Sitting on the beach under an umbrella in Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico must be next door to heaven. The sun in February is hot, shade and Pacific water is cool. A perfect combination. Add to this scene migrating whales swimming past the bay, friendly waiters and waitresses of Hotel Las Brisas or any of the beachside cafes fulfilling your every gastronomic need and life is complete.
I’ve spent hours on that beach after morning coffee and breakfast on the hotel patio, checking email through the wireless connection and greeting the morning regulars. By late morning Chacala’s free roaming roosters have finished awakening everyone in the village. I have come to know the routine after visiting two years in a row.
During the afternoon I walk the beach or sit in the shade sipping wine or cola, munching on snacks or having a meal. Anyone can get any kind of thirst quencher from any of the bars along the beach. Tourists, brought in by vans from other hotels up and down the Pacific coast, come to enjoy the Chacala beach and provide the rest of us with fodder for people-watching and meandering vendors with customers. They leave by late afternoon leaving our beach to us, the visitors who stay for weeks or months and the ex-pat who stay.
Evening is spent watching the sun set directly in front of us or walking the beach or cobblestone streets deciding what to do for dinner. While there aren’t many restaurant choices there are two with upscale foods, Hotel Las Brisas and a new restaurant located above one of the beach cafes located almost next door to Las Brisas. Other beach eateries specialize in Mexican favorites and cater to the more local crowd. There is a nearby taco stand on the street corner with a mariachi band on some nights, plastic tables and chairs. Condiments, sauces and salsas are homemade and everything is cooked while you watch. Not only is the food available at all places good but the prices make it irresistable and the food and water is safe for our tender bellies.
Many visitors choose to rent rooms or small apartments from local homeowners through the Techo de Mexico program. That program provided assistance to them for making their homes amenable and attractive to Anglos. Renting one of those small apartments allows visitors to cook for themselves. There are two markets in town and Las Varas is 20 minutes away by collectivo where any kind of foods can be purchased. (See Chacala web sites, ex: Chacala Escape.) If calling or emailing use your best Spanish phrase book as many of the homeowners do not speak English and why should they? They are home, we are visiting. At the same time all local people were patient with my feeble attempts to maneuver through their language. They appreciate the attempt and work at finding a way to communcate.
A few U.S. ex-pats who are bilingual act as liaisons for making reservations for lodging or local tours. They take 15% of the costs. And some are selling nearby land as real estate agents. A gated community with large homes for predominantly U.S. citizens has eaten up a large portion of land north of town and on the Pacific coast.
The first year I visited there was a large part of the village, on the beach, available for campers of all sizes and shapes. This year that section of town had been closed with a six foot tall cyclone fence. Rumors were flying as to the reason for this but the ultimate consequence is the loss of revenue to local merchants. The little cyber cafe was gone. Many people including visitors are upset with the numbers of speculators and developers who visit. We know that the quaint village of Chacala will be doomed as we know it in due time.
Cundo and Trini, the local couple who provide tours of all kinds took a group of us to the petroglyphs. It requires about an hours van ride plus a 20 minute hike but is worth it for the experience of visiting the spiritually charged area. A "traveling mall" in La Penita is available one day a week. That is well worth the trip given the large numbers of vendors. A good variety of food is available, too. The old towns of Tepic, San Blas and Puerto Vallarta are a one day’s excursion. Cundo and Trini can arrange for sport fishing, light tackle fishing and coral reef snorkeling.
Chacala can be easily reached from Puerto Vallarta by bus to Las Varas then a 20 minutes ride by collectivo. Car rental is available at the Puerto Vallarta airport or an expensive taxi ride can get you there. (See the Chacala web site by Andee for very specific directions.)
Hotel Las Brisas - email firstname.lastname@example.org. The owners/managers speak English very well and their prices equal the rented rooms or small apartments in private homes.
While there is no Marriot or Holiday Inn in Chacala, no highly polished marble floors or uniformed staff, when I leave I feel that I am leaving one home for another. Hugs accompany the tips.