The southern beaches beyond Boca de Tomatlán (where the highway going south from Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad leaves the edge of the bay) include, in order: Las Animas, Quimixto, Las Caletas, Majahuitas and Yelapa. All of them are public except Las Caletas which is an Indian managed ejido territory. This land was in the 1970's leased to John Huston and after him to the current tour operator.
Las Caletas is a beautiful 3/4 of a mile long beach broken up into 4 smaller beaches and currently includes a natural reserve with over 1000 hectares of jungle.
Visitors must arrive on boats owned by the company, they disembark onto the pier located on the west end of the cove.
There is a spa, trails, dining areas and an amphitheater in the forest for night time shows with the Rhythms tour.
The tour operator has leased the land from the local Chacala Indians for 25 years, just as John Huston did before them, meaning they do not actually own the land nor the buildings established on it.
Well, and how did this beautiful beach and area become so interesting?
First off it was John Huston that lived in Las Caletas for many years and enjoyed his tropical home, the primitive conditions, the calm, nature, the sea and the isolation. Secondly the area IS incredible, isolated, beautiful, an example of what the idea of the Garden of Eden could be.
... and how did John Huston end up in Las Caletas?
I think we could "blame" Guillermo Wulff, a Mexican engineer and local entrepreneur who met John Huston in Los Angeles when the director was searching locations for a new movie that would take place in Mexico. Wulff upon hearing what he was looking for, suggested Mismaloya, a beach south of Puerto Vallarta, as the ideal place for his "The Night of the Iguana" movie project.
Huston talked it over with the producer, Ray Stark, who was the producer and had offered him the project. They decided to visit the place. It received their approval and they brought all the pieces together to film it there in Mismaloya, a few beaches to the east of Las Caletas.
Actors included Richard Burton and Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, who was having an affair with Burton did not want to leave him alone with Ava, so she tagged along and came down to Puerto Vallarta too. They initially rented what was considered one of the loveliest houses in the town, "La Kimberley" as it was known, (where John Huston was living initially), from Mr. Wilson and took a speed boat to the set at Mismaloya each day. Along with them came a mob of tabloid press correspondents.
At the time of the filming of The Night Of the Iguana Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were just starting off their torrid extramarital and paparazzi-riddled affair, though John Huston stated in his book, "there were more reporters on the site than iguanas..."
Everything went “smooth as silk” stated the famous director. The press, without much to write about turned their attention to Puerto Vallarta for their inspiration and this, as Huston expressed, "was the beginning of its popularity, which was a mixed blessing."
The "mixed blessing" refers, of course, to the tourism boom world attention had brought to the town, also to the reporters, fans, things that Huston was not very fond of, he enjoyed his privacy, he liked being far away from it all. Now, with all this attention, the town where he had initially bought a villa, in the mid-70's was no longer very attractive.
In 1976 John Huston decided to install himself a few beaches down the coast from Mismaloya, in Las Caletas, within the Chacala Indian community. This beach only accessible by sea, just like Mismaloya in the early 1960s, located south of a small fisherman town called Boca de Tomatlan, he leased the land from the Indians for ten years, with an option for 10 more, and after that period the land, including anything he built would be returned to the Indian community.
He stated that living there was like living out in the open, at night all kinds of creatures such as badgers, deer, ocelots, boa constrictors, jaguars, etc. would come round to inspect their domain. Beautiful and unique sunrises and unforgettable sunsets, a huge variety of marine life blessed John Huston’s Las Caletas jungle home.
When you read Huston’s words, it is very clear he felt inspired, happy and in peace while living in this unspoiled little paradise he carved out for himself on the edge of the Jalisco coast.
Not only did he enjoy the weather, nature and the surroundings, but he enjoyed stating that he was actually following some old Irish advice that says that it is a good idea for older men, to live close to the sea, as it: “stops old wounds from hurting. It revives the spirit. It quickens the mind and body, yet lends tranquility to the soul.”
His daughter, Anjelica Huston, said, "He found great happiness there in his last years ... in the jungle, beside the sea, lit by the stars."
In short, his time in Las Caletas was surely a beautiful time in his life and a home, second to none, during his older years, which he always carried close to his heart and, not surprisingly, still today Las Caletas is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world.
An Open Book. 1980. John Huston.
Furious Love. 2010. Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger.
Huston’s Gamble: Youtube Video, recently removed (they mention it was filmed in Baja California, which of course is wrong).