While browsing the net for a nice beach we hadn’t been to before, we came upon a picture of Gran Bahia de Cuastecomates, located six kilometers northwest of Barra de Navidad.
True to its name, this is a “Big Bay,” but well sheltered, with calm waters, a perfect place for old-timers and toddlers to enjoy the sea without fear of being smacked by a wave and turned upside down – in other words, a place where no surfer would ever choose to go.
So, not being surfers, we booked a room at grandiose-sounding Hotel Quinta Gran Bahía de Cuastecomates, which turned out to be grandiose-looking as well, with some 75 rooms, each with a balcony facing the ocean and the beautiful bay.
As this hotel includes all meals as well as alcoholic drinks in its overall price, we stuffed ourselves upon arrival and afterwards felt obliged to burn off the added kilos by walking “100 paces after eating” – sage advice given by none other than Mohammed the Prophet, according to Susy Pint. (She ought to know this, as she is the author of the soon-to-be-published book “A Mexican Woman in Arabia.”)
The Prophet’s Paces took us to a street entering the pueblito of Cuastecomates. And what a strange calle it was, impeccably paved without a single bache (pothole) and so wide that there were walking lanes on both sides of the street, separated from the driving area by evenly spaced iron stanchions. Amazingly, beneath our feet was a studded yellow strip stretching off into the distance, obviously designed to guide the blind. It was the safest, most intelligently designed street we’d ever seen and we rubbed our eyes in astonishment.
“Have we been transported to Sweden or Germany?” we asked. Even the sign showing the name of the street was in Spanish, English and braile!
We followed the yellow stripe to a perpendicular street, just as beautifully designed, above which we found a banner informing us that Cuastecomates is a “Pueblo Incluyente,” which at first meant nothing to me or to my Mexican relatives.
Soon we found a shopkeeper who explained that “incluyente” means “including everything a handicapped or old person might need.” It seemed we had stumbled into Mexico’s only town-and-beach for the handicapped and aged, a pet project of Lorena Jassibe, wife of Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval, who inaugurated the place in May 2016. (Editor’s note: this newspaper published a story on this at that time.)
“They located the project here because our bay is so well protected,” the shopkeeper told us, suggesting we go see the amphibious wheelchairs which allow the disadvantaged to roll along wooden walkways right into the warm seawater, where they can have fun along with everyone else.
We did just that and found that these specialized, cleverly designed vehicles can be rented for a token fee of 25 pesos per day.
Next we asked the staff of our own hotel, the Quinta Gran Bahía de Cuastecomates, why they didn’t have a single ramp down which these amphibious wheelchairs could roll into the ocean. “We are working on that,” we were told, “and also on a few ground-level rooms for the handicapped.” When they would have things ready was not revealed.
On the subject of our hotel, I should remark that it has four stars probably due to the great view guests get from their rooms. We found the place clean, the staff very friendly and helpful, but the food remarkably bland and uninspiring. There is also a noise problem on Friday and Saturday nights, when loud music is played from 8 p.m. to midnight. An easy solution is to ask, upon arrival, for a room far away from the music.
This hotel, however, does have three attractions you don’t want to miss. They are, in fact, three playful raccoons that visit the outdoor dining area every evening after 7 p.m. with the intention of stealing as much food as possible from the plates of guests.
Something else unusual for you to see on the grounds of the Quinta Gran Bahía are a number of cuastecomate (Mexican calabash) trees, for which the bay is named. These trees produce a large, smooth, round, very hard, light-green fruit which grows directly on its trunk, sometimes popping up in the most unexpected places. These fruits are said to have numerous medicinal properties. A cough medicine, for example, is made by cutting off the top of the dried fruit and pouring alcohol into it.
Finally, I should mention that the Gran Bahia de Cuastecomates has a certain fame for beautiful sunsets, so I had my tripod ready for action the two nights that we stayed in the area ... and I found the rumors to be true. The first evening’s sunset was very nice and the following night’s was simply spectacular, the best I have ever experienced on a beach.
The pueblito of Cuastecomates is a four-hour drive from Guadalajara, whether you take the narrow, twisting road to Barra de Navidad or the toll road via Colima and Manzanillo.