From Guadalajara head west toward Nogales then about 10 miles from Guadalajara take the “Cuota” (toll hwy) towards Tepic. This is a magnificant highway cut through a beautiful mountain landscape with almost no signs of human development. Continue for approximately 2 hours, passing Ixtlan del Rio and driving up the side of the Ceboruco volcano, a geologist’s dream. After cresting the mountain watch carefully for the turnoff to Chapalilla/Puerto Vallarta. Follow the winding road down the mountainside of sugar cane to the valley town of Chapalilla.
Just out of Chapalilla watch for the Pto Vallarta/Compostela turnoff. This is another beautiful highway which climbs another volcano and winds past the mountain town of Compostela then runs into highway 200 to Puerto Vallarta. Another beautiful, windy road takes you up a mountain and then down to the Pacific coast at Las Varas. Pass all the fruit stands, smell the humid ocean air and drive on another 45 minutes to km 123 marker and the Sayulita turnoff.
From Guadalajara to Sayulita
Leaving Chapalilla take the turnoff to Pto.Vallarta/Compostela
The route from Guadalajara to Sayulita is easily marked with plenty of public road signs to Puerto Vallarta. Head west on the “Cuota” (toll hwy) towards Tequila, a town worth visiting for obvious reasons if you like the stuff. Continue for approximately 2 hours until the turnoff to Compostela. Continue for an hour on Hwy Mex 200 down the incredibly windy / curvy road to Las Varas and on ahead for another 45 minutes to km 123 marker and the Sayulita turnoff. The drive is gorgeous all the way, with plenty of spectacular views, although we highly recommend that the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, as Mexican highways don’t always have the same railings and other safety features as American highways; also, while Highway 200 has had extensive renovations in recent years, there are still occasional unexpected potholes, and a big one can do serious damage.
Rumor has it a new superhighway, most likely another cuota, or toll road, will soon link Puerto Vallarta with Compostela. This will speed things up and also get all the big slow trucks off of Hwy 200. The new road will therefore be a tremendous boon for those of us coming and going from Sayulita.
Driving up the side of the Ceboruco volcano
God knows we’ve all crawled up the hills between here and Bucerias at a snail’s pace many a time, one in a pack of 40 cars stuck behind a doble semi-remolque (double length trailer truck) filled to the brim with plastic bottles of Coca Cola. We’d love to see that truck move its fat slow self onto another, faster road. We’ll keep you all posted on the highway’s progress.
If you really don’t want to pay the cuota, which can get pretty pricey if you’re on a budget, the older “free” highway, which is much slower, runs parallel to the cuota between Guadalajara and Compostela. On either road, you’ll pass through some visually dramatic countryside, including a close brush with the lava fields and calderas of Vulcan Ceboruco.