Barra de Navidad, Mexico: A Small Treasure in Jalisco

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Hidden among mountains, virgin beaches, and dreamlike landscapes is the small coastal town of Barra de Navidad.

This Jalisco destination is part of the tourist corridor known as Costa Alegre, located between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo Colima.

Barra de Navidad is a place to rest, connect with nature, and feel the purest Mexican essence.

This small yet captivating town boasts stunning beaches, a vibrant cultural scene, and a warm, welcoming community.

Whether you’re an adventurer seeking water sports, a foodie eager to savor local delicacies, or a traveler in search of tranquility, Barra de Navidad promises a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Why is it called Barra de Navidad (Christmas Bar)?

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You are likely wondering why the place has this curious name. The answer, of course, lies in its history.

The small fishing port, today known as Barra de Navidad, was discovered on December 25, 1540, when Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza arrived in the area.

He first named it Puerto de la Natividad (in honor of the day of his arrival), but over time the name changed.

It was also called Puerto de Jalisco, Puerto de Juan Gallego, Puerto del Espíritu Santo, Puerto de Purificación, Puerto de Cihuatlán, and, Barra de Navidad.

Getting to Barra de Navidad, Mexico

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Again, Barra de Navidad sits in the Ecological Tourist Corridor Costa Alegre (Costalegre), in Jalisco.

This beautiful stretch of the Mexican Pacific coastline extends for more than 205 km, from Puerto de Manzanillo (in Colima) to Puerto Vallarta (in Jalisco).

Mexico City is almost 900 km away, while the impressive city of Guadalajara is about 350 km away.

In addition to the bays of Navidad, Tenacatita, Chamela, Majahuas, Costa Careyes, and Cabo Corrientes, the Costa Alegre is made up of the municipalities of Cihuatlán, La Huerta and Tomatlán.

Therefore, if you plan to vacation in Barra de Navidad and visit the Costa Alegre, the options are endless.

Each bay in Costa Alegre has its unique charm and attraction. Although, something they have in common is the presence of quiet and unspoiled beaches (some more than others).

The landscapes in this region are dominated by vegetation, huge cliffs, small coves, and lush mangrove forests.

Bahia Navidad

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The stunning Bay at Navidad

Bahia de Navidad is one of the bays that make up the Costa Alegre of Jalisco and the site that hosts Barra de Navidad.

It is about 40 km from Tenacatita Bay, 50 km from Manzanillo, and 226 km from Puerto Vallarta.

Bahia de Navidad is an ideal destination for water sports lovers, such as skiing, surfing, and sport fishing.

It’s no surprise that it hosts many national and international tournaments, such as the International Fishing Championship and the International Marlin Tournament.

Like the rest of the bays of the Costa Alegre, the landscapes here have a special magic.

Within the Bahía de Navidad is also San Patricio Melaque, at the other end of the bay from Barra de Navidad. In this small town, you will find a nice beach to relax and watch the sunset.

8 Top attractions in Barra de Navidad, Mexico

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The Boardwalk in Barra de Navidad (Malecon)

Barra de Navidad and all the bay around it offers not only quiet and picturesque beaches, but also a lagoon full of mangroves that you can’t miss, many places to eat seafood, and a wide range of activities.

Water sports lead the way in this regard and sport fishing attracts many enthusiasts.

If you are not a restless tourist and are rather looking to relax and forget about everything, you are in the right place. After all, tranquility is the hallmark of Barra de Navidad.

1. Explore the town

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The Marina

Both Barra de Navidad and the nearby towns are characterized by their little houses with red tile roofs that give a special touch to the streets.

Because of the town’s small size, you can walk everywhere and get to know its people, chatting with the locals is an experience of its own.

Knowing and learning about other cultures is the most beautiful thing about traveling, and small destinations are ideal.

The main street of Barra de Navidad is Miguel López de Legazpi, a picturesque street full of restaurants, cafes, bars, souvenir stores, and handicrafts.

2. Visit the Parish Church of San Antonio de Padua

On this same street is the parish church of San Antonio de Padua, home of the Christ of the Cyclone and a famous legend I will tell you about later.

After visiting the church, you can go to the Barra de mi Corazón gallery, a space that exhibits photos of what the town was like in times of yore and the effects caused in Barra by Hurricane Jova in 2011.

A display of diagrams and models explains the process that was carried out to recover the beach.

3. Stroll the Boardwalk

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Of course, a visit to the Malecon (boardwalk) is a must!
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Triton and Nereida

This beautiful space was inaugurated in 1991 from which you can get unbeatable views of the Bahía de Navidad and the lagoon.

