Need Advice to Driving from LA to Puerto Vallarta

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Need Advice to Driving from LA to Puerto Vallarta


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Old 15th July 2011, 02:43 PM
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We are moving from Claremont, California to Sayulita (outside Puerto Vallarta) in January for about 18 months. We will be driving our car (possibly with small trailer). We have two kids (12 and 8) who are excellent travelers. We would like your advice.

1. What route should we take?
2. Where should we cross the border?
3. Where should we stay along the way?
4. How many days should we allow for the drive?
5. What else should we know?

Thank you in advance for your help!

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Old 15th July 2011, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Tonydavid View Post
We are moving from Claremont, California to Sayulita (outside Puerto Vallarta) in January for about 18 months. We will be driving our car (possibly with small trailer). We have two kids (12 and 8) who are excellent travelers. We would like your advice.

1. What route should we take?
2. Where should we cross the border?
3. Where should we stay along the way?
4. How many days should we allow for the drive?
5. What else should we know?

Thank you in advance for your help!

I would cross at Mexicali and have all your items that you taking listed for customs and any car entrance documents, car insurance, tourist visas etc, done there. TJ is good but the freeway to Mexicali from TJ is a quota and has many hair pin turns, costs with a trailer about $450.00 pesos [the cost of a hotel in Mexicali]

There is only one cuota [toll freeway] to take to the turnoff to PV from Mexicali and just Google Map it. I would recommend staying in Mexicali overnight and leave very early in the morning and seeing if you can drive the 800 miles to Culican, about 12 hours, to arrive by sunset. When there i would stay at an upscale hotel with security. Then you can make PV the next day before sunset if you leave early in the morning. I recommend not driving at night in Sinaloa or Nayarit. I would stay on the quotas and not use the libres [old highways, too many speed bumps and towns]. The last streach Hwy. 200 into PV is slow and curvy, it will take quite awhile to transverse. Don't miss the exit which says 2 KM. to Sayulita, it is hard to see or you will have another long distance to go to turn around.
Good luck. I am sure others can give you more advice on the particulars, there are many to consider when staying 18 months.

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Old 17th July 2011, 01:16 AM
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IMO, stay in the US as long as possible & cross south of Tucson at Nogales. They are advising avoiding the highway on the Mexican side that parallels the US border that you will have to take if you cross at Mexicali. At least, they were 2 months ago when I was there. Crossing at Nogales (Mariposa crossing) southbound is no hassle and you can get insurance on the US side before you cross. Crossing there northbound is hassle, i usually cross at Lukeville further west coming north. Cross around 8 AM, allow an hour to do vehicle paperwork at km 21 and you can easily make San Carlos well before dark. The reason I say Nogales is that you can pretty well take toll highways all the way south which are safer. From San Carlos, you can make Navajoa in an easy days drive. Next day you can make Mazatlan. You can get to PV from Mazalan in another longish day. I would avoid Culican, the Cuota bypasses it anyway. You may want to go via San Blas to avoid Tepic although the road is a bit rough in places..

You may want to put a request for travel buddies on http://www.mexicotravelbuddies.com. Partnering up with an RV traveler works as most campgrounds have motels next or attached to the them. I will be going down myself in early January, stopping at San Carlos (hotel next door), Huatabampito (Hotel attached), Celestino (Hotel attached) and then either PV or heading inland at the San Blas turnoff not far north of it. I will likely enter my own info on that site once my dates are firmer, but i can assure you you will find a group to travel with and you do not have to have an RV for it to work. I had no problem picking up 4 other parties last January. Just mention that you have no problem convoying with RV's as RV's are most of the people posting there.

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Last edited by telcoman; 17th July 2011 at 01:24 AM.
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Old 17th July 2011, 03:30 PM
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IMO, stay in the US as long as possible & cross south of Tucson at Nogales. They are advising avoiding the highway on the Mexican side that parallels the US border that you will have to take if you cross at Mexicali. At least, they were 2 months ago when I was there. Crossing at Nogales (Mariposa crossing) southbound is no hassle and you can get insurance on the US side before you cross. Crossing there northbound is hassle, i usually cross at Lukeville further west coming north. Cross around 8 AM, allow an hour to do vehicle paperwork at km 21 and you can easily make San Carlos well before dark. The reason I say Nogales is that you can pretty well take toll highways all the way south which are safer. From San Carlos, you can make Navajoa in an easy days drive. Next day you can make Mazatlan. You can get to PV from Mazalan in another longish day. I would avoid Culican, the Cuota bypasses it anyway. You may want to go via San Blas to avoid Tepic although the road is a bit rough in places..

