There are plenty of reasons for travelers to stay put in Puerto Vallarta, from raucous bars to shiny all-inclusive resorts overlooking the Pacific. But those in search of a quieter scene with more locals than tourists might consider driving north about 100 miles to San Blas, a Spanish colonial town in Riviera Nayarit that’s rife with history and natural beauty.
Once there, find your way to Las Islitas, a public beach lined with low-key restaurants serving freshly caught fish, grilled plantains and more, all under palapas on the sand. The water was teeming with children when I was there — with its tiny waves and shallow depths, this petite bay is more like a warm pool than anything else.
As if my lunch of pargo (a type of fish) and corn tortillas wasn’t enough, I eventually made my way over to the roving mango cart on the beach. My friend and I handed the seller 20 pesos each (about $1), and then watched him expertly carve our hulking pieces of fruit into roses before jabbing them with long wooden sticks. Like kids gobbling cotton candy at the county fair, we strolled back to our fellow travelers with sticky smiles across our faces.