The Complete “Little Big Sur” Users Guide
What is “Little Big Sur”
“Little Big Sur” (LBS) is our palapa in the jungle about two hours south of Puerto Vallarta in a village called Los Chonchos. It is only accessible by water taxi from a beach town called Boca de Tomatlan (about 45 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta). LBS is totally off the grid, but has electricity, full kitchen, full bathroom and enough room to sleep anywhere from 2-8 people.
You will be visiting a place of paradoxes. LBS is miles and miles away from anything, yet you’ll be able to see civilization pass you by each day and night. You’ll be living OUTSIDE, affected directly by the weather, insects, animals, ocean, and everything that crawls around; but you’ll have ice, electricity, indoor plumbing, and your Blackberry will work. After the first 30 minutes on the water taxi towards LBS, you’ll think, “What have I got myself into?” After the first 30 minutes at LBS, you’ll be thinking, “Oh, this could be good.” If you’re like me, you’ll be worrying that there’s nothing to do out here, but you won’t be bored for one minute.
Because LBS is in a remote location, one generally has to cart in food and everyday supplies. For this reason, we recommend staying the previous night in Puerto Vallarta to do your shopping.
This Users Guide will make more sense once you’re there. In the meantime, print this for reference.
Getting to Puerto Vallarta and the airport
Many airlines fly to Puerto Vallarta either directly or indirectly. Indirect flights via Phoenix (the best alternative), Dallas, Guadalajara (a great little airport) or Mexico City (to be avoided if at all possible) are all available. Prices range widely by season and we recommend booking as far ahead as possible.
PV’s airport is modern and compact. You’ll go through Immigration first and then walk to baggage claim, pick up your luggage and go through Customs. All luggage is x-ray’d at customs to see if you’re bringing in undeclared items. If you are one of the unlucky ones and get a red light at customs, your bags will be searched. This is not a big deal as we’ve literally brought in tons of stuff to PV and only once paid a 100 peso fine. If you’re bringing in any new items, we suggest taking them out of their boxes and keep your receipts.
Once past Customs, just walk through the doors and keep going despite a bunch of official looking folks aggressively trying to get your attention. They are all time share salespeople. Just ignore them or tell them you live here. Go out the door on the right and look for a white taxi.
If you’re staying at the Corona Adobe, tell the Taxi driver “Corner of Corona and Miramar in El Centro.” Ask what the cost is ahead of time (there are no meters on taxis, rather they charge by zone). Fare is about 230 pesos.
Your Stay in Puerto Vallarta before going to LBS
More often than not, you’ll end up staying a night in PV prior to going out to Little Big Sur. We offer combination packages of our Bed & Wine and Little Big Sur. When you arrive at Corona Adobe, just ring the bell and you’ll be let in. You’ll be shown to your room and given a set of keys.
- Everything you eat and drink needs to be brought in with you, including booze, food, HB&A, water, bug repellant, etc. LBS has a fully operational kitchen and solar refrigerator. All kitchen utensils are included.
- We recommend shopping at Soriana (near the Marina and Walmart)or the Mega supermarket. Both are almost like US supermarkets. Walmart is a good backup. Here’s a link to all supermarkets in PV: http://www.puertovallarta.net/fast_facts/puerto-vallarta-supermarkets-groceries.php
It’s easy to get around in Puerto Vallarta as there are taxis everywhere. You will need to walk down the hill from Corona Adobe to get a taxi. Tell the driver where you want to go and always ask what the cost will be before getting in.
There are many, many things to do in Puerto Vallarta. Go to http://www.coronaadobe.com website for some ideas.
Getting to Boca de Tomatlan and the water taxi ride to Los Chonchos
The first step is a 45 minute land taxi from Puerto Vallarta to a beach town called Boca de Tomatlan south of PV. Walk down the hill from Corona Adobe and flag a taxi. Tell them you’re going to Boca (the charge should be around 200 pesos). Since you’ll probably be carrying a lot of stuff, have the taxi go back up to Corona Adobe to get your things.
The morning taxi leaves at 9:00AM. You should be in the land taxi on the way to Boca no later than 8:00AM.
Once you arrive in Boca, tell the driver to drop you off at the pier (there’s only one, but its way to the right as you drive down the hill). There is one water taxi that goes to Los Chonchos and its called “Nayalit II”. You load onto the taxi at the lower platform at the end of the pier. You can pay 50 pesos to one of the kids to help you cart your stuff to the end of the pier.
At 9:00AM (or 3:00PM in the afternoon) they start to load the taxi. The taxi drivers will load your belongings. SIT AS FAR BACK IN THE TAXI AS YOU CAN. for a smoother ride. This should cost anywhere between 125-150 pesos. If you have lots of stuff, its nice to tip the drivers 50 pesos each.
The water taxi ride to Chonchos is either one of our favorite or least favorite parts of the trip, depending on how much stuff we have and how rough the Bay is. The ride hugs the shore going south and the view is spectacular, with the jungle mountains coming right to the water’s edge. The taxi stops at little villages along the way and you’ll be amazed that people of all ages and health climb in and out of the boat. This should give you encouragement that you, too, can do it.
