La Cruz de Huanacaxtle-Main

Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Spring 2007 issue.

It may be a hard name to pronounce, but it’s a joy to visit! La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (“La Cruz”), a mere half hour north of the bustle of Puerto Vallarta, offers a restful alternative to the glitz of Vallarta and a glimpse of a typical fishing village, along with good restaurants, fun shopping and a vibrant music scene.

In La Cruz, cobblestone streets shaded by large trees lead to the charming town square alongside a tranquil waterfront, where local fishermen mend their nets and tend their pangas as always but now in the shadow of machinery constructing a new marina. Still, a stroll along the beach provides the opportunity to view beautiful boats moored in the calm waters of the inlet, buy fresh fish and watch pescadores selling their catch of the day to local restaurant owners.

After viewing the harbor, wander the town and stop for breakfast, perhaps at La Glorieta, where chilaquiles are the early morning specialty. Hikuri Art Gallery and Café, in addition to English muffins and great coffee, affords the chance to view artists at work doing weaving, carpentry and silk screen printing. There is also a gallery displaying work from some of the finest Huichol artists.

Later try the beach at La Manzanilla, where the quiet waters, shallow surf for 100 feet and great beachside palapa eateries entice all. Or charter a boat and go out to sea, where you may sea whales, dolphins or sea turtles while fishing for mahi-mahi or tuna.

Plan to hang out until evening and treat yourself to fine German food at Black Forest, or Italian fare at Frascati. Seafood caught and prepared by the owner is the draw at Rey Bom Bom, and down the street enjoy fish and chips at Britannia, or international dishes at La Cascada. Street Tacos draws a crowd on Saturdays and Sundays, and Tin Toc provides a great view along with Mexican food.

After eating, stay on for the music. La Cruz has developed a reputation as a destination for musicians from all over. Most restaurants boast live music at least some evenings, from guitarists to karaoke, folk music to jazz jams and everything in between. One exceptional venue is Philo’s, where couples dance to salsa one night and rock the next. Philo’s offers open-mike opportunities on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Anna Bananas gives folks, many from the cruiser community, a chance on Sunday afternoons. One group of performers, the outrageous Bubba and the Bottomfeeders, comes together during the season and makes wonderful music each week for charity.

For a special visit, come to La Cruz during its annual fiesta. Every year for the nine days leading up to May 3, the day of La Santa Cruz, patron of construction workers, La Cruz church bells toll and the town is full of life. The streets teem with mechanical rides, roller coasters and stands with games for grownups and children, as well as a variety of food and desserts. The town rocks with firecrackers, and the night of May 3 a beautiful display of colorful fireworks illuminates the sky.

Getting to La Cruz is easy. If driving, take Carr. 200 Norte into the state of Nayarit, and take the turnoff for Punta Mita. Within 2 kilometers there will be signs for the pueblo of La Cruz. By bus, take the ATM bus in front of Plaza Genovesa, Wal-Mart or the airport for about $15 pesos each way for the comfortable ride. So, grab a cab, hop on a bus or jump in the car and enjoy the little town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

The rumblings of earth-moving machines merge with the sounds of the surf all around the northern rim of Bahia de Banderas. Steel girders form silhouettes on the coastline of Nayarit, with not only the landscape being transformed, but the bay itself.

Long a favorite spot for cruisers to drop anchor, the inlet of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is the site of a private $50 million-dollar marina project. The Marina La Cruz, with 400 berths for rent, is expected to be completed in 2007, while plans for further seafront development include a two-kilometer malecon, a commercial mall, condominiums and a hotel. Work proceeds apace, despite the objections of several residents who believe they will be adversely affected and have taken action to halt what they claim is illegal construction. And on the ground, acres of land in La Cruz are being developed: hundreds of homes, condominium units and luxury villas in addition to the already existing gated communities.

No one denies that all of this building will provide jobs and give a real stimulus to the local economy, but there is anxiety among residents, notwithstanding the developers’ promises to respect the environment. Concerned inhabitants are working on official development plans designed to preserve the charming character of the town while providing the necessary services and controls for continued expansion of this beautiful corner of the bay.