Adios Barra… it’s been real! Has it really been 2+ years?! My, how the pandemic made time fly!
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we had a visit to Barra de Navidad in our sights well before we left Seattle in 2015. So many of our cruising friends had been there before us, and everyone RAVED about this sleepy little farming-fishing-and-surfing town, population 7,000.
Barra has been a fav of many gringos, and has a large winter population of land-based Canadians, with a few Americans thrown in for good measure. And as we recently read in an historical account of Barra, Laguna Navidad was actually the site of a boatyard that built Spanish Galleons that sailed to what is now the Philippine Islands, in the mid-1500s. These galleons, built in Barra, enabled Spain to conquer those Pacific Islands— and set up a trade route between Asia and Mexico for hundreds of years. Who knew?!
Early on, we had intended to spend our first Christmas in Mexico (2015) in Barra de Navidad, known as “Christmas Bar”—because it was “discovered” by the Spaniards on Christmas day, and the lagoon has a large sand bar in front of it, making the waves that the surfers crave. However, due to unseasonable weather along the Pacific Coast that fall, we only made it as far as San Diego by Christmas, and to Ensenada, Mexico, by New Year’s Eve.
Isla de Navidad Resort & Marina has been our tropical paradise home for the past two years.
Each year, we had plans to be in Barra for Christmas, yet each year life would have other plans for us. So it wasn’t until February 2020, when our friends Shane & Lybby came to visit, that we finally set sail for Barra de Navidad, ostensibly for a two-week visit before sailing north for the Sea of Cortez. Little did we know a global pandemic was about to rear its ugly head, and after two weeks in Barra, the world closed its borders. The port captains of Mexico shut all ports and no boats could travel around.
The town of Barra de Navidad is just a quick 5-minute water taxi ride across the lagoon from the marina and resort but in a different state! Barra is in Jalisco and the marina/resort is in Colima.
We were “stuck in paradise” for five months before the ports would open again. By then, it was Hurricane Season, and a good time to stay put. And there we stayed for two whole years, as again life interceeded, with aging and ailing parents. Barra was only a four-hour drive to Puerto Vallarta to fly back to the states as needed. And with Heidi in school and working full-time, the WiFi was decent enough in Barra, and we’d heard that other nearby bays and anchorages had sketchy Wifi. So we didn’t explore the surrounding areas except by occasional rental car.
As you’ll see in our next blog post, Cruising Costalege, there are some beautiful sights along the way between Barra and Puerto Vallarta, and next year we also hope to explore further south to Zihuatanejo.
We plan to return to Barra again next winter en route to Zihuat… But as always, our plans are written in sand at low tide. In the meantime enjoy these photos and videos of Barra and the surrounding area, including Secret Beach… we love this place, and we will be back! We really encourage all of you to visit Barra too, you won’t be disappointed!!
Click all images below to view larger.
Signs, sculptures, and wall art abound in the colorful town of Barra, as do the vibrant and beautiful homes, shops, markets, and festively decorated streets. Barra is always full of COLOR!
Barra is also full of fabulous eateries, from the French Baker below right, who brings his wares via panga (boat) each day to the marina and lagoon anchorage (sadly for us, no gluten-free baked goods, so we didn’t partake) to street tacos—like Miriams, below middle right—which is only open 8 PM-midnight Thursday-Sunday, and usually has a line to sit, plus a thriving drive-up take-out business on the street behind her. Miriams also has the BEST assortment of condiments at each table to dress your tacos.
Watching Miriam make her tacos and quesadillas is as entertaining as the people watching, and the lineup of cars stopping for their take-out. It’s a true family business, with her husband cooking the meats, and their teenage kids serving food and clearing tables. If you walk past when they aren’t open, you’ll just see a closed garage door, no sign, no indication of the hopping taco stand it becomes at night, in fact, it took us almost two years of living in Barra before we found it!
One thing we’ll miss most (besides Miriam’s!) is all the nature surrounding the Isla de Navidad Resort & Marina… tropical forests, flowers, birds, ants, crabs, mushrooms, snakes, lizards, fish, and sunsets—something for everyone! Plus we always had front-row seats to the destination resort weddings, complete with neon palm trees and great dance parties.
Though we aren’t religious at all, Mexico is a very religious country, and we respect their culture. And Barra has some interesting religious trivia of note. The cross below center, is the Cristo del ciclón, or the Christ of the Cyclone (Christ of the Hurricane). You’ll notice his arms are hanging at his side.
According to legend when the category 1 Hurricane Lily struck Barra de Navidad in the early morning hours of September 1, 1971, the villagers descended upon the local church—Saint Anthony of Padua—for shelter and prayer. The roof then partially collapsed breaking Christ’s arms, and as his arms hung at his sides the hurricane immediately ended. The locals consider this a miracle and celebrate with special masses and fireworks during the first week of September. And apparently, when the Pope got word of this miracle, he said, “God lowered his arms, and only he can raise them back!” So they remain down to this day, and it is the only crucifix in the world with Christ’s arms down at his side.
The second cross to the right is the Santa Cruz de Astillero, or “the shipyard cross” dating back to the 1500s when the Spanish Galleons were built in Barra. History notes this cross survived an attack and burning by the infamous buccaneer Tomas Cavendish in 1587 when he laid ruin to Barra. The cross was then moved to a “safer location” inside a coconut drying warehouse which later also caught fire, but the cross didn’t burn in that fire either. It was considered a miracle that the wooden cross didn’t burn either time. So it was taken apart for safe keeping, and the two pieces were moved to Autlán, Mexico (sidenote: hometown of Carlos Santana!), where they were stored separately and eventually lost track of. In 2014 the two pieces of the cross were found and rejoined, and the Santa Cruz de Astillero cross was returned to its original home in Barra de Navidad.
The above grotto with the Virgin Mary is often decorated with flowers and shells and used as the backdrop for weddings at Isla de Navidad Resort & Marina, one of our favorite hiking destinations.
We will also miss the amazing fruits and produce in this agricultural area, and our amigo Pancho. He works on boats around the marina, and rents his cars to cruisers, or shuttles people to-from Puerto Vallarta. If you need anything done, Pancho is your man! Below, siesta time on the beach or at the marina, and some highly unusual fog filled the marina each evening/morning for about a week. Pancho told us it only happens about once every five years…
You can see from this image what a lovely town Barra de Navidad is… not to be missed!
A final swim for the season at Secret Beach… love this place, even if the sky was gray and the water was cool, we had the place to ourselves! The top photo in this post is looking down on the beach where we swam.
The Gatos Del Mar, Tikka & Tosh love hanging out, fetching O-rings, lazing on top of the fridge, and cozying up on pillows. They’re excited to be headed back to PV, and usually do well on passages, thanks to VetriScience Composure Calming Treats. Try them out for your cat or dog, they are the bomb!