Under $50: On the south end, Casa de Huéspedes Mama Laya (Veracruz 69, tel. 315/355-5088, $13 s, $18 d, $23 t) is one of Barra’s few remaining recommendable low-budget lodgings. The grandmotherly owner (who named her hotel after her late mother) offers 14 basic rooms in an airy two-story layout overlooking the Navidad lagoon-front. All rooms have two double beds, with fans and hot-water shower baths. One attractive plus is an upstairs open-air lagoon-view veranda, with chairs and sofas for guest use.
Half a block north, find the budget traveler’s longtime favorite, Casa de Huéspedes Caribe (Sonora 15, tel. 315/355-5952, $15 s, $20 d, and $25 t), tucked along a side street. The family owners offer their devoted following of long-term customers 11 plainly decorated bare-bulb but clean rooms, with twin, double, or both types of beds, all with bath and hot water. Amenities include a homey downstairs garden sitting area, and more chairs and hammocks for snoozing on an upstairs porch.
$50–100: Return north a block, then right and east another block, where its loyal international clientele swears by the family-operated Hotel Delfín (Morelos 23, tel. 315/355-5068, www.hoteldelfinmx.com). Its four stories of tile-floored, balcony-corridor rooms (where curtains, unfortunately, must be drawn for privacy) are the cleanest and coziest of Barra’s moderate hotels. The Delfín’s tour de force, however, is the cheery patio buffet where guests linger over the breakfast offered (8:30–10:30 a.m. daily, $6) to all comers. Overnight guests, however, must put up with the moderate nighttime noise of the disco half a block away. For maximum sun and privacy take one of the top-floor rooms, many of which enjoy lagoon views. The Delfín’s 30 rooms rent for $36 s or d, $55 t low season and $45 s or d, $60 t high season; with fans, small pool, and parking; credit cards are accepted.
Right across the street, bordering the lagoon, the most charmingly tropical of Barra hotels, the drowsy old-Mexico Hotel Sands (Morelos 24, tel./fax 315/355-5018), offers a bit of class at moderate rates. A pair of three-story room tiers encloses an inner courtyard lined with comfortable airy sitting areas that open onto a lush green garden of leafy vines and graceful coconut palms. A right-side garden walkway leads to a panorama of Barra’s colorful lineup of lagoon-front fishing launches. On the other side, past the swim-up bar, a big curving pool and outer patio lead to a grand, airy vista of the placid mangrove-bordered Laguna de Navidad.
The pool bar (happy hour 4–6 p.m. daily, winter season) and the sitting areas afford inviting places to meet other travelers. The rooms, all with fans (but with slow-to-arrive hot water in some rooms—check before moving in) are clean and furnished with dark varnished wood and tile. Light sleepers should wear earplugs or book a room in the wing farthest from the disco down the street, whose music thumps away until around 2 a.m. many nights during the high season. Its 43 rooms and bungalows rent from $32 s, $48 d low season, $51 s, $65 d high (bargain for a better rate); bungalows sleeping four with kitchenette run $90 low season, $125 high. Credit cards (with a 6 percent surcharge) are accepted, and parking is available.
Return south three blocks along Veracruz (and jog half a block uphill, west), to relative newcomer white-stuccoed Hotel Joya del Mar (Veracruz 209, tel./fax 315/355-6967, hotel joyadelmar [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] mx). The Mexican on-site owner offers three floors of eight simply but comfortably furnished rooms and suites, topped by a pair of view suites. The building’s height affords upper-floor accommodations the benefit of either lagoon or ocean sunset views and cooling afternoon westerly breezes. Rooms rent, low season, from $42 s, $47 d, and $51 t, for the bottom floor; and $52, $57, and $61, for the second-floor rooms, respectively. The third-floor suites go for about $85 s, $90 d. Add about $10 to all rates for high season. With fans, air-conditioning, no smoking in rooms, and credit cards accepted. Make your winter reservations early.
