Returning back up the road above the cove from Tehualmixtle , you’ll catch a glimpse southward of the azure Bay of Tehualmixtle washing the white-sand ribbon of the Playa de Tehualmixtle. The village of Ipala, three miles down the road, is supply headquarters (unleaded gasoline available) for the occasional visitors drawn by the good fishing, surfing, beachcombing, and camping prospects of the Playa de Tehualmixtle. Being on the open ocean, its waves are usually rough, especially in the afternoon. Only experienced swimmers who can judge undertow and surf should think of swimming here.
From Ipala (29 mi/47 km), you can either retrace your path back to the highway at El Tuito , or continue down the coast (where the road gets rougher before it gets better) through the hamlet and beach of Peñitas (36 mi/58 km), which has a few stores, beach cabañas for rent, and restaurants. Next you’ll pass Mismaloya (46 mi/74 km), site of a University of Guadalajara turtle-hatching station. To get there, turn right onto the rough dirt road just before the concrete bridge over the broad Río María Garcia.
From Mismaloya, return to the bridge, ford the river (during low water) three miles farther, and you’ll soon be back in the 21st century at Cruz de Loreto (49 mi/79 km), equipped with many stores, sidewalks, electric lights, and phones.
After all the backcountry hard traveling, treat yourself to at least one night at luxury eco-resort Hotelito Desconocido (tel. 322/281-4010, toll-free Mex. tel. 01-800/013-1313, toll-free U.S. tel. 800/851-1143, www.hotelito.com ). The accommodations—deluxe (but rustically candle-lit) thatched cabañas on stilts beside an idyllic lagoon—rent from $340 d low season, $450 high for the least expensive, to about $650 for the most, with breakfast. Add $75 per person for lunch and dinner.
From a distance, it looks like a native fishing village. However, inside the houses (called palafitos by their Italian creator), elegantly simple furnishings — antiques, plush bath towels, and artfully draped mosquito nets — set the tone. Lighting is by candle and oil lantern only. Roof solar panels power ceiling fans and warm showers.
Outside, nature blooms, from squadrons of pelicans wheeling above the waves by day to a brilliant overhead carpet of southern stars by night. In the morning, roll over in bed and pull a rope that raises a flag, and your morning coffee soon arrives. For the active, a full menu, including volleyball, billiards, bird-watching, kayaking, and mountain biking, can fill the day. Inquire locally for directions, or follow the signs west to the hotel at the lagoon and beach nearby; reservations are strongly recommended.
If you decide not to stay at Hotelito Desconocido, return to Highway 200 directly from Cruz de Loreto, by heading east 10 miles (via Santiago and El Gargantino) to the highway at the Km 133 marker, just 23 miles (37 km) south of where you started at El Tuito.