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San Sebastian: A must-see day trip when visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I had just broken the law in San Sebastian, Mexico, and the first person I saw was a police officer. I felt a tinge of panic as our eyes met. I envisioned being hauled away to a jail and being forced to sign away my mortgage to make bail money.

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Well, it was just a little crime. There was a sign outside a public toilet saying that it cost 3 pesos, or about 25 cents to use it. But I had no change and there was no change in the basket where people were supposed to leave the money so I just left without paying.

When I saw the cop just after I left the men’s room, I quickly looked away from the officer and walked away in the other direction but not so quickly that the officer would think I was trying to get away. I made my quick getaway and got back to enjoying the charming city of San Sebastian.

San Sebastian is a town of only 600 people but once was home to 30,000 during the height of the silver mining bonanza in the 1800s. It is just a 90-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta but feels like a world apart from PV.

At 3,000 feet above sea level, the climate is cooler and drier and the air is clean and fresh. San Sebastian has a museum devoted to the history of the town and the old white washed historical buildings are still in tact.

If you go, I would strongly recommend Vallarta Adventures. The tour begins from Puerto Vallarta at 8:30 a.m. and drops guest back off at 5 p.m. The Vallarta Adventures tour includes much more than just San Sebastian.

See the video on the left for highlights of the tour. Click to play.

Stops along the way include the historic Hacienda Jalisco that was once both an inspiration and a home to legendary movie director John Houston. Other sights included a coffee roastery, an agave distillery and a stop at a spectacular bridge that connects two sides of a gorge on the way from Puerto Vallarta to San Sebastian. (See photo on left.) It's not exactly part of the tour, but the bus also goes by the jail outside of Puerto Vallarta. See the slideshow photo on the left.

My tour in late June was led by Carlos Joel Villasenor. He was the perfect combination of entertainer and educator. Even if you were dragged on the tour by someone and couldn’t care less about Mexican history or culture, you couldn’t help to be drawn into the experience by Carlos. His enthusiasm was infectious and it was only matched by his knowledge of Mexican history and culture. He was so entertaining, that it made you forget that you were learning something at the same time. Whatever Vallarta Adventures is paying him, it’s not enough.

Carlos took the tour on a walk through the farm in the back of the coffee roastery where many of us sampled some fruit that many of us had never even heard of, including sweet lemons for the first time.

By the way, the San Sebastian tour is one of the more mild adventures offered by Vallarta Adventures. It is suitable for kids and seniors. You can do a lot of walking if you like during the stops but if you prefer, you can take it easy and hang out closer to the bus. A lot of free time to explore was built in both at the Haciena and San Sebastian stops.

The tour includes a continental breakfast while you wait to board. A stop for lunch is a definite highlight of the trip. The restaurant is beau fully situated on a hillside with a sweeping view. You can get to meet your fellow travelers over a large table that stretches the lentth of the restaurant. Fresh squeezed juices along with coffee and freshly made tortillas are served with the main course. Guests are given samples of a locally produced liquor when they arrive and are invited to line up to sample a tortilla hot of the press.

The all-day tour costs $84 and is discounted by 15% if you buy online. Vallarta Adventures also offers a 3rd tour free when you buy two. You have the option to tip the tour guide and the driver at the end of the tour. The tours start and end in Puerto Vallarta’s Marina area as well as north of the city in Nuevo Vallarta.

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