Chacala one of Mexico’s best kept secrets
Off the beaten tourist path just 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Puerto Vallarta, lies Chacala– a picturesque beach town set in a small cove on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Nayarit. Chacala means “where there are shrimp” in Nahuatl. Here, on the coastline known as Riviera Nayarita, visitors fall into the easy rhythm of the slow pace of village life for a true Mexican experience. Chacalenos are friendly people. Traditions bind the community and the locals’ livelihood stems from the fishing trade and tourism.
However, you won’t find fancy hotels in Chacala, but cozy tourist accommodations where you can get first-hand advice about how to best experience this laid-back fishing village and the surrounding area. Chacala, with its secluded bays and surrounding lush green jungles, offers visitors the tranquility of underdevelopment away from the hustle and bustle of larger vacation destinations.
Chacala has a population of about 300. That number swells to approximately 1,000 during the high tourism seasons of winter, Christmas and Easter. Fishing is good periodically during the winter, spring and fall.
The Chacala Experience
Leave your cares and your dress up clothes behind. There is no need to worry about what you look like in Chacala. Sip on margaritas and dine on fish tacos at a beach café in your bathing suit. In Chacala, your spirit will be refreshed and your body rejuvenated by the laid back atmosphere, warm sunshine, ocean breezes, friendly people, and the many activities you may choose to participate in. Chacala visitors are seeking a retreat from their hectic lives.
Activities in Chacala
Choose to do nothing but lounge by the infinity pool surrounded by lovely gardens at Casa de Tortugas or venture out to enjoy all that Chacala has to offer. Your Casa de Tortugas host or hostess will help you make the most of your visit.
The main beach is a short, two-minute walk along the ocean and the children’s beach is 30 yards away. Caleta Bay is a great place for surfing.
The marina is just two minutes from Casa de Tortugas. Owners of the local panaga boats will take you snorkeling, whale watching, turtle watching, fishing, and on sightseeing excursions as porpoises swim along side.
Fish for delicious dorado (mahi-mahi) and snapper. Fire up the outdoor grill at Casa de Tortugas and prepare your catch of the day!
The humpback whales come to the calm waters of Chacala to give birth from December to March. Take a whale watching cruise. In Chacala, it is said that there is one boat for every 10 whales!
Take a day trip to Sayulita for surf school. While you are there, take a ride on the zip line.
Hike in the mountains above Chacala. Hike around a crater, through orchards to a hidden beach while overlooking the coastline and Bay of Chacala.
Over 170 species of exotic birds inhabit Chacala. Be sure bring your binoculars.
Just one hour north of Chacala, you can take a two-hour Tobarra jungle ride. Enter the mangroves by boat and discover all the wildlife from birds to snakes to crocodiles.
Take a van to the nearby marketplace in La Penita where once a week you can shop for Mexican artwork, artifacts, clothes, food, plants, and fresh produce.
Soak in natural hot springs that are only a short car ride away.
Petroglyphs A local guide will take you to an archeological site to see 2300-year-old carvings.
If you yearn for a little nightlife, head to more developed Sayulita or Guayabitos for music and dancing.
Most of Chacala’s palapa-covered restaurants are located along the beachfront and feature the best in seafood from the local area. Savor freshly caught or harvested lobster, shrimp, mahi-mahi, oysters, or other local favorites. New restaurants located away from the beach offer a bit of a different cuisine. Your Casa de Tortugas host or hostess will steer you to in the right direction to suit your tastes. Go casual. There is no need to dress up in Chacala.
How to get to Chacala
Chacala is located on a bay about 1 ½ hours north of Purerto Vallarta where you will find the closest international airport. There is a van service that operates out of chacala that will pick you up at the airport and drop you off at Casa de Tortugas for about $120. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another option is to buy a ticket for an airport taxi to the Puerto Vallarta bus terminal (“Al central de caminiones, por favor”). The bus terminal is one kilometer away. There, you can go to the Pacifico bus counter and purchase a ticket to Las Varas which costs about $7.00 per person. Board a northbound bus to Tepic and get off at Las Varas. From Las Varas, take a green and yellow collective taxi to Chacala which costs about $1.00 during the day and about $10.00 in the evening.
Due to a developer’s purchase of a large parcel of land around the sister bay, Chacalilla, what was once a rough, unpaved road off of Highway Mex 200, is now a smooth five-mile ride into Chacala.