Gazing up the steep hills along Highway 200, about 45 minutes northwest of Puerto Vallarta, the picturesque, tile-roofed villas and undulating terrain is enough to convince the stoutest Francophile they’re cruising along France’s Cote d’Azur. A charming pocket of Jalisco, Mexico, this stretch of Banderas Bay, is a hidden gem that’s yet to be overdeveloped. The gifted local artisans and serious gastronomes offer a slice of Mexico that is simply unparalleled in the larger, resort-filled cities.
My folks have a house in the small community of Punta de Burro where we revel in the chance to unwind and bask in the warm, moderate climate during the winter months. Although we spend ample time lounging on the beach and playing in the surf, a highlight of every getaway is inevitably the Sunday Market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. An overabundance of bespoke goods, farm-to-table food and fresh produce, this market rivals even the most lauded markets of Provence. Vendors from all over western Mexico vie for a spot to showcase their wares. The organizers maintain meticulous standards and only allow vendors that offer original, hand-crafted products – no reselling allowed. Fashion designers feature their own creations, weavers bring blankets they’ve dyed and woven personally, coffee roasters bring their sustainably-farmed beans down from the mountains and the food stands send your olfactory senses into a state of sheer nirvana.
The venue is no less impressive with a location along the La Cruz Marina that now includes the local fish market where the freshest fish on Banderas Bay is sold to locals as well as restaurants. But my favorite aspect of the market has to be the vendors. A varied array of talents, the people behind these products are true artisans and are more than happy to chat about their craft or share anything that strikes you about this special corner of Mexico.
Just a few of my favorite vedors:
Siruela es Ropa de Autor
Siruela’s hand-crafted garments are so light and whimsical, you’ll feel like you’re floating inside of them. Organic materials, crafted in Mexico, in their small, quaint workshop, these dresses feel like a modern-day cross between Stevie Knicks and Zelda Fitzgerald. The designer, a pint-sized Mexican beauty, is as enchanting as her dresses and is a genuine auteur – or autor. http://instagram.com/siruelaropadeautor
El Fortin de San Sebastian Coffee
Sustainably farmed in the mountains around the town of San Sebastian, El Fortin’s beans are roasted in-house and deliver a pure, aromatic delight that rivals personal favorites like Intelligensia and Savannah’s Perk. If you miss the Sunday Market, they also have a café in Sayulita that is well worth seeking out.
Ukranian-born, Oksana Oliinyk, aka – the spice connoisseur, offers an array of beautifully packaged spices that will send any gourmand’s heart aflutter. While she offers guajillo chiles, epazote and a host of locally grown, organic herbs and spices, Oksana’s thoughtful selection also includes high-end offerings from around the world including exotic sea salts, coneflower, Iranian Saffron and Ukrainian chives – just to name a handful. Her breadth of wisdom is not limited merely to the culinary arts but includes a near-encyclopedic knowledge of medicinal properties of each herb and spice as well.