This started out as a shopper’s guide to Barra, but we’ve been in some pretty cool restaurants so I expanded the topic a bit. Then I figured if you’re cruising you need to find the Port Captain and will wonder about a morning net….and so on. Then it got so long that I took out all but one of the restaurants further figuring that cruisers (and vacationers) have no problem finding restaurants on their own. Heaven knows we don’t…..
In my humble opinion while the cruising lifestyle is in large part going with the flow and figuring it out as you go, in the connected internet world I personally like to have a heads up about what I’ll find, and in a new place, where I can find it. Especially if, like us, you arrive with the fresh food stock nearly depleted.
With Easter late this year, our arrival in April coincided with the second week of Semana Santa. Barra and Melaque were hopping – we were thrilled to be here and have lots of new places to discover!
Now the holidays are over, the beachgoers and revelers have left for home and the reality of low season is setting in – many of our new favorite places are closing down for summer. Soon we may have to cook dinner for ourselves more than 2-3 times / week. Oh, the strain…..
But I digress. If you are new to the area, consider this a “starter kit” of information. Once you arrive, you’ll meet people who will introduce you to places not listed here, and you’ll soon find your own favorites.
Information written in May 2017. There are always changes from season to season so no guarantees that what we found this season will be open next season. Consider any prices mentioned as ballpark only and subject to change.
OTHER (probably better) SOURCES OF INFO:
https://www.tomzap.com/melaque.html – includes links to handy maps for finding things like Banamex, Super Hawaii and taxi stands.
https://www.tomzap.com/barra.html – maps not quite so handy but good overview of the streets.
Both sites list services and restaurants available.
I’m going to assume that you have a smart phone, or other internet access to a map application such as Google Maps to help you out too. I’m also going to assume that you will explore and develop your own local knowledge – remember this is a starter kit for those who (like me) just want a little bit of an idea to get by for the first few days.
There are two main streets – Hwy 80 and Veracruz.
Highway 80 is the street closest to the beach. Don’t let the “Hwy” in Hwy 80 trick you – near the end it narrows to a one lane street filled with pedestrians and vendors until – bang – it’s the malecon. The road makes a 90 degree turn before the malecon to become the Veracruz at the water taxi launch.
Veracruz is your 2nd main street – it runs parallel (mas or menos) to Hwy 80. At the fish market / big tree there is a weird little intersection – Veracruz takes a left jog up the middle of the other three streets.
Melaque is the town at the other end of the beach, similar to Barra but with a few more services such as larger pharmacies and the tienda Super Hawaii Store (see below). If you are in Barra for more than a couple days you will probably make your way there at least once for provisioning.
Hail the water taxi on channel 23, tell them where you need to be picked up. They will assume you want to go from the boat to the taxi stand so tell the dispatcher if your plans are otherwise. As you exit the water taxi launch you are on Veracruz if you turn right and on Hwy 80 if you head straight toward the beach side. They run 24 hours daily.
There are orange and green buses marked “Melaque”. The orange buses go through the neighborhoods of Barra but the green bus is direct. 7 pesos per passenger payable when you board. Catch the bus by walking up Veracruz until the sailfish statue and Oxxo are in sight – the street before the Oxxo is Calle Michoacan. On the Oxxo side after you cross Michoacan are some trees in raised cement planters – hang out there in the shade and eventually a green bus will show up.
The green bus follows Hwy 80 to 200. It makes the turn into Melaque on Vestuniano Carranza where it turns right at an Oxxo (or maybe it’s a Kiosko I forget).
Located in Barra at Calle San Pedro No. 64 – speaks English and Spanish.
Channel 22 is the hailing net. In April when we arrive the net was limited to Monday and Friday at 9 am. Not sure of the schedule in high season but assume Mon – Sat.
Channels 17 and 18 are reserved for Manzinilla shipping traffic.
Channel 23 is reserved for the water taxi.
The French Baker announces his arrival on Channel 22.
There are ATMs in Barra, but if you want one attached to an actual bank you need to make the trip to Melaque. We found two:
Banamex – see local bus. Limit of 5000 pesos in May 2017 and requires a card with a chip – our card that had only magnetic stripe was not readable there but the chip card works (took multiple attempts probably some ‘operator error’.)
