Now that the temperature is rising and the weather report predicts zero percent precipitation, why not dust off your tent and spend a night communing with the crickets and counting the stars?
I’ve received a few messages from some of you precisely on that subject ... always together with the question: but will I be safe?
Fortunately, there are plenty of beautiful campsites out there that fit the bill. Below I’ll list just a few examples to get you started.
But first, in case you are not an old hand at tent camping, let me make a few preliminary suggestions based on years of experience. Before you throw that old or new tent of yours into the trunk, take it in the back yard and actually try to set it up. You will quickly discover if something important (like a tent pole) is missing and at the same time remind yourself of how it all fits together.
Next, give a thought to the items most people forget when they go camping: flashlights—and please note the “s” at the end of the word. Each and every member of the party (except for those in diapers) needs his or her own flashlight! And, in addition, bring along a few spares ... as well as extra batteries. You’ll be glad you did!
I’ll only mention one more thing: many people get turned off by camping because they’re forced to sleep on the hard, hard ground. I suggest that sleeping in a tent should be just as pleasant as sleeping in bed and that this can easily be accomplished by investing in a good, self-inflating mat like Therm-a-Rest, which has been lulling smart campers to sleep for nearly 50 years.
Although the campsites mentioned below are quieter than most, noise is almost always a problem in Mexico, particularly on a Saturday night. You can improve your chances of enjoying peace and quiet by heading for that campsite on a weekday night.
Here are three sites which are described more fully in “Outdoors in Western Mexco, Volume I”:
Laguna La María, Colima
Camp on the shore of a gorgeous crater lake. At night, walk along the road to watch the famous Volcán de Fuego (Fire Volcano) spitting lava into the air. Look for “Ecoturistico downtown Laguna La Maria” on Google Maps (the “downtown” is a mistranslation of “centro”). Get there in three and a half hours from Guadalajara or only three from Ajijic.
Santa María del Oro, Nayarit
Another crater lake, even more gorgeous than the one above, with clean, almost warm water for great swimming. Camp at Koala Bungalows and enjoy great organization as well as delicious breakfasts. Look for “Koala Bungalows, Nayarit” on Google Maps. Get there in two and a half hours from Guadalajara, three hours from Ajijic.
Campamento el Pedernal, Bosque La Primavera
This campsite is located just south of the little town of La Primavera. Here you can camp in the woods, but under the watchful eye of mounted police officers and within sight of picnic tables, a zipline, a little clinic and toilets. Not far away are the hot-water balnearios (hot springs) of Cañon de las Flores and Las Tinajitas and, of course, Río Caliente. Look for “Campamento el Pedernal, Ejido La Primavera” in Google Maps. Only 25 minutes from Guadalajara and 90 minutes from Ajijic.
In Volume II of “Outdoors,” you’ll find these great sites for camping:
Campamento Agua Dulce, Jalisco
Here you can camp next to a small pool fed by a spring of cold, clean drinkable water, in which you can also swim! Agua Dulce is private property, located in a gorgeous setting, and has a lookout tower, a zipline and offers pony rides. On Google Maps it’s listed as “Rancho Ecoturistico, Bosque de la Primavera” and you can get there from Guadalajara in 35 minutes, or one hour and 45 minutes if you’re coming from Ajijic.
El Nevado de Colima, Jalisco
One of the very best places to camp or hike in western Mexico, with some of the tallest trees I’ve ever seen and fantastic scenery made all the more beautiful if you go when there’s snow. You’ll be camping at 3400 meters (11,155 feet) altitude, so be prepared for the cold. Note that the campsite could be overcrowded on weekends and holidays. Google Maps will take you to “Campamento La Joya, Parque Nacional Nevado” in about three hours, both from Ajijic and Guadalajara.
La Manzanilla Beach, Jalisco
Put up your tent at one of the great campsites on the beach, swim to your heart’s content, and be sure to go walking along the 650-meter-long boardwalk loop through the mangroves, where you’ll see plenty of exotic birds and iguanas as well as American crocodiles ... and don’t miss the dusk boat ride through the estuary! Head for “Camping El Horno del Catrin” with Google Maps. Driving time is a bit under five hours, whether from Guadalajara or Ajijic.