01 MAR 2017:  Greetings from Bucerias. This winter my husband and I are renting a condo for two months in a gated community called Punta Esmeralda, ideally located minutes from both Bucerias and La Cruz de Huanacaxtle on the Riviera Nayarit. An inviting antidote to the hustle and bustle of Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias has all the charm of a typical small Mexican town but with plenty of “gringo” amenities. Bucerias is so popular with Canadians, especially those from the West Coast, it’s been dubbed “BC-rias.”

The name is derived from the Spanish verb “bucear,” meaning to dive because originally Bucerias was a fishing village and most of the male inhabitants were oyster fishermen. Today you’ll still see fellows diving for the bivalves that they sell to several of the beachfront restaurants. A statue of a diver has become a favourite meeting place in the town’s traditional Mexican plaza where folks enjoy live music and dancing every Thursday evening. Bucerias is also famous for its long sandy beach and spectacular sunsets.

There are plenty of ways to save or splurge on this paradisiac stretch along the Bay of Banderas, framed by the verdant Sierra Madre Mountains. You can buy a fresh mango on a stick and a home baked muffin from a beach vendor for a $3 breakfast, or find yourself dining under the stars at a five-star restaurant for dinner. You will be spoiled by choice.

Here are some of my favourite haunts in Bucerias, where you can either pinch pesos or go “loco.”

THE “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE” SPLURGE LIST

Slice and Dice the Mexican Way

Reserve a cooking class at My Mexican Kitchen with the dynamic duo of chefs Travis Dietz and Edgar Garcia Cordova and you’ll be slicing and dicing with about six new friends and then enjoying the fruits of your labours. Travis and Edgar run several classes per week and they are constantly changing the menu. The evening ends with Mexican coffee laced with cinnamon and cane sugar and a shot of almond tequila. Cost per person is about $75 US and you can bring your own wine. www.mymexicankitchen.com

Flamenco and Spanakopita

At Sandrina’s try to catch a Flamenco show in the courtyard two Mondays per month performed by Latcho and Andrea, the “blond gypsies.” The owners’ Greek heritage appears on many menu selections so you can enjoy Saganaki while being serenaded. The front of the restaurant is a boutique with all sorts of hand-chosen gems. Owner, Sandrina, also gives art classes. www.sandrinas.com

Best Beachside Eateries

Spend an afternoon being pampered on the beach at Mezzogiorno. Soak up the rays on an upscale Italian beach lounger and try one of the house specialties, such as bruschetta with shrimps sautéed with shallots and Lemoncello. www.mezzogiorno.com

On the other side of the Kissing Bridge, you can’t go wrong at Karens Place, famous for its barbecued ribs, terrific steaks and innovative seafood dishes, such as Parmesan crusted red snapper. www.karensplacebucerias.com

Now That’s Italian

Walk through the door at Trattoria Toscana Mia and you’ll think you’ve been transported to Tuscany by the heady aromas. Indeed, the family came from Montecatini in 2008 and the authentic, slow-cooked recipes are from Mamma Pina. The aromas wafting from the brick pizza oven are tantalizing. Pasta and most other things on the menu are made from scratch. Reservations are advisable. www.trattoriatoscanamia.com


THE “CHEAP THRILLS” SAVE LIST

No Car Needed

We never rent a car during our winter here. We simple walk out to the main highway that links Bucerias to Puerto Vallarta and flag down either a bus or collectivo van, whichever comes first. We travel with the Mexicans and other tourists who don’t mind the rattletrap buses and sometimes cramped vans. They stop wherever you ask them and the price is about 65 cents (CDN). However, after about 9 p.m., we take cabs as many of the buses and vans stop running then.

Eggs Bennie Perfected

Paninos bakery and café in the centre of town serves the best lattés, baked goods, sandwiches and breakfasts. Their eggs Benedict is the best I’ve every tasted. And the cinnamon buns are worth the calories.

Pizza under a Palapa

La Postal, located where the town’s post office used to be, serves terrific thin-crusted pizza alfresco-style. Finish your meal with a scoop or two of gelato.

Taco Delights

Normally I don’t eat street food, but there’s one taco stand in front of the church on the main square that I highly recommend. It’s run by Janie and her mom Raina (not sure if I have spelled their names correctly).

Try their shrimp or mahi mahi fish tacos. They cost about $2 each. What sets this taco joint apart? It’s super clean; the ladies make their corn tortillas and all the sauces (from Hades hot habanera to a gringo-friendly avocado or tartar) from scratch. Janie won’t divulge the family secret recipe for the light and crunchy tempura-style batter and I can’t blame her.

Go Artsy

Thursday nights, from November to April join Art Walk along the main street, Lazero Cardenas. Drop in to several galleries and boutiques to meet the artists, share a glass of wine or tequila and browse the local art scene. Behind the Timothy Real Estate Group office, look for wonderful paintings by artist, Pepe Parra.

Sunset Ritual

There’s no better place to watch the sunset and enjoy cocktails and super chicken enchiladas than Adalto’s On The Beach. Yes, there will be beach venders but a smile and a “no gracias” will stop them from bothering you. Who knows, you might want to bargain for for a nice silver trinket or blanket?

Tropical with a Twist

Named after the owner’s black dog, La Negra (Abasolo #5) serves up tropical food with a twist. The tuna sashimi is marinated in Asian ingredients such as sesame oil, soy and fresh ginger. Shrimp and cheese tacos are awesome. My friends enjoyed the sirloin burgers. La Negra offers several unique cocktails made with mescal and an extensive list of locally crafted beers.

Diva for a Day

Time for a nail job? I recommend Salon Diva’s on the main drag, (Lazero Cardenas #500), for manicures, pedicures, waxing, hair styling and more. Owner Gina Gambirasi hires top-notch professional staff. It helps that she also speaks fluent English. You’ll pay a fraction of what you would in Canada. www.salondivaspv.com

Sunday is Market Day Times Two

Shop and save with the locals for fresh produce and all sorts of household items at the Bucerias Sunday Market, located up the “river.” During winter this riverbed that bisects Bucerias is dry but in rainy season all that changes. In La Cruz (the next town up the Bay of Banderas) on Sundays from October to April, the marina becomes a bustling organic farmers’ and handicraft market. It’s also the best place to buy fish fresh from the boats everyday.




BUCERIAS
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Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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