in the Bay de Banderas / Puerto Vallarta Region, and then you could do a day trip to Sayulita if you really wanted to spend the day in a traditional corporate hotel.)
The best way to stay in Sayulita is to rent an AirBnB. A lot of boutique hotels put their rooms up there, and a lot of apartment complexes post their vacancies, and you can rent them for a time.
Rent is a bit expensive in Sayulita, because there is more demand that houses I’m afraid. You’ll likely be spending a few hundred dollars a week, whereas most other towns in Mexico will be half that, but still, it’s worth it to get to know this wonderful place.
Sayulita is a great place to relax and get some sun if you’re looking to get away from the big city during the pandemic. If you’ve been stuck at home under quarantine, then you don’t have to worry so much about coronavirus in Sayulita. The tourists usually arrive on the weekend, and during the week, the locals have the town to themselves. That’s the best time to get out and about and explore the town.
I think Jalisco is the most Mexican state in all of Mexico. I mean, you have everything: Lake Chapala, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, and you have the small pueblo of Tequila. This village is amazing! I love stopping here on the way between Sayulita and San Miguel.
Distillery Tours in Tequila, Jalisco
Tequila is known for its distilleries that sit amongst the blue agave fields of the region of Tequila. This is where the liquor is made, and for a small fee (or even sometimes a tip) you can take a tour of the agave fields. They’ll show you how the tequila is made, from separating the juice from the agave pulp. Then fermenting the juice, and distilling it. And then you can see how they age the different kinds of tequila.
You can taste the different types of tequila, and if you like one, you can purchase it in these massive jugs for like $20 bucks. It’s a bargain! You also get the experience of being in Jalisco, and they will teach you a lot about the cultural aspects also.
Food in Tequila, Jalisco
There are many good restaurants in Tequila. The food is really inexpensive, but the best restaurant in Tequila isn’t cheap. It is the Jose Cuervo restaurant. The food is some of the best food I’ve ever had in Mexico, and it’s really traditional Mexican food from Jalisco and other parts of Central Mexico.
I had the torta ahogada, which is one of my favorite dishes, but they serve all kinds of moles there, as well as some killer appetizers. And while you’re in Tequila, be sure to try a shot of some killer tequilas. The service is stellar, and the hacienda where it’s located is amazing.
You can go next door to the bar and sip on a tequila which some great priced liquors, and your waitress from the table will actually follow you and attend you at the bar afterward. She’ll even explain to you the history of the bar, the paintings, and the stands. It’s an amazing experience. You can’t miss it!
Staying in Tequila, Jalisco
Plus if you’re looking to stay in a nice hotel, the best hotel is right next door. It’s the largest hotel in the center of town, and it has all the country flags on it. This is the hotel where all the dignitaries stay when they are visiting the town of tequila.
We’ve gotten bad reviews from the Tequila Barrel hotels that try and sell you a gimmick of living in a massive tequila barrel. Apparently, most people regret their stay there, so be sure to check into this nice hotel.
If not, you can find some pretty nice AirBnb’s in Tequila. They are relatively inexpensive, and you can find some amazing ones that are full haciendas on the outskirts of town for only about a hundred dollars a night. I mean, four-bedroom haciendas with massive yards all to yourself all amongst the blue agave fields, so those might be better if you have kids.
What To Do in Tequila, Jalisco
If you’re in Tequila, Jalisco, we already mentioned going on a distillery tour. Another great experience is going horseback riding in Tequila. You can ride a horse for a couple hours among the fields, and at some point, your guide is sure to pull out a flask for you to try some of the local tequilas.
Another great experience is checking out the bars. In fact, one of the top ten busiest bars in the whole world is in Tequila. The bar itself is always packed, always playing live music, and it’s adorned with their medals and awards for being recognized as one of the best bars in Mexico.
You can also just have a margarita in little stands that are shaped like tequila barrels. They are all over the center of the village. They feature tons of different kinds of tequila. The margaritas are served in clay cups that you get to keep afterward as a reminder of your trip. It’s a great place to sit on a bench, drink your margarita, and listen to mariachis play songs for tourists in the town square.
Overall, Tequila, Jalisco is so much more than just an excuse to get wasted. It’s a really cultural little village with a lot to offer. Stopping to check out Tequila is a must if you’re in the area, visiting Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara. Don’t miss out!