LAKE CHAPALA ACTIVITIES
15 Activities to Enjoy in Lake Chapala
Those who can call La Ribera de Chapala (Lakeside) home, definitely don’t lack of activities to make them happy and keep them busy. The natural scenery and the environment offer a wonderful opportunity to participate in physical activities, whether it’s group sports or individual activities.
There are also numerous gatherings amongst locals that are dedicated to enhance the mind. The intellectual, social, political, cultural and religious groups are but some of the many organizations here at lakeside. Many of these groups have members from all over the world, creating different and interesting perspectives from different points of views. Such reunions often take place weekly or monthly and are easy to find and join.
Retirees find that keeping occupied is not a problem; the only dilemma is finding the time to do all the available activities. With over 200 existing organizations in the area, there is a variable of “things to do” year round. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of activities in the towns of La Ribera de Chapala to keep you entertained and participating in this beautiful community.
This is a brief list of some of the activities, places and organizations, which are not numbered in any particular order. Hope this is of great help for you.
Let’s start and have some fun!
1. SHOPPING IN THE TIANGUIS
Tianguis comes from náhuatl “tiānquiz(tli)” which means ‘market’, and it was the traditional market that existed in Mesoamérica since the prehispanic period and that has been changing throughout the years until becoming what we see nowadays.
Wednesday mornings are the “tianguis” day in Ajijic, where the vibrant colors and the aromas can be perceived all around. There is a great variety of products, art, fruits and vegetables that are truly fresh, fish and seafood. As well as candies of all colors and flavors, a great variety of jewelry, shoes, clothes and crafts.
And of course the food stands cannot be left out! Tasty foods and drinks, like the delicious “tejuinos” (drink made out of corn), pizza, tacos, tostadas, tamales and much more.
A walk through the “tianguis” is a way to enjoy the culture, gastronomy, art and traditions of this beautiful town of Ajijic.
2. WALKS THROUGH THE TOWN’S “MALECON” (Pier)
The strolls through the malecón in any of the towns of Lakeside are filled with color, natural beauty and a great variety of good things to eat. Chapala has a charming malecón with a market where you can find crafts, typical clothing, garrafa (hand-churned ice-cream done in a stainless-steel cylinder) ice cream, Mexican food, amongst many other things.
Families get together and just enjoy a nice day out, listening to musical groups, mariachis, and maybe a good singer with his guitar. In both the Chapala and Ajijic Malecon you can find on certain dates the performance given by the voladores de Papantla (a ritual done by indigenous Mexicans where they tie themselves to the top of the pole with a rope then launch themselves backwards from the pole, beginning their elegant descent towards the ground) which is a beautiful experience.
3. HORSEBACK RIDES
In Ajijic, in “La Floresta” community, by the main street, there is a special site to go horseback riding as well as a spot where you can rent horses and stroll through the town of Ajijic or along the lake’s shore. No need to be a pro, the horses are well trained and very tranquil, it is not uncommon to see a 5 year old riding one by himself. You can also get a guide who will take you to many different points of interest. Riding on the lakeside beach is very rewarding, you can actually concentrate in sightseeing and see among other things birds that you have not seen ever before.
4. PLAY GOLF
It could be any golfer’s dream! In the Ribera de Chapala you can practice it 365 days of the year with very accessible prices. There are two golf courses: The Chula Vista Country Club course with 9 holes but you can play 18, and the Vista del Lago golf course with 18 holes.
With one of the best climates in the world, the perfect weather conditions allows golfers to practice year round.
5. TRY THE EXPERIENCE OF A TRADITIONAL “TEMAZCAL”
Temazcal means “house of the hot stones”; in náhuatl language. Tetl=stone, Mazitli=hot; Calli= house.
The Temazcal is a purification ritual of Indian prehispanic spirituality, which is to heal physical sicknesses and psychological too, it’s similar to a sauna. A Shaman is in charge of conducting the ceremony. After a Temazcal you not only feel renewed but you feel a special connection to earth and all natural powers that abound at lakeside.
6. THERMAL WATERS IN SAN JUAN COSALA
In the town of San Juan Cosalá, there are thermal waters below the ground. This town is about 10 minutes west of Ajijic.
Balneario San Juan Cosala is the oldest spa at Lakeside, it has many pools, hot water Jacuzzis and just about any kind of spa you can think of, it is situated on the water, all water is thermal and has many healing properties. A day in the spa is a must on your trip to lakeside. Special discounts for groups are offered during different times of the year.
Monte Coxala is a spa resort with world class prehispanic décor. Inside its facilities there is a replica of a pyramid in which you can swim in. Monte Coxala has various pools with thermal stones in the outdoors with a beautiful lake view. Plus also a restaurant and a separate facility for massages and spa treatments. There is also a sculpture of a prehispanic “Olmeca” head and inside it there is jetted tub. With its prehispanic touches, it is one of the spas/ hotels lakeside that you simply can’t miss.
7. TOUR THE ART GALLERIES AND COLORFUL MURALS
Ajijic is known for being an artistic town, and you can see this through the many murals that adorn the house walls, some government buildings, store facades and galleries, sometimes even also including the plant pots and light posts. This makes Ajijic very magical, colorful and unique! The ideal site for artists!
You can also take just about any kind of art classes in the many distinct galleries of this town.
8. GET TO KNOW “THE LAKE CHAPALA SOCIETY”
This estate right in the center of town, was donated by Neill James, also known as the God-Mother of Ajijic. The LCS is a non-profit organization and is lakesides biggest with over 2,000 members. The LCS offers more than 40 services to its members, such as Spanish classes, movie nights, tours to go shopping in Guadalajara, some medical and immigration services, etc. It also has the biggest English library in all of México.
The LCS participates constantly with the Mexican community imparting art classes, English and computer classes to name just a few.
Here you can also admire the incredible botanical garden with colorful plants and different species from all over the world, and also a pond with vibrant colored fish.
Visit their page for more information: https://lakechapalasociety.com
9. TAKE A TOUR OF THE DIFFERENT TOWNS ALONG THE LAKE
Getting to know the different surrounding towns and its customs, traditions and crafts is an experience that you can´t miss out on. Lake Chapala is the biggest lake in all of Mexico! There are plenty of things to see and do in these towns that have a touch of magic in them: Jocotepec, El Chante, San Juan Cosala, Ajijic, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Chapala, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas, San Juan Tecomatlan, Mezcala, only to mention a few. The warmth of the people is one of the reasons why many retirees have chosen lakeside to live. Each town has its own characters and personalities that are distinct from a town only a couple of kilometers down the road. Take your time and have a stroll, a coffee, or simple sit on a bench in each of the towns plaza, you will immediately find the town that moves you the most.
10. GO ON A BIKE RIDE
There is an existing cycle path that runs along the Chapala-Ajijic-Jocotepec highway where you can roam on a bike in this near perfect weather of ours. Rent a bike or even an electric bike in Ajijic and take a ride to Chapala heading east or to San Juan Cosala heading west, this is one way you can truly get a feeling of lakeside’s big foreign community. Or just get on your bike and go to the malecones (water boardwalks), do some exercise and at the same time enjoy the natural beauty of the scenery.
11. THE AUDITORIUM OF THE RIBERA, YOU CAN ENJOY WORLD CLASS SHOWS AND EVENTS
Dance performances, theatre, classical music, singing, orchestras, Tangos, Mariachis, Ballet Folklórico; are just some examples of the great variety of events that you can enjoy in the Auditorium of the Ribera de Chapala which is conveniently located in Ajijic. During the winter months the auditorium has 2 to 3 performances a week, get your tickets early as it is not uncommon for shows to fill up.
12. TREAT YOURSELF TO A MASSAGE AND RELAX!
The Lakeside area has many spas for massages as well as professional masseurs that were trained outside of Mexico for very reasonable prices compared to the US and Canada. There is a great selection to choose from, many different kinds and many different prices. Find the one that is to your liking and give a couple of spas a call, many include different services so comparing prices can actually be difficult. Remember, a masseur can come to you too, for many this is the way to go, just remember, during the winter months try to plan ahead of schedule as many snowbirds will be getting their massages.
13. DO YOU LIKE TAKING PICTURES? THIS IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR IT!
The sunsets and sunrises in Lake Chapala are something magical! The lake and its mountains offer sceneries that you will not be able to resist taking a picture of. It is not necessary to be a professional to be able to capture a beautiful shot. So take out your camera or cellular phone and start taking pictures!
14. DELIGHT YOURSELF WITH OUR RESTAURANTS
It’s amazing the amount of restaurants that there are at Lakeside. There is no other place in Mexico and maybe North America with the diversity and quality of food in such a small town. Ajijic with only 5,000 inhabitants has well over 100 restaurants, many of them with better reviews on tripadvisor than restaurants in the neighboring city of Guadalajara with 5 million people. Here are some of the different types of foods found lakeside: Mexican food, Argentinian food, Thai food, Chinese food, Japanese food, Italian food, Arab food, Hindu food, Delis, Bistros, Fine cuisine, etc.
But if you’re one that wants to explore Mexican food a little bit further try out the street tacos that are practically in every street corner throughout Mexico, a strong stomach is a must. Made with handmade tortillas, spicy sauces and many more Mexican delights they are truly, delicious!
15. GO ON A TOUR TO SEE THE MANSIONS OF LAKE CHAPALA “BEHIND THE WALLS TOUR”
Big walls around Lakeside block viewers from seeing some of the prettiest homes in the state. With Ajijic being an artist colony, you can only begin to imagine what lies on the other side of those big walls, visit these beautiful mansions while you visit Lake Chapala, this is your chance to admire their architecture, décor, perfectly good tastes and see their exuberant gardens, some of them created with the finest details. It is also a good occasion to collect ideas to build your new home, remodel or just add some fine decorations to your current home.
