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Old 04-29-2013   #1 (permalink)
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Trip Report - Ajijic-Chapala and beyond

Hello, all,
Have not been around for a while but thought I would attempt a trip report. This was some new and a little familiar. We had read a lot about Ajijic and Lake Chapala just south of Guadalajara. Supposedly the biggest expat community in Mexico. We had been to San Miguel de Allende and wanted to compare the two.
Initially, I was afraid that an estimated 8000 expats might totally remove Mexico from the town. This was not true at all – it still has the charm of a Mexican village. There are expat communities and restaurants but they are not, in any way, overwhelming, IMO. There is pretty much something for everyone – very nice restaurants with live music, great taco stands, a weekly outdoor market, a WalMart.
Original expat gated community:

Ajijic (ah-hee–HICK) is about 30 minutes south of the Guadalajara airport via a nice divided highway. So you have all the amenities of the big city close by. And Ajijic and Chapala have the second best climate in the world (and I cannot find who has the best)
We stayed at a very nice VRBO, . This is a fully furnished apartment over the owner’s house. Clean, located close to the village and restaurants, nice lanai, internet, cable TV, full kitchen and IMO, ridiculously priced. The owner, Patrick, is very helpful and makes it a very comfortable stay.

One of the only negatives about Ajijic is that most of the sidewalks and roadways are cobblestone. It makes for difficult walking and a personal opinion that you “splint” or sort of lock your calf to prevent twisting or breaking an ankle. This caused my calves to be so sore, I actually took a couple of Advil before going to bed – think those are the first two this year.

We had two great meals at Gossip’s Kitchen, a great salad and ground ribeye burger and then really good carnitas tacos and something new, a bollilo split in half, covered with cheese, grilled until the cheese melts and then topped with carnitas – at Jessica’s Tacos -yummy.

Had breakfast at the Early Bird Café run by an expat who has been there 11 years and loves it. That was reinforced by a customer at the table next to us, a retired architect from Colorado who also loves it.

Took a local bus to Chapala, visited the tianquis (outdoor market) and had a good lunch.
Chapala is more of a city rather than a town, IMO with a divided main drag, a huge malecon, the requisite Mercado and other niceties.

Here is a link to a blog with a lot of detail of what it is like moving from Dallas to Ajijic – John describes all the pros and cons quite well, IMO.
Will be heading up to Guadalajara next.

Last edited by LarryH; 04-29-2013 at 04:58 PM..
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Old 04-30-2013   #2 (permalink)
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Hired a driver so we would not have to mess with our luggage on the bus, finding the right bus, going to the right terminal, etc.. The cost from Ajijic to Tlaquepaque, a southern suburb of Guadalajara, was $400 pesos for door to door.
We stayed at a wonderful small boutique hotel called the Quinta Don Jose, which is a couple of blocks from the main pedestrian only shopping street, Independencia. The hotel gets rave reviews and deserves them, IMO.

And here is where the “best laid plans” goes awry. I, who has a super immune system (had a cold 8 years ago), acquired a dry, hacking cough. One of those that make you hold your chest because it hurts. It was accompanied with zero appetite and minimal energy.
I had done extensive research on where to eat in Guadalajara all to no avail. Only got to one place and that was the hotel restaurant.
Aside from wandering one day and going to central Guadalajara, I spent most of my time in the air conditioned hotel room.
With perfect hindsight, we should have skipped Guadalajara – it is the second biggest city in Mexico which means, DUH, it is a big city like any other in the world. And it was HOT – we thought the almost mile high elevation would be cool but it was in the nineties. We are not history buffs or museum people so there was little of interest. Tlaquepaque is basically a high end shopping area – take all the nicest shops on 5th Avenue in Playa and put them next to each other with some nice restaurants thrown in and IMO, you would have Tlaquepaque.

Historic Guadalajara Centro

Second biggest market in Mexico
Difficult to get a good shot but this is one of the aisles on one of the three floors - think there were 32 aisles on this floor

The bus to the next destination - Bucerias
A/C, reclining seats, movie in English - 4 1/2 hour trip
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Old 04-30-2013   #3 (permalink)
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I have been waiting for this! Although for some reason I thought you were going to Patzcuaro.

I am anxious to hear how you liked Bucerias....we didn't really like it, but we were only there one day....we need to go back and actually stay a few days maybe.

Love those benches!
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Old 04-30-2013   #4 (permalink)
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We spent 4 nights in Ajijic in 2006, 3 in San Miguel and 2 in Guanajuato.

We loved it.

thanks for the report
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Old 04-30-2013   #5 (permalink)
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Tacos, Tortas . . . ¿Vampiros?

Never heard of them before - had to Google it.
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Old 05-02-2013   #6 (permalink)
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Hey, thanks for checking it out - have to add Bucerias and La Cruz when I get some time
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Old 05-18-2013   #7 (permalink)
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On to Bucerias

We took a bus from Tonala (near Guadalajara) to Bucerias. We use Vallarta Plus because they were the only line that went directly to Bucerias. The others went to Puerto Vallarta and we would have to take another bus or taxi back to Bucerias. It was a long 4 ½ hour trip but it was a nice bus with A/C, reclining seats and a movie in English. We got off on the main highway and had to walk with our luggage about 4 good blocks on cobblestone streets. We stayed at a nice economical apartment, $55USD/night, called Casa Tranquila. It is a block from the beach and close to most major restaurants. It is managed by two delightful ladies named Patricia and JoAnn who used to run a business in Puerto Vallarta. They have a coffee shop and a used book store on the premises. They have four apartments, all upstairs, with small kitchens – no A/C but was not a problem with the ocean breezes.
Here is the entrance, the porch and the gardens.

About two doors away is a great place for breakfast called the Red Apple. You will work up an appetite going up the 35 steps but are rewarded with a nice view.

Here are a couple of views of the beach in each direction – taken within a block or two of the apartment

If you walk up a couple of blocks to the main highway, you can catch a cab to Mega – a huge Mexican market similar to WalMart. Here are some shots from inside:

Love the way the bougainvilla was trimmed and shaped over the sidewalk:

One of the best meals was at Aduato’s on the Beach. Their presentation was great

The view was pretty nice as well:

I was just getting back to eating so I only had the shrimp cocktail but loved it with the avocado. Mary had chicken mole. She normally does not care for mole because it is too sweet but she loved this one.
Wandering down the street:

Next night went to La Morenita's (the little brunette - who was out of town but Mom was entertaining.

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Old 05-18-2013   #8 (permalink)
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Bucerias (cont)

Sorry - had an interruption and did not want to lose this post so I posted it.

Really good tortilla soup:

And back at Casa Tranquila thinking about the next destination

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Old 05-18-2013   #9 (permalink)
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Bucerias Summary

This was our second trip to Bucerias and we still really like it. We had another good meal at Sandrina's but did not take any pics this time.

You have to get off the main highway and go down towards the beach. It is a cozy, friendly little village with their own open air market, great restaurants and is about 30 minutes from Puerto Vallarta and all that it has to offer but it is certainly not overrun with tourists.

We had hoped to go up and check out the towns between Nuevo Vallarta and Rincon de Guayabitos but did not make it. - maybe next time.

One more destination - La Cruz de la Huanacaxtle coming up.
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Old 05-18-2013   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks, Larry- and for the PM to let me know you had added this part!

We will have to give Bucerias another shot. It looks like a really nice spot to spend some time.

Guayabitos is a similar feel but a much prettier location and beach, the bay is lovely there.

Looking forward to La Cruz de la Huanacaxtle! We stopped there on a day trip but didn't see much.
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Old 06-23-2013   #11 (permalink)
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And our final destination – La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Named after a huge tree that you will see. It is about a twenty minute cab ride from Bucerias.
La Cruz as it is known locally, is a strange combination. Used to be a fishing village but being less than a half hour north of Puerto Vallarta, it is now a getaway with a lovely marina, many good restaurants, and a nice open market on Sundays. A mixture of luxury yachts and small fishing boats and everything in between.

We stayed at La Cruz Inn – a very nice small inn right on the main square. However, it was a bit shocking when we went to check in because all of our contact had been with John, a Scotsman and the owner. Come to find out that the onsite managers are Mexican and do not speak a word of English. There is a large courtyard, a pool and a very nice room with an outdoor kitchen. It is immaculate and very comfortable BUT you not only locked your room, you locked the door on the street when leaving. We were the only guests and it seemed strange and a little uncomfortable being locked in. As I said, it was right on the main square, half a block to the beach and close to everything else. However, I would not recommend it unless you are fluent in Spanish.

Not sure why all the security because on the way home from dinner, the kids were playing in the main square at 9PM without any apparent worries and people were eating out on the street

We walked to the Yacht Club and had a wonderful lunch of shrimp tacos – they were not quite as good as those at PG’s Sandbox in Playa (which we think are the best) but quite good and a wonderful view from the open restaurant.

The beach is small and a launching pad for kite boarders. I had never seen this up close and loved it. If I were many years younger, I would have to try it. They can reach speeds of almost 60 mph and can do jumps that last up to twenty seconds out of the water. Looks very exciting and you are not “holding on for dear life”, you are attached with a harness. You only hang on to the kite controls.

Went to a wonderful Italian restaurant called Frascati – although the presentation was a bit lacking, it was the best pasta with garlic and oil I have ever had. And they make their own pasta out in the restaurant where you can watch. And for the ladies, a special rack for their purse.


Tried to go back the next night and they were closed so we went down to the waterfront to a place that was quite highly rated called Eva’s Brickhouse. Delightful location on the water and attractive patio and that was about all the good things. The waiter was touted as one of the best in Mexico but he never did bring the can of Off he said he would. The food was good but nothing special but the drinks were almost twice as much as the previous night at Frascati. Would not return.

Went to the local market held on the water on Sunday. Many food vendors, musicians and many, many crafts in a pleasant environment.

About a half hour ride to the Puerto Vallarta airport and we were sadly done with this trip.

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Old 06-24-2013   #12 (permalink)
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Thanks for the pics!

La Cruz looked like a neat little town to stay for a day or two. I remember that tree!

When we were there there were some surfers near the marina, but no kite surfers, they are fun to watch. (I am also too old to try that! )
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Old 06-24-2013   #13 (permalink)
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I enjoyed your trip report, what beautiful paces to visit!
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Old 04-03-2014   #14 (permalink)
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Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Loved all the beautiful pictures! Looks like a beautiful place to visit.
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