Friends Visit Vallarta: 2024

Visiting Vallarta seems to be on everyone’s radar this year and we’ve had more visitors this past winter than all the years we’ve been in Mexico combined! So much fun to at least 24 of you! Apologies if we missed getting a photo of you in our blog.

Most people don’t come to Vallarta specifically to see us, however, we are always grateful when you let us know you’ll be in town and make time for a meal or a get-together. We love taking friends and family on urban hikes and showing you the less touristy side of town, including a few of our favorite hole-in-the-wall places to eat and drink. (Reminder to click smaller images to view them larger throughout the post.)

Seattle sailing friends: Sara & Aaron (a.k.a. “Heavy”), Eric & Chris and two of their grown daughters visited PV during Christmas (sadly we didn’t get a group photo! but Eric and Kirk can talk for hours, and did!), and Christine visited us for a week aboard Due West.

Our friend Christine returned with us from our visit to Ajijic and stayed with us for a week. A former cruiser herself, she’s very used to boat life and sleeping in a small bunk. She’s also a cat lover, and Tosh & Tikka loved all the extra attention from their Aunt Christine! Plus having Christine in town gave us a great opportunity to check out a couple of new things we had not done before. 

International Charros Competition

The first fun event was spending an afternoon at the 12th Annual International Charros Competition, or Charreada (“chaad-ee-yaddah”), which is always held in late January. This year it was held at Hacienda Serena, in the small town of Las Palmas, just outside of Puerto Vallarta. This international competition included teams from Mexico, the US, and Latin America.

The Charros all have such fancy ropework, it was fun to watch.

Charreadas — which combine bull riding, horsemanship, and livestock activities — are public demonstrations of some of the traditional Mexican herding and equestrian practices. According to an Arizona Highways article, “After the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s, the sport’s practices were formalized, and today, charrería is Mexico’s national sport.” 

Charras at the 12th Annual International Charros Competition, Las Palmas, Jalisco, Mexico

These Charras were waiting to perform their drill-team-like precision maneuvers.

Charros/Charras are the Mexican version of cowboys and cowgirls—with much more class and style than typical Western rodeos. “Unlike American rodeos, which feature individual competitors and a focus on speed, charreadas are team events that mostly reward precision and style. And unlike rodeos, there’s usually no prize money — the charros and charras compete for honor and glory.”

In this particular event, the Charros rode their horses into the stadium FAST, then had to stop on a dime and not cross the marked line… this one didn’t do so well, but many stopped just short of the line.

The rope work of the charros and the precision riding of the charras (sidesaddle and in traditional dresses!) was impressive. In one event, a charro rides out on his horse, gets alongside a wild horse, and jumps on its back and rides it bareback, until it stops. Talk about great horsemanship! We did not personally care to watch the bull roping and horse roping events—though the charro’s incredible rope-work skills were impressive. (It’s animal cruelty in our mind, though we understand the traditional necessity on a working ranch, it does not seem necessary as a sport). So during those events, we walked around the stadium and took in the wonderful people watching, and some great Mexican food too!

Outside the stadium, lots of tack shops were set up where you could buy anything from spurs and bridles to saddles, hats, and boots.

Charras at the 12th Annual International Charros Competition,Las Palmas, Jalisco, Mexico

These Charras above had already competed when we arrived and were in the grandstands watching the events. The Charras below were waiting to enter the stadium to compete, including one with her little daughter. And the little girl in the bright red dress was so cute, running around like a tomboy while her mom was trying to keep her dress neat and clean!

We took an Uber to the Charros competition (about 45 minutes away), since we weren’t sure exactly where it was located and how to get there by bus. And we’re pleasantly surprised to learn we could take a bus back to Vallarta. And not just any bus—the Las Palmas bus, one of our favorite buses that we often ride around town, but had never ridden to “the end of the line”. So now we know where it goes! A fun afternoon filled with costumes and pageantry!

Road trip to Mascota, Yerbabuena, Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla, and Navidad.