An attractive new (post-hurricane) addition to Barra’s sprinkling of beachfront lodgings is Casa Chips (198 López de Legazpi, tel. 315/355-5555, www.casachips.com, or P.O. Box 882004, San Francisco, CA 94188-2004, U.S. tel. 415/671-3816) in the middle of town, tucked half a block south of the big Hotel Barra de Navidad. Here, owners have packed a lot of hotel into a small space. They offer an assortment of seven invitingly decorated rustic-chic lodgings, ranging from double-bed rooms to one-bedroom suites, all the way up to an entire deluxe two-bedroom upstairs view apartment. All are decorated with color-coordinated bedspreads and drapes, attractive tile, and hand-hewn wood furniture. An important extra here is an airy beachfront restaurant, fine for relaxing dining, socializing, and sunset-watching. Low-season rates range between about $45 and $55 for the smaller, up to $85 d for the largest accommodation; high season, about $45 and $65, up to about $110. Add $10 and 15 low and high season, respectively, per extra person. All with fans, air-conditioning, and hot-water showers; the larger lodgings have kitchenettes.
Folks interested in tennis, boats, and/or fishing might appreciate Barra’s original deluxe lodging, the stucco-and-tile four-star Hotel Cabo Blanco (P.O. Box 31, Barra de Navidad, Jalisco 48987, tel./fax 315/355-5103, toll-free Mex. tel. 01-800/710-5690, fax 315/355-6494, www.hotelcaboblanco.com). The 125-room low-rise complex (named after the 1970s Barra de Navidad–filmed Hollywood thriller Cabo Blanco, starring Charles Bronson) anchors the vacation-home development along the three marina-canals that extend about five blocks north from the Barra lagoon. Within its manicured garden-grounds, Hotel Cabo Blanco offers night-lit tennis courts, restaurants, bars, two pools, kiddie pools, and deluxe sportfishing yachts-for-hire. The deluxe pastel-decorated rooms run about $50 d, except $65 July and August, holidays, and some weekends, all with air-conditioning, cable TV, and phones; with a folkloric dance show, many water sports, and credit cards accepted. Bring your repellent; during late afternoon and evening mosquitoes and gnats from the nearby mangroves seem to especially enjoy the Cabo Blanco’s posh ambience.
Tucked four short blocks from the beach at Barra’s north end is the very worthy family-friendly three-star Hotel El Marquez (Calles Filipinas and Manzanillo, tel./fax 315/355-5304). Inside the gate, guests enjoy about 30 comfortable semi-deluxe rooms around an invitingly intimate inner pool patio. Rates begin at about $35 d low season, $55 d high, with air- conditioning ($9 extra), kiddie playground, and parking.
If the Marquez is full, try similarly comfortable but smaller three-star neighbor Bungalows Mar Vida (Mazatlán 168, tel. 315/355-5911, fax 315/355-5349, www.tomzap.com/marvida.html), one block west and one block south. Friendly owner and real estate agent Marsha Ewing Hernandez asks $60 d high season ($55 May–Nov.) for her five comfortable, semi- deluxe rooms, with air-conditioning and small pool patio.
Right in the middle of town, located securely a block away from Barra’s sometimes destructive surf, is the new, block-square five-story Hotel la Alondra (Calle Sinaloa 16, tel. 315/355-8372, 315/355-8373, or 315/355-8305, hotellaalondra [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] mx). Commercial shops, adjacent to the small lobby, occupy the downstairs floor. Upstairs, guests enjoy three floors of 54 (40 double rooms, 4 junior suites, 10 suites) light, airy accommodations, some with private oceanview balconies. All are attractively decorated in pastel blue-and-orange bedspreads and curtains and offer double, queen, or king-size bed options. Low-season rates run about $75 d for rooms with one (although king-size) bed, $100 d for two double beds, and $135 for the larger and fancier junior suites. Corresponding high-season prices are $85, $120, and $200. A fifth-floor panoramic view restaurant (and, managers tell me, a soon-to-be constructed pool and patio) are available for guest relaxation.
