I discovered Rancho El Charro through an offer for half off a 3 hour ride. Upon arrival I was greeted by Ramón, a friendly caballero who set me up with Luna, a small, strong horse perfect for my 5'3" frame. The owner, Pamela, arrived shortly after with a couple taking a different tour, so Ramón and I set out, just the two of us. It was wonderful! Personal service, delightful conversation about the terrain (it helps if you speak Spanish - I do) and easygoing horses. We headed up a steep, rocky trail for a beautiful vista overlooking Vallarta, a breathtaking view of my current home. A careful trek down landed us on a vast road with huge pink stone cliffs on one side and the river on the other, where we rode for a while. (If you are not an experienced rider, this may seem challenging, but trust the horse and the guide and it will all be fine!)
Ramón and I ended the day with Pamela, another caballero and the other riders at KeleKai's Restaurant & Bar: great service and delicious Méxican food in a relaxed and open dining area. Little dogs and neighbors passed by, waving hellos; Pamela has lived in Vallarta for years and is well-liked in the area. I enjoyed the afternoon immensely. If you are searching for a real horseback ride, not too adventurous or Disney-like, but also not boring, Rancho el Charro is an excellent choice.
By the way, I currently live in Puerto Vallarta and prefer economical bus travel to taxis. At first, it was difficult figuring out the bus to Playa Grande, but Pamela contacted me several times to make sure I felt confident about getting to their ranch. If you choose to go by bus, take the green San Esteban bus from Calle Peru (behind Ley in Centro); the ride is about 30 minutes. Go all the way to the end where the buses park, take the foot bridge over the river, turn right and go about 2 blocks. There are taco stands at the end of the line; everyone is friendly and knows the ranch if you need to ask.
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