Many people like to make the day trip to the petite colonial town of San Sebastian, located in the mountains to the east of Puerto Vallarta. Unless there’s a festival schedule, there’s not much to do in this quiet hamlet but it’s a great place to go for some relaxation and to learn some of the local history. There are a lot of little towns nearby and on the way that you can stop in and explore a little if you’re fortunate to be driving yourself.
If you have the time, I recommend at least staying overnight so that you can really check out the area. There’s some wonderful photo opportunities and scenic vistas on the drive. If you do plan on staying the night, I highly recommend booking a room at Hacienda Jalisco, an old Hacienda from the times when San Sebastian was a vibrant mining town.
Indeed, San Sebastian used to be as bustling and wealthy as any major metropolis in Mexico, with almost 30,000 residents. The Spanish took over the mining operations and the town grew fat on profits from precious metals and gems, but when the mines closed, the people left for other places and now the town holds a mere 1,000 residents.
The only time the town is busy is when the tour buses from Puerto Vallarta bring up the tourists for a day trip. By mid-afternoon, the town is almost deserted again and it’s a perfect time for strolling the quaint streets and poking your head into little shops to buy some locally made jam or candy.
Hacienda Jalisco, an original Hacienda, retains the authentic charm from days long past. From the moment you pass through the gates and cross the bridge to the Hacienda, you will feel as though you’ve been transported back in time. The sturdy building with great wooden shutters sits amid orchards of fruit trees and large gardens that supply much of the food for the hotel. The downstairs is a museum which is well worth a look even if you can’t spend the night. There are documents from the mining operation, including ledgers of payments to workers and accountings of the riches being sent back to Spain.
In other rooms you’ll find more recent history, much of it Hollywood related, as the Hacienda was a favorite of celebrities who came to spend time with the previous owner, who himself came from a Hollywood family. You’ll read personal correspondence from movie stars and dignitaries and see photos from Vallarta’s initial heyday when the Night of the Iguana was being filmed.
The rooms are spacious, with three suites on the upper floors, all containing great fireplaces for warmth during the cool winter months. There is no electricity in the building, just oil lamps for light but there is hot water in the modern bathrooms. The rooms are decorated with antiques and mementos, many found on site from the Hacienda’s previous incarnation as mining headquarters.
Dinner and breakfast are served family style in the courtyard below and in the evenings, guests sit around the central bonfire sharing stories and visiting. It’s a homey, friendly kind of place and perfect for a romantic getaway or just for those seeking a little peace and quiet. In the morning, manager Joe Thompson takes guests on a tour of the grounds and shares some of the history of the area and the Hacienda. By the time you need to leave, you’ll be wishing for just a couple more nights of rustic solitude in the mountains.
Hacienda Jalisco — $80-90 includes breakfast and dinner
Reservations through Pam Thompson: tel. 322/222-9638 or 322/107-7007