Jaltemba Bay and the three communities of Los Ayala, Rincon de Guayabitos and La Peñita de Jaltemba sit on the Coast in the State of Nayarit approximately 64 kms north of Puerto Vallarta or a 1 hour drive North on Highway 200. The three communities share the Bay and like pearls of a necklace, each of these gems are similar yet have a distinct character.
La Peñita de Jaltemba is the commercial center of the tiny bay area. It has a bank and an ATM outlet. There are a few general grocery stores, butcher shops and other food and tourist trinket stores along the main street, the Avenida – THE AVENUE - as the locals call it. The formal name is Avenida Emiliano Zapata, named after the Mexican Revolutionary hero who fought for land reform. La Peñita is arguably larger than the other communities and therefore has more shops and stores than the communities to the south. It has a population of approximately 7,000 people and during the November to April tourist season, it is likely that another 2 to 3,000 people call the town their home. The town is decidedly Mexican. It has a large bull ring that is owned by the Cuevas family who owns a number of meat shops in the area. Often there will be parades with colorful costumes, kids in marching bands, banners and flags. Celebrations can close down a street, occupy the town square or blast into the night. Fireworks going off intermittently during some festivals, often keep folks on their toes at night as does music or events at the bull ring. One of the main ways merchants advertise is with a vehicle, usually a dilapidated car, with a blaring speaker system. They drive up and down the street announcing this bargain or that, from shrimp, tamales and elotes, to events and community warnings. Of course there are the gas trucks that frequent the streets with similar speaker systems belting out the familiar jingle or simply the word “GAS!” When the circus comes to town, promoters drive animal trailer cages through the street. It is very strange to see a couple of Bengal tigers drive by as you eat lunch at one of the many eateries.
The beach is fairly narrow in La Peñita, and in places your beach walk may be blocked by concrete remains of former homes on the beach. One of La Peñita’s major attractions is the “Tianguis” or open air market. Every Thursday, rain or shine, the market attracts locals and visitors to the town. Artisans sell their crafts: pottery, jewelry, fabrics, baskets, purses. Food vendors sell fish and shrimp, veggies and fruit, breads and herbs as well as prepared market food such as large plastic cups filled to the brim with a fruit salad. The market also specializes in clothes, used clothes, 10 peso stores (the equivalent of a dollar store), household tools and small equipment. You can purchase flower pots to gas stove parts. Blender pieces to baseball caps. You can also purchase Real Estate. La Peñita has a number of restaurants with a variety of menus and prices. Every year the selection and quality improves. Explore the town. Take your camera and enjoy.
Separated by a river to the south, Estero Zarco, Rincon de Guayabitos lies in the centre of the three towns. Rincon de Guayabitos name is derived from the Spanish meaning Inside Corner of the Guavas. This is in reference to the guavas orchards of the past that inhabited the corner of the Bay. The town was developed for Mexican middleclass tourists and later for foreign residents. The Avenida del Sol connects the two as it twists and turns through the towns residential area and then past the police, square and church through the commercial area. The town is a hub for small hotels and bungalows, usually a one or two bedroom apartment with a small kitchen. These are perfect for the Mexican family vacationers that travel from the interior. The residential area of Rincon de Guayabitos is where the majority of Americans and Canadian have built their houses. There are small modest casitas to million dollar oceanfront homes. While the intention was never to be commercial, bed and breakfasts, small bungalows and hotels have invaded the quiet neighborhood. There is an ecological park, beach access, and tennis courts.
The Guayabitos beach is a circular half moon of sand that stretches from Estero Zarco past the residential area down and around the commercial sector. It is an entertaining beach with a number of vendors that keep things lively. Of course there are a number of small entrepreneurs that sell, like everywhere in Mexico, jewelry from briefcases, tablecloths and T shirts. They also sell beach toys, umbrellas, fish on a stick, nuts, oysters and tattoos. A favorite are the huge blown up beach toys in the shape of sharks, lobsters, airplanes and the traditional roundlifesaver all in florescent blue, pinks and greens. The beach is a flat walking beach that comes alive every morning as the sun rises. At this time of the morning you often see fishermen haul their pangas to shore and onto the sand; selling fish directly from the boat. Brown pelicans hang out nearby, nervously awaiting a chance to grab a fish and fly. Morning joggers and power walkers in a mantra of their own, traverse in a determined path to better health. Later, the beach is alive with people. There is a wide variety of hotels, restaurants and bars, from simple fair to very fancy five star experiences. And the prices are very reasonable.
The town of Los Ayala has had a facelift of sorts lately. Rather than being the poor cousin of Rincon to the North, Los Ayala is developing into a small boutique community in its own right. While there are many hotels and bungalows, there are also private and winter homes. The beach is beautiful and flat, ideal for walking or spending time with kids. Restaurants dot the beach. It is slower, more tranquil, than its northern neighbor with less vendors and therefore fewer opportunities to purchase tablecloths, blankets and the like. Big changes have come recently and the amazing result is the town of Los Ayala boasts the best designed town plaza on the Riviera Nayarit. It has the traditional bandstand and lovely tropical gardens. The main street that runs parallel to the beach is now paved and the beaches are cleaned by paid workers. The community has raised funds through concerted efforts; fundraising events and lobbying for matching grants. This is a proud, motivated and dynamic community that has proved that it can achieve great things by working together for common goals.