The second fun thing we did with Christine was take a road trip to the small, rural towns of Mascota, Yerbabuena, Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla, and Navidad, in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains.

Mascota to Navidad Map

Our original intention was to show Christine around two Pueblo Magicos (the rural agriculture town of Mascota, and the old silver mining town of San Sebastian). These small towns are a 2+ hour drive up the mountains from Puerto Vallarta. We have enjoyed visiting them several times before with other friends. So we hired our driver friend Osbaldo (“Ozzie”) for the day and set out. 

However, when we were doing a bit of research about what not to miss on our day trip, we ran across some information about visiting three other tiny towns east of Mascota, further up in the mountains. So we made a group decision to bypass San Sebastian to visit those smaller towns instead for a nice change of scenery. And we were so glad we did. Ozzie even learned something new to share with his future clients!

image from Wikipedia

Our first stop was at Puente El Progresso, “the progress bridge” (above photo courtesy of Wikipedia) spanning the San Sebastian River. Ozzie insisted we stop for coffee and pastries at Panaderia Carmen’s Bakery. Traditional Mexican coffee usually includes cinnamon and piloncillo (“pee-lone-see-oh”, raw dark brown sugar). Kirk normally takes his coffee black, but this time he went for the cinnamon and sin azucar. Heidi has never developed a taste for coffee and there were no gluten-free pastries to be had here. Ozzie was the only one to partake in the homemade pastries, which he said were delicious. There is a great viewpoint of the river and the large single-span concrete arch bridge over the deep canyon. And on the far side is a tequila distillery that also makes a coffee-tequila liquor which we’ve tasted before.

Leaving Mascota to the south, take the east road (far left) to get to Navidad, Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla, and Yerbabuena.

Once in Mascota, we decided to drive to the end of the road first and visit the town of Navidad, stopping at the other towns on our return back to Mascota. The rural scenery was beautiful, with many oak trees and cattle— reminiscent of parts of California—as well as some pine trees, and cultivated blue agave fields. This area is known for its raicilla (rye-see-ya)—a type of agave moonshine similar to mescal—hence the abundance of blue agave here. 

The road was only paved where the tires traveled and cobblestone or grass/dirt in between. The further up into the hills we got the narrower the road became—in some places only one lane, so we had to pull over for a few oncoming cars. But for the most part, we were the only car out for a Sunday drive on this gorgeous rural road. The image above is looking down on the town of Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla with lots of blue agave fields and avocado orchards.


Navidad is the last town at the end of the road, at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet. It originated in the 1600s as a silver mining town. Navidad means “Christmas”—and the town may have gotten its name from the date it was incorporated, but that’s also been disputed, so who knows? When the mines closed, it became a small agricultural town, predominantly growing apples, peaches, and plums. Unfortunately, the current population has dwindled over the past decades as kids grow up favoring the big city lights, over the agricultural tradition of their families. At its peak, the population was 1,200, today it’s only 170. 

We were there on a Sunday and the small town was mostly closed up. But we had a nice walk exploring the streets and houses (can you spot the horse?!) and visiting the beautiful church. The smallest towns in Mexico will have the most amazing churches—they are all so proud of their churches, and they’re very well kept up. The colored stonework inside this iglesia was beautiful. Luckily for us, one charming restaurant (below with Charro decor), was open for lunch.

Apparently, July is the best time to visit Navidad, as they have a big celebration there, so we may have to go back and check it out! Plus being at an elevation of 6000’ would make it nice and cool in the heat of the summer! Navidad also had quite a few large, modern new homes, so it may be an upcoming vacation spot or bedroom community for Mascota, PV, or Guadalajara.

Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla

After lunch, we headed back down the road to the tiny town of Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla (translates to either “Little Bighorn Raicilla” or “Big Boy Raicilla”—no idea!), at an elevation of 5,000′, and population of just 130 people. Presumably, since the town has ‘Raicilla’ in its name and they grow tons of blue agave, they must make Raicilla there. But again since it was a Sunday afternoon, everything was closed, including their beautiful, ornate little church—it was a tiny, cute, two-street town, but we didn’t spend more than about 10 minutes here. Note to self, this gorgeous drive and tiny-town visit is best done on a weekday if you want things to be open, LOL!


