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All About San Blas – Mexico

San Blas Beach - MexicoAll About San Blas – Mexico

San Blas is a tranquil, undeveloped surfer’s beach on Mexico’s Pacific coast, about midway between the super-touristy resort areas of Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Although only about 3 hours by car or bus from either of those grossly-overdeveloped, bustling, mass-hotel/restaurant/bar/shopping zones, San Blas is enveloped in an entirely different world.

To be more exact, San Blas is a small fishing town situated near the mouth of a small river flowing into the Pacific and backed inland by miles of meandering mangrove habitat. Just downstream from town is a beautiful long stretch of golden sand with Pacific waves popular among surfers during the ocean’s rougher season, about mid-May through October.

At the end of the beach closest to town, which is brought to an abrupt end by the stone-lined river, there are several large open-air, thatched restaurants serving seafood and Mexican dishes.

Stoner's Surf Camp and restaurant

Stoner’s Surf Camp and restaurant

A couple of them rent out a handful of wood/thatch cabanas set on stilts directly on the sand. Most well-known is Stoner’s Surf Camp, owned and operated by Mexico’s former surfing champion, ‘Pompis’ Cano and his family. Naturally, they teach surfing as well.

Beyond the restaurant zone, the gorgeous beach stretches southward about 2 km, completely ‘au naturale’, backed solely by coconut trees, dense vegetation and distant mountains. Just sand, sea, sky, clouds, birds and mountains. Ahh, nature!

At the southern end, the beach is also halted by a brackish river. Crocodiles live in the that river. So you probably would not want to swim across. But if you did cross the river, you’d find another 2 km of wide, empty golden beach flowing southward to a large jetty. Alternately, and probably wiser, you can access that section of beach by inland road.

river and mountains at the southern end of San Blas Beach

river and mountains at the southern end of San Blas Beach

To its credit, and unlike many of Mexico’s Pacific beaches, San Blas’s slice of ocean is safe for swimming most times. So for anyone who still appreciates actual au naturale beaches, and for surfers of course, San Blas is a tranquil paradise.

Although the dozen or so restaurants are scarily large, at least they are low-key, inconspicuous buildings constructed of wood & thatch that blend into the natural scenery. And at least they are set quite far back from the ocean, leaving a very wide expanse of sand for beach-goers to enjoy. In fact, standing at the water’s edge, it’s hard to even hear or notice the restaurants and their occupants.

And at least nobody’s playing crappy pop music or rap/hip-hop music. Instead, one or two restaurants play traditional Mexican tunes until mid-afternoon when roving bands of traditional Mexican musicians show up to serenade the few customers.

San Blas Beach- restaurants and coconut trees line the beachEven better, the restaurants are strictly day-time affairs, opening about 9 am and closing by 6 pm. No late night bars or drinking sessions going on at San Blas beach.

In addition, the places only get busy on holidays and weekends, particularly on Sunday when hordes of local families show up with lots of noisy, hyped-up children in tow. But during the week, the restaurants are all pretty blissfully quiet.

Another boon – the village is not actually at the beach. It’s located several blocks inland, just a 10-minute walk or 5-minute bicycle ride away. Overall, San Blas town is a typical, ugly, non-nondescript Mexican village. But it does have a surprisingly nice plaza lined on one side by a pretty cathedral and an old decaying stone church, on another side by lovely colonial buildings.

San Blas town - main plazaIn addition, one street running along the plaza has been renovated with charming white and brown colonial store-fronts with ice-cream shops, restaurants, cafes and boutiques for several blocks.

In short, the town is close enough to be convenient for supplies and eating cheap meals, but far enough away to not mar the beautiful beach.

San Blas beach is certainly my idea of a slice of paradise! I arrived on a quiet Monday afternoon from horrid Mazatlan, where I’d had to stay an entire week doing hotel reviews.

Mazatlan was the kind of place I would have left as soon as I arrived, had it not been for hotel work. So I had to stick it out, cringing daily at the ultra-ugly cement hotels, hordes of chain restaurants/bars, souvenir shops, roaring highway full of traffic, and masses of holidaymakers with screaming children. Exactly my idea of a beach turned nightmare. I wrote more about Mazatlan here.

Needless to say, I was really looking forward to escaping to a natural, un-ruined beach. In fact, the night before I left Mazatlan, I was so exited I was surprised I could sleep. I woke up extra early the day of departure, jumped out of bed and was packed and ready to go in 45 minutes. I even left early for the bus station and hung out there until my 9 am bus left. Finally, I escaped!

my cabana at San Blas - on the left

my cabana at San Blas – on the left

When I eventually reached San Blas beach several hours later and was introduced to my thatched hut on the sand, I was in heaven. I promptly sat down in the shade of the thatched roof and drank a cold coke while admiring the empty, quiet beach and being cooled off by a strong breeze.

My cabana was perfect. It consisted of a balcony and a single room with a big bed, made up with crisp white sheets, two great pillows, a traditional Mexican blanket and a mosquito net in perfect condition. There was a small shelf and chairs out on the balcony.

The only sound was the vast Pacific Ocean waves crashing gently on the sandy beach.

The restaurant was below/behind me, but there weren’t many customers. And it closed before 6 pm. The rest of the evening it was just me, the night time security guard and a small handful of other overnight guests. Us and the crashing Pacific Ocean.

simple interior of my cabana

simple interior of my cabana

My first evening, I took a long stroll on the beach, south to the river and back. Then cycled into town on a dilapidated bicycle to buy a few supplies. On my return, I mixed up a mojito, watched the sunset, then read a book on my balcony while enjoying a gentle ocean breeze, crashing waves, a full moon and mojito in hand.

I luxuriated at San Blas beach for a week. Every morning I woke up early to watch the sunrise. Then I did yoga and meditation on my balcony, went downstairs to the restaurant for a traditional Mexican breakfast of eggs, beans and tortillas supplemented by fruit I’d bought in town.

Then I enjoyed a long walk on the beach and/or suntanning for 1-2 hours while reading. Midday I cycled into town to eat lunch and get a take-out dinner. It would have been lovely – and convenient – to eat at my beach-side restaurant, but the prices were way out of my league. That was ok – a ride into town each day for cheap Mexican fare was enjoyable too.

surfboard bench on the sand - San BlasSince I needed to escape the intense direct sun mid afternoon, I parked myself in the shady, breezy restaurant to write and edit photos for a couple hours. Then it was time for dinner, a long walk on the beach, a shower and my evening mojito and reading session.

Yes indeed, folks, that is exactly my idea of paradise beach life. If it sounds like yours too, head to San Blas when you’re cruising the Mexican Pacific.

view out my front door

view out my front door

But I also must mention that San Blas does have a couple drawbacks. First of all, it’s notorious for its voracious mosquitoes. I’d already been warned before I headed there, so I arrived well equipped with mosquito spray and mosquito coils.

Once there I also discovered that sand fleas are equally as bad. Eek, two nasty pests simultaneously! Luckily, mosquito repellent deterred both. Easy, peasy, no problemo amigo.

On the bright side, the pests are really only super bad at dusk/sunset time. During the day, at least at the beach and the front of the restaurant, a stiff breeze keeps them away for the most part. But if you head just slightly inland – say to the other side of the restaurant – you’d better be pre-sprayed thick with repellent.

San Blas beach’s other big issue is a lack of internet connection. Anyone who absolutely needs internet to function, may want to skip San Blas. An alternative would be to go into town daily to use wifi at a cafe or restaurant. Several have good wifi connections. Otherwise, maybe just declare yourself a week off-grid and take a relaxing vacation on San Blas beach, reconnecting with nature.

Mexican party on San Blas beach - weekend

Mexican party on San Blas beach – weekend

The only other issue, if you hate noisy crowds on beaches like I do, is San Blas’ weekend and holiday crowds. With the city of Tepic just one hour away, and lots of nearby small towns, you can be sure San Blas beach and restaurants are going to be packed with noisy families, screaming energetic children and groups of happily drinking young men and women.

If that isn’t your idea of an enjoyable beach time, be sure to skip San Blas on weekends. Happily, weekdays are blissfully quiet. That’s the time to luxuriate on empty, quiet sands backed by breeze-blow trees and majestic mountains.

You might also find these posts helpful:

All About Mazatlan

9 Surprising Facts about Mexico City

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