From there, you can imagine the ancient shipyard in the lagoon during the Viceroyalty. Today, in its place many boats take you to tour the surroundings or for sport fishing tours.

There is also the famous Triton and Nereida, a bronze sculpture that announces the beginning of Costalegre.

It is said that this sculpture symbolizes this corridor’s tourist and natural attractions.

The Triton represents one of the marine deities, while Nereida is a nymph that personifies the play of the waves.

The work is beautiful and bears a certain resemblance to the one on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk.

4. Isla Navidad

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The Grand Isla Navidad Golf & Spa Resort with Marina

Towards the end of the boardwalk, where the lagoon and the bay meet, is Isla Navidad, whose original name is Peñon de San Francisco.

Isla Navidad is a tourist complex on the Culebra Peninsula that houses one of the most exclusive hotels in the area.

Technically speaking, it is not an island, although they call it that way for marketing purposes.

This all-inclusive resort offers its visitors a unique summer experience. It has beautiful rooms overlooking the lagoon, swimming pools, beach access, 4 restaurants, a gym, a golf course, and more amenities.

Therefore, travelers looking for luxury and good service have an incredible option in Grand Isla Navidad Resort.

To get to this resort you must take Federal Highway 200 and drive up to 8 km before Cihuatlán and enter through the ejido “La Culebra.”

Once there, follow a road that will take you directly to your destination.

5. Learn about the legend of the Christ of the Cyclone

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I told you earlier that the town’s parish church hides a legend behind it.

When you enter the temple, you will see that the main altar has a very singular figure, the Christ of the fallen arms, around which this legend revolves and is still alive today.

According to the legend, on the morning of September 1, 1971, the town of Barra de Navidad was hit by Cyclone Lily.

The fierce storm caused the villagers to seek refuge inside the parish church, whose solid structure made it safer.

Desperate, the villagers began to plead for the catastrophe to stop. The surviving locals say that at their request, the Christ figure lowered its arms. Instantly, the strong winds and rains ceased.

In addition to this miraculous event, the image, made of paste, was not damaged or affected by humidity. The arms, on the other hand, remain hanging to this day.

Today, the “Christ of the Cyclone” or the “Christ who stops hurricanes” continues to be the place where the inhabitants of Barra de Navidad seek refuge every time a tropical storm hits the coast.

6. Admire the Barra de Navidad Lagoon

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Another great attraction in Barra de la Navidad is the lagoon, surrounded by mangroves where varied and colorful flora and fauna live.

The best way to get around the lagoon is to take a kayak or boat ride and learn all about the ecosystem it shelters.

In addition, on the shore of the lagoon, there are many food stands where you can taste typical Jalisco dishes.

A good place to eat is the famous restaurant Colimilla, which offers beautiful views of the lagoon and prepares delicious stews based on fresh fish and seafood.

You even have the option of visiting the shrimp farm and the impressive marina of the Grand Bay Hotel.

7. Visit the town of Melaque (next to Barra de Navidad)

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Melaque’s Main Square
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Grab an ice cream at Melaque’s Beach and enjoy the sunset!

If you travel to Barra de Navidad, you can’t miss the beautiful town of San Patricio Melaque (official name).

This popular vacation destination for Mexican families is located within the municipality of Cihuatlán (just like Barra de Navidad).

It comprises three coastal communities (San Patricio, Melaque, and Villa Obregón) in Bahía de Navidad.

To get to Melaque you only have to drive 4 km from Barra de Navidad to the intersection of Highway 200 and Highway 80.

The tourist area where these communities are located is the largest between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

Melaque is a traditional beach destination that has always been very popular among American and Canadian families looking to escape the winter.

Its beach is the most important in the area and a place where you can swim, relax, watch pelicans, contemplate beautiful sunrises, and much more.

If you visit Melaque you should not miss its public market, walk around the central square and along the coast to Barra de Navidad.

If you have no problem getting up early, you can get up before sunrise and go to Melaque to witness a movie-like sunrise.

From its panoramic boardwalk, you can appreciate this magical moment. Seeing how the sun’s rays begin to shine over Navidad Bay is priceless and will reward the effort to get up early.

The sunsets also have a special stamp in Melaque. So you can also approach in the last hours of the day.

8. Spend the day at Cuastecomate Beach

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Yummy fresh oysters in Cuastecomate
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The charming Cuastecomate Beach is just 3 km from the point where Barra de Navidad and Melaque meet, therefore, it is another nearby place worth visiting.

Cuastecomate is a quiet beach surrounded by cliffs and a lush jungle where ecotourism enthusiasts will have a real feast.