You may want to put a request for travel buddies on Mexico RV Travel Buddies. Partnering up with an RV traveler works as most campgrounds have motels next or attached to the them. I will be going down myself in early January, stopping at San Carlos (hotel next door), Huatabampito (Hotel attached), Celestino (Hotel attached) and then either PV or heading inland at the San Blas turnoff not far north of it. I will likely enter my own info on that site once my dates are firmer, but i can assure you you will find a group to travel with and you do not have to have an RV for it to work. I had no problem picking up 4 other parties last January. Just mention that you have no problem convoying with RV's as RV's are most of the people posting there.
To stay in the US calculates to driving from Mexicali to Hermosillo 365 miles. The way to Hermosillo through Nogales from Mexicali or El Centro Calif. is 485 miles, 120 miles farther and the roads in Mexico are all good. What would be the advantage to doing this except maybe you can pick up a caravan from Nogales?

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Old 17th July 2011, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by AlanMexicali View Post
To stay in the US calculates to driving from Mexicali to Hermosillo 365 miles. The way to Hermosillo through Nogales from Mexicali or El Centro Calif. is 485 miles, 120 miles farther and the roads in Mexico are all good. What would be the advantage to doing this except maybe you can pick up a caravan from Nogales?

My main concern is Highway 2 from San Luis to Sonoyta. That highway parallels the US border for a couple of hundred miles, its very remote, and I would be concerned about driving it with 2 young children. Especially if he is driving an SUV or pickup. (I don't know if he is) I am not the paranoid type, I spend 5 months a year driving in Mexico, but my philosophy is to always get a couple hundred miles south of that border area ASAP. That is also a very long haul with kids to reach even Hermosillo in a day, considering stops for permits and the border. That is why I prefer a clear shot south. At the very least I would suggest he use Lukeville rather than Mexicalli. That road will have more tourist traffic in January and he could also maybe pick up someone else to travel with there. You just don't want to try & use that crossing on a Friday. Since there is little on the US side except the Phoenix area, he would be best just to aim for Santa Ana for the first night stop if he uses that crossing. Or Mexicalli for that matter.

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Last edited by telcoman; 17th July 2011 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 17th July 2011, 04:21 PM
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Actually out of curiosity, I just mapped it all out on Streets & Trips. Claremont to Hermosillo via Nogales is 1122 KM, Claremont to Hermosillo via Mexicali is 1021 km. 100 km or 60 miles less. I am betting they would more than make that up in time because the US travel is 100% freeway. Will cost more in fuel, of course. Via Lukeville would only save them 5 km over Nogales and 50 miles of that is on secondary road.

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Old 17th July 2011, 05:48 PM
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My main concern is Highway 2 from San Luis to Sonoyta. That highway parallels the US border for a couple of hundred miles, its very remote, and I would be concerned about driving it with 2 young children. Especially if he is driving an SUV or pickup. (I don't know if he is) I am not the paranoid type, I spend 5 months a year driving in Mexico, but my philosophy is to always get a couple hundred miles south of that border area ASAP. That is also a very long haul with kids to reach even Hermosillo in a day, considering stops for permits and the border. That is why I prefer a clear shot south. At the very least I would suggest he use Lukeville rather than Mexicalli. That road will have more tourist traffic in January and he could also maybe pick up someone else to travel with there. You just don't want to try & use that crossing on a Friday. Since there is little on the US side except the Phoenix area, he would be best just to aim for Santa Ana for the first night stop if he uses that crossing. Or Mexicalli for that matter.
Drove Highway 2, at least 4 times in the past 6 months and never came across any issues what so ever. The cars and diesels were very caution and courteous. Crossing into Nogales would be more of a challenge.

From my experience to driving to Nayarit, be aware of your surroundings in Sinaloa. Sometimes you will be driving alone on a highway and it seems Armageddon like. Get through Sinaloa as quick as possible but in the safest manner. Try to stay in a nice security motel.

