Thursday, March 7, 2013

La Cruz / Day Trippin’ Banderas Bay – February 2013

Well, we spent almost a month in La Cruz before we began travelling southward. And though we have often said that this village at the northern end of Banderas Bay is one of The Best Places, we don’t see that we’ve ever explained in this blog why we think that is so. So, here is our list of the top ten reasons we love the village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (pronounced something like: Juan-a-costeley), in no particular order:

1.     It's A Good Place For Locovores: The residents of La Cruz were locovores long before it became "the thing to do" where we come from. There is an open air Mercado del Mar at the marina where the local fishermen sell their catches. We had pompano the other night that had been swimming around on a reef 70 kms away less than 24 hours before we grilled it. At Carniceria Kenny, early in the morning, you can find the day’s carne (beef) hanging in half-cow form from a hook to the left of the counter. The borego (lamb) is in the freezer, but as with the cows - Kenny not only butchers it, but grows it. And if you happen to order more than you have cash for, the signora will give you your purchase and let you bring the remainder of the purchase price later (yes, even if you are a gringa yatista!).

2.     There Are All Manner of Restaurants: Frescati’s for fresh pasta. Falconni’s for crispy pizza (bring your own beer or wine). Masala when you’re feeling like really fine dining and wonderful service. Tacos de Sillas Rojas (Red Chair Tacos) or Gorda’s for fabulous street tacos (and Tacos en Calle – Tacos in the Street – for street tacos that have been discovered by the tour books). YaYa’s or Octopus’ Garden for breakfast and lunch. Or one of the various economicas (cheap eats) locations around town where one can purchase one of the day’s two home-cooked style meals and a drink for less than $3.50.

3.      It's An Easy Place To Practice Yoga: Six mornings a week, Lee of Affroesa opens her personal yoga practice to anyone that wants to drop in and join her. It’s a wonderfully gentle way to great the day. 

4.    And Take Spanish Lessons: Two mornings a week Professora Anna gives a beginner’s class (for Molly) and a more advanced conversation group (for Bryce). 
5.     One Can (Relatively) Easily Find Boat Bits and Services:   La Cruz is home to a number of reputable marine services businesses, including the following, which we have used:
  • Todo Vela Mexico operated by Jess and Janet Coburn (located behind the Mercado del Mar fish market) which stocks all kinds of rigging parts, Marlow ropes, and yachting gear. See
  • Sea Tek, a rigging shop located in the La Cruz boat yard run by Peter Vargas, a well-known rigger formerly of Long Beach, California – he does excellent work.
  • Marine Vallarta, a marine electronics sale and repair shop run by Pieter Karsten and his wife. See 
  • Luis Santoyo of SeaMar Canvas made our dingy chaps and various other small canvas projects.
Friends have had work one at the La Cruz Shipyard with good results. See www.lacruzshipyard.comAnd the PV area, with its three marinas, has several chandleries including Zaragoza – a large West Marine sized operation in the Zona Hotelera.

As an aside: marine items are a lot cheaper from the US mail order outfits: free domestic shipping, no sales tax, that special spring sale….. very tempting. And yatistas do spend an inordinate amount of time going off to the border to pick things up; trying to get a visiting friend to bring parts in his or her suitcase; or even trying to import boating supplies directly. But Bryce has come to believe that Mexican retail pricing is the equivalent of a full price purchase from a West Marine plus 16% Mexican goods tax – and research suggests this theoretical price is usually not more than 5% off.  We generally comfort ourselves with paying this price by reminding ourselves that the stuff is right here - available today or at least sooner - and doesn’t cut into beer drinking time. On the other hand, Frank?, Bob?, Jim?... next time you come down, would you mind bringing a few spare parts we might order from Defender?

6.     There's Great Live Music: There’s country and western and classic rock -- Philo’s Bar and Anna Banana’s are rocking six nights a week - loud enough that you don’t even have to go inside to enjoy the music! And for those of us that don’t need to hear Stairway to Heaven or C’est la Vie (You Never Can Tell) every week, there’s flamenco music on Friday nights at the Black Forest (and good schnitzel, too) and on occasion at YaYa’s.

7.      We Have Boat Friends There: If they’re not there when Abracadabra arrives, they’ll show up sooner or later. Everyone loves La Cruz. Thanks to friends on Dodger Too, Full and By, Kayalami and Can 2 for the hospitality on this visit!

8.     There’s Good Transportation: The bus system that runs between Punta de Mita and Puerto Vallarta - up and down Carratera 200 (Highway 200) -- is inexpensive, fairly efficient and fairly safe. A one hour trip from La Cruz to Puerto Vallarta will only cost 17 pesos (about $1.50). The equipment is inconsistent and never plush, and each bus will be as crowded as the ridership is willing to bear (if you want on, and think you can get on, they’ll let you on), but the buses run frequently, the pick-up stops are marked and the driver will drop you off anywhere along the route. And a ride will often include musical entertainment, though that can be somewhat inconsistent and will cost a bit extra if you decide it’s worth a tip.

9.     It’s Not Too Touristy or Cute: Even with all the tourist and yatista-related services in town, there’s something about La Cruz that says the villagers have not sold out to the tourist / cruiser trade. Maybe it’s the family that, every evening, sits on plastic chairs in the street watching a television they have set on the sidewalk outside of their store. Maybe it’s the Capitain Garfio (Captain Hook) bar and pool hall that blares banda and mariachi music from its upstairs location – “nice” women not invited. Maybe it’s the fishermen’s wives that bring food down to the launching area in the evening to provision their husbands as they set off for work. Or maybe it’s the way the people greet each other in the street – small town anywhere with a musical Mexican accent. They were here before the tourists discovered them, the condos were built or the marina had slips. They’ll be here if we leave.

10.     And It’s A Good Place For Day Trips:   When we’re in the mood for a “soft adventure” there’s always some place new to see in the Bahia Banderas area. Most recently, we've visited:

Sayulita, a town known as a surfer hangout. It is indeed a hangout for those taking surfing lessons:

Mariachis Serenading Pirate Surfers

Come On Baby, Surfin' Safari

In addition to surfers, the town was full of tourists, including those of the backpacker variety – we are sure we saw our former selves walking toward us on more than one occasion!

Our more adult selves took a trip to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, which is home to a number of lovely gardens:

Cactus Garden

Agave / Cactus Garden
Viva la Bouganvilla!
Water Lillies

The Botanical Gardens also offers several short jungle hikes:  

A Walk To The River
The Great Explorer!
 We highly recommend a trip to the Botanical Gardens if you're visiting Puerto Vallarta. 

* * * * *

But, of course, no matter how much we enjoyed La Cruz it finally came time to leave. Why? Well, because we’re not just living on Abracadabra, we're travelling on Abracadabra. So we’re now 100 miles to the south of La Cruz in Bahia Tenacatita – we'll report in on THAT journey in our next posting.

1 comment:

  1. Sigh ... the description of the food is all it takes for me.

    Mark Paxson