Discover the best top things to do in San Blas, Mexico including La Tovara Springs, Las Islitas, Playa El Borrego, San Blas River, Matanchen Bay, Contaduria, Our Lady of the Rosary (Nuestra Senora del Rosario), Cocodrilario Kiekari, Isla Isabel, Playa Hermosa.
Restaurants in San Blas
4.5 based on 115 reviews
This three-hour guided boat trip takes you through the estuary and mangrove swamps to a natural pool at La Tovara Spring, where guests are encouraged to swim with an (allegedly) tame crocodile.
If you like nature you will enjoy this!! I think Disney copied this ride for their park.
You will like everything: the one thing that gives people pause is taking a dip at the end of the tour inside the jungle. Main reason is that the location has many leaves in the water. I guess people were expecting a swimming pool in the middle of the jungle??? This is the real deal, therefore it's natural which means a little messy. Water is perfectly ok.
4.5 based on 78 reviews
Beach on Matanchen Bay.
We came here a few years back, out of season... it was absolutely delightful and unspoilt as could be. A slice of paradise. A glimpse of heaven!!!
4 based on 65 reviews
One of San Blas' main Beaches.
wonderful beach with very little waves. very safe and calm water. you may be served food and drink right down on the water's edge from several palapa restaurants. Can't comment on the food. We just went swimming and enjoyed watching all the locals enjoying a day at la playa with their families.
4.5 based on 57 reviews
This long and winding river full of exotic birds and wildlife is the perfect backdrop for a water trip.
River cruise in small motorboat was really interesting, gliding through mangroves, white water lilies,with our Mexican guide spotting tortugas ( turtles ), birds, iguana, and of course crocodiles ( they call them cocodrillo ).
A very peaceful, tranquil Eco trip. I am not much of a zoo supporter but I did find that a close up look at the Cocodrillo was informative and I was really surprised that they sleep with open mouths ?
4.5 based on 44 reviews
This beautiful bay lined with restaurants and sandy Beaches is the best place to swim in San Blas.
We visited Matanchen on a Monday morning. I had hoped for so much more than what we got. The previous weekend had clearly been a busy one with trash left behind. Everything just seemed dirty. With that said there are some spectacular views of the Mountains as you walk along the beach which is quite wide and long. We were the only ones on the beach. I have heard that this can also be a naked beach if you want to go au naturel. None of the restaurants were open but before you go down the road to the beach there are roadside stands that were open on our visit. Aside from the views I'm afraid that I was very disappointed with Matanchen Bay. Perhaps my expectations were too high.
4 based on 46 reviews
Old hillside fort built in 1770.
Average Colonial ruins, about a km. from the town centre, with a good view of the town and the distant Pacific. The mosquitoes take no prisoners; douse yourself with Off! if you don't want instant chikungunya!
4.5 based on 38 reviews
This church is the center of the village, in front of it is the village square, a park. The church is beautiful inside. The most pleasantly surprising thing here is the medium sized black birds which gather in the trees of the park at dusk: they sing the most beautiful bird calls I have ever heard. Their music is more beautiful than even a mockingbird, and there are many of them at dusk.
4.5 based on 23 reviews
There are many passing comments here on TA about the cocodrilario (crocodile preserve) in travelers' reviews of La Tovara or the San Blas River. However, visitors should know that the jungle river trip beloved by birders and other wildlife lovers, the natural springs/swimming hole at La Tovara at which most river trips turn around, and the cocodrilario there are three separate tourist activities which MAY be combined, but are each entities in their own right.
One option is to take the river trip only, focusing on the wildlife and skipping the crocodile preserve, ideally arriving at La Tovara in the evening after it's closed. This leaves you plenty of time on the river (we spent 6 hours with our guide, Francisco Garcia of Safari San Blas) at the most ideal time, late afternoon, dusk and night, when you see wildlife you wouldn't otherwise. What's more, many wildlife enthusiasts are bothered by the condition of the caged animals at the cocodrilario and really prefer NOT to end a day enjoying beautiful creatures in their natural environment by seeing them cooped up in closer, duller confinement than most North American zoos would conscience these days.
It's also possible to take the river trip and add the swimming at La Tovara, with or without a bite to eat at the cafe or a snack or cold drink from its small tienda, and skip the animal exhibit.
Finally, you can do what we ended up doing: driving separately to the cocodrilario on a different day and looking around. Here's a bit more info about how to do that, and what you'll see there.
