150 miles of pure bliss along the Happy Coast
The beaches north of Puerto Vallarta get most of the attention, but don't sleep on the south. Locals and long-time visitors will be in on the secret that is the Costalegre, a 150-mile stretch of beaches, bays, and coves. The entire coast is, in a word, spectacular. Imagine vast stretches of raw shoreline backed by palm trees and mountains, where often the only things you can hear are the epic waves crashing. (It's a scientific fact that Pacificos taste better when consumed to the soundtrack of crashing waves.) For decades the Costalegre was home to only a few high-end hotels and smaller, local beach towns mostly frequented by locals.
But -- you guessed it -- this is about to change. Another Four Seasons, as well as a commercial airport, are slated to open (the airport is reported to be ready for flights this year), and will likely crush the “under the radar” status that the Costalegre now enjoys. Barra de Navidad is the most well-known beach town, but the beaches are actually better in neighboring Melaque. Both are calm and easy-going, packed with beachfront seafood joints and brimming with lazy, laid-back charm. The best things you're doing here are all outside. Restaurants close early and the nightlife is rather sleepy. But you'll be seeing a part of Mexico that truly is its most beautiful.
Of note: For something really out of this world (albeit pretty pricey), check out Careyes, just north of Barra, a privately owned 20,000-acre retreat for wealthy bohemians. Careyes is something that needs to be seen to be believed, but it's basically the brainchild of an Italian millionaire who built a luxury artist/cultural colony on the beach and into the jungles. It's huge. And you would never even know it was there unless you randomly stumbled upon it. They have fabulous villas perched on cliffs, a small village that looks like Portofino from the water, a hotel, restaurants, polo fields (yep), and even a conservation foundation. Google it. Trust me.