Chacala is a picturesque beach-town set in small cove on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the State of Nayarit. It is located about 100 kilometers (62 mi) north of Puerto Vallarta. The name means “where there are shrimp” The population consists of approximately 300 full time residents, but can swell to over 1000 during Semana Santa, (Easter Week) and Christmas. Chacala is known for its physical beauty, unhurried lifestyle, and for the efforts of a small group of “socially conscious” and “proactive” U.S. Americans to change the lifestyle of the residents.
Chacala is the least developed vacation spot on Mexico’s West Coast. It is just south of the well known vacation town of San Blas and north of the popular vacation destination, Puerto Vallarta. While Chacala was a Mexican commercial port 100 years ago, it has been relatively hidden until a new road was built last year. Vacationers who come to Chacala are seeking a retreat from their hectic lives farther north. Chacala offers them a calm bay with gentle surf for swimming. Chacala offers fishing and snorkeling excursions. Chacala is the entry to some of the best surfing in the area. Chacala is an ecological convergence zone for hundreds of birds. Chacala sits under an ancient volcano where one can hike and look back on the sweeping vista of Chacala Bay. Chacala is accessible to other bays either by boat, horseback riding or hiking. Chacala offers vacation rentals, like Techos de Mexico (Habitat for Humanities) casas as well as vacation rentals like upscale B & Bs. Chacala is not about hotels, it is about cozy tourist accommodations. Chacala is the true Mexican experience with its friendly people, Spanish school and a volunteer program of working with the children in the local library.
Chacala is argued by many who stumble upon it to be the most beautiful vacation spot of the area. The town is nestled on the edge of the jungle and surrounded by a lush variety of tropical animal and plant life. The beach of Chacala, still undiscovered by most tourists and travel guide books, is usually empty except for a few local kids and some sea birds. The curve of the bay keeps the surf calm on most days, allowing for safe water play and swimming. The only buildings on the beach are a row of palapa-covered restaurants where you can sit in the shade sipping a soda between swims, enjoy the sunset in your bathing suit, or eat a fresh seafood meal.
The people of Chacala are warm and inviting towards visitors and very willing to tackle language barriers in order to share their culture with new friends. Chacala is in transition. The only access to Chacala used to be a very worn dirt road which help to keep Chacala pristine. The new paved road provides easy access, but will bring changes.
Click here for a map of Chacala.
Chacala is a small fishing village of about 300 people. The old way of life known to the families for generations is rapidly changing. The transition is due to a new paved road, which was constructed as a joint venture between a development company and the State of Nayarit. The old road could barely meet the definition of a road–it acted as barrier to all those except the most hardy traveler, and kept the pristine beach and lovely palm grove safe from development. There are no policemen in Chacala. There has been little crime in Chacala. The town votes a new judge into office once every three years. It is his job to help settle any disputes and investigate any crime. Traditions bind the community together.
The Chacalenos are known for their friendliness. The main industries in Chacala are fishing and tourism. Both are seasonal. The high season for tourism is the winter season and the two holidays, Christmas and Easter. Good fishing is periodic during the winter, spring and fall, and poor in the summer. The people make a fairly good living between the fishing and the tourism. A new development company is building a gated community around the sister bay, Chacalilla. The development will include villas and a hotel, and eventually a golf course and marina.
Chacala sits in a bay on the Pacific coast of Mexico about one and half hours to the north of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. Turn off of highway 200, 1 kilometer before Las Varas. The sign will say “Chacala 9 kilometers.”
Travel by Airplane
The Puerto Vallarta airport is the closest international airport to Chacala. Since Puerto Vallarta is such a high tourist destination, most international airlines offer frequent flights at reasonable rates.
From Puerto Vallarta airport to Chacala–Click here for a map of Chacala
Option 1: Near the exit door in the Puerto Vallarta airport, buy a ticket for an airport taxi to Chacala. The cost is between $60.00 to $80.00 for 1 to 4 people. Tell the driver “A Chacala, por favor.” Once arriving in Chacala, the driver will probably have to ask where Susana’s house is. Do not worry, everyone in town knows each other and even the kids can give you directions.
Option 2: Near the exit door in the Puerto Vallarta airport, buy a ticket for an airport taxi to the Puerto Vallarta bus terminal (“Al central de caminiones, por favor”). One kilometer later, enter the bus terminal, go to the Pacifico bus counter and purchase a ticket to Las Varas which costs about $7.00 per person. Board a northbound bus going to Tepic and get off at Las Varas. Once in Las Varas, take a green and yellow collectivo taxi to Chacala which costs about $1.00 during the day. In the evening a solo run to Chacala may cost about $10.00. To return to the Puerto Vallarta airport, either option can be used in the reverse.
From Guadalajara to Chacala
By car, take the maxipista to Tepic. Then take the autopista before Tepic to Compostella. From Compostella, take highway 200 to Las Varas. The turn-off to Chacala is one kilometer south. Total driving time from Lake Chapala to Chacala is four hours.