Friday, January 2, 2009

Manzanillo, Melaque, Puerto Vallarta, and Sayulita...

Before Christmas, we took a road trip south to the Mexican state of Colima, and into the coastal town of Manzanillo. On the way, we saw rows and rows of palm trees, which we later learned are coconut plantations!
Our hotel in Manzanillo was right on the beach, and cost us a whopping $400 pesos ($30 USD). I think we were the only people there, as it was very quiet. The view from our room was sensational!

The room itself was VERY basic. And boy, was it hot! They didn't have air conditioning (we wouldn't expect it with the price we paid), but luckily they had a high-powered ceiling fan. The place itself looked pretty old and run if the owners hadn't given it a face lift...EVER. Jared and I can only dream of what we could do with a place like this if we fixed it up, painted the walls, gave it some character, and created a hopping beach retreat for tourists....

But Hotel Anita's large room definitely met our needs, and everything was dandy except for the gigantic, UGLY spider that we killed in the bathroom. I jumped out of bed hysterically in the middle of the night, telling Jared there were spiders all over the walls. He calmly assured me there weren't. I had to squint hard, but I finally realized he was right. That darn spider gave me nightmares!

The beach wasn't bad, either! We bought some inner tubes from the vendor across the street (who lived in the attached shack), which allowed Jared and I to play nearly hands-free in the ocean with the girls.

As the sun went down, we found ourselves bombarded by schools of little fish. They would swim by us all at once, running into our legs repeatedly (whoa...that's freaky!), and even jumping around our heads. We would be playing with the girls, and all of a sudden, 10 fish would come jumping out of the water! They would run into our heads, land in Maiya's little inner tube, and definitely kept us on our toes! During our entire trip, we never actually played on the beach during the day. Somehow, we'd only get out to swim when the sun was going down, which means that we all avoided sunburns!

The next morning, we took a peaceful walk along the beach.

We decided to continue driving up North, and but we first stopped at the Manzanillo market. We saw several things that we hadn't seen anywhere before, such as some amazing colorful pottery! We also saw many gringos, and for the first time had a price quoted to us in US dollars. I thought they meant in pesos, and I thought...WOW! What a steal! But alas, they are more used to seeing gringos in these parts. I felt like it somehow cheapened the experience.

We packed the girls back into the car (grateful for the air conditioning), and drove North to Barra de Navidad. It was one of our favorite little towns, as it was very walkable, well-paved, and had great personality!

The beach was quite busy, so we just had a look-see...

And the sandbar has been built up to be a great little hang out for visitors:

We kept driving just a tad North to Bahia de Navidad, and into a little village called San Patricio-Melaque. Our Lonely Planet guide book labeled it as the more budget-minded community, and it proved to be true. We ended up staying at a lovely family-run hotel called Hotel Bahia. The family who runs it has 6 children, and they manage the entire hotel by themselves, without outside help. The owner showed us a small, but nice room, and we decided that we couldn't fit Maiya's little pop-up tent. We obviously showed disinterest, because he suddenly dropped the price from $550 to $350 pesos. After asking for a "grande" room (gee...our Spanish is ridiculously simple), he understood our predicament (we played a fun game of charades), and he managed to find us a larger room. And at less than $27 USD!

This was such a nicely kept hotel that we will certainly return if we go back to Melaque. I'd love to take family to this little retreat right next to the beach!

Even Maiya has learned to love the surf and sand, and she actually insisted on getting in this hole that Ella and Jared dug!

I managed to stub my toe on a pufferfish when we were in Manzanillo (it was hidden in the sand on the beach, but I quickly uncovered it when I got stabbed by a spike!). I took a photo of this one lying out in the open in Melaque, and just then an American walked by and told me that they are very dangerous to get poked by! I'm counting my blessings...!

Having fun in the inner tubes...

A typical beach restaurant

And another testament to the coconut plantations surrounding the whole coastal area

In the morning, Jared got us moving again (he tends to do this). I think I deserved earlier warning, but it turned out that Jared intended to drive to nearly every beach in-between Melaque and Puerto Vallarta. This made for a VERY long drive, especially when some of the beaches were quite far out of the way! It was Sunday, so we didn't get to actually enjoy any of the beaches in our suits, but we scoped them out of the "next trip," he said. Our favorite beach, by far, was at Boca de Iguana. The town was practically non-existent, and the beach was nearly deserted, but it was AMAZING!! It was a large, VERY flat beach, perfect for playing with kids! Maybe next time...

We stopped in at Playa Tenacatita for some lunch at a beach-side restaurant. The beach was beyond the sleepy, small town...and it looked like we were headed into the middle of nowhere. We were surprised to find a tourist-type atmosphere on the beach!
And I was proud of myself for figuring out a way to keep Ella's hair out of her face while we ate (who knew you could do so much with 2 toothpicks?)!
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta that night, and checked in at Hotel Rio, just a block off the beach. We shopped around for prices in the area, and thought that $600 pesos was a steal of a deal (the most we've paid for a hotel in Mexico, thus far)! It also thankfully came with air conditioning (hallelujia!), and a sound-proof window (overlooking a VERY busy street). Hmm...if only we had those windows in our house in Ajijic...we could sleep through those fireworks!

We checked into the hotel, and went down the street to grab a bite. My favorite item on the menu was the Fresh Fruit plate "with honey bee." Too bad I didn't order could have been interesting. Oh well...maybe next time?
I was also tempted to try the Pollas with Witch Milk...

We walked along the Malecon after sunset. It was quite beautiful, and we enjoyed a show by the Papantla Dancers. It was dark when we saw them, so my photos didn't turn out. But I found this photo online. Basically, the men started out on the pole top, playing a beautiful song on handmade flutes. They then began hanging from the pole, rotating in a circle all the way, falling further and further down until they reached the ground. I've never seen anything like it!

