After more than two weeks at Paradise Village in December, we were ready for a change of pace for Christmas week. We headed over to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a few miles across the bay and worlds apart from Nuevo Vallarta. La Cruz has a well-deserved reputation as a cruiser’s haven and more authentic town in Banderas Bay, and after being there for a week, we could understand why. We are back there now in mid-January after two weeks in Puerto Vallarta at Marina Vallarta (a separate review forthcoming) as we wait for a part for the head (we know our visitors will appreciate that!) and continue to think it is a fabulous town.
Marina Riveria Nayarit is a large, relatively new marina located right in the center of town. The approach is easy and they seemed to have plenty of space available for all sizes of boats. The docks are in good shape, with good power, but non-potable water. Wifi was available at no charge, but as usual, was pretty spotty. There are shower facilities and an air conditioned clubhouse right at the top of the dock (with air conditioning and better wifi). There are also a couple of restaurants, a small tienda and a tiny pool, which we did use a couple of times. We have not eaten at the restaurants… too many good options in town.
One of our favorite areas is the fish market right at the marina featuring the local catch, and shrimp brought in from Mazatlan. It was impressive to see the large Tuna, Dorado, Snapper and other fish being brought up from the fishing fleet moored right in front of the market. The market itself seems more frequented by Mexicans than gringos when we’ve shopped there. I learned from watching and asking what some of the more interesting appearing items were. Some very large egg sacs, and various fish parts. Didn’t want to buy them, but interesting.
We have gorged on both dorado and shrimp which are uniformly fresh and excellent and at a very low price. I even managed to communicate my request for them to fillet up and trim a large piece of dorado and saved Larry some work.
Dining out is tasty and inexpensive here so we have not been doing much cooking other than the fish and shrimp. The street tacos near the head of the main street are fabulous, and you can buy beer to have with them at the shop on the opposite corner. Our favorite dessert guy is a few blocks up the main street, you just can’t beat a bag of fresh churros for 10 pesos!
The town square houses the nativity scene. One thing I appreciated is the attention to the timeline of the story. Before December 25, there was no Jesus in the manger. He appeared appropriately on the day.
The beach is steps away from the marina. Over the week of Christmas and on the day of there were many families who set up lots of sun cover, tables for snacks and chairs to relax in the shade. We were happy we have a beach umbrella ourselves, but it isn’t quite enough shade for all 3 of us, and the sun is hot! Recently it’s been in the high 80s up to 90, and the humidity is climbing too, so water relief is welcome.
We got in a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping and some excellent produce at the Sunday market. It is a huge farmers and craft market, wrapping around half of the marina, and is obviously the big happening of the week. It was similar to, but much more extensive than, the markets at Nuevo and Puerto Vallarta. Lots of good ethnic foods and drink (we got Indian and Thai food at various times) live music, and a huge variety of clothing, jewelry and crafts.
There is an active live music scene here too. We’ve been to a few places with names like The Green Tomato and Ana’s Bananas (where we thoroughly embarrassed Miranda) – it was definitely an old gringo crowd and she studiously ignored our dancing. We hear there are more original Latin groups that come through than those playing covers of American bands, but they are probably playing past our bedtime!
One day we decided to anchor in the bay along with the dozens of sailboats that make the anchorage home. We joined former Seattle Shilshole marina neighbors Kevin and Alison (and their family) on Red Rover at anchor off La Cruz, at the east end of the anchorage. The water was warm, but the anchorage, at least on this day, was incredibly rolly. We wound up deploying both flopper stoppers for the first time, and were glad we did, as things got a bit choppy in the evening. We had a big “surf and turf” dinner aboard Red Rover, featuring Mahi Mahi tacos from Miss Miranda, and Arracheta (marinated steak), potatoes and salad from Red Rover. A fun evening. It was sloppy and choppy overnight and started to drizzle a bit the next morning, so we pulled up the anchor and headed back to the marina.
Larry started complaining about his back from all the boat yoga he has been doing, so we found the Oasis spa on the main drag and had massages. The spa is in what might be the interior shell of a partly demolished building, has a gigantic tree growing that provides shade so that it was MUCH cooler than the street, and has a few selected structures for private areas. Extremely well done.
We’ve been in Banderas Bay now for over 6 weeks, quite a bit longer than planned, because of waiting for parts. But as they say, plans are only worth the paper they are written on, so we are finding other ways to explore. This weekend we are going to leave the boat and take an inland trip to the mountains to the town of Mascota. It will be a welcome cool break and a different look at Mexico!