Travel south from Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast – to the central coastal area of the country- and you’ll discover Costalegre.
Miles upon miles of palm trees line the land just inside the coastal shores. Jungle covered mountains plunge into the Pacific coast, or fall short to reveal golden sand beaches, begging to be discovered and walked upon by tired feet.
The Costalegre is not a singular point on the map; like Italy’s Amalfi coast, it’s a stretch of land —150 miles long between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo— featuring picturesque ocean-side towns and villages, magical coves and remarkable views of a seemingly endless ocean horizon. Costalegre offers highly exclusive travel and luxury experiences within all-inclusive resort hotels that feature privacy and seclusion surrounded by a stunningly beautiful tropical paradise. Celebrities often come here to get away from prying eyes and camera lenses.
Today, this region is extremely accessible – by air (Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo airports) and by road (Highway 200 on Mexico’s Pacific Coast) – and has become a favorite holiday destination for foreigners and Mexicans alike looking for highly exclusive, extra-special travel experiences.
This section will highlight key attractions in the area, and the hotels, restaurants and facilities listed will refer to services in the area along this 150 mile stretch of coastal paradise.
If you’re looking for something really special, away from the crowds within a resort experience that is totally different and removed from the ‘traditional’ resort experience, treat yourself to Mexico’s Costalegre. Your budget will need to stretch a bit farther than if you had you opted for another area in Mexico, but you will not regret one moment of your visit here.
Discovering the Costalegre
If there was ever a place that needed a rental car recommendation, Costalegre is it. The best way to explore the hidden coves, little towns and villages along this area is to drive along Highway 200, which hugs the mountainside along the coast, and experience this area at your own pace. Choose places to stay en route, take your time, share the driving and use the daylight hours to travel along this stretch of coastline and discover some hidden treasures and a tropical paradise to go with them.
This coastline is known for its exclusive luxury retreats.
Spas in Costalegre
Excellent spas are available at all of the luxury resorts along the costalegre. For more information about Spas, and how to get access to a magnificent spa experience in Mexico, read our comprehensive guide to Spas in Mexico
Sports Fishing Experiences along the Costalegre
The Costalegre is one of Mexico’s best-kept Sports Fishing secrets. Read the Mexperience guide to Sports Fishing in Mexico and discover just what a fantastic day out a sports fishing experience can be on your next visit to Mexico. The up-scale resorts in the area can arrange sports fishing experiences for you during your stay.
Polo in Mexico
For those who enjoy playing and/or watching the sport, polo is now played in certain areas in Mexico including Costalegre. Visit the polo Mexico web site for details: MexicoPolo.com
Barra de Navidad and Melaque
Just three miles apart, these rustic villages welcome travelers looking for a quiet, no frills and inexpensive retreat, away from the modern sophistication of 21st century living.
If you plan to travel to these areas, you are better-off flying to Manzanillo instead of Puerto Vallarta; although if you have the time and want to see the sights (or if Puerto Vallarta is better served by your local airport), the drive south from Puerto Vallarta is only 2-3 hours and offers magnificent scenery.
Barra De Navidad should be your choice if you’re looking for good restaurants, tree-lined streets, and a laid-back, easy-going atmosphere, with local village charm. You’ll also find the Grand Bay Hotel and Resort here (technically situated in Manzanillo)- with its famous golf course and luxury to suit a king, but none of the tackiness sometimes associated with touristy areas.
Melaque is less leafy, has a few restaurants, but very little else – apart from some inexpensive hotels which are great if you’re looking for a low-cost base in the area, so that you can go exploring elsewhere.
La Manzanilla is a small fishing village on the Pacific situated just north of Melaque and Barra de Navidad, about a hour drive from Manzanillo. The village is situated in the Bay of Tanacatita which offers excellent opportunities for fishing, as well as safe bathing. The area is rich in marine and bird life. In addition to pelicans, egrets, cormorants, and heron, the village has the largest population of the American Crocodile in North America. There is a small fee for a beautiful, safe, lagoon walk through the crocs, and boat tours can be arranged. There are also frequent seasonal whale sightings. The waters are excellent for fishing, and you can hire a boat to go on private or group fishing trips. Other activities in the area include horseback riding, mountain biking, hikes, yoga, and golf.
By Air – You can fly to Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo (both offer easy access to Costalegre) from the United States and other points in Mexico including Guadalajara, La Paz, Leon and Mexico City. You can only drive to the places along Costalegre – or arrange for ground transportation from the Airport to your hotel or luxury resort (see Airport Transfers, below). For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Bus – You can travel to Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo on a luxury bus from Mexico City but note that the trip will take around fourteen hours (twelve hours to Manzanillo from Mexico City). Flying is the most sensible way to get to Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo, unless you are on a budget, and don’t mind the relatively long bus journey (which is also quite mountainous, especially to Puerto Vallarta). For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
By Car – The road journey to Puerto Vallarta from inland Mexico (e.g. Guadalajara, Mexico City, Chihuahua, et al) is mountainous and winding. Expect it to take longer that you may anticipate by just looking at a road map; especially if you have not driven the route before. The easiest route in and out of Puerto Vallarta is by using Highway 200— the coast road—although if you plan to go inland to Guadalajara or Mexico City, then this road will take you out of the way you really want to go. Traveling out of Puerto Vallarta by road north to Punta de Mita, or south to the Costalegre and Manzanillo is straightforward: the roads are good and the terrain is easy to negotiate in a car. If you are driving from southern Mexico, you will be best to head for Manzanillo and then drive north to the Costalegre on Highway 200; if you are driving from northern Mexico, head for Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta and drive south on Highway 200 to the Costalegre. See additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
Car Rental – To explore Mexico’s provincial towns and cities— including its beach locations and the scenery and attractions nearby them —consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car. Read our guide to Car Rental in Mexico to learn about car rental in Mexico.
