The stretch of coast known as the Costa Alegre starts about 100km south of Puerto Vallarta. Further south, the Bahía de Chamela comprises a huge, sweeping arc of superb beaches and nine islands, which are popular dive spots. Although large luxury hotels are also cropping up here with alarming frequency, you can still find long sections of untouched beach where you can pitch a tent.
Most people choose to press on to the twin towns of Barra de Navidad and San Patricio-Melaque, 30km further south and among the most enticing destinations on this entire stretch of coastline. They are not undeveloped or totally isolated – indeed, families from Guadalajara come here by the hundreds, especially at weekends – but neither are they heavily commercialized: just small, simple and very Mexican resorts. The entire bay, the Bahía de Navidad, is edged by fine sands and, if you’re prepared to walk (30min along the beach), you can easily leave the crowds behind.Read More
Barra de Navidad
Barra de Navidad
Sitting towards the southern end of the Bahía de Navidad, where the beach runs out and curves back round to form a lagoon behind the town, Barra de Navidad is easily the most appealing of the communities along the bay. Activities in Barra revolve around the shelved, honey-coloured sands: boat trips that wind through the mangroves of the Laguna de Navidad; horseriding excursions; dives; and mountain-bike tours to name a few. The local cooperativa at the jetty also offers fishing trips, lagoon tours and day trips to Playa Tenacatita.
The opening of the Grand Bay Hotel complex across the channel from Barra de Navidad has changed things surprisingly little, not even spoiling the view from the beach or the sedate charm of the town. If you have time, it’s worth taking a boat over to check out one of the bars or restaurants (casual visitors are not allowed). Colimilla , across the Laguna de Navidad, is the most popular destination, chiefly for its seafood restaurants such as Fortino’s (daily 9am–10pm; bring insect repellent if dining after dark), and as a base for the two- or three-kilometre walk over to the rough Pacific beach of Playa de Cocos.