Imagine an ideal tropical paradise: free camping on a long curve of clean white sand, right next to a lovely little coral-bottomed cove, with all the beer you can drink and all the fresh seafood you can eat. That describes Tenacatita, a place that old Mexican Pacific hands refer to with a sigh: Tenacatitaaahhh . . .
Folks usually begin to arrive sometime in November; by Christmas some years there’s room only for walk-ins. (Which anyone who can walk can do: Carry in your tent and set it up in one of the many RV-inaccessible spots.)
Tenacatita visitors enjoy three distinct beaches: the main one, Playa Tenacatita; the little one, Playa Mora; and Playa la Boca, a breezy palm-bordered sand ribbon stretching almost two miles (3.2 km) north to the boca (mouth) of the Río Purificación.
Playa Tenacatita’s strand of fine white sand curves from the north end of Punta Tenacatita along a long, tall packed dune to Punta Hermanos, a total of about two miles. The dune is where most visitors—nearly all Americans and Canadians—park their RVs. The water is clear with gentle waves, fine for swimming and sailboarding. Being so calm, it’s easy to launch a boat for fishing—common catches are huachinango (red snapper) and cabrilla (sea bass)—especially at the very calm north end.
For most services and supplies you’ll have to head 1.5 miles inland to the village of El Rebalsito. However, Playa Tenacatita’s sheltered north-end cove has acquired a village of palapas that service the winter camping population. One of the veteran establishments is El Puercillo, run by longtimer José Bautista. He and several other neighbors take groups out in his launches ($80/half-day, bring your own beer) for offshore fishing trips and excursions. For more useful information about Tena, visit www.tomzap.com/tenaca.html.
By bus, catch the Transportes Cihuatlán bus that makes one return trip per day between El Rebalsito and Manzanillo. It leaves El Rebalsito daily at the crack of dawn (for departure times, inquire locally in Rebalsito and the bus stations at Barra de Navidad, tel. 315/355-5200, or Melaque, tel. 315/355-5003), and returns from the Manzanillo central bus station around 3 p.m., arriving at El Rebalsito around 6 p.m.
By car, leave Highway 200 at the big Tenacatita sign and interchange (at Km 27) half a mile south of the big Río Purificación bridge. El Rebalsito is 3.7 miles (6 km), Tenacatita 5.4 miles (8.7 km), by a good paved road.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition