I was in Mexico a little more than two weeks ago in the tiny fishing village of Chacala. When most people think of visiting Mexico, large vacation destinations filled with resorts come to mind. However, where we were in the northern part of Nayarit had an entirely different feel to it and it made me think about how important it is to check out these authentic spots when traveling.
We stayed with my friend Karla at her place at Casa Caballito del Mar—a vacation rental home that she rents out to others interested in checking out the area. Chacala is known as as either “the spot where the shrimp is” or the “location where the lobster is,” but not much else. It’s a safe haven away from sunburned tourists and crowded beaches. With a population of about 300 people, it’s hard to get more local than here—you have to make a lengthy trek from the airport at Puerto Vallarta. Karla picked us up and remained our constant companion throughout our time there. With her as a tour guide, I learned more about the area and the local community service projects going on than I ever could have on my own. Not only that, but her vacation rental felt like home. It was beautifully decorated and offered us the perfect spot to relax in the afternoon when it got too hot out to be on the beach.
Chacala might not be well-known, but it won’t be long before it is. It has a certified clean beach—one of the cleanest I have ever seen. Plenty of local restaurants line the beachfront. I tried the incredible, local favorite of Sopa del Mar and was astounded about how much seafood I had in my bowl and how cheap the price was. Even as a Generation-Y traveler on a budget, I was able to treat myself to anything I wanted on the menu and more. I might have had to order in Spanish, but that was part of the charm and added to the true, authentic feel of the village.
What resonated with me the most, however, was the love the residents (both expats and locals) had for this area. Whether it was commitment to improving the schools and education of the local students or promoting businesses or improving health services, everyone was involved in making their community a better place. Not only did it add to the overall “authenticity” of the village, but it humbled me to think of the things we take for granted on a daily basis. My trip to Chacala opened my eyes in many ways, but that might have been the most important.
Have you ever been to a place you felt changed you? Where was it?