Costalegre: Paraiso – An Unexpected Tropical Oasis!

Careyes oceanfront resort

Looks like some pretty good digs!!

Late March, 2013 – The wind and waves at Cuastecomate were making life a bit uncomfortable. That bay is known for good snorkeling, which we had wanted to try, but in the current conditions it just wasn’t possible.

Up the road 25 miles there was another anchorage, Paraiso, that we had heard was very beautiful. We had never stopped in because it, too, could get rolly. However, we decided to chance it this time and hope for the best.

We stuck close to the coast, and suddenly some out-of-this-world properties appeared on shore. We leaped for our binoculars.

One mega-million dollar vacation property was bright orange and featured not only the usual thatched palapa roofs covering its ramadas, but also a large rotunda at its center. Wow!

Carayes Mexico waterfront resort

Look – Another one, and this one’s blue!

Shortly after that sighting we came across a bright blue mansion with two large cylindrical towers. Wow again!

Who built these properties? Were they private homes or resorts? Whoever and whatever, we really liked the bright colors they used. No blending into the landscape here. If you’ve got it, flaunt it wildly!!

Each of these estates had unusual architectural novelties placed away from the main building — in matching colors.


The orange estate had a cascading series of walled enclosures.  We couldn’t tell what was inside the enclosures other than some trees, but it seemed this was some kind of elaborate staircase with arched doorways leading from one set of stairs to the next. The blue property had a wonderful little wall with a donut hole cut into it. A ladder led from the donut hole down to a path to the sea.

Careyes Mexico oceanfront mansion

Terraced and walled enclosures with arched doorways leading to the beach…??!!

Careyes waterfront villa donut hole

A donut hole in a wall (or bridge?).

Was that donut hole wall a bridge? Decoration? Who knows, but it sure was cool!

If those things weren’t enough, then we came across an enormous bowl perched on the edge of a cliff. What the heck??!!

Who built that and why?!


Carayes Mexico bowl on a cliff

Holy cow – a huge bowl on a cliff, with a staircase!

Paraiso anchorage in Mexico

“Paraiso” is the right word for this place!

It must have been someone very rich and very eccentric!

As we passed the bay of Careyes, we debated stopping there instead. We had heard it was exquisite too.

We had also heard that it is very difficult to anchor there. The swell turns the bay into a washing machine, sloshing the boats about mercilessly.

Despite being very tempted to turn in, for the moment, our sights were set on Paraiso just four miles further on.


Paraiso Mexico cover with boat

Tranquil, turquoise waters.

Tropical beach play in Paraiso Mexico cove with boat

A family enjoys a day on the beach in paradise.

Palm trees and white sand beach

Palm trees, almost-white sand and thatch roofed palapas…















Turning the last corner into the little cove of Paraiso, a gradual feeling of stunned amazement crept over us. The deep blue, churning water outside the cove miraculously smoothed out and became the most vivid turquoise.

Playa Paraiso Mexico

A tour boat swings through the bay.

Swaying palms trees, light colored sand, jade water and a small thatch roofed building filled our view. Adding pure charm to this scene, a family was having a picnic on the beach. The parents relaxed under a colorful umbrella while the kids frolicked on the sand and in the water.

Were we still in Pacific Mexico? This felt like the Sea of Cortez (way north) or Huatulco (way south). We had never seen an anchorage anything like this anywhere else on the mainland coast of Mexico!

Snorkeling at Paraiso anchorage

We couldn’t get in the water fast enough!


Groovy in the Paraiso anchorage

What fun!!

This coast is rugged. Huge splashy waves crash on brown beaches. And it is often plagued by algae blooms where dinghy beach landings become terror-inducing adventures. Boats at anchor look like bucking broncos.


Porta-bote floats on turquoise water

In suspension.

But this place was a gem. Paradise! Whoever named the cove “Paraiso” (“Paradise”) got it 100% right!

Our dinghy floated off the back of Groovy as if sitting on glass, as its shadow followed its gentle movements on the sand below.

