A Summer in Paradise

A few years ago,  we were trying to decide where we might keep our home, Noeta (Nordhavn 5020), in Mexico. So we flew down to PV to scope out the marinas. We stayed at Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta for a couple of nights and also checked out Marina Vallarta, near the airport.

After visiting both we decided we liked the atmosphere of Marina Vallarta over the resort feel of Paradise Village. There were more locals, more activities, more restaurants and it was well protected from passing storms and hurricanes. So we went home feeling sure that we had picked our Mexican homebase.
Marina Vallarta

Resident crocodile at Marina Vallarta
Storms like these would break up just before they reached Banderas Bay because of the geography of the mountains and water here.

However, once we got to Mexico, we fell in love with the fishing village of La Cruz de Huanecaxtle before we made it to either of the other marinas we had visited. So we stayed there for a few months. Once hurricane season was looming, we had to decide whether to stay in La Cruz or find a more protected harbor. La Cruz is still fairly protected in Banderas Bay, but the other marinas we had looked at were even safer. Since this was our first hurricane season in Mexico, we decided to play it safe. Also, many restaurants and shops close down in La Cruz since many of the cruisers leave for the summer. (Check out my blog on La Cruz here).

Again, we figured we'd head to Marina Vallarta. But once we began communicating with them, we discovered their rates were twice those of anywhere else. We also discovered that their water is not drinkable, they don't have working wifi in much of the marina, there are giant crocodiles, and every time you walk off your dock, someone tries to sell you a timeshare, a fishing trip or a whale watching excursion (um, we live on a boat - we're good). 
2019 moorage rates at Marina Vallarta - .73 cents ft/day in the summer, as compared to .39-.41 cents at other nearby marinas. While the rate is lower if you commit to 3 months, you also have to prepay 3 months to get that rate (that is STILL more than everyone else).

So we looked back at Paradise Village. Originally we were turned off by the resort/gringo feel of it. But we gave it a chance. It has potable water, tons of security, no one is trying to sell us anything, use of 3 different pools with waitstaff, gym and spa access, groceries and a few restaurants nearby. We got a DSL box for (usually) consistent Wifi. And they even have a weekly pump out service for sewage which Marina Vallarta didn't have, making that marina gross with sludge from boats dumping in the marina. Paradise rates were competitive with other marinas (except Marina Vallarta), their staff is super attentive and everything from pharmacies, markets, atms and buses are all near by. While it by no means is the real 'Mexico', it has some excellent things going for it.

Service is exceptional.
Within 20 minutes of docking, the dock crew added a brand new cleat so we could tie up at a better angle.

The best part about Paradise Village was the community of cruisers we met. We had weekly potlucks and Mexican train nights. Evening cocktails in the pool were common as were nights out for dinner. Pat and I (and sometimes even Jack and Hailey!) even participated in water aerobics 3 times a week! We could always find someone who had that spare part or tool, and everyone looked out for everyone else. 
SV Avalon, SV Namahana & SV Dragonfly let us into their crew even though we are on a MV :)
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M, W, F water aerobics thanks to Jill on SV Namahana

Mexican train night in the lounge
Golf with the cruiser crew at El Tigre Golf Club on the resort property
Morning mimosa cruise with the neighborhood

Independence day celebration put on by the resort was INCREDIBLE!
Thursday night potluck ensured great food and even better socializing.
Our little palapa by the marina

We were at the resort for 4 months, and it flew by. The resort tourists over the summer were mostly native Mexicans, so it didn't feel too 'gringo'. We were able to have the beach, pools and resources of a resort while still heading out on road trips, practicing Spanish, exploring nearby towns and experiencing true Mexican culture.  We watched turtles lay eggs, then watched the eggs hatch weeks later. We guided our own mangrove tours, seeing new wildlife every time. We met the workers in the area and are on a first name basis with many of them.
Cruising the neighboring estuary was a favorite activity at Paradise - these mangroves are covered in pelicans!

A neighborhood crocodile - rarely seen in the marina, but could be spotted along the estuary
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Cruising down the estuary - hundreds of birds, iguanas and a few small crocodiles

Mama turtle tracks in September - 45 day incubation period means we also got to see these eggs hatch!
Evening and early morning walks on Tortuga Beach in September and October meant a LOT of mama and baby turtle sightings.
Making his way to the Sea of Cortez
This little guy needed a little help getting past the surf.
The channel entrance to the marina. A dredge is working to keep the depth to at least 11 feet.

Scheduled classes we could participate in

It can't all be awesome. Because we're situated at the end of a small estuary, we get a LOT of stuff in the water and our AC intake sucks it all up. This is our air conditioning strainer after just a few weeks. We have to clean it weekly at Paradise and deal with the occasional clogs due to leaves and plastic bags.
The one thing summers in Banderas Bay are lacking, is cruiser teens. Between the heat, humidity and lack of young people around, my kids have been pretty bored. So this week we will head to La Cruz to await the kid boats that we know are coming back and participate in La Cruz Kids' Club activities.

We will exchange free drinkable water for 5 gallon jugs of water, pools with bars and waiters for a tiny one with weekly pool volleyball, a handful of good restaurants for dozens of outstanding hole in the wall authentic cuisine kitchens, Thursday potlucks for Thursday movie night at the La Cruz marina amphitheater (and the other zillion cruiser activities in La Cruz).

A cruiser once told us, at each marina or anchorage you really have to take the good and leave the bad. Nowhere is perfect, but if you focus on what you really enjoy about a place instead of what it is lacking, life will be much better. I think that sentiment can be used for a lot of things in life.

We will likely be back to Paradise Village next summer and take the good.

View from our slip - C-12 at Paradise

The entrance to Paradise Village - excellent security

View from our slip

Our favorite al pastor tacos in the neighborhood

The resort uses a trained hawk to keep away the pesky birds that want to eat your tacos.

Gilligan watching the dock traffic

A view of the resort from the beach

Great storm and cloud watching from our slip


Inside the main hotel

Port Captain is just across the water.
The marina arranges for a water taxi ride and your paperwork for entry and exit to the next port. 

It's a love-hate relationship between Gilligan and the local pelicans

Beautiful fruit and flowers are all around Paradise Village.

Noeta at dock

Yes, there is a Starbucks on the property - that's good and bad

This is Gilbert and his friend on the bow of our neighbor's boat - he's there every day.

These don't suck.

LOTS of Iguanas - a group of iguanas is called a squadron.

Looking out the channel towards Banderas Bay

Captain Pat on a daily neighborhood cruise


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