If your idea of a vacation conjures up images of poolside service, well-stocked buffets and scented soap in the washroom, we can safely say that the following peaceful and remote Mexican villages are not for you. However, for those who yearn to some secluded sanctuary, these slow-paced villages are simply perfect. And don’t worry; they do welcome tourists – just not a lot at once...
Barra de Potosi, Guerrero
creativecommons.org/ Jim Grandy
South of Zihuatanejo on the Costa Grande is a somewhat remote village where fishing and lazy afternoons are the way of life. The houses are brightly colored and handmade fishing nets drying in the breeze decorate the yards. The closest thing you’ll get to a guided tour there is convincing a fisherman to take you out on his pango – a small, canoe-like boat – into the mangroves to see the nesting beaches of the endangered leatherback sea turtles.
Not surprisingly, some of the best seafood in Mexico can be found there in the family-owned restaurants that also serve handmade tortillas and dish-up beans from a pot over the wood fire. Everything is seasoned with salt that is made from the water in the lagoon. After the ‘big’ restaurants close, many families have small outdoor cooking stoves that will serve you a taco along with some interesting conversation about the local goings-on.
When the surf is up, locals flock to the area to catch some waves, but these small floods of people are few and far between, and the village’s small hotels are rarely full. This is a great spot for long-stay vacations spent fishing, snorkelling and exploring the mangroves by pango.
Accessible by speedboat from Puerto Vallarta, Yelapa was a favorite destination of Bob Dylan when he wanted to take refuge from the turmoil of the 60s. There are no roads, no cars, no street names and no maps, but as everyone knows everyone - getting lost is not a problem.
This is a popular day-trip destination and the village has several great little restaurants where you can get a full meal for less than $7. A leisurely cup of coffee with the owner before the visitors arrive is a great way to start the day, and staying in the village gives you a chance to join the evening ex-pat dances at the Yacht Club. You can avoid most of the day-trippers by staying towards the southern end of the beach, as the northern end has touristy restaurants that cater to day visitors.
Wander through the streets and then hire a horse and guide to tour the waterfalls and hidden pools in the jungle. To really escape people, hire a fisherman to take you to the more remote beaches where rush hour equates to an incoming flock of blue-footed boobies.
Heading the opposite direction from Puerto Vallarta will eventually take you to this tiny village with a large beach. The golden sands shaded by coconut trees are a favourite destination of Mexican families during big holidays such as Easter Week and New Year. Despite this periodic influx of visitors, the village’s 300 residents still enjoy a slow, unhurried lifestyle that values personal relationships above material things.
The road to the village is a recent development and the village hasn’t been greatly affected by it yet. There are no hotels here, only family vacation rentals and B&Bs. Several restaurants dot the edge of the beach, but they may not all be open during the off-season. Don’t worry about finding a place to eat, though – your hosts will make sure you have everything you need.
Whatever the weather or your mood, there is plenty to do. The calm bay is ideal for swimming, and farther out there are usually enough waves to surf. Hike around the extinct volcano in the morning and spend the hot afternoon snorkelling along the jungle’s edge to see colourful fish and plants. Nearby villages offer horseback riding, boat excursions and bird watching adventures. And don’t forget to plan some time to lie on the warm sand and just enjoy the slow pace of the coast.
Barra de Nexpa, Michoacan
Between Zihuatanajo and Manzanillo several small villages dot the coast, and Barra de Nexpa is small enough to be peaceful yet large enough to have some accommodations for tourists. A very small hotel and some cabanas are enough to house the surfing crowd when the waves are right, and a few small eateries serve fresh fish tacos. The nearby town of Caleta de Campos supports an ex-pat retirement community and has small shops and a larger hotel.
The closeness of the ex-pat community has had some influence on hospitality there and you can get a North American style breakfast from folks that speak a little bit of English. There are still plenty of taco stands and a few places to relax in the shade and sip some tequila.
The region of Michoacan is all about beaches. Surfing, swimming, sunbathing or strolling - the water and waves are perfect for it. You can chill at one of the beachfront enramadas sipping smoothies and watching the surfers tackle the waves, or rent a hammock and take a nap. For some non-watery exercise, explore the mouth of the river or wander down the playa to see the other small communities in the region.
Bahia Tortugas, Baja Peninsula
A former cannery site, Turtle Bay is either rustic or rusty, depending on your viewpoint. This small, protected bay is a favourite for sailors cruising the coast of Mexico, so the support for tourism is there even if the old town detracts from the scenery. Avoid the area in late October and early November when a race from San Diego stops in for a few days and the tiny town is overrun with sailors.
Turtle Bay is named because of the turtles that like its protected waters. Many areas have little coves where you can swim and snorkel with the turtles as they hang out in the warm waters, waiting for the tides. Swimming is excellent there and the surfing is good a little farther out into the bay. If you can get a boat and a guide, the coastline is very picturesque and there is great snorkelling all over the bay.