Continuing down the mountain towards Mascota, the next town we stopped at was the much larger Yerbabuena (meaning “good herb” or “peppermint”) with a population of 317! At an elevation of 4,200’, this charming agricultural town is steeped in Charro culture. It also has a lovely small lake with ducks and geese and a path to walk around it. 


Apparently, you can take a small boat around the tiny lake (photo courtesy of but considering you can walk fully around it in 15 minutes… the boat ride would be pretty short! We stopped into the parish of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the center of town.

It is interesting to see how each church is decorated with different colors inside (this one was all in red, white, and green for the colors of their patron saint Guadalupe). We also stopped at the Temple of Yerbabuena, an old stone church structure, now mostly in ruins. Zoom in on the stone altar, look at the work that went into building it, and what it must’ve been like in its hey day. 


Back in Mascota, (Mascota translates to “pet” in Spanish, like a cat or dog, but in this case, the name happens to be short for an Aztec word meaning “Deer Valley”) So presumably there were or are deer here. Again, being Sunday not much was open in Mascota. But we did stop at a Raicillaria (rye-see-ya-ree-ya!) and tasted one of the top raicillas in the area. (Oh, the irony on the door next door to the raicillaria… and Kirk liked this triangular Eruopean-looking house on one corner of Mascota too.)

We also visited the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Temple ~ This unfinished construction is one of the most memorable attractions in Mascota. Designed to become Mascota’s primary sanctuary when construction began in the 19th century, it was never finished and now is a beautiful garden with imposing stone walls, a perfect backdrop for cultural events. Christine, Heidi & Kirk are INSIDE the church, not outside… The ornate Mascota cemetery is on the outskirts of town. And the town square is always full of old Caballeros.

All too soon it was time for Christine to head back to Texas… but lots more friends were on their way!

Oh, the People We’ve Seen!

We’re grateful to everyone who visited Vallarta this season and made plans to meet up with us. Here are some of the highlights…

Heidi’s cousin Bruce and his wife Barb stopped by on a Cruise Ship for a day. And Albuquerque friends Marty & Rafael were in town with their kids and grandkids, so we grabbed lunch with them one day.

Fun visits with more Seattle Sailing friends, Wendy & Garth (check out Wendy’s books about their family sailing adventures, “Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Oddesy”, and “Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape & Bailing Wire.” Our dear friend Steve also visited to race with our mutual friend Fred, and we are so grateful for our time together on Steve’s visit. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks later. Steve and Kirk had raced together in the J-24 Masters Regatta for many years, and we loved to visit with Steve & Max whenever we were in town. Steve is very missed by all who knew him. We also met up with Seattle boating friends Marcia & Denny and Tom, but somehow failed to get a photo. Thanks for the visits!

Waaaay-back friends Gary & Kim visited Vallarta to celebrate Gary’s 75th birthday, Kim’s sister lives here too. Kirk and Gary were roommates back in the day, and Gary was also one of Kirk’s groomsmen in our wedding nearly 31 years ago! Love you guys and so great to spend time with you in Mexico!

More Seattle-area sailing friends… Marty & Deborah have a Passport 40 like ours, and we can’t WAIT for them to sail south one of these days soon! And our friend Jodi was here with some of her family, and we got in several nice visits. Thanks for bringing my hat back from Ajijic!! Jajajaj!

SOOOOO much fun with these crazy kids! We met Allison & Merle and their two boys in our first year cruising Mexico, and we all hit it off famously! In fact, the first time we ever rode a bus in Vallarta (2017) was with them! Sadly for us, they headed back to Canada for several years, and we were so grateful to have them back for a couple of months in Vallarta this year. Allison and Heidi have been tight buds ever since and started a women’s group on Zoom together.

We also met mutual friends of all of ours, the Ladducci family, at the same time we met Allison & Merle. Josie, Christian, Nina (not here this visit), Ella Mae, and Taj are one of our favorite boating families… They sailed off across the Pacific to New Zealand for a few years, then sold their boat, bought another one in the Bay Area, and sailed back down to Mexico. When we first met Taj he was 3 and wearing his dad’s waaay too big clothing… now he’s 11 and riding a skateboard. These are all amazing, good people, keep an eye out for them if you’re sailing Mexico. We loved every minute of our short visits with them.

As we mentioned in the last post, Tosh has a lump growing on his forehead. Sadly, the biopsy came back as bone cancer in his cranium bones, and it’s growing fast. Our allopathic vet says there’s nothing they can do here. So we are working with Dr. Judy Jasek, a Holistic Vet out of Colorado (thanks for the referral Marty!), and another Holistic vet here in Vallarta. We’ve started Tosh on several herbal remedies as well as CBD oil for pain, and are hoping we can resolve this like we did his previous cancer 5 years ago. Tikka has been super sweet and attentive to him, she knows he’s not feeling his best. Despite having half his energy, poor Toshi still tries to play and be himself. Thanks for all the positive vibes and good healing juju sent his way. If you’ve ever met Tosh, you know he has a one-in-a-billion personality!

Heidi is still working virtually with her wellness coaching clients and running her Revive & Thrive group wellness coaching program for women again this spring. Her past participants have made huge wellness strides which she’s thrilled about. And she was also just interviewed in Canvas Rebel Magazine, which paints a good picture of how she uses functional wellness to work with her clients.

Aaaaand…. she’s also had a couple of big changes in her other work and functional wellness studies this month. After 10 years with UK-based Neal’s Yard Remedies (selling organic personal care products), they’re eliminating their independent contractors this month. So she’s now working with another clean health & beauty company called Lemongrass Spa that’s been around for over 20 years. Their organic, toxin-free, products are handmade in Colorado and Florida (a smaller carbon footprint than shipping from the UK, and a better price point than NYR too, so we’re excited about that!)

Heidi’s making a shift in her Functional Wellness training as well. The School of Applied Functional Medicine recently made some big changes and let many staff go including Heidi. So she’s now focusing her studies at the Academy of Naturopathic & Functional Wellness and hopes to be certified by late summer. It’s a great fit and they have 5-6 hours of live (Zoom) classes and case studies each week.

In other news, we were recently surrounded by high-end racing sailboats that raced in the San Diego to Vallarta Yacht Race, and MEXORC (Mexican Ocean Racing Circuit) here in Banderas Bay. Kirk will post a race report on that soon. Kirk continues working on the list of seemingly never-ending boat projects, and we’re still hoping to get out cruising for a few weeks this spring—if everything comes together, before our new summer house-sitting gig begins. A lot will depend on how Tosh is feeling. We’ve also been enjoying monthly game nights with a group of friends, rotating houses or boats. So much FUN and laughter, great for the soul!!

Clockwise from bottom left: Alfredo, Heidi, Kirk, Boni & John, Emily, and Shanti playing Left-Right-Center aboard Due West.


  1. Shane Moore on April 15, 2024 at 2:31 pm

    Love the update. What a full
    and amazing look for you lead. Hang in there Tosh!

    We are selling our boat, but thrilled about the fun we’ve had on it the other ast four years.

    Big hugs!

    Shane & Lybby

  2. Devon on April 15, 2024 at 2:40 pm

    Sounds like you’ve had a fantastic winter! So sorry to hear Tosh is not doing well! Still sending good vibes his way!!♥️💋♥️

  3. jackie lindseen on April 15, 2024 at 5:54 pm

    Wow you guys have been really busy. You wouldn’t have had time for us. We have missed a year down there but will be making our final trip this October. Maybe we can do a coffee or lunch. I hope you guys have enjoyed the breakfast place I told Heidi about. Maybe it will even still be there. I found an Italian place on top of a building just a little way up the hill from the breakfast place. Hope it’s still there too.
    Kiss your babies and hug each other.
    Maybe see you in the fall.
    Dwight and Jackie

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