Our original plan was to travel directly from Maui to Bucerias, Mexico. But those plans fell apart the moment we landed in Maui and my phone exploded with 10 texts from my sisters. Dad was in the hospital. So my time in Maui was interspersed with three trips back to Seattle. We had already decided to stay a little closer and return more often than last year and I must admit I was glad to be a short plane ride away. Each trip home served to remind me just how crappy January weather is in Seattle. I left Seattle four times in January, three times on a nonstop flight to Maui and the last on a nonstop to Puerto Vallarta. It was a little like when you step into the walk-in refrigerator at Costco and can’t wait to get back out where it is warm. Why stay in the refrigerator any longer than you have to?
Our home for February was a beautiful condo in a waterfront development located between Bucerias and La Cruz Huanacaxtle. We have a weakness for water views and beach access which does not work well with our budget. In order to find anything near our monthly budget we always end up a mile or two from town. The place we found is large and beautiful, three bedrooms over 2000 square feet and a private pool.
A little opulent for our taste but we adjusted
Cost was $4500 for the month, way over budget. We reduced the cost by inviting friends with an offer of $700 a week to stay in a house that has a daily rental rate of $350. Daq and Genevieve accepted the offer, they are always up for an adventure and it is great to catch up with friends and share the experience not to mention the expense. As an added bonus Gen is fluent in Spanish.
The contrast between Mexico and Hawaii was rather stark. Our accommodations in Mexico are much larger and nicer than what we could afford in Hawaii. If you moved the Mexican accommodation to Maui you would be paying at least $10,000 a month. Stepping outside the gates of our condo it was obvious you weren’t in Hawaii but the people are friendly and the prices are much less. Our Condo grounds were beautifully maintained. Outside the gates you are on highway 200 which strings together the large and small Mexican beach towns of Peurto Vallarta, Neuvo Vallarta, Bucerias, La Cruz, Punta de Mita and Sayulita. If a town existed prior to tourism it was a small dusty fishing village. Some remain small and dusty while others look like you are in Southern California. The numerous dirt roads and parking lots combine with the sunny dry weather to give most everything a brown patina of dust. Sometimes beautiful and sometimes just dusty.
We settled into a nice routine with daily walks on the beach, oftentimes for lunch or grocery shopping. Our Condo’s distance from town gave us a nice 2Km walk in either direction to a town with stores and restaurants.
We usually took Uber back to the Condo for around $4. The bus was about 50 cents as was the collectivo, which are basically van pools that drive up and down the highway all day. Just wave one down and hop in with 12 or 15 of your new friends. We used the bus and collectivo often as they were just easier than waiting for a taxi or uber and much cheaper if you were traveling any distance.
Most evenings we joined our Canadian neighbors by the community pool. Evening happy hour was an educational experience. When are market days? How much does golf cost? How much did you pay to rent here? What are the best stores and restaurants. Where can you find good live music? How do you use the Collectivo system?
All of your questions can be answered over a cocktail by the pool. We also learned a bit about Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, the Acadians and Acadia? For those who are curious Acadia was a French speaking settlement that included parts of Maine, the Maritime Provinces and Quebec until the damn British came along. It is a long sad story with a small silver lining…..Cajun Food. You see, the Brits deported most of the Acadians and some made their way to Lousiana and are now known as Cajun. Amazing what you learn from exotic foreign people like Canadians.
On Sundays, if the tide is low enough, we would walk the mile or so along the beach into La Cruz for Market Day. The La Cruz Sunday Market is one of the largest in the area with plenty of crafts and a good selection of fruit and artisan food such as bread, cheese, yogurt and pasta. It is located next to the La Cruz fish market, one of the best in the area. The town itself has good butchers, a tortilla factory, and a good produce market.
We tried to do most of our weekly shopping on our Sunday trip into La Cruz. Prices are always great with the rare exception. One such exception was an artisan cheese maker at the Sunday Market. We tasted two of his excellent cheeses and asked for about a pound of each. Then he asked us for 800 pesos, about $40 US. Too embarrassed to give him back his cheese we paid. Live and learn but it is a problem caused by our own failure to learn Spanish. I often ask the price up front but don’t understand the response at least half the time, so I respond with an ok knowing that it is never going to be too bad. On occasion I am shocked by the total. We had a similar problem with some great prosciutto at a market last year in Arles, France. My French is about as good as my Spanish. In the end we enjoyed some great local delicacy and paid the equivalent of a few beers in Maui, not a bad life lesson.
An added bonus to our Sunday shopping in La Cruz is grabbing a few beers at the Green Tomato, it has a band at noon that does some great covers of classic rock. The place is packed with Americans and Canadians so arrive early. The number of Americans and Canadians throughout the region is both a blessing and a curse. It is comfortable and everyone speaks English. But the opportunity to actually experience Mexico and Mexicans is limited. When we make the effort to step outside the comfort zone of our American and Canadian friends it is a little scary but always rewarding. So, hop in that van with the Mexican workers, venture into the fish market or butcher shop with your poor Spanish. Stumble through a conversation with the waiter, bartender, chef or the lead singer of the band. My experience is your effort will always be met with a smile, and the contact with someone a little different than yourself is always a good thing.