(BTW, we really hadn't intended to go at all, but on our river trip Francisco told us the jaguar at the crocodile preserve had cubs, and local rumor had it that a famous model had visited that week and done a photo shoot with them. We have a special interest in the world's big cats, which we've been lucky to see in the wild in various countries, and especially the jaguar. "El tigre" is not only a magnificent, canny beast in its own right, but the soul of native cultural and spiritual life in much of the Americas. The lure of the tigre cubs was just too hard to resist.)
It's not hard to find the turnoff to the cocodrilario a few km. south of San Blas on the main highway (76) from Tepic and Vallarta, past the Matanchén boat landing and the naval facility. There's a sign. You then turn east onto a fairly rough dirt road (we did it fine w/o 4WD) for another 2.5 km. The parking lot is at the top of the arroyo the Springs occupy. A somewhat steep flight of concrete steps with a handrail leads down to the entrance. Admission is 30 pesos (US $1.65 today).
Theoretically the preserve exists to help perpetuate the crocodile in Nayarit, whose habitat is shrinking fairly rapidly due to agricultural and tourist development. I'm not clear exactly what they do to achieve this. However, IMHO the complex gives more the appearance of a small, substandard, financially strapped commercial zoo than it does a wildlife refuge.
The main thing any visitor will notice is a number of small, bare croc enclosures surrounded by chain link, each with a shallow concrete pond perhaps twice as long as the croc it contains. The toothy residents are medium and large, topping out at maybe fifteen feet (??) Some, I understand, are merely old and unable to fend for themselves in the wild. Others have been deemed dangerous and taken "off the streets." Whatever the reason, I can't imagine it's a great life for them. They mostly just lie inert in or out of the water. We did watch one plunk in with a huge splash. They don't seem to even notice visitors, much less react to them. I felt sorry for them.
On to the other cages, all of which contain animals native to this San Blas ecosystem. There are several species of beautiful birds, including spectacular lilac-crowned parrots found only here in the area. I enjoyed being able to see them up close, but IMHO all the bird cages are much too small. They are cages, not even aviaries.
We made a beeline for the jaguar. Note that that is singular. There were no cubs to be seen. (That's probably a good thing -- maybe the cubs now have better lives elsewhere?) The jaguar was pacing and didn't look happy. Perhaps it was that it was labeled on its too-small, bare cage as a rufous-bellied chacalaca (an ungainly-looking turkey-ish local bird). Several other things at the facility were ridiculously mislabeled. There was really no educational component to the complex that we could see, in Spanish or English.
Next door to the tigre was a bobcat. It looked bored and restless. Like the jaguar, it totally ignored us. It made us wonder if these animals are tranquilized or just depressed.
Next were two coatis. These were the only lively animals at the reserve. They wrestled with each other and bit each other's tails just like our dogs at home. Still, what a life. Though we were the sole visitors the whole hour we were there, from about 10 in the morning, no employee of the cocodrilario ever spoke with us other than to accept our admission fee, so we don't know the story on these coati or any of the other mammals. Maybe they will eventually be released somewhere?
Last were a deer of some sort (unlabeled) and a couple of collared peccaris (a.k.a. javelinas/wild pigs).
The Springs truly are crystalline as can be. This must have been a gorgeous spot once. Today a fence acts as a croc barrier so you can swim IF you like the idea of sharing your swimming hole with a very large school of tilapia and catfish which follow you everywhere in hopes of being fed. It doesn't float my boat. I suspect soon enough the fish will become the crocs' dinner.
We would really have liked to see a pamphlet or sign, in Spanish and/or English, that explains the work of the refuge. As a retired educator, I'd have to say the facility abounds in missed teaching opportunities.
Climbing the steps back up to the parking lot was a challenge for me thanks to a mobility impairment. Back at the car we noticed an employees' road branching off from the parking lot and going down behind the animal enclosures. I don't know whether disabled people might be allowed to drive down there to load and unload. It would make the visit easier.
Hope this helps you judge for yourself whether or not the cocodrilario is your cup of tea.
4.5 based on 12 reviews
A marine and avian sanctuary with excellent snorkeling.
Spent a month on Isla Isabel 5 years ago. Living conditions were very rustic (sleeping bags on concrete floors) but the wildlife was very interesting, including many seabirds, some small coral reefs, humpback whales breaching offshore in season. Package tours aren't available so far as I know, and this is definitely for the best given the island's fragile ecology, but special arrangements may be possible with the national parks service.
4.5 based on 6 reviews
A lonely and beautiful stretch of beach.
Right at the end of the main beach in San Blas. Very desolate. Good shelling. If you walk to the estuary, you will see oyster divers doing their thing.
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