By Sigurd Neubauer
Are you passionate about hiking?
Surrounded by mountains, rivers and lush forestry, Puerto Vallarta is idyllically positioned off Mexico’s Pacific coast. The city stands out as a high-value destination for those interested in authentic Mexican culture combined with numerous outdoor recreational opportunities such as hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and snorkeling, among others.
“In Puerto Vallarta, we have lots of activities because we are surrounded by the Bay of Banderas, the Sierra Mountains, the rivers of Mismaloya, Los Horcones in Boca de Tomatlán and the Pacific Ocean,” explains entrepreneur Luis Bahena who founded Mexitravels in 2013.
For the ambitious hiker, who is in reasonably good shape, Bahena recommends the El Cerro del Mono (Monkey) mountain. “Once you’re at the summit, which is approximately 1,150 feet high, you can take in the majestic view of the Bay of Banderas – and beyond that the Pacific – in all of its splendor.”
The hike itself is about 90-minutes long, Bahena says. “One should always bring plenty of water, snacks, comfortable shoes, and of course sunscreen,” he recommends. The trail is located 27.7 miles (44.6 kilometers) to the north of Puerto Vallarta where it sits at the outskirts of the Higuera Blanca community.
But most of the scenic hikes are on the southern side of Puerto Vallarta, Bahena explains.
The most scenic hiking trails are south of Puerto Vallarta. Photo credit: Mexitravels
For families with young children, the tourism expert recommends hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Colomitos Beach, which is approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometers). “It is an easy and leisurely hike, which takes approximately 60 minutes.” Depending on your child’s age and ability, Bahena recommends the minimum age of six or eight.
This trail is located 15.4 miles (24. 8 kilometers) south of Puerto Vallarta.
For those interested in something in between the demanding hike to the El Cerro del Mono summit and the leisurely walk from Boca de Tomatlán to Colomitos Beach, Bahena recommends the Palo Maria waterfall and the el Jorullo mountain, respectively.
“During the rainy season, which runs from June to October, the Palo Maria waterfall and its surrounding areas are simply stunning,” he explains.
For families with young children, Bahena recommends hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Colomitos Beach, which is approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometers)
While the Palo Maria the el Jorullo mountain waterfalls are both in the western part of the Sierra Madre, they are in different locations of the mountain range. Bahena recommends hiking to Palo Maria during the rainy season and to the el Jorullo waterfall during the rest of the year as it “always has water.”
The Jorullo Mountain is located 15.1 miles (24.3 kilometers) south of Puerto Vallarta.
While the hike is approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) – and takes most people 60 minutes to complete – the hilly terrain requires comfortable shoes as one must walk around big rocks, Bahena explains.
For those enjoying horseback riding – where mountainous views are combined with the ultimate beach experience – Bahena recommends the Higuera Blanca community as a starting point.
The Higuera Blanca community, as we have seen, is the same gateway for the demanding El Cerro del Mono hike, which is located to the north of Puerto Vallarta.
From Higuera Blanca, Bahena’s Mexitravels provide a horseback riding excursion into the Sierra Madre mountains – where the terrain is difficult to access by foot – before descending onto the beach. While the activity is four hours long, it is divided between a two-hour horseback ride; one hour in each direction and the remaining two at the beach. The activity is available for adults only.
Playa Boca de Tomates is known for its romantic and majestic sunset. Photo credit: Visit Puerto Vallarta
Three excursions are offered daily, with the first starting at 9am and the last one timed so that one can fully savor a romantic sunset on the beach, Bahena reveals.
For those preferring solitude and the ultimate privacy, Bahena recommends a horseback excursion to the south of Puerto Vallarta. The four-hour excursion is available for those interested in surveying the Sierra Madre mountains at el Jorullo “where one can have a great connection with nature,” he says.
“Most of the time you’re the only one there; you are alone in God’s majestic nature,” the Mexitravel CEO explains.
While the activity is four hours long, it is divided between a two-hour horseback ride – one hour in each direction – it ends at the top of the mountain. The tour is in the El Jorullo mountain for a visit to a tequila factory where the nearby Los Coapinoles restaurant is available for lunch and rest. This excursion offers two departures daily, seven days a week.
“75 percent of newly established businesses in Mexico fail,” says Bahena while explaining that “the country’s business climate is a difficult one as the regulatory environment is constantly changing.” Obtaining credit and financing is also very difficult, he adds.
But Bahena believes in hard work and determination as his company is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
He started out in 2013 by offering concierge services to Casa Yvonneka, a 14-bedrom villa overlooking Puerto Vallarta. Its proprietor is Yvonne Kalman ,the ultimate insider, in Puerto Vallarta as her love affair with Mexico goes back to 1940.
From 2013-2016, Bahena sold different activities and tours to third parties for a commission, he recalls.
In 2016, Bahena established a corporation after Kalman introduced him to other owners in the rental business, which helped him grow his business. Behena currently provides concierge services to more than 25 properties, and he’s established strategic partnerships with various companies in the United States and Canada. Mexitravels provide services in Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and Cancun.
75 percent of newly established businesses in Mexico fail
In addition to providing concierge services, Bahena provides transportation services around Puerto Vallarta, including to the various hiking sites but also to and from the airport.
He also provides food tours -allowing his guests to sample the best of what Puerto Vallarta has to offer – as well as city tours. Mexitravels also offers spa services at the various properties it manages.
Bahena’s transportation fleet includes seven Mercedes Benz mini buses and other small comfortable vehicles, of which each carries up to 20 passengers. “People prefer Mercedes because of its comfort,” he says.
Bahena credits his success to Kalman, whose friends and associates affectionately refer to her as “Yvonneka.”
“People like Yvonneka play a critical role in the community,” Bahena explains as “she always tries to help people. It was her initial introductions to the rental business that helped me grow my business into what it has become,” the entrepreneur explains.
People like Yvonneka play a critical role in the Puerto Vallarta community. She always tries to help people: Bahena