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Driving to Puerto Vallarta


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We found the Ameca route much more interesting, and also free. It does not really save time, but we liked the scenery, lunch stop in Mascota, and being able to avoid Guadalajara traffic. Driving the mountain road also keeps one awake.

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Sorry RV - I don't agree. That back road is insane. It adds at least 1.5 hours drive time. I has been barely maintained, full of holes in the pavement, usually right after blind corners of which there are hundreds. Lots people use the road - because they have to - but most of the vehicles are in very poor repair. It does have beautiful scenery but the driver had better keep every ounce of attention on the road ahead. Take the toll road the whole way - it is well worth it.

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In 2 or 3 years the new 4 lane cuota from Jala off the GDL-Tepic cuota to Bucerias will be open. Reports are that it's about 1/3 complete right now.There is heavy equipment on the highway right now near Jala building that exchange supposedly with planned exits near Compostela, Las Varas, La Peñita and perhaps one or 2 more before dumping out in Bucerias.

In the mean time I also take the cuotas and alternate between Lazaro Cardenas and the Periferico Sur to get through Guadalajara onto the cuota exiting at Chapalilla to Compestela picking up 200 to PV. The windy sections are about 20-30km each with straight stretches in between that allow for passing. The biggest problem is the $%&/()s who pass on blind curves and cut in front of a car to avoid a head-on collision.

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Sorry RV - I don't agree. That back road is insane. It adds at least 1.5 hours drive time. I has been barely maintained, full of holes in the pavement, usually right after blind corners of which there are hundreds. Lots people use the road - because they have to - but most of the vehicles are in very poor repair. It does have beautiful scenery but the driver had better keep every ounce of attention on the road ahead. Take the toll road the whole way - it is well worth it.

Agree with Chillin. While I like & use the free roads in general and for the drive up to the border most times, for the trip to PV, stay on the cuotas. The mountain route is slow, dangerous, and especially during & after the rainy season, (now) due to new potholes and roads being undercut by water flows.

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In the spirit of RV Gringo - who is truly one of the world's great adventurers - I will research the old road from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara. Our family traveled it in 1974 by bus, and I remember some truly memorable valleys and mountains. I have not seen these scenes on the toll road. I know the bus stopped in Tequila and the two lane highway went east/west from there. Does anyone here know if this route is still open?

Edit: here is an article on Mexconnect from 2000. It sounds like the route I remember after all these years is Route 15.

http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/3352-driving-from-puerto-vallarta-to-guadalajara

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I've never see the Mascota route in bad shape except after a heavy storm when they clean up slides on the Vallarta side. I've never seen heavy traffic. And I hate that Compostela to Vallarta 2 lane death trap more than either highway 70 or 80

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The Ameca or free route is more pleasant scenery...I do not suggest it in rainy season due to land and or mudslides.

I prefer the toll roads, time is roughly the same no matter which route we have timed both various times.

The Ameca route to us seemed so much longer but really was not..so we prefer the toll road anyway.

Give a try to each one at least once.

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We usually take the cuota.

Once we took the free road...in the dark...during a rain storm...and yes...we should have had our heads examined for that bad judgement call. My husband is Mexican and in this 30's. He has driven all over Mexico day and night, and isn't easily intimidated. However, that evening, we pulled in to the first little inn and had a night cap to settle our nerves.

All that said...I would consider it again. But I would not drive it in the rainy season, nor at night.

He drove some friends to the ocean and took the free road back in March. He said he made the same time, but the Argentine visitors really loved the scenery.

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About eight years ago, I was hitchiking on that mountain rode, and caught a ride between San Sebastian del Oeste and Mascota. I rode in the truck cab of a young Mexican man and he liked to drive fast and use the entire road when taking mountain curves. Talk about thrilling. I thought I was gonna die. :blink:

I've also driven it, and while it's definitely beautiful scenery, I find the drive exhausting. We prefer the cuota. Except for the bit between Compostela and Las Varas (30 minutes), and a few stretches of HWY 200 when the traffic is thick, it's easy and enjoyable.

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Sorry RV - I don't agree. That back road is insane. It adds at least 1.5 hours drive time. I has been barely maintained, full of holes in the pavement, usually right after blind corners of which there are hundreds. Lots people use the road - because they have to - but most of the vehicles are in very poor repair. It does have beautiful scenery but the driver had better keep every ounce of attention on the road ahead. Take the toll road the whole way - it is well worth it.

The back road is a blast on a motorcycle but is a very challenging road. A lot of mountain grades, switchbacks and variable quality pavement.

If you do go that way, stop for lunch at the first restaurant on the left hand side in Los Jacales. Excellent! I recall that it comes immediately after a bridge over a small stream or wash.

That road will be a tiring, most of the day ride but the scenery really is spectacular. At one point you are well into the pine trees.

I'd allow a full day to drive it so you can stop frequently to enjoy the views.

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My thoughts:

Ameca route is bad at night (narcos on the loose) and when the pilgrims are dragging themselves on their knees and in the roadway.

Ameca is good when it is high season like spring break or 3 day weekend, then Ameca is free and you save an hour or two versus the backup toll highways.

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Mex 15 (the old road, not the autopista) NE to Arenal, Tequila, Magdalena, and Ixtlán del Río. Stay on Mex 15-old until you arrive to Chapalilla.

So no one has traveled the highway 15? I just remember an "Aha!" moment heading towards Guadalajara, into a peaceful valley, with so many colors, and I said to myself "I wouldn't mind living in this country some day". Didn't realize it would take forty years to accomplish.

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So no one has traveled the highway 15? I just remember an "Aha!" moment heading towards Guadalajara, into a peaceful valley, with so many colors, and I said to myself "I wouldn't mind living in this country some day". Didn't realize it would take forty years to accomplish.

We all did prior to then President Salinas starting the Quota roads back in the early 90's.

Possibly the worst road in Mexico was highway 15 from Tepic to Mazatlan.

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We all did prior to then President Salinas starting the Quota roads back in the early 90's.

Possibly the worst road in Mexico was highway 15 from Tepic to Mazatlan.

You don't want to drive the road from Tepic to Vallarta either, death trap!

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The forum is confusing two "free" roads. The we'll traveled and we'll known free road that essentially parallels the pay road is what's being maligned as dangerous and full of traffic. The more recently opened free road to PV via Ameca and Mascota is lightly traveled and very scenic. I understand though b that it is subject to delays during game rain you season. Rule of thumb is if you have to ask take the cuota road.

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"The forum is confusing two "free" roads."

I don't believe so.... we are all, with the exception of one reference by Chillin who brought up the libre 15 paralleling the 15D cuota, talking about the highway 70 from Ameca to Mascota to Ixtapa (PV).

"The more recently opened free road to PV via Ameca and Mascota....."

By 'more recently' I suspect you mean within the last 10 or so years.... that road, between more-or-less San Sebastian del Oste west to Las Palmas, which previously was 4-wheel drive and only that during the dry season, has been opened at least 7 years.... probably more. The mountainous portion of the newer road between San Sebastian and Mascota, that was cut from the mountainside in typical Mexican fashion, is the part that for years would slide away (or have mudslides) during the rainy season. This may still be the case I just haven't driven it 'lately'.

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We drive fairly often between Bucerias and Guadalajara and always take the route through Ameca. My husband does al the driving, and he says the lack of trucks and buses clinch the deal for him. We rarely get stuck behind slow vehicles for very long. And the road has been in good condition this year.

We'll be taking it again in a week or so.

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