San Sebastián’s upland valley was the heartland of the Náhuatl- (Aztec-) speaking chiefdom of Ostoticpac, which translates roughly as “hollow in the highlands.” The people, known as the Texoquines, worshipped the gods of sun and fertility,cultivated corn and cotton, and extracted gold and silver from local deposits.
Although the Texoquines initially accepted Christianity peaceably, they later rose in revolt, possibly in reaction to the rapacious excesses of renegade conquistador Nuño de Guzmán. Then-governor Francisco Vásquez de Coronado marched from the Bay of Banderas into the mountain domain of Ostoticpac, and after a bloody campaign against a determined force of 5,000 warriors, vanquished the Texoquines. The defeated people returned to their homes and fields, and for hundreds of years of Spanish- supervised peace contributed their labor to the church and hacendados, who grew rich from cattle, gold, and silver.
One glance around the plaza  tells you that San Sebastián (pop. 1,000, elev. 5,250 ft.) is unique. It is clear that proud people live here. The town’s cobbled hillside plaza, lined by dignified white buildings and a steepled cathedral, and enclosing a correct Porfirian bandstand, presents a perfect picture of old-world gentility. Such a scene, incongruously tucked at the far end of a winding mountain road, requires explanation.
The “why” of San Sebastián is the same as for many Mexican mountain towns: gold and silver, from mines developed in the early 1600s and exploited at a number of local diggings on and off until the 1930s. Today, however, the gold fever has subsided and the 30,000 people afflicted by it have long departed.
San Sebastián—officially San Sebastián del Oeste (Saint Sebastian of the West) to distinguish it from a host of other similarly named towns—now earns its living in other ways. In addition to the traditional corn and cattle, local folks cultivate coffee, whose red berries they harvest from the acres of bushes that flourish beneath shady mountainside pine groves.
For local handicrafts, stop by La Primavera (tel. 322/297-2856, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6–10 p.m. daily). Friendly craftsperson Luz María Preciado hand-makes many of her offerings, which include a big family of handmade dolls, embroidered pillows, sewing baskets, and Ponche de Guayaba (Guava Punch).
By Bus: Road and weather conditions permitting, a sturdy red ATM (Autotransportes Guadalajara Talpa Mascota, www.talpamascota.com ) bus connects [node;33066 link Puerto Vallarta] with the San Sebastián crossroad at La Estancia, continuing to Mascota  and Talpa . Check the departure schedule and buy your reserved ticket ahead of time at the little store (tel. 322/222-4816, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6–9 p.m. daily) at the corner of Argentina and Guadalupe Sánchez.
Under good conditions, the morning bus arrives at the San Sebastián stop around 9 a.m.. Take drinks and food; little or nothing is available en route.
Note: The ATM bus does not go all the way into San Sebastián, but drops off and picks up passengers at the La Estancia crossing, about seven miles from town. Local trucks and taxis then ferry passengers to and from town.
By Car: Despite the ready bus access, driving your own car or a rented vehicle to San Sebastián on the newly paved all-weather highway from Puerto Vallarta is even easier, and also affords you added independence and flexibility to boot. After filling up with gas—there is no gas station around San Sebastián—drive north past the Puerto Vallarta airport along Highway 200. At the signed Highway 70 right turnoff, continue along the excellent (but slow, watch for speed bumps) paved road about 15 miles (24 km) to Las Palmas. Mark your odometer at the signed fork. Continue straight ahead for San Sebastián, go left for Las Palmas town.
At Mile 19, you reach La Estancia village crossing, with a restaurant and stores. Turn left for San Sebastián. At La Mesita rancho, at Mile 22 (Km 35), turn right for San Sebastián. At Mile 24 (Km 38) pass the Hacienda Jalisco signed gate on the left. Continue another mile to San Sebastián plaza , at Mile 25 (Km 40).