Bahia de Navidad: An Oasis of Calm in Costalegre

Miguel Angel Hernández
Bahia de Navidad: Melaque and Barra de NavidadBarra de Navidad and Melaque are two quaint towns in Jalisco's Costalegre (the gorgeous coastline that faces the Pacific Ocean and runs from Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo). These tranquil towns are a little further than 120 miles from world-famous Puerto Vallarta and are just 3 miles apart from each other, sharing a quiet stretch of golden sand and the deep blue waters of Bahia de Navidad (Christmas Bay).

Bahia de Navidad: Melaque and Barra de NavidadThe soft waves that caress the unspoiled soft sandy beach at Bahia de Navidad are the main attraction of the bay, because they entice sun-loving families who want to enjoy aquatic sports or just relax and play on the sand. Most of the travelers come from the neighboring city of Guadalajara, but during the last few years an increasing number of Canadian tourists have started to ''explore'' parts of this unknown paradise. It's no wonder that Bahia de Navidad is such a hit with visitors, when you consider that activities like fishing, snorkeling, surfing, diving and sightseeing are as common in Melaque and Barra de Navidad as working, driving, and stress are in large cities.

Bahia de Navidad: Melaque and Barra de NavidadA vacation in either of these towns will provide visitors with an authentically ''Mexican'' experience because the locals are friendly and firmly devoted to their age-old traditions. The unique personality of the towns can be found in the streets, where visitors can see and photograph the stunning colonial buildings as well as dozens of uniquely adorned red roofed houses. The vibrant personality can also be felt in the colorful markets and the restaurants where hundreds of flavors and scents dance for you to the rhythm of Mexican music.

Undoubtedly, the beliefs and customs of the inhabitants are also interesting aspects that draw travelers to Bahia de Navidad. In Melaque, every March 17th a huge celebration to honor San Patricio (Saint Patrick) takes place. During the festivity, bullfights and ''Charreria'' demonstrations (a kind of Mexican rodeo) are held, along with a variety of catholic processions and rituals.

Bahia de Navidad: Melaque and Barra de NavidadBarra de Navidad has some interesting stories to tell as well, such as when Hurricane Lily struck the area on September 1st, 1791. According to the locals, during the most violent part of the storm the many families who were sheltered inside San Antonio's Church began to pray feverishly. After which, the image of Christ in the church lowered his arms and all of a sudden the strong winds and rain stopped. To honor the image, now known as ''El Cristo del Ciclon'' (The Christ of the Hurricane) or ''El Cristo de los Brazos Caidos'' (which translates directly as ''The Christ of the Fallen Arms''), a huge celebration is held. This Mexican ''fiesta'' takes place inBarra de Navidad's main plaza and includes traditional dances and music, fireworks and of course the most delicious food and snacks.

Bahia de Navidad: Melaque and Barra de NavidadWhen talking about the gastronomy of the area, we must mention that on the streets and beaches of Melaque and Barra de Navidad there are many restaurants, ''fondas'' (tiny cafes owned and run by local families), as well as stands selling Jalisco's most typical specialties. Some of the most popular and delicious dishes are ''Pozole'' (a spicy broth made out of pork and grains of corn), ''Birria'' (hot stew with boneless shredded goat meat), as well as many seafood delicacies made with fish, shrimp, oysters and scallops freshly caught from the ocean. Kids have to sample the coconut and tamarind sweets, and parents have to try a few shots of Jalisco's official beverage, Tequila, drunk straight with a little lemon and salt.

Bahia de Navidad: Melaque and Barra de NavidadA few miles south of the bay, in the neighboring state of Colima, travelers will come across a huge vacation complex called Isla Navidad (Christmas Island). This area (which ironically is not an island at all) can be easily reached by boat from Bahia de Navidad. Within this complex lies the Grand Bay Hotel, which features two impressive marinas and the only ocean front 27-hole golf course in the area. However, if you're looking for a truly Mexican experience, much more traditional and family oriented, Melaque and Barra de Navidad have several hotel options ranging from budget accommodation to luxurious boutique hotels. When you come on vacation to Bahia de Navidad, you'll be sure to find a warm welcome as if you were a distant relative visiting your Mexican family. Come and enjoyBahia de Navidad!

Written by Miguel Angel Hernández Sánchez