Intercam – get off at the Kiosko before the bus turns, head left on Valentin Gomex Farras until you can’t go straight anymore. The bank is ahead of you on the corner of VGF and Adolph Lopez Mateos. Limit of 5000 pesos and read our card with the mag stripe.
Clothes and chotskies are everywhere and in many cases the inventories are similar. Lots of stuff from India, as I’ve found is the case in other cities as well. Have fun!
The street market is on Thusdays from morning until 3 or 3:30. There is one produce vendor – in season a very large selection, low season – meh. Except for the fresh berries, but nothing else that you can’t find in tiendas.
Meat – Ury’s Carniceria – walk up Veracruz to the plaza, turn right on Guanajuate and he’s about 2 doors down. His sign lists cuts of beef, pork and chicken. You don’t go in – stand on the street in front of the counter, read the menu and tell him what you want. He will get a hunk of carcass out of the freezer and slice it off for you. Closed Sundays.
Fish – from the water taxi stand, walk up Vera Cruz a little ways and the fish market it on the right hand side. Follow your nose or look for the water from melted ice on the sidewalk, you can’t miss it. Open 7 days from “Las oche a > pero hoy (domingo) cerrado a las tres”. Translation: From 8 am until sometime but today (it was a Sunday) closing at 3”.
Produce – On Vera Cruz, find the Thrifty Ice Cream shop. Directly across the street with a red awning is the mini-market Arce. They a pretty well-stocked tienda, including my favorite boxed white wine. Fresh produce arrives Wednesday and Saturdays (and according to the senorita who works there, sometimes Tuesday or Friday instead). Open 7 days.
Produce – Walk up Veracruz to Calle Michoacan – cross the street, turn left and a few doors down in the neighborhood of #53 Michoacan is a small tienda with many produce choices. In low season I found the standard Mexican tienda choices of bananas, papayas, apples, jicama, onions, chiles, beets, etc. plus a few bunches of greens like spinach.
The French Baker – yes, he really does come in his boat, right to your boat. Thursday – Monday in season. He closes sometime between May 1 and May 5 every year until mid-July when the store re-opens with a summer menu until mid-August (schools are on break so another busy beach vacation time – check his Facebook page. The business is for sale. I hope whoever takes it over is (1) as good with pastry as he is and (2) going to keep up the boat delivery tradition. I know I can resist the shop in town, but that boatside service pulls me in. Must try: baguettes and the tequila-soaked raisin Danish with pastry crème.
Super Hawaii – a tienda this is in Melaque near the town square and taxi stand – see the map for Melaque West at the link in Other Information. Fun but pricey items not found in other local tiendas – cheeses, snack foods, fresh produce, frozen meats, a lot of Kirkland brand products and a decent selection of wines and liquors. Those bottles get heavy, so take the bus there (7 pesos) and taxi back to the water taxi launch (70 – 80 pesos) with your haul.
(Side note: Our trips to Melaque usually went like this: Start at the ATM. Look around at restaurants and end up at Garcia’s on the beach for lunch and 2×1 drinks starting at noon until 5 or 6. On to Super Hawaii because shopping is always easier after a couple margaritas. Taxi to Barra. Water taxi to Nakamal. Put shopping away. Have a siesta.)
Barra Galeria del Arte & Restaurant at Ave. in Barra at located at Mazatlan #75. Website is http://www.barragaleriadearte.com/ . This is run by Robert (ask him about his cruising life) and his wife Rosy. They converted their home’s courtyard into a small restaurant (8 or so tables) and out front is the gallery displaying Robert’s photographs. Last summer he built a cozy tequila bar serving ONLY 100% blue agave tequilas. Food is reasonably priced but we get sucked into tasting tequilas and that can make the evening out not cheap (not complaining, just warning you for your budget’s sake).
Rosy does the cooking using her abuela’s (grandma’s) recipes, her two daughters Alex and Lupita wait tables and Robert works the front of the house and tequila bar. The menu is small with a choice of two entrees – see the website for menus as it changes daily. Each diner gets marshmallows for roasting on the small firepit. Just a fun, casual atmosphere popular with winter residents and cruisers. Based on the activity in low season, I surmise that in high season reservations are highly recommended if not mandatory for a weekend.
And if going in a group one of you MUST HAVE THE CHILE RELLENO. ‘Nuff said.
(Author’s note: updated on 7 May 2017 with additional information on produce, buses and bank ATM information.)