The second of Barra’s two recommendable beachfront lodgings is the white stucco three-story Hotel Barra de Navidad (Av. L. de Legazpi 250, tel. 315/355-5122, fax 315/355-5303, hotel_barra [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] mx) on the beach side of the town plaza. Guests in the seaside upper two floors of comfortable semi-deluxe rooms enjoy palm-fringed ocean vistas from private balconies. A shady, plant-decorated interior courtyard and inviting pool and patio on one side and good Bananas Restaurant upstairs complete the compact but attractive picture. Rates for the 57 rooms run about $62 s, $72 d, $78 t low season, $68, $78, $80 high, all with air-conditioning. Ask for one of the sunnier, quieter, oceanview rooms. Credit cards are accepted.
Over $100: Barra’s hottest new accommodation is the ecologically correct Coco Cabañas (Km 8.2, on the road between Hwy. 200 and Isla Navidad, tel. 335/004-2686, U.S. tel. 281/205-4100, www.ecocabanas.com), perched on pristine and breezy Playa los Cocos, a couple of miles south of Barra de Navidad. Both guests and reviewers rave about this place (which I’ve only seen on the Internet). This is clearly a place for those who enjoy solitude: no telephones, no cable TV, no exercise room, but with a good restaurant, perhaps a few other guests, miles of luscious beach to explore, and plenty of opportunities for reading and relaxing in the pool that meanders in front of the cabañas. The cabañas can sleep as many as four adults and two kids—two adults downstairs in a sofa bed, kids on a moveable foam mattress, and two more adults in a king-size bed in an upstairs loft. Rates run from $100 d low season, $125 d high, add $5 per extra person, with breakfast, hot water, and solar-generated electricity (leave your hair dryer at home).
In complete contrast nearby stands Barra’s plushest hotel by far, the class-act Hotel Grand Bay (P.O. Box 20, Barra de Navidad, Jalisco 48987, tel. 315/331-0500, fax 315/355-0560, www.islanavidad.com), a short boat ride to the Isla Navidad development across the lagoon. Builders spared little expense to create the appearance of a gran época resort. The 198 rooms are elaborately furnished with marble floors, French-provincial furniture reproductions, and Italian jade-hued marble bathroom sinks. Accommodations run from spacious “superior” rooms for about $200 d except holidays and some weekends; master suites about $300 d, through grand four-room executive suites that include their own steam rooms, from about $1,000. With all possible amenities, including three pools, three elegant restaurants, tennis, volleyball, children’s club, marina, and a wonderfully breezy oceanfront golf course.
The owners of the Hotel Grand Bay also offer a more private, personal option, the Mesón Doña Paz (tel. 315/337-9002 or 315/337-9000, fax 314/337-9015, www.mesondonapaz.com). Originally built as the owners’ private manor house (which they now use only at Christmas), the Mesón Doña Paz is a maharaja’s mansion of spacious super-luxurious suites, elegantly decorated in the marble French provincial mode of the neighboring Hotel Grand Bay. The load of conveniences includes elaborate telephone-equipped bathrooms (with separate rooms for tubs and showers), airy private view patios, an exclusive restaurant, dining veranda, bar, and boat landing. Upstairs, a regal penthouse view salon, perfect for executive meetings (up to about 50 people) adds an attractive business-friendly option. Offering rates, beginning at $270 d (about $340 holidays and some weekends) to $350 ($500) for junior suites and $520 ($640) for master suites, are reasonable, considering the luxurious exclusive facilities. Reserve for Mesón Doña Paz either directly or through its agent, Mexico Boutique Hotels (toll-free U.S./Can. tel. 800/728-7098, www.mexicoboutiquehotels).
Note: Security is tight at Hotel Grand Bay and Mesón Doña Paz. Guards at the hotel lagoonside boat dock (and the separate Mesón Doña Paz dock) only allow entrance to guests and prospective guests. If you want to look around, you have to be accompanied by an in-house guide. Call the desk beforehand for an appointment.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition