The Satellite photo to the right is of the Pacific Coast of Mexico from just South of Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo (bottom). The real Costa Alegre Mexico is located from just below Puerto Vallarta to just above Cihuatlan.
In Mexico, Costa Alegre translates to "Happy Coast" or "Joyous Coast" or "Cheerful Coast". I believe the actual translation of "Alegre" is cheerful. Costa Alegre Mexico is sometimes incorrectly called Costa de Oro (Gold Coast) a larger section of the coast of Mexico of which Costa Alegre is a part. It is also sometimes referred to as Costa Caryes (Turtle Coast) which is actually a part of Costa Alegre Mexico located somewhere near the middle of it. Costa Alegre Mexico is 57 miles long and is an Ecological zone by a 1990 Presidential decree.
Sometimes it is printed and spoken as Costalegre Mexico but most of the time it is Costa Alegre Mexico. When people speak it as Costalegre (one word) it sounds like they are saying "Cost a Leg" in some sort of spanglish, which reminds me of the old saying "it cost an arm and a leg". While parts of Costa Alegre Mexico are very expensive most of it is reasonably priced, as with most locations in the world the coast is usually more expensive than inland.
After leaving Puerto Vallarta and driving south on Highway 200 you first come to a few small villages, then you drive for about a half an hour over a set of mountains. When you leave the mountains the road straightens out and you enter the area where Costa Alegre Mexico starts, about 75 miles south of Puerto Vallarta near a village called Playa de Quemaro. Costa Alegre Mexico is becoming a world class destination and there are areas both above and below the real Costa Alegre Mexico that claim to be a part of Costa Alegre Mexico but actually are not.
At this point Highway 200 is a few miles inland from the ocean, it is a beautiful easy drive going through different plantations and gorgeous scenery. The road is a two lane highway that is well maintained and has very little traffic. There is only one stop sign (near Melaque, which no one ever stops at) along the entire length of Costa Alegre Mexico which gives you a good idea of just how undiscovered and unpopulated this area is! There is also only one gas station in between Puerto Vallarta and Melaque so be sure to fill your tank before starting out or Costa Alegre Mexico will quickly change to Costa un Alegre. Taking the Premier Plus Bus from Puerto Vallarta to Melaque is also a great way to see Costa Alegre Mexico.
Watch for the Topes (speed bumps) which are usually located as you enter and leave each little town along the way, some are fairly well marked by a yellow sign with two black humps on it and some are not marked at all. They come up surprisingly fast and the unmarked ones usually have a few good skid marks as you approach. A couple of them will remove the suspension from your car if you're not careful, which explains the convenient location of a mechanic somewhere close by. I personally have traveled that part of Costa Alegre Mexico many times and I still forget at least one or two along the way.
Along Costa Alegre Mexico there are surprisingly few roads leading to the ocean itself which has many beautiful and secluded beaches, some of which are only available by boat. The inlets and coves used to be a safe place for pirates and explorers in the 17th Century and are now safe haven for many of the private boats that cruise Costa Alegre Mexico annually from November to April.
The few paved roads that do branch off towards the ocean and are well marked, they will either lead you to a small town or to a grand resort or residential area. Some of the turn offs are located around Chamela Bay, Carayes, the Bay of Tenacatita, Melaque and Barra de Navidad.
There are also several dirt roads along Costa Alegre Mexico that you have to turn around to take because they are so small you miss them the first time you drive by them. Sometimes they lead to a great little secluded beach, sometimes to a part of the Costa Alegre Mexico that is just a rock cliff. Sometimes they do not make it all the way to the ocean, but they are all fun to explore, just ask the locals how to get to the beach and you will eventually make it.
As you drive further South the ocean and Highway 200 merge closer together and you get your first glimpse of the ocean of Costa Alegre Mexico from the highway. After you pass La Manzanilla (which is at the south end of the Bay of Tenacatita) you once again go through a set of mountains with beautiful views of valleys, palms, ranches etc.
As you come to the southern most portion of Costa Alegre Mexico the road levels out as you come to Melaque and Barra de Navidad, after which the highway once again parts company with the ocean as it heads toward Cihuatlan where Costa Alegre Mexico officially ends.
There are a many different types of accommodations along Costa Alegre Mexico ranging from camping, rustic to very luxurious resorts and many restaurants.