At approximately 500 square miles in area, one could say that Banderas Bay is a bit smaller than the 6,000 square mile Campeche Bay and the same holds true for Chetumal Bay, the large body of water located south of the Yucatan Peninsula. Most locals indicate that Banderas Bay is not only the largest bay in Mexico, but it's also the third largest bay in the world. Wow, now that's a real stretch, when you have bays the size of Bengal Bay with its area of 1,300,000 square miles. We hate to burst anyone's bubble, but, Banderas Bay might not even rank in the list of the world's largest bays; nevertheless, it's large and it's deep!
Okay, now that we have the facts out of the way, let's find out what makes Banderas Bay so special. Unlike Florida, where the elevation might be 50 feet above sea level in the center of the state, the elevation changes in the Banderas Bay area are dramatic. For example, if you head toward the south end of the bay near Cabo Corrientes, you'll find extreme elevation changes. At certain points, you can go inland by a half a mile and find yourself 2,000 feet up in the Sierra Madres looking down at the bay as though you were viewing it from an airplane. At that same point, if you go offshore by a half mile, you'll find yourself in 3,000 foot deep blue water. In other words, there is a 5,000 foot elevation change in a one mile distance. This creates a 45 degree canyon wall bifurcated by crystal blue water. On one hand you have the lush tropical mountainside fauna and flora, on the other hand you have the beautiful blue bay water; it just doesn't get any more spectacular than that!
The horseshoe shaped Banderas Bay has over 50 miles of beautiful shoreline, ranging from jagged cliffs to sandy beaches, with the city of Puerto Vallarta essentially in the center. The beaches account for approximately 60% of the shoreline thereby providing 30 miles of magnificent beaches lying on the perimeter of the bay. Regardless of where the beach is located, you will have a panoramic view including the Pacific Ocean, the entire city of Puerto Vallarta, and the Sierra Madres as a backdrop.
Consequently, at this time, you can forget about owning any part of the southern 15 miles of coastline. That still leaves us about 35 miles of Paradise, with 10 miles of shoreline located south of Vallarta and 25 miles of shoreline north of Vallarta. Aside from a handful of beautiful little secluded beaches south of Mismaloya, accessible only by boat, virtually all of the 30 miles of Banderas Bay beaches lie within this 35 mile strip which is available for purchasing by foreigners; and purchasing, they are!
Now, what differentiates this bay from the many large shallow water bays of the world is its quantity of humpback whales, giant manta rays, dolphins, marlin, sailfish, and a myriad of other fine game fish that live in deep water. Not only does the bay average over 1,000 feet deep, but the water temperature, being on the same latitude as Hawaii, is ideal year round for these fish. Of course, if it's good enough for the fish, it's good enough for us! Swimming conditions in the bay are perfect, year round, with sunshine overhead for at least 330 days annually.
When the climate is absolutely perfect for at least seven months per year, it's only logical that they made love and not war! To this day, the natives are still a very kind, gentle, and hospitable group of people and war, crime, or any other kind of confrontation is avoided at all costs. They are a very religious and peaceful society living the motto of "mi casa es su casa"- or my house is your house. Foreigners, regardless of whether they are tourists or immigrating retirees, are always welcome by the natives of this very special Banderas Bay region.
Jim Scherrer has owned property in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 24 years and resided there for the past ten years. The mission of his series of 29 articles pertaining to retirement in Puerto Vallarta is to reveal the recent changes that have occurred in Vallarta while dispelling the misconceptions about living conditions in Mexico.