Fly to Manzanillo, on the central Pacific coast, then rent a car and head north. You won’t find yourself on the most renowned of Mexican beaches, so don’t expect crowded bars or massive chain hotels. Expect Costalegre (Joyful Coast).
Running along Highway 200 from Careyes to Punta Dorada, this strip of Mexican coastline attracts tourists in search of communion with nature without sacrificing comfort. Navidad Bay, Tenacatita Bay, Costa Careyes, Chamela Bay, Costa Majahuas, and Cabo Corrientes are just some of the places where you can stop to breathe the fresh air and drink in the expansive view from the cliffs, before basking a while on warm beaches. Your choices range from clean, well-kept and affordable hotels at La Manzanilla – where air-conditioning is unusual –, to isolated and more intimate hotels where the dress code sometimes includes a no-clothes option, or luxurious master suites in Costa Careyes, famous for hosting political leaders alongside film and sports stars. Home to some of the most select hotels in the country, Costalegre is the ideal spot for jet-setters in search of privacy.
An exclusive group can practice their skills at local golf courses, while lovers of the outdoors can enjoy cliff-top trails for a bracing early morning walk; forgetting the camera is just not an option here. In the shelter of these cliffs, you'll find naturally isolated beaches where privacy is offered in abundance to visitors – and for free.
Tourists can rent cars to visit Costa Careyes, El Tamarindo, Las Alamandas, Isla Navidad, Barra de Navidad, Tenacatita, Chamela, and Perula, towns with renowned resorts and by far the most interesting beaches.
Due to strict controls on gentrification and massive advertising campaigns, 150 miles of tranquil beaches located between the ports of Manzanillo, Colima, and Puerto Vallarta remain largely hidden and pristine. Relaxation is the main offering here, but if you want some action, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, tennis, golf and water sports are also on the menu.
Costalegre’s cuisine is an additional treat. Traditional Mexican dishes, especially fish and seafood, are prepared daily with the freshest ingredients. Many hotels cultivate onsite the fruits and vegetables they use for their guests’ consumption. These lucky tourists can enjoy the local gastronomy in a totally natural environment, surrounded by palm trees and a luscious view of the ocean.
Parties, religious and pagan celebrations and colorful traditions are part of every Mexican town, and Costalegre is no exception. Festivities at Barra de Navidad are held during the month of July to celebrate their patron saint, Anthony of Padua. In September, they pay homage to the Christ of the Lowered Arms who, according to legend, saved the town's residents from a storm. Both religious festivals involve pilgrimages, a small fair and a mass of fireworks.
In Melaque, the Festival of San Patricio – held every March- brings together a small and varied food festival, and an exciting midnight jaripeo (Mexican version of the rodeo).