DRIVING TIME: 8 hours
HWY: CA 15 & CA 200
Do not take the coastal road to Puerto Vallarta. It is the worst road of the entire trip. There is a fork in the road about halfway between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Stay on the road to Tepic and proceed to Puerto Vallarta via this route. I asked one of the highway police which was the shorter route at the fork in the road, and the officer said that the coastal route was shorter. He failed to mention that there are about one hundred speed bumps and potholes.
The coastal route is about 100k shorter. However, the roads are horrible, and you pass through about 25 small towns. You are better off going to Tepic, then onto Puerto Vallarta. Note that just before Puerto Vallarta, the time changes from Mountain Time to Central Time. Add one hour.
Puerto Vallarta is a great town, and you might want to take a short break here. Next to the restaurant, La Pachanga is a secured place for your vehicle and your belongings. Keep your eye out for places that offer board for cars as you enter these cities. In Mexico, these are pension para coche. Sometimes, you can find a hotel with gated storage or enclosures for your vehicle. If you can’t find a hotel, gated lots usually provide security for holding vehicles during the evening.
If you have a newer vehicle, or you are carrying a lot of nice things that you don’t want to lose, always find a secure place for your car. Otherwise, you may have nothing to return to in the morning. Pay the extra money for vehicle storage, and it’s worth it.
Hotel & Eats
You can find a fair deal of accommodation in Tepic at Hotel-Restaurante Melanie. Many locals go here to celebrate birthdays and other occasions because of their affordable hotel and inviting rooms. It also has a covered and gated parking lot inside the building, so you can rest assured that your vehicle is secure.
Mexico is known for its stretch of coastline, so you need to indulge in some fresh seafood. There are a lot of local chefs opening pop-up stores to your delight. Some local treats you should not miss out on are chilaquiles, an all-day breakfast staple made of tortilla chips in salsa, and pescado zarandeado or fish split in half marinated in chiles, soy sauce, lime, and other herbs and spices. And before you leave town, do not forget to check out their Chocolate Museum.
Don’t take the coastal route to Puerto Vallarta. Follow the signs to Tepic, then proceed on to Puerto Vallarta. At Tepic, the road splits from CA 15 to CA 200. From this point on, you want to use CA 200 as a reference. Some travelers have reported that they follow the road to Tepic, then proceed on to Guadalajara. From Guadalajara, they choose one of the several routes that empty onto the coast: CA 80, CA 110, or CA 37. Don’t want to miss Puerta Vallarta and the surrounding areas because they are undeniably magnificent.
When you first arrive in Puerto Vallarta, you will encounter high rises, the major resorts. Follow the road straight to the central part of town and to the less expensive hotels. When leaving the city, head south along the beach. Next to the bus station, turn right and follow the signs to Colima.
Next Section of Drive
Puerto Vallarta – Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo