Barra de Zacapulco
Barra de Zacapulco is a quiet thatch-roofed hamlet perched on a low strip of sand, or barra, between the ocean and a long inland lagoon. It has a gorgeous and expansive ocean beach, plus a tourist center that’s the jumping-off point for trips into Reserva Natural La Encrucijada, a massive 144,868-hectare (559-square-mile) reserve that’s home to a wide variety of wildlife and Latin America’s tallest mangrove trees, over 25 meters (80 feet) high.
Most people come to visit the reserve, but Barra de Zacapulco also makes for a relaxing seaside getaway—a scenic and little-visited spot where you can enjoy simple pleasures like long walks on the beach, accompanied by flocks of tiny water birds scuttling along the shore.
Getting to Barra de Zacapulco
By Boat: The only way to get to Barra de Zacapulco is by boat. Colectivo boats depart from the marina Embarcadero de las Garzas every 30 minutes 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (US$2.50, 20 mins). To return, let the driver know what time and/or day you’d like to be picked up (the latest one passes by around 4:30 p.m.); if you don’t, you could spend hours on the dock in Barra de Zacapulco waiting for a colectivo to pass close enough to see you. In a pinch, ask any passing fisherman to take you to the embarcadero; the rate varies dramatically, but could be as high as US$15.
If you’re only interested in taking a mangrove tour of the Encrucijada Reserve, these can be booked right from the embarcadero.
By Bus and Combi: Embarcadero de las Garzas is the marina that serves as the starting point for boats headed to Barra de Zacapulco. If traveling by public transportation, getting there is a three-step process from any direction. First, take a bus to Escuitla from either Tapachula (US$2–4.75, 1.5 hrs, every 30–60 min 4 a.m.–6 p.m. and every 1–1.5 hrs 7:30–11:30 p.m.) or Tonalá (US$5.25–8.75, 2.5 hrs, every 30–60 min 4:15 a.m.–11:45 p.m.). Once there, jump on a combi or take a collective taxi to Acapetahua (US$0.50, 10 mins). Finally, take a combi from there to Embarcadero de las Garzas (US$0.85, 30 mins).
By Car: A car is the easiest, and most convenient, way to get to the Embarcadero de las Garzas, the jumping-off point for boats to Barra de Zacapulco and tours of the Encrucijada Reserve. To get to Embarcadero de las Garzas, take Highway 200 to either Acacoyagua or Escuintla, and turn southwest towards the ocean. The roads from these towns meet eventually, becoming one paved and well-maintained road that passes through green pastures and small towns until dead-ending at Embarcadero de las Garzas.
If you’re only going to spend the day in the area, street parking is safe and plentiful. For overnight trips, leave your car in one of the grassy parking lots near the dock (US$2 per day, 24 hrs).
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition