When we told people that we’d be living in Playa Chacala for six months, some who know of the town told us we’d be bored after a few weeks. Well, we’ve been here more than two months, and we’ve been enjoying it so much that I haven’t found time to write about it yet. I apologize it’s been so long since my last update!
Every day is a new adventure here. Whether we are staying in town enjoying long, leisurely conversations and meals with friends or a swim at the beach, or we are exploring the many hiking trails, hot springs, surf breaks, and tianguis (open-air markets) in the surrounding area, our days have been filled to the brim. I am far from bored here. In fact, I think I’ve found my paradise.
Playa Chacala is about a 1.5-hour drive north of Puerto Vallarta, but it might as well be on another planet. There are no high-rise resorts, no time shares, no shopping malls, no nightclubs, and no crowds (well, except during Christmas and Semana Santa). It is a small fishing village of about 400 full-time residents peppered with vacation homes and a few small hotels. The beach is a pristine, calm bay that is more like a cove – it can be walked end to end in about 10 minutes. The beach is lined with palm trees and palapa-roofed restaurants serving up fresh grilled fish, ceviche, cold beers and margaritas. The beach is nearly empty during the week, and fills in a bit more on the weekends. In all our exploring of the Nayarit coast, Playa Chacala is the most beautiful beach I’ve seen so far. Most of the tourists that come here are from inland Mexico cities like Guadalajara and Tepic. Although now that winter has arrived, we are seeing more and more gringos from the United States and Canada.
The town itself is tranquil, friendly and safe. There is one main ‘street’ (a cobblestone road) that can get busy with delivery trucks, residents and tourists going about their business. But overall, it’s pretty sleepy. In town, you can buy basic groceries, fresh fish, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, and as many beach toys as you can carry, but not much else.
However, you don’t have to leave home to do your food shopping. Salvador’s fruit and veggie truck drives through our neighborhood every Saturday; Lalo’s pastry truck comes just about every afternoon; and still others come on foot selling fresh hot tamales, peanuts, dried jamaica (hibiscus) flowers for making aguas frescas (sweet fruit teas) and more almost daily. It’s not just food that is delivered to your doorstep, but furniture, kitchenware, propane, water – just about anything. It seems as if every time we have a need for something, it manifests itself outside our front door. For example, one day I said that I wanted a good kitchen knife. The very next day, someone walked by selling kitchen knives and we bought one. No kidding! 🙂
As for dining out, there are surprisingly a ton of options for such a small town, from beachfront restaurants like Chac Mool, Don Isidro and Las Brisas (our favorites), to Surfer’s Pizza, to taco stands and family-style restaurants serving some of the best carne asada and carnitas I’ve ever tasted. There are also two eco-lodges on the south end of the beach, Mar de Jade and Majahua, which also have excellent restaurants. There is even a woman in town (our neighbor, Chebela) that organizes traditional Mexican dinners every Sunday evening in her home (we enjoyed her chile rellenos con camarones last week!). For breakfast, Mauna Kea restaurant atop Casa Pacifica B&B serves amazing veggie omelets, waffles, huevos rancheros and more along with a 360-degree view of the jungle and ocean. Clearly, there is no shortage of good eats here.
We live on the north edge of town near the marina where the fishermen keep their boats. Our home faces a cobblestone road that leads directly to the marina and malecon, or beachside walkway. Every day, we see fisherman drive back and forth to the docks; the sound of pickup trucks and motorcycles is our alarm clock. From our front door, we can be on the beach in less than 5 minutes. Maya’s school – El Jardin – is even closer – just one block up the road in the other direction. We can hear her class sing and play from our rooftop terrace.
Living in such a small town, we are making new friends quickly. Everyone seems to know everyone else, so meeting one person connects you with many others. Between our Spanish teacher, neighbors, parents at Maya’s school, and shop and restaurant owners that we’ve become friends with, it feels like we’ve met almost everyone in Chacala. It’s a wonderful feeling walking through town and running into people we know – like we are already part of the community. Everyone always seems to have ample time to stop and chat. On many occasions, a simple stroll through town becomes an all-day affair. There is always some fiesta or gathering happening that we end up getting invited to – birthdays, bonfires, potlucks, play dates, etc. Our social life is actually quite packed. For leaving home with the goal of doing mostly nothing, I’ve never been busier. 🙂
So to those people that said we’d be bored in Chacala, I say phooey. Our lives here are rich, colorful, flavorful and fun. In my next post, I’ll share our experience celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve Mexican style! Stay tuned!