A FAVOURITE FOR CANADIANS Bucerias in Riveria Nayarit

About Cancun, Mexico

A FAVOURITE FOR CANADIANS Bucerias in Riveria Nayarit

After about a decade of spending winters in Mexico, I’ve noticed a trend. Folks take a weeklong vacation in Puerto Vallarta. They love it and spend two weeks the following year. Weeks become months and often these folks (myself included) start venturing further up the Bay of Banderas and into the state of Nayarit for the entire winter. Bucerias is so popular with Canadians, especially those from the West Coast, it’s been dubbed “BC-rias.”

This winter my husband and I rented a condo for two months in a gated community called Punta Esmeralda, ideally located minutes from both Bucerias and La Cruz de Huanacaxtle on the Riviera Nayarit. An inviting antidote to the hustle and bustle of Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias has all the charm of a typical small Mexican town but with plenty of “gringo” amenities.

The name is derived from the Spanish verb “bucear,” meaning to dive because originally Bucerias was a fishing village and most of the male inhabitants were oyster fishermen. Today you’ll still see fellows diving for the bivalves that they sell to several of the beachfront restaurants. A statue of a diver has become a favourite meeting place in the town’s traditional Mexican plaza where folks enjoy live music and dancing every Thursday evening. Bucerias is also famous for its long sandy beach and spectacular sunsets.

There are plenty of ways to save or splurge on this paradisiac stretch along the Bay of Banderas, framed by the verdant Sierra Madre Mountains. You can buy a fresh mango on a stick and a home baked muffin from a beach vendor for a $3 breakfast, or find yourself dining under the stars at a five-star restaurant for dinner. You will be spoiled by choice.

Here are some of my favourite haunts in Bucerias, where you can either pinch pesos or go “loco.”

The “You Only Live Once” Splurge List

Slice and Dice the Mexican Way 

Reserve a cooking class at My Mexican Kitchen with the dynamic duo of chefs Travis Dietz and Edgar Garcia Cordova and you’ll be slicing and dicing with about six new friends and then enjoying the fruits of your labours. Partners Travis, originally from Oregon, and Edgar from Puebla in central Mexico share their passion for authentic Mexican cuisine.

I signed up for a five-course seafood class. Our group of seven gathered around a tiled table. We were each given a knife, cutting board, apron and recipe book. With directions from the boys we created mango agua fresca, scallop tostadas with avocado salsa, crab soup, battered cauliflower and fish Veracruz-style. All delicious. 

Along the way we learned all sorts of culinary tricks—from how to roast a pepper to where to buy the best produce. Travis and Edgar run several classes per week and they are constantly changing the menu. The evening ends with Mexican coffee laced with cinnamon and cane sugar and a shot of almond tequila. Cost per person is about $75 US and you can bring your own wine.www.mymexicankitchen.com

Flamenco and Spanakopita 

At Sandrina’s try to catch a Flamenco show in the courtyard two Mondays per month performed by Latcho and Andrea, the “blond gypsies.” The owners’ Greek heritage appears on many menu selections so you can enjoy Saganaki while being serenaded. The front of the restaurant is a boutique with all sorts of hand-chosen gems. www.sandrinas.com

Best Beachside Eateries Spend an afternoon being pampered on the beach at Mezzogiorno. Soak up the rays on an upscale Italian beach lounger and try one of the house specialties, such as bruschetta with shrimps sautéed with shallots and Lemoncello.www.mezzogiorno.com

On the other side of the Kissing Bridge, you can’t go wrong at Karens Place, famous for its barbecued ribs, terrific steaks and innovative seafood dishes, such as Parmesan crusted red snapper. www.karensplacebucerias.com

Now That’s Italian

Walk through the door at Trattoria Toscana Mia and you’ll think you’ve been transported to Tuscany by the heady aromas. Indeed, the family came from Montecatini in 2008 and the authentic, slow-cooked recipes are from Mamma Pina. The aromas wafting from the brick pizza oven are tantalizing. Pasta and most other things on the menu are made from scratch. Reservations are advisable. www.trattoriatoscanamia.com

The “Cheap Thrills” Save List

Bucerias Breakfast Spot 

Looking for a great little spot for a well-cooked breakfast, some New York-style bagels, fresh baked goods, smoothies and more? Head to Hojarasca, a little café on the corner of Josefa Otriz de Dominguez. It’s across the road from a white high rise on the beach called Colibri. A charming young chap named Daniel runs the place and he brings in fresh bread, croissants, etc. from his family’s bakery in town called Paninos. Cheap and cheerful with a fun selection of used books.

Taco Delights 

Normally I don’t eat street food, but there’s one taco stand in front of the church on the main square that I highly recommend. It’s run by Janie and her mom Raina (not sure if I have spelled their names correctly). Try their shrimp or mahi mahi fish tacos. They cost about $2 each. What sets this taco joint apart? It’s super clean; the ladies make their corn tortillas and all the sauces (from Hades hot habanera to a gringo-friendly avocado or tartar) from scratch. Janie won’t divulge the family secret recipe for the light and crunchy tempura-style batter and I can’t blame her.

Go Artsy 

Thursday nights, from November to April join Art Walk along the main street, Lazero Cardenas. Drop in to several galleries and boutiques to meet the artists, share a glass of wine or tequila and browse the local art scene. Behind the Timothy Real Estate Group office, look for wonderful paintings by artist, Pepe Parra.

Sunset Ritual 

There’s no better place to watch the sunset and enjoy cocktails and super chicken enchiladas than Adalto’s On The Beach. Yes, there will be beach venders but a smile and a “no gracias” will stop them from bothering you. Who knows, you might want to bargain for a nice silver trinket or blanket?

Tropical with a Twist 

Named after the owner’s black dog, La Negra serves up tropical food with a twist. The tuna sashimi is marinated in Asian ingredients such as sesame oil, soy and fresh ginger. Shrimp and cheese tacos are awesome. My friends enjoyed the sirloin burgers. La Negra offers several unique cocktails made with mescal and an extensive list of locally crafted beers.

Diva for a Day 

Time for a nail job? I recommend Salon Diva’s on the main drag, for manicures, pedicures, waxing, hair styling and more. Owner Gina Gambirasi hires top-notch professional staff. It helps that she also speaks fluent English. You’ll pay a fraction of what you would in Canada. www.salondivaspv.com

Sunday is Market Day Times Two Shop and save with the locals for fresh produce and all sorts of household items at the Bucerias Sunday Market, located up the “river.” During winter this riverbed that bisects Bucerias is dry but in rainy season all that changes. In La Cruz (the next town up the Bay of Banderas) on Sundays from October to April, the marina becomes a bustling organic farmers’ and handicraft market. It’s also the best place to buy fish fresh from the boats everyday. 

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