Costalegre is a Remote Area – There is not much in the way of public transport along the coastal highway that connects the towns and villages of Costalegre. One of the area’s principal attractions is that it’s quite rugged and remote. If you are staying at one of the luxury resort hotels on Costalegre, and don’t plan to go out exploring the local area and environs, you can arrange for a shuttle to meet you at the airport in Puerto Vallarta and take you to your hotel and back to the airport when you return. If you plan to explore the area independently, or if you want the ability to leave your resort hotel and visit some of the villages and environs along the Costalegre, you can rent a car from Puerto Vallarta’s airport. The coastal road and the sights and attractions which along it cannot be explored here easily without the use of a car, so if you want to go out exploring we highly recommended that you rent a vehicle to explore this marvelous stretch of coastal paradise. See additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
Travel Tip: If your plans only involve going to a hotel resort and staying there, taking organized tours and local walks from the resort, then it will be much better value to pay for ground transport from the airport to your hotel/resort instead of renting a car. All of the luxury hotels provide shuttle services between their resorts and the airports of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. Alternatively, you can purchase third party shuttle services from the airport.
Telephone & Communications: Connect to the Communications in Mexico page on Mexperience for detailed information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.
Exploring the Area: Note that the luxury resorts dotted along the Costalegre are quite remote. Often, they are situated several miles off the main highway (200), which itself is a remote coastal road. If your plan is to arrive at the resort and stay there for the duration, then arrange for the resort to meet you at the airport and take you back at the end of your stay. However, if you want to explore the region (highly recommended) then you will be better-off renting a car, either from Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo, and driving yourself to the resort. Without car transport you will not be able to explore the area. Car rental and cars with drivers are available from the resorts: you may want to choose this option if you only plan one or two days of local exploration.
Military Checkpoints and Patrols: You may find military checkpoints and/or patrols on Highway 200. Don’t feel alarmed, they are there to provide a deterrent against illegal contraband. If you are stopped, your car may be checked over and you may be asked to open the trunk. See the guide to Driving in Mexico for more details.
Exchanging Currency: Banks with ATM machines are found throughout the downtown areas of nearby Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. The Costalegre region is relatively remote so take the cash you think you will need with you. Your hotel will exchange cash and traveler’s checks, although rates will not be as attractive as those from banks and exchange houses. For detailed information about exchanging and managing your money, read the Mexperience guide to Money in Mexico.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Internet Access: Internet cafes can be easily found in towns and cities across Mexico and WiFi is increasingly commonplace–from cafes, shops, hotels, and some cities even offer free WiFi in some defined public spaces. Resorts usually offer internet access via cable and / or WIFI — check the hotel’s listing for details.
Los Arcos de Jalisco. Veracruz 170. Barra de Navidad. Tel: (315) 3557030
La Tesmiza. Melaque, End of Melaque. Tel: (315) 3556357
La Costeñita. Melaque. In front of the beach. Tel: (315) 3555439.
La Langosta Azul. La Manzanilla, Ma. Asuncion 13. Tel: (315) 3515276
Barra de Navidad, one of the main towns and stopping-off points along the Costalegre is a relatively quiet place when night falls. People find a nice restaurant or bar, order a cool drink and spend the evening chatting to other visitors and locals, or watch the world go by.
Costalegre is a serene place; people in the resorts here don’t tend to stay out all night – the place gets very quiet and peaceful after dark. If you are looking for a place with active nightlife, you’ll need to go to Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo; both are a bit too far for ‘a night out’ if you’re staying at one of the exclusive resorts; although if you’re staying at Barra de Navidad, you could probably make it into Manzanillo and back, but you’ll need to hire a taxi or have a nominated driver.
People who travel to the luxurious resorts on Costalegre don’t tend to go there for the night life; quite the opposite, they go there to relax and be pampered. If you’re looking for an active social night scene, then you’re probably better off staying in nearby Puerto Vallarta.
The Costalegre offers you year-round warmth. The rainy season is May to October, but as with most monsoon areas, rains tend to be fierce and brief in the late afternoon, leaving the evenings dry and cooled off. September brings the highest levels of humidity and sees the heaviest of the rains. During the winter months, evenings and early mornings can be cool, so pack a pullover if you’re thinking about traveling then.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico