Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Season in Mexico Part 2: Marinas

The Honcho took berths in ten Marinas in Mexico and found them comparable to American marinas in many ways. Each of those marinas is listed below, along with a summary of our experiences there.

Cruiseport (Ensenada)
Located just past the Naval Base in the port of Ensenada. The entrance channel is well marked and easy to navigate.This is a modern marina with good facilities and excellent staff. Cruiseport Marina is the ideal place to officially check into Mexico. They will assist you with all the necessary paperwork and drive you to the Port Captain's office at no charge. If you're not fluent in Spanish, Jonathan will translate and assist you with all the necessary forms and documents. There are many marine stores, restaurants and tiendas within walking distance, but you'll want a cab to get to the local Costco or Walmart. I think this is the best marina in Ensenada because of its central location and low cost. One downside is that there is no fuel dock there, but Jonathan offered to drive me and four jerry jugs to a gas station downtown that sells diesel at no charge. Very friendly and helpful.

Marina Cabo San Lucas (Cabo San Lucas)
This is a very well equipped marina in the heart of the tourist area in Cabo. It is expensive (we paid $125 USD/night in November, 2010 but I think they have lowered their prices somewhat recently). The staff was friendly and the marina offers clean showers and laundry facilities and even a small swimming pool for guests. The central location was nice because nearly everything is within walking distance, but there are at least a dozen nightclubs within shouting distance, so we were serenaded every night until around 0400 by a dozen bands. The music and high prices drove us out of Cabo after only two nights.

Puerto Los Cabos (San Jose del Cabo)
This is a new marina and is part of the Puerto Los Cabos Resort. As of June, 2011 the slips were completed but not all had electrical outlets. Prices were much better than at Cabo. We got a slip for $40 USD/night in a slip without electricity, which was fine with us. The same size slip with electricity was quoted to us at $80/night. Restrooms and showers were in trailers but there are plans for more permanent facilities. The harbor at San Jose del Cabo did not show on our Maxsea electronic charts nor on our GPS, but the Navionics app on our I-Pad showed it. It's a moderately long walk to downtown San Jose so you'll want a taxi to get to the local (new) Walmart. There is a restaurant and gift shop at the marina. Prices are high, but the burgers were good. This marina is about 16 miles from Cabo San Lucas and is, in my opinion, a better place than Cabo to stay while waiting for a weather window for boats that are headed north along the Pacific coast of Baja.

Marina Palmira (La Paz)
Located just outside of downtown La Paz, Marina Palmira is our favorite place to stay in La Paz. While not a new marina, it is well maintained, with electronic gate locks on the gangways and plenty of security. It is affiliated with the Hotel Marina so we had free access to the large hotel pool, a necessity from May through October. There are a couple of good restaurants at the marina, and it's a pleasant 3 mile walk to downtown La Paz from there along the beautiful malecon. We provisioned twice in La Paz, visiting the Soriano and Walmart. They are both too far to walk, but taxis are inexpensive in La Paz. Like most of the other marinas we visited, Marina Palmira offers free wifi, and like the others, it was spotty  at best. We always relied on our Telcel 3G cards in Mexico and were seldom disappointed by them.

Marina de La Paz (La Paz)
This is the main marina in downtown La Paz. Older that the others, it has a character of its own that makes it hospitable to many long-time live-aboards. For us, the key attraction of this marina is its location in the heart of downtown La Paz. There are several marine stores as well as hardware stores, shopping mall, immigration office, restaurants and other services all within walking distance of this marina. Being downtown, it's noisier and more crowded than Marina Palmira. This marina is also home to Club Cruceros de La Paz. This organization offers all sorts of services and information for cruisers in the Sea of Cortez We stayed in this marina in the month of May, and it was quite hot, with little wind during the day and the surrounding buildings and geography blocking much of the cooling Coromuel winds at night. The local year-round liveaboards assured me that you get used to the heat. I'm not sure I want to do that myself, but it's clear that many American and Canadian expats have found a home here.

Marina Mazatlan (Mazatlan)
Located about 10 miles north of downtown Mazatlan, most charts don't show this marina very well so I recommend using the Pacific Mexico Cruising Guide by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer for accurate navigational information. The channel entrance is narrow and sea conditions can sometimes make entering or leaving tricky. The channel entrance requires constant dredging to keep it navigable and it is occasionally closed due to ongoing dredging operations. If in doubt, hail the marina on the VHF to check on conditions.
 Mazatlan is an important commercial port and you can find almost anything you need here. There are good restaurants, a shipyard and other conveniences within walking distance of the marina, but it's too far to walk downtown, which is where you need to go for provisions. You can take a bus, taxi or pulmonia for a few pesos. The pulmonia is unique to Mazatlan.  It is a small open vehicle with a canvas top. It's cheaper than a regular taxi and in Maazatlan's warm climate you don't need doors and windows, so whenever possible we took a pulmonia, which was more fun than a bus or taxi.

There has been some drug related violence in Mazatlan and at the time we were there cruise ships were not calling at the port of Mazatlan, so the town was a bit quieter than normal. We enjoyed the beautiful old city of Mazatlan and could have stayed there longer if we'd had time.

Marina Riviera Nayarit (La Cruz de Huanacaxtle)
This was our favorite marina in Mexico. Nearly new and very well maintained, Marina Riviera is probably as good as it gets. It is located in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, on the north shore of Banderas Bay. La Cruz is a picturesque town with just the right combination of old Mexico charm, yatistas and an interesting mix of expats from around the world. The marina sports a yacht club with an excellent restaurant and bar, fuel dock, shipyard with 150 ton travelift, convenience store and laundry. There are plenty of good restaurants within walking distance, ranging from high end Italian to funky outdoor places with live music. We especially enjoyed Philo's, Ana Bananas and Frascati. If I could visit only one marina in Mexico this would be it.

Paradise Village Marina (Nuevo Vallarta)
Located in Nuevo Vallarta, about 10 miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta, Paradise Village marina is built on an estuary, so bring your bug screens. This marina is a bit older than the one in La Cruz, but it is well maintained, with good facilities and friendly help. It is part of the Paradise Village resort, so visitors have access to the hotel pool and beach. This place reminded me of Marina Del Rey in California. So if you like Del Rey, you'll like Paradise Village Marina.

Marina Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta)
Located in the port of Puerto Vallarta, this marina was once a fine place to stay while you visited the city of PV, but when we visited, it was fairly rundown. Security was so-so, and the noise level was only a few decibels this side of Cabo San Lucas. It does have the benefit of close proximity to downtown PV, which is a wonderful city.

Marina Ixtapa Nautica (Ixtapa)
Like Paridise Village Marina, Marina Ixtapa Nautica is also part of a larger resort. As such it offers good facilities, access to fine restaurants and shops, and a nice beach.  It is located a short bus or taxi ride from the beautiful city of Zihuatanejo, where there an excellent anchorage for when you tire of marina life. Isla Ixtapa is less than five miles away by boat and is a perfect place to anchor for the day and snorkel or lounge on the beach. While anchored there I cleaned the bottom of our boat, which is prohibited in the marina due to the large crocodiles that occasionally swim through.

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