A Beach Less Traveled
By Rob Mohr
Going to the beach? Want to relax with good friends and enjoy the natural landscape and the open sea as you walk without interruption along a beautiful beach with no high rise hotels in sight? La Manzanilla, facing beautiful Tenacatita Bay, is my favorite. Once settled into one of the small hotels along the beach, or a rental perched on the hills above, you can lean back and enjoy the cool ocean breeze as it sweeps across your terrace while you take in the beauty of a seascape not yet compromised by overpopulation. But hurry, the clock is ticking.
Located fifteen kilometers north of Melaque on the Mexico 200 going north to Puerta Vallarta, La Manzanilla offers five miles of flat, white sand beach that lies like a jewel around the neck of a beautiful woman. In the early mornings and the late afternoon --- when the light is just right --- most visitors enjoy long strolls along the beach, or settle into a lounge chair offered, without charge, at one of the beach front restaurants and then procrastinate a bit while drinking Margaritas with friends as the sun settles into the ocean to the west.
The town, one main street with a loop around the park, is a small fishing village where the day’s big activity is to meet the fishing boats as they come in and compete with a few other hungry travelers for your favorite seafood. The large central park hosts a Tianguis (street market) every Friday filled with crafts and art from throughout the region, and also offers a central gathering place to sit on a bench watching the world go by. And if art is your thing, there is also an excellent art gallery selling the works of artist from throughout eastern Mexico just four blocks away.
For those of us who find no vacation complete without a small stack of books at their side, just off the square is a large book exchange that benefits the local education foundation, and five blocks down the main street is a second story bar, a hangout for ex-pats, that has a good selection of books for exchange and a large screen TV that is normally set on the latest sporting event. And, would you believe, margaritas for less than twenty pesos!
For adventure, you can kayak through the calm waters of an inland lagoon surrounded by marsh land, both protected as a federal ecological zone, or paddle across the bay to a pristine coral reef to scuba dive. Or fill your days with more leisurely activities like watching whales and dolphins and flocks of pelicans, and cormorants as they mix with Frigate Birds dining on a school of fish along the edge of the sea.
If you grow bored with just relaxing, watching the sea, and walking the beach, yoga, art and language classes are offered at Casa Maria’s fixed on a steep hill above the town. The classes are held in her third story palapa which provides a panoramic view of the ocean and a cooling breeze. And best of all as you descend from her palapa Maria will invite you to join her for a cup of coffee or fresh squeezed orange juice on her bougainvillea covered terrace below.
If you stay hungry and crave food (the sun and the sea tend to do that) there are cooking classes at Eilden’s Hacienda. Even better, along the beach and in the lush hills above the town, are a number of eclectic restaurants offering Chiles Rellenos (cooked the right way), Sea Bass and Snapper, some of the best Calamari I had ever eaten --- and would you believe, pizza from a wood-fired oven. Then, for a late morning breakfast, there is a spot on the central park --- tucked under a cool colonnade --- that specializes in fresh baked breads, sweet rolls and some of the best coffee I had ever tasted.
The high point for me (I’m easy) was joining one of the year round residents who liked to throw Frisbees with friends on the beach, and then, as a good host, offer all who gathered an excellent tequila, good conversation and a peaceful moment to watch the sun turn the sky crimson. What more could a body want?