Barra de Navidad

 

Barra de Navidad is a laid-back coastal town 135 miles south of famous Puerto Vallarta, and only 20 short minutes away from the Manzanillo, Colima airport.

It has an important historic past in that the first Spanish explorers visited this area early in 1523, over 480 years ago. It served as an anchorage when Hernan Cortes continued his exploration of the “Southern Sea."

A viceroy named it Puerto de Navidad (Port of Christmas), because the Spanish explorers landed on Christmas Day. Since the town he built was on a sandbar, the name was later changed to “Bar of Christmas.”

Barra de Navidad became a town of shipbuilders and buccaneers, its beaches being used to build vessels that would sail as far as the newly-discovered Philippines, in search of gold.

Today, Mexico and the Philippines share the same currency: the peso. In 1559, a decree from King Phillip II of Spain arrived in Mexico, ordering another fleet to sail west to the Philippines. All western Mexico was mobilized in support of this fleet. Roads were built to ferry supplies to Barra de Navidad where the ships were to be built. To this day, the main Guadalajara-Barra de Navidad road (Hwy. 80 through Autlan, a 5˝ hour drive) is known to some as the Philippine Way. Food, planks, sails and rigging—all had to be acquired and transported to the port.   

The expedition finally set sail on the 21st of November 1564, under the command of Lopez de Legazpi. To prevent any mutiny, Legazpi kept his crew in the dark about their true destination until the boats were already well on their way. Lopez de Legazpi remained in the Philippines and placed his 17-year-old grandson in charge of finding a way back to Mexico, a feat never previously accomplished. The attempt was successful, but when the expedition reached Acapulco, the crew was so exhausted; no one had the strength to drop the anchor. A small monument of Legaspi in Barra de Navidad’s plaza commemorates these explorations.  

Barra de Navidad is approximately 135 miles south of Puerto Vallarta in the central western part of Mexico on the Pacific Coast. It is in the state of Jalisco, about 10 miles north of the state line of Colima, the dividing line being the Cihuatlan-Marabasco River. The Manzanillo airport (ZLO) is only 20 minutes or 10 miles from Barra de Navidad.

The Pacific Ocean greets Barra de Navidad on one side of the sand bar, and on the other is a natural lagoon, Laguna de Navidad. Altitude ranges from sea level along the coast to more than 14,000 feet in Jalisco's Sierra Madres. (The peaks of the volcanoes at 14,200 and 13,000 feet are actually in the state of Jalisco; only the base of the Volcan de Colima is in the state of Colima.) These mountains have erupted in the last year.

During the winter months, the climate in Barra ranges from 75-82 degrees F during the day, while nights see about a (cooler) ten-degree temperature difference. In summer, temperatures are slightly warmer (by 5-10 degrees), but when it rains (every 4-5 days), it cools everything off and leaves the lush tropical foliage green and clean.

Tourists to Barra enjoy the finest fresh seafood in the world, including red snapper, dorado, marlin, sailfish, tuna and lobster. You'll see the fishermen every morrning coming in with their catch of the day. Cultured oysters and clams are harvested daily from the lagoon in front of the small village of Colimilla, just a 5 minute trip by water taxi, from the town center.

The lagoon is a source for shrimp, clams and oysters, while the ocean is known for its fresh seafood, including fish, octopus and lobster. The surrounding mountains are great for hiking, bicycling and camping, while the Marabasco River to the south is perfect for swimming or trapping langostina (fresh water lobster).

Fruits and vegetables grown in the area include chile peppers, squash, mangoes, papayas, tomatoes, bananas, limes and coconuts. One of the largest coconut and banana plantations in the world is located just outside of Barra de Navidad.

The fruits and vegetables that are available in the markets in Barra de Navidad are all grown naturally and are very inexpensive. Many times trucks will come to town with fruits from other regions, and you will be able to sample watermelon of 5 varieties, cantelopes, pineapples and strawberries.

Thousands of tourists flock to Barra de Navidad each year to spend the winter. A 4-mile-long, curving beach extends all the way to another popular tourist area, Melaque. Along the way there are many quaint thatched-roof restaurants, bars and shops.

To the south, Playa de Navidad ends at the jetty to the harbor, where there's a picturesque overlook and a statue of Neptune. Because the corner of the bay is protected, it is often possible to swim and snorkel near the jetty.

On the lagoon side there are numerous pangas (small open-bowed fiberglass fishing boats) for rent. Your guests at the hotel can take a tour of the lagoon or a tour of the bay. If you take the water taxi across the lagoon to Isla Navidad or the friendly little village of Colimilla, the charge is 10 pesos each way. You will enjoy the unusual experience of getting around by water taxi.

The famous and exclusive Ritz Carlton Hotel Grand Bay, a world class resort is across the lagoon, and can be seen prominently close to town. Your visit to Barra de Navidad will not be complete without stopping at Isadora's Restaurant and experience the delights of the cuisine prepared fresh daily. Isadora's hours are from 6 PM until 11PM however the staff are there from mid morning preparing to welcome their guests. 

Isla Navidad, a 27-hole golf course is also just across the lagoon. Many visitors to Barra stay at the Mesón Dońa Paz, Hotel Buenos Aires, or the Ritz Carlton Hotel Grand Bay so that they can have easy access to one of the finest golf courses in the world.

Most people come to Barra de Navidad because of its laid-back ambience, and its "authentic Mexican village" feel. The friendly people there cherish the mix of foreigners and Mexican nationals, and though still a small town, there is lots of potential for growth. In fact, the town's permanent population, and the growth in tourism has increased  by approximately 30% over the last several years, and it's still growing.

No need for cabs here, visitors can walk everywhere, and Barra has designed several blocks of pedestrian walkways and seawalls where no auto traffic is allowed.

Come and "hang out" at the beach and experience Barra de Navidad for yourself and find out why it is becoming world travelers destination of choice !

 

For boaters, “Barra,” as the surfers and beach-niks call it, its main anchorage is not out in the surf-prone Bahia Navidad. Instead, the anchorage lies inside Laguna Navidad, behind the “barra” or berm.

A 20-foot-deep boat channel that cuts through the berm allows access into Laguna Navidad. According to GPS coordinates, the entrance lies at 19 degrees, 11.9 minutes north latitude; 104 degrees, 41.32 minutes west longitude.

Red/green navigation lights mark the entrance. The green light stands on the seaward end of a short rock jetty forming the north side of the entrance. However, boaters must avoid an underwater baffle that extends about 50 feet northeast from this jetty. After heavy rains, the lagoons and channels could be silted to a lesser depth, so it’s a good idea to call the marina office for an update on depths.

First-timers to Laguna Navidad should be cautious: It contains numerous shoals, two islands, three side channels and five side basins. However, the main channel is well marked with lighted buoys and is dredged to 20 feet. It winds its way (southeast, east, southeast) through the south side of Laguna Navidad -- at least as far as the big marina. Beyond that, the main channel narrows and becomes shallow as it enters the larger back lagoon, Laguna Colimilla.

As you move slowly through Laguna Navidad, don’t enter either of the first two tiny coves that open off your starboard side. The first is deep enough only for PWCs, and the second cove, behind a tiny manicured island, is reserved for the water taxi service and a private swimming beach. Small boats and PWC are able to come right to and tie up at Isadora's in Laguna Navidad.


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