Mexico Travel: A Day in Melaque

Cocks have been crowing for hours before the sun begins to rise over the village of Melaque on the Pacific coast of Mexico, several hours drive south of Puerto Vallarta. The town lies along a large bay. At the northwest end are steep green hills, studded with rocks. The sea at this end is calm enough for easy swimming and fishing. Further southeast towards Villa Obregon, the surf is rougher and at the southeastern end is Barra de Navidad, where white buildings gleam in the sky. I run down to the beach for a quick dip in the ocean and afterwards come back to my room, drink coffee and munch a bolillo, still warm from the local bakery.

Later I may walk along the beach or on rough cobblestone streets into town. Stores cluster around the central plaza, a large grassy square with benches, a raised bandstand, a fountain decorated with a frieze of dolphins. Next to it is the Church of San Patricio. Most of the small stores are family run and there are always children around – a baby in someone’s lap, a child running in and out from the street, children are everywhere.

Despite the fact that this is the tourist season, the town is still comparatively slow paced. At the corner grocery, a young couple nestle against each other behind the cash register, as they watch a TV novella. The woman rises from her husband’s lap to help me look for candles. In the tiny one-room post office with its home-made curtains, the postmaster waves away my consternation when I realize I don’t have enough money for the postage stamps.

“Bring the money next time,” he says.At noon, all the shops are open, as well as restaurants and taco stands. Small restaurants beneath a covered arcade offer tacos and comidas corrientes, or daily specials, accompanied by rice, beans, fresh warm tortillas, and salsa. There are also a number of pelapa restaurants on the beach that serve fresh fish. Around two o’clock almost everything shuts down for “siesta.” The sun glares down on nearly deserted streets until around four or five o’clock, when shops roll open their metal shutters, and the town begins to stir again. At dusk, young boys boogie board in the surf while couples stroll along the beach. By night, the plaza is bustling with life, music, and lights.

People of all ages gather in the plaza-families with small children, older couples, and lots of teenagers. There are many festivals, of which Saint Patrick’s day is the most important. It lasts an entire week in commemoration of the Irish who fought for Mexico during the Mexican-American War. Then the sound of music, fireworks, entertainment will last late into the night.

Despite its festivities the town has a slow rhythm. Buses and trucks lumber slowly along the rutted roads. People have a slower pace, a slower walk. Nothing is hurried or rushed in Melaque. The softness of the air, the sun, the warmth, and the ocean all combine to create more a spacious sense of time along with a sense of clarity.


Melaque is a place to swim, fish, walk, or just hang out and enjoy the sunset over a beer or margarita.


The town comes to life during the tourist season from November through the end of March. The summer is hot and humid, with lightning storms and heavier surf. September is the rainiest month. Christmas and Easter weeks are the most crowded. During the summer, bargain rates can be negotiated at the nearly empty hotels.


Budget: Hotel Santa Maria, Abel Salgado 85, tel: 315/355-5677; Hotel Hidalgo, Hidalgo 7, tel: 315/355-5045

Mid-range: Hotel Bahia, Legazpi 5, tel: 315/355-6894

Top-end: La Paloma Oceanfront Retreat & Art Center. Reserve well in advance.


Ayala Calle Carrillo Puerto & Ramon Corona, two blocks from the plaza. Inexpensive, tasty breakfasts and lunches.

Bigotes on the beach near the central malecon. Restaurant and bar. Happy hour.

Cesar y Charly, a few blocks further north on the beach. Wonderful fish dinners.

Flor Morena on the square, open 5 pm – 11 pm. Excellent enchiladas and pozole

Maya, several blocks south of the plaza, offers tapas and wine.


Airports: Manzanillo – 20 minute drive to Melaque; Puerto Vallarta – four or five hour drive to Melaque

Bus Stations: Two long distance bus stations, Primera Plus and Cihuatlan, are across the street from Banamex, just a few blocks from the plaza.

Primera Plus runs only one or two buses a day (at ungodly hours) to Puerto Vallarta, but Cihuatlan runs hourly 2nd class buses. There are frequent bus departures for Manzanillo, Colima, and other cities, while a local shuttle runs between Melaque, Barra de Navidad, and surrounding communities.


Walking: The town is so small that for the most part you can get around on foot.
Taxis: There is a taxi stand next to the central plaza and one next to the bus stations.
Local buses go to Barra de Navidad and neighboring towns. They run along Gomez Farias, past Banamex, and make frequent stops.

More information about Melaque, and the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Mexico travel, is available here.

Maria Espinosa is a novelist, poet, and translator. Her publications include three novels, including Longing, which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Read her blog on Red Room.