Groovy anchored Paraiso cove

What’s that dark patch? Rocks? Sea grass? Guess again…








Fish off the back of Groovy

Fish off the back of Groovy

We couldn’t wait to jump in that water. We hadn’t seen inviting water like this since we left Huatulco six weeks earlier.

When we anchored, we noticed a large brown patch of something, so we avoided that spot and put the anchor down in the sand. The anchor winked at us from its resting place, as if saying, “I like clear turquoise water too!” But what the heck was that brown patch? We thought it was probably sea grass of some kind.

Wrong! It was fish. Millions and millions of little fish. Looking off our swim step we could see them swirling about when the dark patch engulfed Groovy.


Fish school in formation

Organized fish on a mission.

We jumped in, and as we swam among them we were astonished that none of the fish ever touched us. We were surrounded by fish so thick that they nearly blotted out the sand below. Yet, even if we thrashed around or deliberately reached out to touch them, not one fish made a false move and bumped into us.

The patterns they made as they swam were beautiful. Sometimes they would stream by, all lined up in parallel like flying soldiers. Then suddenly they’d stop dead in their tracks and all turn 45 degrees, some facing one way and some the other. Then they’d reorganize and soar off in parallel again.


Fish school out of formation 405

Stopped dead in their tracks at funny angles…

Diving pelican

A flying knife!

I swam along the edge of one of these fish patches.  It was a true edge. On one side there were millions of fish in formation. On the other there were none. Just clear water. I swam back and forth across the edge several times, totally floored by this phenomenon of organized fish.

Playa Paraiso palm trees



Who’s the leader our there? Who’s shouting the orders to swim or turn or stop? Do they do it by telepathy? I could believe that, because they seemed to have a kind of group consciousness.

I know that in cycling pace lines the conversation and chatter is non-stop (unless the guys in front pick up the pace, and then all conversation stops because no one can breathe!). Hand signals are used to pass information down the line like, “danger ahead.”

Playa Paraiso Mexico

What a place!

I suspect honking geese are doing somewhat the same thing, chatting about who did what last week while the guy in front chooses the altitude for the best air currents. But fish?

Whatever method the fish used to plan their movements, the birds didn’t miss a trick. The pelicans rained down on the fish patches like javelins falling from the sky.

Anchored in Paraiso Mexico

A dreamy place to drop the hook!


We took the dinghy ashore the next day and strolled along the beach. Such serenity and beauty!!

Although there are a few buildings set back from the beach, nature rules here.

I had read the wonderful adventure that sailors Tom and Lori of the sailboat Camelot had had here two years prior to our visit.

They had met the owner of the property on shore and had shared some really good times with him and his family, both ashore and on their boat.

I was secretly hoping for a fun encounter like that.

But we weren’t so lucky this time. As we approached the inviting but seemingly vacant building, a man greeted us and informed us that this was private property.

Palm trees

Palms with branches swept back in the wind.

“You can stay on the beach, though,” he said, gesturing back towards the pretty crescent beach with a smile.

Palm trees and thatched palapa

Paraiso beach palapas.

Bahia Paraiso Mexico

The waves play with the sand.










Anchored in Paraiso Mexico

Such a pretty place.










Well, who could possibly complain about being told they had to stay on this beach?  The setting was true perfection. We lolled around on the sand and in the lapping waves, soaking in this delightful tropical oasis.

Sunset in Paraiso Mexico

Paraiso at sunset

Back on the boat, however, the anchorage became rougher and rougher. The tranquility we saw at our arrival was replaced with the more familiar rolling seas of this coast. Our stern hook kept us pointed into the swell, but Groovy began to lurch.

As we bounced around for another day, we kept thinking about those majestic properties we’d passed on the outskirts of Careyes on our way here. They were like a siren call begging us to backtrack a few miles.

We had heard Careyes was beautiful and that we shouldn’t miss it. Besides, we might get lucky and find a patch of calm water over there…!

Costalegre Map (partial)

The central portion of the Costalegre (“Cheerful Coast”). Barra and Tenacatita are the more popular anchorages in this region.
The distance between Paraiso and Barra is ~30 miles.

<- Previous                                                                                                                                                                                       Next->