Back in February, we embarked on one of the most memorable, adventurous trips to date with our cousins down to Puerto Vallarta, then way off the grid to an eco-development about an hour south of Puerto Vallarta. Dotted along the Pacific coastline are little fishing villages with striking jungle backdrops. These villages are really only accessible by water taxi, as any infrastructure for vehicles is limited (save for a very circuitous ATV route along mountain paths). Further along, tucked into the jungle, nearly at the end of the water taxi line, is an eco-preserve, Los Chonchos. Here you’ll find several palapas, open air huts, tucked into the trees, perched on ocean cliffs, and each boasting incredible Pacific Ocean views.
After a couple of days in Puerto Vallarta, our group gathered most all the food and beverages we would need for our stay off-the-grid and packed our bags for the water taxi. Traveling light and packing a hiking backpack (not a roller bag) is definitely recommended for this trip. Since the boat pulls up to the beach, your job is to safely hop into the water and wade onto the beach while your bags are tossed overboard onto the sand, and you carry everything to the palapa over rocky terrain. Our trip speeding down the coast was thrilling, especially as the villages became more and more infrequent and we were mostly cruising alongside jungle (and we lost cell service). When we arrived at our landing beach, the waves had gotten too severe to land safely (common for February), so our captain decided to take us about five minutes further down to Chimo, the very last village on the line, to land. Of course, this meant about a 40 minute hike north (with all of our stuff) back to Chonchos, but we were all game. Also, a very nice burro ended up shouldering four roller bags, and arrived only 15 minutes later than us! As you can see, this type of vacation is definitely only for active people who are equipped for these physical challenges.
Described by my cousin as essentially “5-star glamping,” our palapa, Casa Cactus, had every convenience for a comfortable stay, but with an ecological, “living with nature” sensibility. The water is fed from a mountain spring and is completely safe (and delicious!) for drinking. The palapa is powered by solar panels and propane tanks for the gas cook-top. The kitchen was stocked with all the essentials including the solar-powered refrigerator/freezer. There was a bathroom with running water and hot showers. While there were plenty of lights to turn on in the evenings, we opted for mostly candlelight for eating dinner, hanging out and playing games. All of the beds have a mosquito net to protect you from night critters, and while not common, scorpions are always a possibility so we were sure to shake out bedding before going to sleep, and to mind our shoes before slipping them on.
For a few days, we unplugged and relaxed, enjoying the ocean views, hanging out on the private beach, going for jungle hikes, humpback whale watching from the deck (in season November through March), searching for iguanas (who hang out beneath the deck, waiting for compost scraps), kayaking, fishing, shelling, spotting overhead parrots, watching the sunset and generally doing “nothing.” I was happy to turn off my phone and not look at it for the duration of our stay. With virtually no light pollution, the stargazing is nothing short of incredible. And falling asleep to the sound of the ocean wasn’t bad either.
Having experienced a cooking class in Puerto Vallarta the day before, we were lucky to be able to package up our leftovers, which included tons of salsas, to bring with us for the palapa. We also brought a lot of dry beans, tortillas, eggs, shrimp, coffee (very important!) and some fresh produce for cooking for our group of eight. Perhaps the best meal was egg and potato breakfast tacos, which makes my mouth water just typing. For restocking on basic groceries, beer and raicilla (smoky-tasting, locally distilled moonshine made from agave), we could always hike back to Chimo which has both a little market and a restaurant. On our last day, we enjoyed lunch in Chimo and sat for hours at the open-air restaurant, overlooking the fishing boats in the bay, drinking Pacifico beer and eating platter after platter of fresh, local fish. I cannot wait to return to this paradise on earth! You can follow Casa Cactus Palapa here.