Landing on the beach at Los Chonchos
We unload the taxi from the front. Which means that once you get close to Chonchos, you’ll crawl toward the bow and get ready to jump off the boat into the surf.
- Off-loading Hints to Keep in Mind. (1) You will jump/slide off the boat in the surf. You will get wet. Everything in your pockets will get wet. Anything that you value should be put in a Ziploc bag – wallets, passports, watches, etc., etc. We’ve never lost anything to the water, but we’ve seen it happen. So, just assume it’s a Normandy-style landing. (2) Get off the boat as it goes down in the surf, not up. The driver and his helper will signal you when to jump off. (3) Don’t carry anything when you jump off, or else you’ll probably lose your balance. Once in the surf, we’ll begin the process of grabbing stuff off the boat and carrying it up the sand to safety.
Finally, don’t bring a lot of stuff because you’ll end up carrying it up the Mule Highway. No nice suitcases. Preferred luggage is an old duffel bag that has wheels so you can pull it up the hill, rather than carry it.
Once onto the beach, you’ll be greeted by one of the men and taken up to Little Big Sur. LBS is high on the cliff overlooking the bay, about 1000 yards from the landing beach. The path to LBS meanders in through the jungle and requires something other than flip flops to negotiate safely.
The weather and what to wear
The official Season in PV is from November-May with the weather usually in the 80’s during the days. It sometimes gets a bit windy/chilly at night, especially in the Feb-March timeframe. Since we’re in effect living/sleeping outside, one “dresses” for the weather.
Shorts and a swimsuit, no long pants are required. I would bring a couple of tops– t-shirts, a long-sleeve t-shirt, and a fleece jacket/vest for night. For a couple of days last March, we had on every layer at night as there was a 20+ mph winds etc.
Shoes are the hardest to figure out. Flip-flops are the shoe of choice in PV and once at LBS. I use water-shoes for the trip out and back, but bare feet are fine as well. You’ll probably want to bring a hiking sandal – something that’s open, has straps and is waterproof. Flip flops don’t work for hiking.
There are three beds and two couches. Only the master bedroom has walls. There is a Queen size bed upstairs, which is the second best place. There is a King size bed outside on the lower deck. This has the best view and ocean sounds, but is totally outside. Bundle up. There is a big couch in the living room. And another smaller couch on the outside deck that is large enough for sleeping.
The Kitchen and Cooking
In most ways, this is your standard kitchen, except it has no Microwave. And its outside so the wind can blow the flames out of the burners. And you never, ever leave anything out, as all sorts of animals will have a midnight snack. Equipment includes oven, range, solar refrigerator, and Mexican Weber. All the pots and pans you’ll probably need are also there. If you have a question, ask for it. There’s full electricity, but we’ve never used a plug-in appliance except for a blender. We have lots of light. Drinking the water is fine.
The number one activity is lying around and reading. We have a lot of books and magazines, but I suggest you bring reading material of your own. You’ll probably hike around some. You can go swimming and snorkeling (we have snorkeling equipment). There are kayaks if you’re brave enough. And, of course, there’s lot’s of fishing, but of a different kind. The locals use a line and some bait thrown into the surf. You may not believe me, but you won’t be bored.
There’s no TV, VHS or DVD player. Bring a computer if you want to watch movies and stuff off that. If you have a favorite DVD, bring it. Music is like important. We only have a flimsy portable CD player with aux speakers. If you have an iPod, stuff it and bring it. There are plenty of wall sockets if some of you want to bring your computer, etc. BUT, make sure its adequately covered in multiple zip locks in the unlikely case it is dropped in the surf.
A Few Rules
- Never walk around at night in your bare feet. Always wear open toe shoes (like flip flops). While most of the things you might step on are harmless, one – a scorpion – is not. They like closed-toe shoes, etc.
- Never put toilet paper down the toilet (this goes for most of Mexico, not just LBS.) There will be a trash bag for used paper.
- There is no medical help out here. We have some basic first aid stuff. So, if you fall over the railing and break your leg, we’ll have to carry you to the taxi and get you back that way. I would avoid edges when drinking.
- We have no personal injury insurance, so give up on that idea as well.
Packing Up and Catching the Water Taxi
Taxis back to the mainland run twice a day (about 11:00 AM and about 5:00PM.) These times can vary by as much as an hour – if you miss the taxi, you’ll have to wait for the next. Sometimes the taxis don’t/can’t stop because of rough seas.
Packing up LBS is a lot like packing up a boat – everything needs to be put away, out of nature’s reach. All perishable food should be given to neighbors (unless someone is coming out in the next few days).
Getting Back to the Airport
It’s possible to catch a plane out the same day you leave LBS, but its difficult. You’ll need a late afternoon flight (from 4:00PM+) so you can catch the water taxi the same day. Here’s a rough guide for planning purposes:
- Catch the taxi (11-11:30AM)
- Water ride (1 hour)
- Unload, find a taxi/private car at Boca (30 minutes)
- Taxi ride to Old Town PV (45 minutes)
- Taxi ride to airport from Old Town (30 minutes)
It’s good to be at the airport at least two hours before your flight.