Friday, May 1, 2009
La Manzanilla Mexico Vacation 2009
La Manzanilla, Mexico -- I cannot image a better vacation than the one we just ended in Mexico.
It was not our first visit, but it certainly stacks up as one of the best ever.
This blog covers only the second half of that vacation, spent in the seaside village of La Manzanilla in the state of Jalisco, about half-way between Puerto Vallarta to the north and Zihuatenejo to the south, on the shores of Tenacatita Bay. It is a short drive to undeveloped Pacific Ocean beach for surfers and serious beach combers.
We stayed right on the beach at Alegre Mar, the home and vacation rental belonging to Oregonian Kate Fisher. Kate has two elegant rental apartments downstairs, and a small efficiency upstairs. Kayaks are thrown in, and you can pet her bright and friendly dog Elsa almost anytime.
The pictures say everything necessary about her accommodations, and her decorative skills. The apartment was clean, beautiful, excellent, a bargain, and in a perfect location.
The busiest gringo bar in town -- Palapa Joe's -- is just across the street if you need it, as I did once in a while. Their Cuba Libres will make you want to go overthrow Fidel, and their Margaritas will calm you down so you can contemplate the sunset. The burgers are good, and so are the quesadillas.
One morning while walking in town near the plaza we happened upon what appeared to be a revival meeting at the Catholic Church, and sat in the back pews while enthusiastic speakers and musicians kept the crowd in its feet, clapping and singing. We don't really know exactly what was said, but it was very interesting and uplifting.
During an early morning walk on the beach I came across the tracks of eight turtle crawls, where sea turtles come up to lay eggs at night.
A very large glass of orange juice on the main street after that walk cost me 10 pesos, or about nine cents. You can pay more at a place that caters to U.S. citizens and Canadians, but it is not necessary. A week's worth of laundry was spotlessly delivered for about $3 US. I over tipped.
La Manzanilla is a bit unusual in that it has bi-cultural vacationers, and it is still a pretty small town. This is not Club Med.
The main street of town was paved for the first time last winter. No traffic lights. You can walk the entire length of town in an hour. The developed beach front is about six blocks long.
You can walk three miles north on the beach in the early morning, and run into three or four other people. The beaches, and the town, are not spotless. Plastic curses the entire planet, but neither Sanibel Island or Miami Beach were clean last time I looked.
If you come during the peak winter season from February to Easter, the place hosts a lot of folks from the U.S. and Canada and it gets crowded. After Easter you have the place to yourself.
There are numerous good places to eat and drink that cater to gringo tastes, and we enjoyed several. Or you can eat breakfast in a small cafe with local construction workers, who know where to find a good meal at bargain prices.
The beaches revert to Mexican majorities and are very crowded during the Easter holidays, with hundreds of people coming in by charter buses. For a brief spell the beaches and the tourist businesses thrive enthusiastically on Mexican families.
And then everybody goes home, and you have a quiet vacation place as we did this year.
Kate's one bedroom apartment was $125 a night this year, a bargain compared to any similar place I have ever been. If that's too much, you can find a hotel room for two for less than $50, and I even saw a campground which advertised $8 pesos per night, so low I doubt it was real. Or contact Tamarindo, to the South, and they will arrange a millionaire's condo.
If you need big cities and crowds and boisterous bars and jammed beaches, this is not for you. There is no Spring Break crowd, and, thank goodness, MTV has never heard of the place.
But if walking on a deserted beach and keeping pace with a pod of dolphins just beyond the surf line is the sort of thing that appeals to you, give La Manzanilla some thought. That happened on our last morning in Mexico.
La Manzanilla can be checked out at the following web sites:
How to get there: Alaska Airlines, and others, fly into Manzanillo Airport about an hour south of La Manzanilla. Adventurous folks can drive from the U.S., but be careful to drive during the day, use main roads, and plan ahead where you want to stay.
Where to stay: La Manzanilla has a range of accommodations from camp grounds, RV parks, private homes and condos right on the beach, and small inexpensive hotels just off the beach. Check the websites for options.
What to pay: It's up to you. You can find safe clean rooms for as little as $50 a night, or a beach front home for several thousand a week. But pay in pesos, or dollars in advance if agreed upon. The town has no bank and credit cards are not normally accepted.
Weather: During our stay it ranged from 61 on a cool night, to about 85 on a hot day. The breeze from the ocean keeps it pleasant, and we never turned on the air conditioning. It gets hot in the summer.
What to do: Are you kidding?