Michoacan Coast

Old Apr 12th, 2019, 01:56 PM
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Michoacan Coast

This report is in response to Ekscrunchy's query about Michoacan's beaches. And while it won't be exhaustive it'll be what I've experienced from a number of trips.
We started investigating the Michoacan coast after being disappointed in Zihuatanejo, which many people love. We didn't. Too many tourists for what we were looking for. Probably the most popular beach town, because of its proximity to Lazaro Cardenas, would be Playa Azul. The main beach is a long straight strip of not-quite-but-almost-white sand with little natural shade. The waves I'd describe as moderate/mild, OK for body surfing/boogie boarding but not ideal for relaxed swimming. The water was surprisingly clear. The nicest beachfront hotel that I saw was Canto Del Mar. Which I think is about $65 US in the high season and looks very nice.
The other hotels in town are a couple blocks off the beach and are more budgety, some in the $20 US range. There are about a dozen enramadas along the beachfront. We were there midweek and the town and the beach were devoid of tourists. I wouldn't say Playa Azul qualifies as a destination beach, but rather as part of a trip along the coast. We did not spend a night there but did enjoy some cheap mariscos for lunch. Continuing along the coast, there are several miles of mostly deserted beaches scattered along the coast. Some have easy access, others, not so much. Some have mom-and-pop lodging you'll never find on a search engine where you surely can walk in without reservations except during holiday periods. Not a lot of natural shade. One pueblito that does have some tourist development is Las Peņas on the old road that the new section of the highway bypasses. There are a couple of hotels there that actually have websites, Hotel Las Peņas and Hotel Gambusino, the latter we checked out. The rooms are modest, with nice views. It's a fairly long walk from the hotel down some stairs to the beach, as the hotel itself is up on the cliff above the water. As I was refreshing my memory via Google maps, I found another place I'd not been aware of, Villa Natura. Their website says they have a private, 'clothing optional' beach which quite frankly, was very surprising to me.
Gambusino Resort Hotel Las Peņas Michoacan Hotel Boutique Michoacan Mexico
Villa Natura Mich | Playas privadas, playas nudistas
Continuing along the coast towards Caleta De Campos. More deserted beaches. Most without much in the way of tourist facilities save a very few mom and pop hotels. No doubt you could camp just about anywhere, though that's something that's long in the past for me. Caleta is the 'commercial center', if you can call it that, of this section of the coast, and the last outpost of goods and services of any consequence for another hour or so. I wasn't a big fan. Few places in Mexico give me an uneasy vibe, but Caleta did. Lots of beer drinking along it's main street. Caleta's beach was not terribly private, as it was partially surrounded by seafood enramadas where as much beer was being consumed as mariscos. At the time of our last visit, (2 years) cellular broadband was non-existent in the area and the local internet cafes were packed with gamers. We did find an architect's office that let us use his dial-up connection to make a hotel reservation for our return trip. There were a couple of nicer hotels, Villa Tropical, in town, and Partour Caleta out on the highway. Both were far from a beach.
Nexpa Surf Hotel
Next up the road just a couple miles is Barra De Nexpa where we like to stay. It's pretty much a surfing place. In fact, we have some Aussie friends from Puerto Escondido that prefer Nexpa over PE for surfing. The town, if you can call it that, is about 200 people. I'd say all of the very few (3-4?) part-time expat residents are hard core surfer types of varying ages. Only 3 restaurants. A campground. Some cabins. Some very basic rooms for rent. A tiny convenience store which surprisingly had an adequate selection of Mexican wines. A whiff of the chronic here and there on occasion. We rent a house with a pool, Ola Vaquero (cowboy wave), right on the beach and very secluded, maybe 1/4 mile from town. While we don't surf, the privacy was what attracted us. There is a caretaker living on the property in a small Casita behind the house. The house as well is kinda rustic, but it's completely open air and the pounding surf lulls you to sleep at night. The house has no A/C, but even without it, it was quite comfortable. But because there are no doors or screens, you get a few critters. Bats fly through the lower level at night even when we leave a light on. Once a rat got in the bathroom and nibbled on a toothpaste tube and apparently consumed some meds my wife had on the nightstand. A tarantula meandered across the patio once. The caretaker's dogs come over for snacks or just to hang out in the shade. Plenty of driftwood lying around for little cookouts on the beach. Speaking of the beach, it's kinda rocky in areas and not great for swimming. But since the house had a pool, that wasn't an issue for us. It's not luxury and thus probably not for everyone. But the owner gives a a good price since we're flexible on dates and can go on a couple weeks notice when it's vacant. Finding a private beach front house with pool at around $100 US per night I think is increasingly difficult these days.
From there we explored the coast towards Maruata, but didn'tquite get that far because it was more of the same. Isolated beaches with little in the way of lodging. Maruata, according to my research, has camping and is on Ejido land so not much development is expected. We did spend some time at Pichilinguillo, referred to by some locals as "Little Acapulco" I suppose because of the shape of the tiny bay. The only lodging there was a very basic hotel, but it had been seized by the government (Inmobilaria Asegurada) which means it was associated with cartel activity. It wasn't the only place we saw that had been seized, several homes along the coast were as well.On the way back to Nexpa we stopped for lunch and a couple beers at a place (don't recall the name) high up on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Spectacular views and cheap seafood.My overall take of this little bit of Mexico is that it's difficult to get to without a car, but doable for the patient traveler. I don't think any of the places we saw would be a destination beach for 2 weeks, but rather a few nights in each might satisfy someone just looking to unplug and get away from the typical resort areas. Maybe even head up to Manzanillo. From either Zihua or Morelia/Patzcuaro you take a bus to Lazaro Cardenas,and then combis or taxis. There are 2nd class buses as well.
baldone is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2019, 09:59 PM
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Thanks for the report!
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Old Apr 13th, 2019, 06:13 AM
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Thanks ever so much for putting your experiences into words. My guess is that it will be a matter of time before that stretch gets developed. Imagine it will be good to keep an eye out and see how thing look five years from now. I do know people who live inland who vacation in Caleta but it does not sound tempting from your description. I lived in Zihua in the mid-80s, on and off from NYC. It was so lovely then but you could see down the road that it would get overdeveloped.......

There is just a limited stretch of coastline, so what will be next...????? AT some point all the pretty places will get saturated! Developers are always on the lookout!
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Old Apr 13th, 2019, 11:43 AM
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My '04 Lonely Planet describes Caleta as a friendly little town. I can't help but think that since then, the increased cartel presence has depressed tourism in the area which in turn makes folks kinda glum. Not to mention the' derecho de piso' that merchants no doubt are obliged to pay. We also watched the vigilante patrol roust some campers at rifle point one morning while having breakfast in Nexpa.
Another less-touristed coastal area is Veracruz. I'll do a brief report.
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Old Apr 18th, 2019, 07:43 AM
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FWIW, some of the aforementioned Michoacan beaches made a 'top ten' cleanest beaches list at #5.
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Old Apr 18th, 2019, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by baldone View Post
. . . Another less-touristed coastal area is Veracruz. I'll do a brief report.
I look forward to this chapter, hoping it includes something about Ciudad Veracruz. A travel writer friend, Tom Miller, loved it & I think it was related to an album he produced of many versions of 'La Bamba', maybe where the song originated. In any case, do tell.
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