For some reason, I’d always assumed every jungle was a rainforest and never much investigated further; you can imagine my slight hesitation when some new friends we’d met when going to check out a potential Workaway location, a lovely Czech couple, suggested that we take a two-mile hike around the jungle coast from Boca de Tomatlan to a beach called Las Animas. We’d previously visited Boca briefly when we were en-route to our Outdoor Adventure Day, and I was looking forward to visiting this gorgeous area again at our own time and pace. Michal and Tereza offered to come and pick us up from Puerto Vallarta in their car early in the morning, so that we could complete the hike before it was both too hot and too busy to do so. Barely awake but clinging desperately to my fresh coffee
Side note: Mexican taxi drivers and Mexican roads terrify me (along with Spanish roads, Serbian roads, Italian roads etc…) and I’m not a great passenger at the best of times, but the good thing with some of the roads here is that there are so many cobblestone streets, and speed bumps near every hotel entrance, that people can never actually build up too much speed as they go around the gorgeous, but steep, mountain roads; they still drive too close to each other though. Luckily, Michal is a very safe driver!
We admired the views as we drove for about 30 minutes from PV to Boca, though unfortunately photos just don’t do justice, and arrived at a quiet, serene and peaceful Boca de Tomatlan. There’s a certain charm to any town, city, or beach in the early morning that I love, just before the masses and chaos descend, and Boca is no different. However, to enjoy such a charm you do have to be there early, and although I can function in mornings, I am not even borderline sociable until I’ve had two cups of coffee and some food. With that in mind, we found the single café that was open and serving breakfast to fuel up for the trek ahead, not really knowing what to expect. In my mind, a jungle is a rainforest, with lots of creepy-crawly critters. Eurgh.
Turns out, the Mexican jungle on the Pacific Coast is a dry jungle/forest (which also houses Jaguars and Pumas among other creatures) and the trees here in the Jalisco region shed their leaves during the long, dry seasons. Although I wouldn’t want to be clambering through the thickest parts off the beaten track, the particular track we were following, although steep in stages, wasn’t too bad initially – a dirt track, a dodgy wooden bridge and some steep steps here and there. Also, bug-spray is your greatest ally in these parts!
We started off around the track which seemed to take us almost literally through the front yards of locals living there, though we were taking our time as the views were absolutely stunning. One thing that became quickly evident, was that this wasn’t necessarily the safest route in the world, and a misstep could result in a nasty fall through a lot of the route.
However, we took it slow and steady, and after about half an hour of walking we came across our first beach – ‘Colomitos’ – of the three that we were expecting along this route, and stopped to admire the views. There was one family of apparent locals, who quickly gathered into their boat and disappeared, leaving just the four of us on this tiny piece of paradise. The water was sparkling clear, and although it was a very small area, it was a nice reward for completing the first part of the trail, and an incentive for what laid ahead!
After taking on some water, though having to ration it carefully between four people, we continued on our way upwards and onwards, into the jungle trail which took us slightly more inland off the actual coast. We soon came across beach number two, another isolated, and at this point, empty beach that could rival anywhere in the world. Golden sands and crystal-clear waters; we all sat and marvelled, enjoying the peace and quiet as we took a break.
I sat and looked around, and just had to take a few moments to myself to let everything sink in. When you’re travelling around, whether it’s for a week, a month, or a lifetime, it’s easy to start to take things for granted. ‘Oh, another incredible temple/ beautiful waterfall/ gorgeous beach’ – you can start to get a ‘travel fatigue’ for want of a better term. It’s important for me to remember the days I was having to work through the nights restraining out of control kids, waking up at 4am to go into a call centre, or working a Boxing Day in retail. That’s part of my motivation to keep travelling and exploring, to ensure I keep working hard to be able to do so, and I make sure not to take it for granted!
After the obligatory photo shoots and selfies, onwards we went. We came across some apparently abandoned structures up on the cliff-face, with some ‘interesting’ foundation work, and it seems they made the signs before they finished anything else. Nice sign, but false promises of a bar and kitchen when you’re hungry and thirsty are a tad frustrating!
We came across a small hotel resort upon another secluded beach, and carried on walking around the trail until we came across a quite spectacular and surprisingly posh restaurant called Tropicalia set into the rocks just off the beach – there was even a rope swing!
The margaritas here were 4 for 3 so, needless to say, we immediately ordered some. We added some food and water to this afterwards, and I tried my first ever ceviche – a dish of fresh, raw fish that’s cured in citrus juices, and served with accompanying fruit and vegetables such as avocado, lettuce, cucumber etc. Nachos, tortillas and spicy sauces were naturally included too. We shared this dish between the four of us, and after wining and dining (Margarita-ing and Ceviche-ing?), we had a quick poke around the attached boutique clothes store before continuing on our way.
Guess what? We found the third beach ‘Playa Caballo’ that we were hoping to come across along the trail, which not only meant we were going the right way, but again it was secluded and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Anthea once more fell over onto her backside, this time in excitement at seeing a crab and trying to hop down a sandy ledge which inevitably gave way. That’s twice in three weeks now after her turtle impression when falling down in the snow back home, so I might have to get one of those leads people attach to their kids to stop them running away and getting into trouble…
We were just the other side of Las Animas now, so decided to head up some steps and through a small trail to get there so that we could get some more water, before heading back to beautiful beach #3 for some sunbathing and maybe some swimming. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Las Animas – we’d encountered three of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen, and I knew that Animas was going to be the most tourist centered of the beaches so far, but wasn’t sure to what level.
Turns out, a lot. It was like entering a different world once we passed into Las Animas, and suddenly there were people everywhere, hawkers selling jewellery and cakes, a guy with an iguana taking photos with tourists and lots of boats, plus bars all across the beach as far as it stretched. Unfortunately, Las Animas is everything I feared it would be. We got a drink and an ice cream, before stocking up on water supplies and heading back to the previous beach; on our way back we did manage to book a water taxi back to Boca for 50 pesos a person (about £2) so we were delighted at that price.
Once we got back to the previous beach, we seemingly made friends with a very scruffy dog that loved throwing coconuts around. As mangy as the dog was, she was extremely soft tempered and quite adorable. Well, apart from when she started throwing her slobbery, sea salt covered coconut onto my beach towel.
After being entertained by the dog and sunbathing for a while, we were pretty mortified to see a literal boatload of Americans get off at the far end of the beach we were on and be very… well, American. If any Americans are reading this, I’m sorry, but you guys are LOUD! It had now been about seven hours since we first started the hike that morning from Boca, so we were starting to get tired and worn out anyway, so took that as our cue to pack up and head back to Boca via the water taxi, before being kindly dropped off in Puerto Vallarta by our Czech compadres.
All in all, a pretty amazing day. A really good trail walk that I’d recommend to anyone going to the local area, though definitely do it early in the day. On our water taxi back, we went past the beaches we’d visited and saw that they were all now filling up with people being dropped off by various water taxis. We’d been very lucky to miss the crowds, and were now looking forward to getting home for a nice hot shower, some food and definitely some home-made ice cream from the Gelateria we discovered around the corner from our hotel.