Gringos Guide To Driving Mexico, Central America & Costa Rica
Mazatlán - Puerto Vallarta

Mazatlán – Puerto Vallarta

DRIVING TIME: 6.37 hours
HWY: CA 15 & CA 200

Mazatlán - Puerto Vallarta

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 Mazatlán 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 100 km shorter. However, the roads are horrible, and you pass through about 25 small towns. You are better off going to Tepic and then on to Puerto Vallarta. Note that the time changes from Mountain Time to Central Time just before Puerto Vallarta. Add one hour.

Puerto Vallarta is a great town. You might want to take a short break here. Next to the restaurant, La Pachanga is a guarded place for your vehicle and your belongings. Keep your eye out for places that offer board for vehicles as you enter these cities. In Mexico, they are called pension para coche. Sometimes you can find a hotel with gated storage or enclosures for your vehicle. Still, if you can’t find a hotel, there are usually gated lots that provide security for holding vehicles during the evening.

If you have a newer vehicle or are carrying a lot of nice things 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 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.

Learned Lessons

Don’t take the coastal route to Puerto Vallarta. Follow the signs to Tepic and 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 and then proceed on to Guadalajara. From Guadalajara, they choose one of the several empty routes onto the coast: CA 80, CA 110, or CA 37. You don’t want to miss Puerta Vallarta and the surrounding areas because they are undeniably magnificent. 

Special Directions

When you first arrive in Puerto Vallarta, you will encounter high rises. These are 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

Puerto Vallarta – Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo