Extended Weekend Trips from Guadalajara

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By
Wesley
December 2, 2023
6 min read

Just a few hours west of Guadalajara lie some of Mexico's best kept secrets - charming towns, secluded beaches, outdoor adventures, and cultural gems waiting to captivate weekend wanderers.

When you need an escape from the daily hustle of city life, the surrounding regions of Jalisco and western coastal states offer the perfect blend of accessibility and allure for revitalizing mini-getaways. Whether you seek a camping trip under the stars, catching the perfect wave, or soaking in mountain hot springs, a tantalizing trip tailored to your taste lies just a few hours away. 

This quick guide will unveil the best escapes so you can immerse yourself in all that western Mexico has to offer when you just can't wait for the next holiday to recharge. In just a weekend, let these magical destinations transport you on Mexican retreats you won't soon forget.

If you are staying in Guadalajara for a certain amount of time you may want to venture out and see what this beautiful area of the country has to offer. I wrote these as extended weekend trips since most places are over 3 hours away but if you are on vacation they make a perfect getaway to see more of surrounding Jalisco and western Mexico.

Find your next adventure in Guadalajara - explore our guide for insider tips and recommendations!

Puerto Vallarta Malecon, boardwalk
Puerto Vallarta Malecon, boardwalk

Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita

These beach cities are a combo. Vallarta is a top tourist spot and you can drive or fly there (about 45 minute flight and 5.5 hour drive). It's built up with all the western hotels and home to beautiful waters and beaches to enjoy. Take a relaxing weekend to escape to the ocean and enjoy amazing fresh seafood.

Located just 1 hour north from Puerto Vallarta is Sayulita, located in neighboring Nayarit state. It's a small hip beach town that is popular among backpackers and those looking to relax away from beaches filled with tourists. You'll find plenty of exciting activities to do here, from surfing in breathtaking Sayulita beaches to hiking the majestic mountains where you can enjoy mesmerizing views of the surrounding jungles.

It's on your way if you're driving to Vallarta from the city. Remember there will be tolls on the highway out. Will cost around $500MXN both ways.

Lak Chapala from the pier
Lak Chapala from the pier

Lake Chapala

The small towns of Chapala, Ajijic and San Juan de Cosala (about 15 minutes west) are located on the north shore of Lake Chapala and about an hour from Guadalajara. These quaint town are also popular among many westerners who are looking to relax and explore. Cosala is a little less known but is a gem.

The first stop should be Chapala or Ajijic, where you can explore cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. Take a stroll through the parks, sample local cuisine at outdoor restaurants or shop at a local market. Here you will be at the lakefront and can take in the cool breeze off the water and walk along the promenades to take in the gorgeous views. I would suggest staying in one of these cities since they are more built up.

You'll find thermal springs and spas in San Juan de Cosala. This is one of the best places to  get away to and just relax in hot spring waters, pools, spas, and temazcals (traditional sweat lodges, similar to steam saunas). I always feel so rejuvenated after being there. Also, you are on the lake so the views are amazing to take in while you soak and relax. Cost will set you back around $800MXN but it's well worth it for the day.

San Blas beaches in Mexico, San Blas Pier
San Blas beaches

San Blas (in Nayarit)

Once you arrive, head to Playa Las Islitas and Bahia de Matanchen to soak up the sun and enjoy water sports like bodyboarding and sailing. Want to get a closer look at marine life? Take a snorkeling or scuba diving tour at Los Arcos Marine Park. You can also go boating through the mangroves and get close with crocodiles. If you're visiting during the winter, you can make it out for whale watching. It's amazing to see! You can read more on my guide to San Blas here.

This sleepy beach town is located about 3.5 hours away and will cost around $800MXN both ways if you plan on driving. Fair warning, be sure to bring some mosquito repellant! They are really bad around this area during certain times of the year.

Guanajuato city
Guanajuato city

Guanajuato (in Guanajuato)

Nothing compares to a weekend away in Guanajuato. This picturesque, colonial Mexican city has something for everyone. To start off your weekend, you should begin by exploring the incredible mummy museum. It's an eerie yet fascinating experience.

Guanajuato is also known for its beautiful plazas and cobblestone streets - perfect for meandering through with some gelato in hand. You almost think you are in Europe for a moment. You can read my guide on Guanajuato here. At a little under 4 hours away it's not too far to reach for

Leon

Located in the northwest of Guanajuato state, Leon is an excellent choice for a weekend trip. At only 2.5 hours away, you can start your adventures at Centro Comercial Altacia, where you can indulge in shopping and dining. Afterward, head to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Light to marvel at its stunning architecture. Don't forget to visit the famous Cathedral of Leon, one of the largest churches in the city. Take a stroll down Madero street, where you can discover hidden attractions and cool sights.

For a unique experience, check out the Catacombs at Templo Expiatorio or the Colina Gravitacional (Gravity Hill). If you're feeling adventurous, walk across the Heroes' Causeway Arch and take in the beautiful views. Leon is full of exciting activities, so get out there and explore!

Mazamitla (in Michoacan)

Dubbed the "Little Switzerland" of Mexico, are plenty of outdoor activities here to suit your preferences. There are plenty of cabins that you can stay in just outside the city in the mountains. Green Forest Tours offers a three-hour tour to Cascada El Salto, a breathtaking waterfall you won't want to miss.

I really enjoyed getting out of the city and into a different environment all together. If you're looking for something more low-key, take a stroll through the town and check out the Parroquia de San Cristóbal, a church with an unexpected Asian design.

Beaches of Manzanillo

Manzanillo (in Colima)

The largest port city on the Pacific, Manzanillo is known for its beautiful beaches, outdoor activities, and easy access to other nearby destinations, it's only 4 hours away by driving. Take an ATV off-road adventure or go snorkeling and/or surfing in the Pacific waters. Spend the day exploring the different beaches, including Playa La Boquita, where you can watch the local fishermen lay out their nets and catch waves with surfers.

Barre de Navidad and San Patricio

A more local beach in the south of Jalisco, these towns are just across the bay from each other and are a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle you will get more touristy beaches. These spots are about 4.5 hours away from the city and just 30 minutes north of Manzanillo. The water here is much calmer and you can do sport fishing and swimming in the harbor.

With its rich culture, stunning landscapes, and abundance of activities, the areas surrounding Guadalajara offer the perfect weekend escapes. From the beaches of Puerto Vallarta and hidden coastal gems like Barra de Navidad, to the thermal springs of Cosalá and Swiss charm of Mazamitla, there are endless opportunities to relax, explore, and make lasting memories just a few hours away. 

Wherever your interests take you - seeking adventure, connecting with nature, soaking in rich history, or simply unwinding - you'll find a perfect retreat that suits your taste. With convenient proximity, so much diversity, and plenty left to uncover across western Mexico's towns and regions, a revitalizing getaway awaits anytime you need a change of scenery from Guadalajara proper.

Final Thoughts

With its rich culture, stunning landscapes, and abundance of activities, the areas surrounding Guadalajara offer the perfect weekend escapes. From the beaches of Puerto Vallarta and hidden coastal gems like Barra de Navidad, to the thermal springs of San Juan de Cosalá and Swiss charm of Mazamitla, there are endless opportunities to relax, explore, and make lasting memories just a few hours away. Wherever your interests take you - seeking adventure, connecting with nature, soaking in rich history, or simply unwinding - you'll find a perfect retreat that suits your taste. With convenient proximity, so much diversity, and plenty left to uncover across western Mexico's towns and regions, a revitalizing getaway awaits anytime you need a change of scenery from Guadalajara proper.

Sources:

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Written by:

Wesley
I consider myself a world-travelling nomad and a foodie at heart. Born in Germany and raised in East Tennessee, my passion for exploration has taken me all over the planet - exploring unfamiliar lands and cultures is what truly inspires my soul!
Sidra
I live outside of Doha and consider myself an inside expert on all things Qatar. I love exploring all the country has to offer and look forward to giving you valuable insights of where I call home!
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