The main activities in Cuastecomate Beach are swimming, snorkeling, sailing in a pedal boat, walking along the coast, diving, and more.

Another of its advantages is that it is an “inclusive beach.” It is the first in the Mexican Pacific with these characteristics.

This means it has access to handicapped people and services adapted to their needs. In addition, its calm waves and shallow areas make it easy for everyone to enjoy it.

Explore other destinations near Barra de Navidad, Mexico

You will most likely visit Barra de Navidad as part of a trip along the Costa Alegre (if this is not in your plans, I suggest you consider doing this).

Exploring the rest of the bays that make up this tourist corridor is a way to greatly enrich the experience.

These are the closest options to Barra de Navidad!

Tenacatita Bay

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Beautiful and tranquil Tenacatita Bay
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Tour the Tenacatita Lagoon

Tenacatita Bay is possibly the most famous of all the Costalegre. Its coves, beaches, and lagoons have a special charm that seduces visitors.

Best of all, it is less than 40 km from Barra de Navidad, so you won’t have to travel a long way to reach it.

Tenacatita Bay is one of the few corners of the Mexican coast that, at certain times of the year, offers sunrises and sunsets on the same side of the sea.

In addition to this, there are many options for activities that make this destination a world of possibilities for enjoyment.

Snorkeling and scuba diving, swimming, mangrove tours, relaxing on the sand… Everything is possible in this little piece of Jalisco.

The main beaches at Tenacatita are La Manzanilla, Boca de Iguanas, and Playa Tenacatita (the most important), but there are others.

In addition to being bathed by crystal clear waters, mountains, cliffs, and dense vegetation of palms, almonds, and tropical fruit trees that give color, life, and charm to the experience.

The Tenacatita town maintains a rustic and quiet atmosphere and has several lodging alternatives.

If you are looking for a little more exclusivity, your best option is Los Angeles Locos, an extensive beach with gentle waves whose main attraction is the Hotel Punta Serena.

This 4-star resort offers first-class service to its guests and has a gym, SPA, and a series of jacuzzis on top of the cliffs surrounding the hotel and more.

Playa La Manzanilla

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The small community of La Manzanilla

Within Tenacatita Bay is La Manzanilla, a modest fishing community surrounded by an aura of peace and tranquility.

I highly recommend a visit to this spot for its rich cultural life.

Here local artists exhibit their art in different galleries. Therefore, to complement your trip to Barra de Navidad with a dose of culture, you should visit La Manzanilla.

The beach is distinguished by its gray and golden sand and extremely calm and safe waters, so the atmosphere in La Manzanilla is very family-friendly.

The tourist offer also includes modest hotels that provide good service and a line of beachfront restaurants that prepare delicious fish and seafood dishes.

Several local handicraft stores are on this same street that runs parallel to the beach.

If you travel with your tent, in La Manzanilla you will find one of the best options for camping in the entire Costa Alegre.

Enjoying the starry sky and the sound of the sea is a pleasure that will lead you to a restful sleep.

On the other hand, it is the most economically accessible area of Tenacatita Bay. So, if you are traveling on a tight budget, you know where to go.

What to eat in Barra de Navidad, Mexico?

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“Pescado Zarandeado,” a classic specialty on Mexican Beaches

The fact that Barra de Navidad is a fishing town in Jalisco, which is the essence of Mexico, makes its gastronomy a mix of traditional food with delicious seafood dishes.

Both here and throughout the Costa Alegre it is possible to eat well and at a reasonable price. Therefore, another way to discover Barra de Navidad is through the palate.

As for what to eat, there are several suggestions. One dish that is not to be missed is the pineapple stuffed with shrimp.

However, I also suggest the garlic shrimp and the traditional fish zarandeado, served in most beach destinations in Mexico.

Barra de Navidad: Final thoughts

As you’ve seen today, Barra de Navidad is more than just a destination; it’s an experience that beckons travelers with its unique blend of charm, culture, and natural beauty.

This small treasure invites you to slow down, savor each moment, and immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of life that defines this coastal gem.

From the tranquil beaches and shimmering lagoon to the vibrant local markets and authentic culinary delights, Barra de Navidad offers an array of attractions that cater to every type of traveler.

Whether you’re seeking adventure on the water, a quiet spot to unwind, or a deep dive into Mexican culture and hospitality, this quaint town delivers on all fronts.

The warmth of the local community, the picturesque landscapes, and the relaxed atmosphere create an unforgettable ambiance that stays with you long after you’ve left.

In Barra de Navidad, every day is an opportunity to discover something new, to connect with nature, and to find joy in the simplicity of seaside living.

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