A website explained the tradition as follows: The unique aspects of the performance are derived from an ancient Aztec legend. In the story, five men attempt to deliver a message to the God of fertility – Xipe Totec – after a long period of drought. To gain the attention of the deity and request the return of the rains, these men cut down the tallest, straightest tree in the forest and erected it in the middle of their village. After removing all the branches, the men dressed as birds, suspended themselves by their feet from the pole and flew in circles to attract the attention of their God. It is believed that this ritual performance dates back at least 1,500 years and was eventually disguised as a sport to conceal the custom from Spanish colonizers.

The next morning, we enjoyed walking along the malecon in the daylight, when all of the shops were open! It is amazing how every region of Mexico has completely different things for sale. Wherever you go, everyone has the same products within the same town, but they rarely have something from another region. Jared and I kept thinking..."Why do they all carry the same things? They could also be selling the cool stuff you see in Ajijic, and then they wouldn't have such tough competition!?" I'm sure it is determined simply by the local availability of products of available to wholesale and resell, however (although the products they're selling aren't locally made!).

That night we stayed in a beautiful room at the Mayan Resort in Puerto Vallarta. Here is an exception view from our room

We got there just as the sun went down, and after all of the restaurants were closed. We ended up ordering room service, which was pretty affordable, considering we could have paid $9 USD for a hot dog at one of the pool cafes, had they been open.
The resort has the 2nd longest pool in...well...I don't remember...
Ella drew us some great pictures in our room. I love her faces she makes, with long stick legs!

The next morning we got to ride the resort's little train around the property. Ella was in heaven!

THEN...(sigh...are you tired, yet? Because this trip wore me out...and it's still wearing me out...just blogging about it!)... we checked out and went to the Sea Life Park (formerly known as Splash). It was a FABULOUS water park just north of the airport in Puerto Vallarta!
We just missed the dolphin show, but we were able to watch the trainers practice a bit...
And here is Ella hamming it up in her new swimsuit we picked up at the market for $40 Pesos ($3USD). Does she look so cute? Too bad the tie-dye ran all over one of the hotel towels...and I ended up buying that, too!

The water park had AWESOME slides. Most of them were not suitable for Ella, but we were able to take her down on a few big ones! There were large innertubes to rent, a children's area, a lazy river, and some other fabulous slides! Jared and I switched off with the kids so we could each enjoy the great adult rides! The wildest slide there was hardly a slide at was a gigantic bowl! You'd rush through the tube, and get spit out into a giant bowl where you'd circle wildly until you lost your momentum, and dropped into the pool underneath. What a ride!
Oh, and the day still wasn't over. Oh, no!! In true Lybbert-style, we got back in the car, and drove some MORE!! We went about 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta to a tiny village called Sayulita. Once a quaint little fishing town, it is now a happening gringo-infested hippie/surfer town. It was an absolute hoot!

We checked into Hotel Diamante, a fabulous little find with lots of space, vibrant color, and an outdoor communal kitchen. We traveled with a cooler of food, and in the 5 days were were gone, we ate out only 5 times (not bad when you consider breakfast, lunch and dinner).After fixing up a snack, we ventured out onto the beach in the darkness. It was peaceful, and yet there were still people out and about. As we wandered into town, the restaraunts were still hopping, and even the gift stores were open. Of all the shops in Mexico, Sayulita had the most beautiful, well-fashioned gift shops! There is clearly a heavy American influence in Sayulita, and it certainly caters to tourists.

In the morning we found the typical stands set up by the native men in their traditional clothing, selling their incredible beadwork.
We enjoyed a yummy, healthy breakfast at a hippie joint (I had hummus, and even managed to buy the owner's remaining Tahini/Sesame Paste from his jar, so that I could make my own at home. I have been looking for Tahini Paste for over 9 months...I couldn't even find it in Alaska!)
The view from the cafe...
Sayulita had one of the busiest beaches that we saw on our trip, but the town made up for that downfall with its character. We will definitely take friends/family here in the future!

Here's the "world famous" Sayulita Fish Taco joint, which our Lonely Planet book says some claim has the best tacos in Mexico. We didn't find out for ourselves...

AND...after 5 nights and 6 days on the road, we were ready to get back to Ajijic! The drive home from Sayulita was a whopping 5 1/2 hours on windy, slow roads. So, I guess we won't be making any "quick" trips to Puerto Vallarta. If you want to come visit in to Guadalajara!

And if you aren't tired after reading all of that (I am!)...then you're nuts, too. We've decided that one of these years we'll learn how to REALLY vacation. That is...go to a hotel, and STAY in that hotel for more than one night. Maybe 2 or 3 or more!? We'll see...

That's what I get for marrying a professional driver...


Morgan and Derek said...

As I was reading, I was thinking, "How are they not exhausted?" But, it still looks like it was amazing!

Brooke Lowry said...

Wow Alisa! I loved seeing the pictures of you guys in joying the sun and warmth so much...I guess I feel for you living so far north for so long! Isn't it amazing the different climates in this world?! It changes the whole experience! Speaking of which Moscow is piled with snow lately, so count your many blessings! I also loved reading your perspective of what you and Jered would do if you lived there, you are such entripenaurs! Especially that they all sell the same thing, what about having the advantage of something new. I guess it's maybe too much of a gamble because they don't know what will sell. Anyway, I loved reading your entry. Can't BELIEVE it was all in 6 days!!!

Alyson, Cara and Erik said...

Honey Child, I felt like I was looking at a brochure for a vacation destination the pictures were so beautiful! What a fun adventure. I loved Maiya in the sand!

Jenny said...

Wow- that wore me out! Now I need a nap! Beautiful pictures though!