Easily accessible by car and about 45 minutes south of Tepic  by either old Highway 15 or the new toll autopista Laguna Santa María, tucked into an ancient volcanic caldera, offers near-perfect opportunities for outdoor relaxation. The lake itself, reachable via a good paved road, is big, blue, and rimmed by forested wildlife-rich hills. You can hike trails through shady woods to ridgetop panoramic viewpoints.
Afterward, cool off with a swim in the lake. On another day, row a rental boat across the lake and explore hidden tree-shaded inlets and sunny, secluded beaches, and sit in a palm-fringed grassy park enjoying the lake view and the orange blossom–scented evening air.
The driving force behind this seemingly too-good-to-be-true scene is Chris French, the personable owner/operator of lakeshore Koala Bungalows and Trailer Park. He’s dedicated to preserving the beauty of the lake and its surroundings. It seems a miracle that, lacking any visible government protection, the lake and its forest hinterland remain lovely and pristine. The answer may lie partly in its isolation, the relatively sparse local population, and the enlightened conservation efforts of Chris and his neighbors.