The small town of Barra De Navidad is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. Find out how to get there, why it’s safe, things to do, and more!
As a child, when I visited Mexico, I had a sense of discovering untapped territory that was known to only a few. I found myself walking on cobblestone streets that were lined with small markets and street vendors selling authentic Mexican food.
There were villas available for rent at very reasonable prices and long stretches of uncrowded beaches. However, popular destinations like Puerto Vallarta, which once served as a safe haven for vacationers seeking refuge from the crowds, have lost their obscurity and become one of Mexico’s busiest cities.
In an attempt to escape the crowds, my family and I decided to take the road less traveled and stumbled upon a lesser-known town called Barra De Navidad, which is only three hours south of Puerto Vallarta.
Barra De Navidad is located along the Happy Coast (Costa Alegre) in Jalisco. Even with all the travel warnings for Mexico, I feel as safe in this city and its surroundings as in my hometown of San Diego. After spending my first week in Barra, I met several local business and restaurant owners and quickly became friends with many of them.
The next time we went, almost two years later, it was like we had never left. They remembered our names, and people seemed happy to see us again.
I now visit almost every year and have for five years. Although a part of me wants to keep this place all to myself, to be my second home forever without tourists, I know that is impossible. Sooner or later, the cat will come out of the bag.
For those better at not letting the media scare you off about a trip to Mexico, here are some tips if you’re heading to this region.
Barra de Navidad, Mexico
How to get to Barra de Navidad, Mexico
The nearest airport is Manzanillo (ZLO). A few popular airlines that offer flights to this airport are Alaska, Continental, Delta, and American Airlines.
Once you arrive in Manzanillo, you can take a taxi for around US$40-50 to Barra. Renting a car is also an option. However, I must warn you that a week’s rental can be expensive at the end of the day. You should take out full insurance if you rent a car here.
Mexican drivers aren’t required to carry insurance, and many don’t, so even if you’re not at fault in an accident, you’ll likely have to pay for the damages. I paid US$330 for a five-day rental. That is not exactly my idea of cheap.
Where to stay in Barra de Navidad
When my family first started visiting this small town, there were few places to stay. Fortunately, there are more options now. These are the best hotels and resorts in the city.
Hotel La Alondra: Hotel La Alondra is an excellent choice as it offers a private beach, ocean view rooms, swimming pools, and free WIFI.
Grand Isla Navidad Resort: The Grand Island Navidad Resort is a luxury beachfront resort featuring a golf course, gym, spa, two outdoor pools, and more.
Cabo Blanco Hotel & Marina: The Cabo Blanco Hotel and Marina is a 10-minute walk from the beach and offers outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, and free WIFI.
Where to eat in Barra de Navidad
Casa Potato Chips is among my favorites for authentic Mexican dishes, friendly owners, and beach views.
After filling up on fries, salsa, and massive amounts of refried beans (a favorite), your palette may be craving something different. In this case, see Restaurant Ambar Del Mare.
You will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of Italian cuisine that comes out of this kitchen: delicate and delicious pizzas, various pastas, and extravagant salads. Mostly, the salads ordered in a typical Mexican restaurant leave something to be desired. At Ambar, you will get quality lettuce, not iceberg, with all the fixings. Try the gorgonzola and walnut salad, like me, if you are a cheese lover. The vegetables here are perfectly safe to eat.
Several small restaurants along the main street do the best burritos and tacos for a flight.
Nightlife in Barra de Navidad
Barra has no shortage of options for a night out on the town. One of my favorites is a bar called The Azotea where you’ll find friendly staff, a pool table, and a few TVs on a covered outdoor rooftop, which overlooks Barra’s main street.
Another fun bar with live music is Bar Roctavios where the charismatic owner, Octavio, who claims to be related to a group member, Mana, will probably serve you.
Check Master of the Seas if you are looking for a trendy nightclub teeming with twenty years.
Activities and leisure in Barra de Navidad
- Melaque: Take a short drive to the town of Melaque for shopping and beach time.
- Malecon Of Barra De Navidad: Walk along the Malecon at sunset (with a churro in hand.)
- Bar crawl: If you’re looking for a good time, the bars near by are the perfect place to go! Stop in to grab a drink and take in the atmosphere, or challenge your friends to a game of pool.
Surfing: You can surf directly in Barra (if there are waves) or take lessons at a local shop.
- Purchases: Visit the local shops along the main street after a day at the beach.
Where To Surf in Barra De Navidad?
Surfable waves do not often hit the town of Barra itself. Since they built the pier at the end of the city, it’s ruined the only good surf spot.
I went when there was a high swell, but since it’s a point break, everyone is crammed into a tiny area, fighting for the same wave. I also learned firsthand that the young people surfing there have no problem crushing people. Literally.
About 15 minutes north of Barra, you will find one of my favorite surf spots, Boca De Iguanas. It’s a fun, gentle break on the beach with little to no crowds. Although the last time I visited, they built a small beach resort. Not sure how the resort affected the crowds in the water, but it’s still a decent place to stay.
If you are looking good, snorkelingTenacatita Beach, just off Boca De Iguanas, is the perfect beach for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying a few margaritas on the sand.
For the more adventurous, go to the world-famous break from Pascualesjust a few hours away in the neighboring state of Michoacan.
The wave here is a heavy, hollow beach break, so make sure you’re ready before you go. If you want to spend the night here, I suggest bringing a tent and camping on the beach, just steps from the water. I plan to stay here for a night or two next time I visit Barra.
Festivals in Barra De Navidad
Barra De Navidad:
July 5-13 — San Antonio De Padua
August 30-September 1 — Cristo De Los Brazos Caidos
Festivities include prayer prayers, fireworks, food fairs, and other celebrations.
The nearby town of Melaque:
March 9-17 — Saint San Patricio
I had the honor of visiting Melaque during this festival, and it was indeed a huge event. In addition to the festivities mentioned above, you can watch a bullfight, nightly rodeos, and dance performances.
The rodeo was unlike anything I had ever seen. Most of the show was not a rodeo but a series of dramatic performances. In my opinion, the performances encouraged the hitting of women, but maybe that was also my personal view. All I know is that it’s not something I would have taken a child to see.