Are you visiting Tepic, Nayarit? This city is bursting full of sights and smells. Perfect for a weekend trip, Tepic offers a variety of attractions and nearby towns which together create one weekend full of road trips and adventure!
My story guide includes what to do and see in and around Tepic, Nayarit, including La Laguna de Santa Maria del Oro, the popular coastal town of San Blas, and the Matanchén Bay.
Que lindo es Tepic, y todo Nayarit! -Banda El Recodo
Guide for Visiting Tepic in Nayarit
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Paul and I start the day off running errands. We take a bus to Sayulita to pick up our rental car from Budget (which we don’t highly recommend). After a delicious poké + smoothie bowl brunch at Organi-k in Sayulita, we head to Puerto Vallarta to tie off some last-minute to-dos.
The road to Tepic from Sayulita/San Pancho roughly takes about 2 hours 20 mins+ via Highway 200. You can also take a bus to Tepic via Hwy 200 for a budget-friendly alternative. We had to rent a car because of Yoda, our traveling kitty.
We arrive in Tepic in the late afternoon and check-in to our Airbnb at Elbita’s little guest home. This is the first road trip Paul and I take since moving to Mexico in April earlier this year (Yes, we’ve been quite settled in our pueblo known as San Pancho).
Tepic Day/Evening 1
For the sake of this guide, here’s what we did + what we missed out on (but that you should try to do while you’re there!).
For our first night in Tepic, we walk to the centro downtown area, where the neo-Gothic Tepic Cathedral lights up the sky. The plaza principal will immediately sweep you up in its charm with its neatly-trimmed trees and shrubs that look like they come straight out of a Super Mario video game.
The square is full of entertainment and games. There was a small crowd gathering around some street performers, kids running around, vendors selling flashy toys and trinkets, and the fountain is spraying a light mist of water just in front of the brightly-lit Cathedral colored in purple lights.
Tepibus (Night tour)
After we explore the plaza and its lively side streets, we grab a torta (sandwich) at a local shop and head back to the plaza to get on the nighttime Tepibus! The Tepibus was recommended by our Airbnb host, so we ended up going for it that night in order to avoid the heat during one of the daytime bus tours.
We board the Tepibus, grabbing a seat on the top of the bus. It was a cute trolley bus and it only costs $40 pesos per person. Definitely snag a seat on top to get the full experience of the city’s sights at night!
The tour takes about an hour. The bus takes you to see Tepic’s top sights and even hidden attractions, explaining each place with an amusing Spanish audio tour.
The atmosphere of the bus is fun with music, singing, and even some scary storytelling! Don’t forget to duck your heads when going under trees as some branches and cables tend to hang low!
Late-night treats at Café La Flor de Cordoba
After our awesome Tepibus tour, Paul and I were so tired but at the same time, craving sweets. Luckily, there’s a café that stays open late on the main plaza where you can get cakes, coffee, teas, and more. We ordered one pan de platano (banana bread), an oreo cheesecake, and two fruity tisanes for bedtime. The portions are big and the prices are a-ok but we were a little disappointed by the taste!
Tepic Day 2 + La Laguna
The whole weekend announced rain for both Tepic and Santa Maria del Oro. But luckily that didn’t stop us from going!
We heard of Santa Maria del Oro and its legendary Laguna (lagoon) which sits inside an old volcano crater. Yes, it sounds magical and it is indeed a beautiful place. On your road trip there, you’ll have sweeping views of the Sanganguey volcano and lush green fields full of wildflowers.
Getting to La Laguna de Santa Maria del Oro
La Laguna de Santa Maria del Oro is approximately 55 km east of Tepic. Getting there is easy if you have a car, but otherwise, you need to take a bus first to the town of Santa Maria del Oro, and from there another bus/van to the lagoon. Additionally, you can rent or take a bike and travel from Santa Maria del Oro to the lagoon via the bike path (which looks pretty neat and was totally empty!).
There is a lovely view of the lagoon from atop the road before winding down the next 1-2 miles to the lake. Make sure to stop here to snap some pictures and if you like, browse the handicrafts laid out on the tables nearby.
What to do at La Laguna
Once down at the lagoon, parking is relatively straightforward. Since it was low season, we just parked in front of the restaurant right in front of the SAMAO (Santa Maria del Oro) colorful letters.
There was hardly anyone in sight, so we just hiked along the road parallel to the lagoon. There are dozens of campsites where you can camp and eat at the adjacent restaurant. It’s the perfect quiet setting for a peaceful getaway!
We didn’t get the chance to rent a kayak or paddle to go out on the lagoon, nor did we get the chance to swim because the water was a little high (and it started to rain). However, I do believe renting a kayak/paddleboat/canoe/boat/or bike is possible via the little tienda that sits just next door to the restaurant under the tree by the roundabout. I am unaware of prices.
