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Jalisco’s Coast: Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

The state of Colima, where I’m currently based, is known for its world-class waves but not the beaches themselves. The volcanic black sand beaches at Pascuales and in Manzanillo are impressive but not picture-postcard material. Cross the border into Jalisco, however, and you soon get to Barra de Navidad and Melaque, two small towns at either end of a perfect, protected sweep of yellow sand, with calm, lapping waves and palm trees galore. Even further up the coast you come to the Islas Cocinas, with white-sand beaches tucked away in coves of perfect, crystal clear water. Now you’re talking.

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

We were lucky enough to have a local tour guide, our friend Gustavo who offered to take a few of us exchange students on a weekend adventure, so we had a car, which made everything an awful lot easier than if you were trying to do things by public transport, though it would definitely be doable. Emilie, Diane (both French), Joao (Brazilian) and I were whisked off to Melaque on the Saturday. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Colima.

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

Melaque and Barra de Navidad are in San Patricio bay. We arrived and checked into our Airbnb (click here for £25 travel credit when you sign up and book your first trip!), one block from the beach in Melaque, and wandered down for a quick paddle, then drove over to Barra de Navidad for a late lunch.

Leaving the car in the town square, we lugged our cooler (well stocked with beer and, of course, tequila) down the sweet main street, lined with souvenir shops, to the jetties, and then hopped on one of the launches waiting to take us out to the restaurants on the banks of the lagoon, which cost 40 pesos each, return (~£1.50). We were left at the restaurant we were assured did the best seafood, more for the benefit of my fellow travellers than for mine, as my choice as a vegetarian was pretty much grilled bean tacos or barbecued bean tacos. Still, with that view, and a tequila and lime in hand (BYO alcohol was fine by them), the bean tacos tasted pretty damn good.

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

Sunset snuck up on us and we missed the show, as the restaurant faces east, but we headed back to Barra on the boat and drove back to Melaque. A few drinks later we went to the beach for a night time swim under the stars, and Gustavo, out of nowhere, managed to find a local who was happy to make us a bonfire and go in search of marshmallows in return for a few crisp bills. We spent a few happy hours going for a dip then drying off by the fire, but by midnight we needed Quesadillas and bed, as starting on the tequila at 5pm meant that we had, predictably, peaked a little early.

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

We surfaced about 9 on Sunday and headed to the market in the centre of Melaque, definitely the best option for breakfast. There are loads of stalls offering all kinds of Mexican breakfasts, and I went for Molletes Sencillos, basically two halves of a baguette smothered in beans and cheese, along with a mango juice, all for the princely sum of 50 pesos (~£2).

After a quick visit to the viewpoint at the northern tip of the bay, we headed for Islas Cocinas, about another hour up the coast. We were told that the only place you can currently get to the islands from is Perula, at the northern tip of another beautiful bay, and we ended up paying 600 pesos (~£23) for a return trip to the islands, between 5 of us. His opening price had been 800, so we thought we’d done well, but we were later told that it should’ve been more like 100 per person, so they clearly saw us coming.

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

It’s a 15 minute boat ride out to the islands, past stunning, dramatic islands, home to all kinds of bird life. When we got there we were a little disappointed at the amount of people on the white sand beach, who clearly weren’t delighted to see another boat turning up either, but it was Sunday. If you go, try and visit during the week. It was as stunning as it was meant to be, with crystal clear water as blue as the Mexican sky. It was very calm, apart from an opening between the cliffs at one end where waves were rushing in. Perfect to float about, marvelling at the fact you can actually see your toes (for someone who’s used to the North Sea, this never stops being a novelty), and then have a nap on the beach.

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

If you can, bring an umbrella as there’s no shade, and headphones in case a group of Mexicans decides to play their music a little too loudly. There’s also nothing to eat there, so take snacks, although one enterprising local did show up with a basket of cakes and pastries, for which he charged a whole 20 pesos, double what they would be on the mainland… but still, it hardly broke the bank. We were there from about 2.30 until 5, when we headed back for dinner on the beach in Perula (again, not vegetarian friendly- but if you eat fish you’ll be in heaven), and then headed for home.

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

In December I’m headed for Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita, further up the coast but still in the state of Jalisco, and then I’ll be spending New Year in excellent company in Oaxaca City, followed by a few days on a beach near Huatulco on Oaxaca’s coast. Any top tips, whether for things to do or veggie-friendly places to eat, will be much appreciated!

Melaque and the Islas Cocinas

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