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Old 17th July 2011, 07:07 PM
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Drove Highway 2, at least 4 times in the past 6 months and never came across any issues what so ever. The cars and diesels were very caution and courteous. Crossing into Nogales would be more of a challenge.

From my experience to driving to Nayarit, be aware of your surroundings in Sinaloa. Sometimes you will be driving alone on a highway and it seems Armageddon like. Get through Sinaloa as quick as possible but in the safest manner. Try to stay in a nice security motel.
For what it is worth...
I have made three round trips by bus from Guadalajara to Tijuana or Mexicali in the past few months. There were no problems anywhere in Sinaloa, Sonora or along the border. A bus is not the same as driving it alone in a car, but I would have no hesitations about doing either.

It is interesting to travel that stretch of road along the border. There is a fence limiting the road and a few meters beyond it, is the border fence. The last time I went through Sonora the air was crystal clear. The clouds and the hills/mountains stood out like they were right in front of you. Then a few hours later the wind came up and you couldn't see anything for the dust. Standing in the wind felt like standing in front of a blast furnace. It was a hot day.

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Old 17th July 2011, 08:04 PM
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Actually out of curiosity, I just mapped it all out on Streets & Trips. Claremont to Hermosillo via Nogales is 1122 KM, Claremont to Hermosillo via Mexicali is 1021 km. 100 km or 60 miles less. I am betting they would more than make that up in time because the US travel is 100% freeway. Will cost more in fuel, of course. Via Lukeville would only save them 5 km over Nogales and 50 miles of that is on secondary road.

You are right. I was only thinking of coming from San Diego across the I-8 to Tucson that would add 120 miles, however the way you mapped it going from LA down the I-10 to Tucson would be about 60 miles farther to cross over at Nogales. From Mexicali to San Luis Rio Colorado it is less than 1/2 the time if you drove the US route to Algodones. I drive along the border to Sonoita and find it a nice drive. Then once on Hwy. 2 going south it is very good all the way to Tepic.
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Old 10th August 2011, 03:18 AM
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We are moving from Claremont, California to Sayulita (outside Puerto Vallarta) in January for about 18 months. We will be driving our car (possibly with small trailer). We have two kids (12 and 8) who are excellent travelers. We would like your advice.

1. What route should we take?
2. Where should we cross the border?
3. Where should we stay along the way?
4. How many days should we allow for the drive?
5. What else should we know?

Thank you in advance for your help!
What a wonderful experience for your kids! Sayulita is a great town - if a bit gringo - but I'm sure you'll get tot he nearby more Mexican towns too. I drove from LA to Puerto Vallarta a few years ago alone and it was a great adventure. I heartily recommend crossing at Nogales. Very easy crossing, with no hassle for me. I had my car loaded to the gills with things for my Puerto Vallarta condo and was waved right through. I got my insurance through AAA in LA. Again, very easy, if a bit expensive.

Once you cross in Nogales, you get on the 15 south and basically take that all the way to Nayarit. Very easy trip and the nice thing about taking the quota (toll road) is that it is mostly deserted. Do not think of driving at night as the roads are not lit and at any time, an animal or a person could cross the road.

On the way down, I stayed in Guaymas, a pretty beach town a bit off the 15, on the Sea of Cortez. Then I stayed in Culiacan. Even though Culiacan is experiencing a little narco violence, as an American your chances of any violence are miniscule. Plus, Culiacan is a major city and has many hotel options, icluding with underground, secured parking where I stayed. You might also stay in Mazatlan, if you can make it that far. On the way back, I also stayed in Navojoa, near Ciudad Obregon. Not much for sight seeing but it had several American style motels, similar to Days Inn, etc., that made overnighting very easy.

I'm excited for you! Just to be on the cautious side, I would minimize travel on secondary mexican roads which would be necessary if you cross at TJ or Mexicali. From Nogales, you're on main divided highways the whole way down. I also suggest crossing the border early in the day and getting as far away from it as possible your first day. We all know the narco violence is exaggerated by the media, but still, the greatest chance for it is in the northern border states, so get away from there right away.

Good luck! BTW, if you hurry, you can do it in 3 days. But why hurry - other than to get away from the border. I took 4 days to get down and loved every minute of it.


Last edited by mbaietti; 10th August 2011 at 03:20 AM. Reason: oops. one quick addition.
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