Once it began raining, Paul and I began to explore the roads via our rental. It was super mysterious for some reason because the road was very overgrown and never ended. Houses became richer and sparser, so at one point (after about 15-20 minutes) we decided to turn around and just have a drink at the restaurant while overlooking the lagoon (beware of the prices!).
Next time we’ll have to dive into the inviting, blue water as soon as there’s nice weather!!
Late Lunch in Tepic @ Burrito Piñata
The hour drive back to Tepic left Paul and me hungrier than ever. Luckily, we knew of the perfect place to get lunch; at the Burrito Piñata, a popular vegetarian Mexican restaurant.
The Burrito Piñata is actually owned by a friend whom we had the chance to meet here in San Pancho. He also is working on another Burrito Piñata, but this time it’s a co-working space for designers and other like-minded folks who earn a living online.
In fact, that’s how we ended up meeting him because our internet in San Pancho is always going out, so one day we tried out that new co-working space in town. Isn’t it funny how things work out?
Anywho, the Burrito Piñata in Tepic is the perfect place to get authentic Mexican cuisine. Not only is the food made with love by down-to-earth people, but the atmosphere of the restaurant is also cozy and inviting, with newspaper-plastered walls and tri-colored seating and miniature donkey piñatas all over the place.
It’s located about 10-15 minutes by foot from downtown Tepic. Their menu is simple and festive! Best of all, it’s affordable and delicious!
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss out on Burrito Piñata’s delicious apple-strawberry fritter served with a side of ice cream!
Museo Regional de Nayarit / Nayarit Regional Museum
We sadly didn’t have time to visit the Nayarit Regional Museum because of closing hours on weekends (9-3 on Saturday, closed on Sunday, and open 9-6 weekdays).
Nonetheless, a visit to the museum is extremely worthwhile as it is full of pre-Hispanic traditions of Nayarit out on beautiful display throughout seven different exhibition halls. We regret not checking ahead for the opening hours (what NOT to do while in Tepic..).
You can find more information about what to expect at the museum here. Entry costs $50 pesos.
After we saw that both this museum and the Juan Escutia House-Museum were closed, Paul and I went back to the main square to go inside the Tepic Cathedral. A mass was in session at the time, so we stood at the back and listened in for a while. The inside of the neo-Gothic cathedral is beautifully decorated, so make sure to stop by, even if just for a moment!
Other Must-See Sights in Tepic
Here are some other top Tepic sights and attractions we didn’t have time for, but that I would recommend looking into before your trip.
- Emilia Ortiz Contemporary Art Center (free entry)
- Amado Nervo House-Museum (free entry)
- Museum of the Five Peoples (free entry)
- La Loma Park
- Hiking to Mirador Las Aguilas
As you can see, there are many things to do and see in and around Tepic!
Half Day in San Blas + Matanchén Bay
Take advantage of Tepic and its environs by visiting San Blas and Matachén Bay. San Blas is a bustling local town marked by its rich history as a seaport for the Spanish colonialization.
To get there, take the interstate from Tepic all the way to San Blas. The trip is quick, with lots of rolling hills in between to observe.
Paul and I park our car on a quaint side street. We stroll along searching for some breakfast when we stumble upon a quaint, authentic Mexican restaurant. We walk to the Center Plaza, where historic buildings still standing (some crumbling) make the atmosphere enchanting.
Paul and I didn’t have much time to explore. Plus, we were traveling with our cat Yoda so we were slightly limited.
In any case, here is what I recommend you to visit if you’re spending some time in San Blas.
- Visit the Contaduría, a 1770 stronghold that sits atop the San Basilio Hill.
- Tour the Rosario Temple ruins (down the hill from Contaduría).
- Check out the Battalion of San Blas
- Surf and beach it up at Las Islitas
- See turtles, crocs, and more at the Cocodrilio Kiekari
- Take a river tour through the mangroves at La Tovara National Park
After our quick tour around San Blas, we packed up the car and headed toward the Matachén Bay to check out the beach. There was hardly anyone, with the exception of restaurant staff workers waving down our car to park at their restaurant.
We hopped out of the car and took a quick dip in the bay. Hammocks were lined on the edge of the water and children were playing happily in the sand. Matachén Bay seems like the perfect location for young couples or families since there are little to no waves in the bay.
Right when we went to leave and head back home to San Pancho, a sweet lady approached us selling her fresh-out-of-the-oven banana bread with chocolate chips for only 70 pesos. It was the perfect treat for the ride home!!
Final Thoughts: Spending the Weekend in Tepic, Nayarit
Tepic is the capital of the state of Nayarit, and while I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite city visited thus far in Mexico, it definitely offers an arrange of culture, art, and history for nationals and internationals to discover!
Have you been to Tepic? What would you recommend doing while there? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for making it this far in my guide to Tepic! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to reach out.