Winter is over and it is hotter than sin in Guadalajara. That means that everybody wants to go to the beach! Now that our son is 6 months old we wanted to stay at a nice resort where we could introduce him to the pool but I could still surf out front without having to drive anywhere. The decision came down to the Palladium at Punta Burros, Nayarit or the Grand Isla Navidad in Barra de Navidad. And given that I could not get a reservation at the Palladium, we found ourselves driving to the nicest beaches in Jalisco.
Yara and I both love Colima. We have spent a lot of time in Cuyutlán but I recently bought the Nico Mejía book, Colima Una Gran Travesía Gastronómica, and we wanted to change it up a bit. Barra de Navidad is a good hour past Cuyutlán but Nico’s book recommended some food that I was really excited to try. Oh yeah, and there was going to be some surf too!
No matter the extra hour to get there, Barra de Navidad and the Grand Isla Navidad Resort are well worth the drive. Yara interned at the resort while she was an undergrad and raves about the property. I had always seen the property from Barra de Navidad and thought that is a spectacular property.
Across the Channel from Barra de Navidad
The geography of Barra de Navidad and the the Grand Isla Resort is kind of tricky. There is an estuary that separates Colima from Jalisco. The Grand Isla Resort is on the Colima side and Barra de Navidad is on the Jalisco side. There is a tiny fishing village called la Culebra on the Colima side but most of the local population lives in Barra de Navidad or Melaque (the next town up the coast). The Grand Isla Resort has a couple of private beaches and a little dock where you can catch a water taxi across the channel to Barra de Navidad. I was able to paddle my surfboard across the channel and around the jetty in about 10 minutes. It is very quick.
Barra de Navidad Historical Sidenote
Interestingly, Barra de Navidad dates back to the Spanish Colonial era. In the mid 16th century the Spanish were locked in a trade war with the Portuguese for trade routes to Asia. The Portuguese had control of the eastern route around the Cape of Good Hope while the Spanish were going the western route. Fernando de Magallanes’ crew proved to the Spanish crown that you could circumnavigate the globe from Spain to the Philippines (The Spice Islands). It took another 40 years to secure the funding for a new expedition to colonize The Philippines and establish a new trade route.
Miguel López e Legazpi launched the Spanish expedition to colonize the Philippines from Barra de Navidad in 1564. The Spanish built their galleons in the natural harbor and started what proved to be an incredibly lucrative trade route. The Philippines were the gateway to China and everything was paid for with gold and silver that was expropriated from Mexico. Those Habsburgs were some shrewd negotiators.
The shallow water port of Barra de Navidad is like a time capsule and you can easily imagine the five ships and 500 soldiers setting out to pillage in the name of King Phillip II. After driving in you can also imagine why the main port to receive galleons from the Philippines was moved to Acapulco. Barra de Navidad is out in the sticks. But that isolation is a part of the charm.
Grand Isla Navidad Resort
Based on of my kid’s reaction to the pool, the trip was a success. There are tons of little nooks and crannies with shallow areas. We were to chill and never be worried that it was too deep to carry the baby. Water slides connect a series of pools from one side of the property to the other. The property is spectacular from all angles but from a kid’s perspective it has to be magical.
I was really impressed with the size of the resort and the architecture. The same family that owns Plaza Andares and the Autonomous University of Guadalajara owns the Grand Isla Resort. They all have timeless style. Even though the tile work feels a little 1990’s it is still classy. And the way they use they use the natural topography and enormous parota trees makes the property unique. I want my kid to spend a little time here each year as he grows up. It is a very special place.
Like I mentioned above, the property is not actually in Barra de Navidad but across the channel. There is a little dock with a water taxi service that will take you from the resort to the pueblo and back 24 hours. If it’s dark you just flick a light on and off to call the water taxi driver from the other side.
So Where Did You Eat?
The food at the resort was very good but who wants to write about hotel food. Just outside of the hotel entrance is a pueblo that I saw mentioned in the Nico Mejía book. Restaurante Colimilla was AWESOME. The food was so good and the experience was even better. The restaurant is on the water, on the inner banks of the estuary. There is a steady stream of watercraft cruising around the estuary. I love watching people take the dingy from the sailboat right to the restaurant, especially if there is a dog jumping out of the boat and choosing the table.
The food at Restaurante Colimilla was so freaking good. The whole fish zarandeado is one of my favorite dishes. I order this dish in just about every coastal fishing town that I visit. This was the best zarandeado sauce that I have tried and it was the first time with plantains. The zarandeado sauce has zero soy sauce in it and is 100% gluten free. I would easily drive the extra hour past Cuyutlán for this fish.
We also ate at Restaurante Manglito in Barra de Navidad. While the experience was very enjoyable the food was just ok. I will dine there again but I wouldn’t drive in from Cuyutlán like I would for Restaurante Colimilla.
Thanks for reading. I hope you guys enjoyed the article and get a chance to visit Barra de Navidad soon!