Bucerias, Bahia de Banderas, Nayarit, Mexico
By Madeline Milne
Originally Published In Mexi-Go! Magazine
Located about twenty minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias is the second largest town (after Vallarta) on Bahia de Banderas. It runs along the northern bend of the Bay between La Cruz Huanxactle and Nuevo Vallarta.
Founded in the 1930’s, Bucerias is home to some 17,000 residents. Most noticeable is the large number of long-term foreign residents from Canada & the US. A quick study of licence plates will show you people from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and points east have all made the move to Bucerias. Some days every person you meet on the street will be from Canada. A mention of Flin Flon, Red Deer or Kamloops doesn’t raise eyebrows but rather has you asking if they know your cousin’s wife’s brother, Bill.
The town’s name is derived from Buceo which means ‘diving’ as the original inhabitants were oyster fishermen who dove for their catch. You can still watch the divers each morning along the beach with their inner tube floaties and white buckets in hand. Fresh oysters are served daily at many of the local seafood stands. Payo Mariscos in the plaza is a favourite with locals and comes highly recommended, though watch out for the chili sauce – it’s hotter than you can imagine.
Bucerias is a typical sleepy Mexican village with the traditional plaza and church and a thriving Mexican community that is very comfortable with the foreigners who have moved in. For eight kilometers along the clean sandy beach you will find almost no one to interrupt your relaxation. There are few vendors and those that are around seem to be less ‘pushy’ than the ones in Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas. There is only one all-inclusive resort along the beach at the far south end of town with the rest of the beachfront real estate mostly made up of large homes and about a half-dozen high-rise condominium buildings. The Golden-zone, as it is called, has excellent upscale dining, shopping and gorgeous vacation homes.
Most Tuesday evenings in the plaza will find you amid a roaring group of hockey enthusiasts. A lack of ice is no deterrent as men and women stick handle their way around the “rink”. Sticks are supplied by the local Pizza-Sports Bar, Yo-Yo Mo’s. After the settling of scores everyone retires to the bar for cold cervesas and the best pizza in town.
Thursday evenings are slightly more high-brow with the famous art walk, where art lovers are invited to visit the galleries along the main strip as they serve cocktails and snacks. Be sure to stop at Casabor for their famous Tequila Punch and then visit Sandrina’s both for wonderful food and excellent shopping! Bonus: Sandrina’s is owned by a Victoria, BC native.
Each fall through to March, the Humpback whales migrate south to Banderas Bay and it’s common to witness spectacular displays of breaching whales from your beach chair. There are plenty of charter boats in the area that can take you on whale watching tours, most with the guarantee that you will see whales or your money back – clearly indicative that you’ll cross paths with whales during the peak months.
Sea turtles come ashore June through December to lay eggs. There are many conservation efforts in place to protect the turtles which were almost hunted to extinction, it is illegal in Mexico to kill sea turtles. Many in the former turtle harvesting communities turned to conservation and eco-tourism in the face of these relatively new laws. Just south of Bucerias, on the beaches of Nuevo Vallarta, there is a turtle nursery that has near daily turtle releases that are open to the public for a small donation. If you spot a turtle coming ashore or find a nest, it is important to mark off the area and alert the authorities. The local police who cruise the beach on ATV’s can be of assistance, as can most locals.
There are many other activities around Bucerias to enjoy, such as championship golf, horseback riding, birdwatching, ATV tours, snorkeling, diving, sailing, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, wind surfing, kite surfing, beachcombing etc. There are a plethora of philanthropic opportunities as well, with the local orphanage, animal rescue, sea turtle conservation and more. Investours (www.investours.org/), a local tour company, provides a unique experience, with street-tours of Bucerias that introduce you to the Mexican community and use a portion of your admission fee to support local vendors through no-interest loans.
Bucerias is a laid-back and casual town with excellent seafood, clean, safe beaches and amenities that cater to a down-to-earth market of budget conscious Canadians who appreciate the open spaces and quiet evenings so removed from the all-inclusive resorts of Nuevo Vallarta or the night clubs of Puerto Vallarta. It feels like a small town in Canada, just with better weather, colder beer and less time commitments.