San Blas (sahn BLAHS) was an important 18th-century port, and galleons from the Philippines once made regular stops. The town was also a garrison for the Spanish navy, which fended off attacks from French, Dutch and British pirates. The ruins of a Spanish fort stand on a hillside overlooking the harbor.
Surfers and hippies have trekked to this sleepy fishing village since the 1960s. It's also an ecotourism destination; the surrounding mangrove swamps, lagoons, estuaries and jungles provide habitats for about 300 species of birds.
Adventurous travelers wishing to avoid the hubbub of Mazatlán to the north or Puerto Vallarta to the south will find peace and quiet at San Blas, which is accessible via Mex. 15-D to the Mex. 11 turnoff. Note: This road is isolated and jungle-lined; make sure the gas tank is full and your vehicle is in tip-top shape.
Tan-colored beaches encircle nearby Matanchen Bay. Playa Borrego is the most convenient to town. This typical Mexican beach has few amenities but plenty of open-air shacks serving cold beer and whole smoked fish. Playa Los Cocos, reachable by taxi, has a backdrop of palm trees. The rainy summer season is plagued by mosquitoes; jejenes (hey-HAY-nays), or “no-see-ums,” are bothersome biting gnats that materialize at dawn and dusk year-round. As a result, insect repellent is a necessity.
U.S. and Canadian expats appreciate the laid-back pace and the fact that you can walk just about everywhere in town. The main plaza is a pleasant place to hang out and observe daily life. Stalls sell handicrafts, hammocks, jewelry, ceramic plates and woodcarvings, and on Saturday nights the plaza is lively with music and food vendors.