For more information about Lakeside visit: Lake Chapala Towns
THE LAKESIDE LITERARY SCENE
By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
The Lakeside area has long been a mecca for writers from all over the world. In 1923, D.H. Lawrence took up residence in Chapala, where he would eventually complete one of his most celebrated novels, The Plumed Serpent. In the late thirties, W. Somerset Maugham lived for several months in Ajijic, putting the final touches on The Razor´s Edge, a book that when transposed to the screen would be nominated for several Oscars.
Another famous work had its genesis here at Lakeside. In the 1940s, Tennessee Williams spent time in Ajijic, staying at the legendary Old Posada, where almost every night he hosted a poker game. These games were the inspiration for a short story called “The Poker Night,” which eventually became the play (and later the movie) A Streetcar Named Desire.
Since then, many other (albeit less famous) writers have spent time in our area, encouraged by not only the literary tradition but the glorious weather and low cost of living. A few of the more illustrious of these scribes were Barbara Bickmore, who while living here wrote several best-selling novels, and Jim Tuck, a writer who penned several well-known non-fictional books. At present, there are several excellent writers in our midst, among them Jim Tipton, a writer/poet with a large following both in Mexico as well as the US, and Neil McKinnon, whose humorous short stories have won several awards in Canada.
Over the past fifty years, there has often been a writers’ group in Ajijic. The latest incarnation was born in 1988, when a woman named Mary Kimbrough, along with Alejandro Grattan, organized the group that still exists today. The lady, however, never returned after the initial meeting. Years later, she was asked why she had not returned to the very group she had helped to found. She replied that when she observed the rowdy antics of the writers who had responded to the call, she felt much like Dr. Frankenstein must have when first seeing the over-the-top behavior of his creation.
Today, the Ajijic Writers’ Group still sports many of the most outrageous characters to be found at Lakeside. But writers have never been noted for their docile manner. The group meets the first and third Fridays of every month in a beautiful garden restaurant, a deceptively placid setting for what often becomes a battle-ground of hotly-contested views and opinions. Visitors interested in such intellectual carnage are warmly invited.
(The author is the editor of El Ojo del Lago, who after serving a twenty-five year sentence in Hollywood as a director/writer, came to Ajijic to try his hand at writing novels. His first book, The Dark Side of the Dream, was published in 1995. His second novel, Breaking Even, was published in November of 1997. He has since published five more novels. His background can be checked out on google.com)
Golf Opportunities, Lakeside
By Carol Bowman and Ernie Sowers
For the Lakeside newcomer, the visitor, the part-timer or the veteran retiree wanting to take up the game, the environs around Lake Chapala offer a wide choice of golf courses and levels of play. Year round golfing weather in this eternal springtime elevation of 5200 feet makes the area ripe for avid golfers.
Using Ajijic as a starting point, the duffer, the casual golfer or pro can find a course to fit his play and his pocketbook from ten minutes to one hour away.
First up, the Chula Vista Country Club, located less than a mile east of Ajijic, just off the Chapala-Jocotepec highway. This public, 9-hole, par 3 golf course offers a challenging, no-cart policy, with holes planted into the mountainside and incredible lake vistas. Caddies, lunch and private facilities, driving range and putting green are available on-site. www.chulavista.html.
Continuing East, traveling eight miles on the Chapala-Vista del Lago road that parallels the lake, lies the beautiful Country Club de Chapala. This member owned golf course, gracing the shores of Lake Chapala for over half a century, offers a 9-hole course, adapted into 18 holes by using double tees on each hole.
Nestled among the gated community of Vista del Lago, with clear day views of Nevado and Colima volcanoes, 60 miles away, CCC provides caddies, on site cart rental or private cart storage, full service restaurant, club house and all customary golfing amenities. Member owned policy welcomes non-member green fees players. www.ccchapala.com.
For the more serious golfer, wanting a private club, the Atlas Country Club, located four miles north of the Guadalajara Airport, offers 18 holes, par 72 along with exceptional club amenities. More than just a golf course, Atlas provides an entire playground for the entire family, with Olympic swimming pool, spa, fitness center, clay tennis courts and gourmet restaurants. Perhaps 20% of the current membership comes from the foreign community.
Last in the immediate area, an hour from Ajijic near Costco on the Jocotepec-Guadalajara highway, Santa Anita Golf Course, with its Bermuda fairways, bent grass greens and mountainous terrain, waits. Built in 1969, this 18 hole, semi-private course welcomes guests and offers all golfing amenities in a beautiful setting. www.clubsantaanita.com.mx.
BANKS AND CHURCHES AT LAKESIDE
There are four major banks in the town of Chapala, and one has two branches in Ajijic. Most banks in Mexico are foreign owned, so banking can be very familiar to you, sending or receiving money from the US or Canada is a daily task for banks and over the years it has become surprisingly easy. All the banks at Lakeside have some English-speaking personnel. There are also a couple of large brokerage and mutual fund companies in the lakeside area, catering mostly to North Americans.
Many ATM’s are found through out the whole strip, all the way from Jocotepec to Chapala, some are placed inside convenience stores, some at malls, others at supermarkets. Getting cash from the same debit card you use at home is very common. Many businesses including the best restaurants, stores and boutiques accept mayor credit cards.
As for churches, Mexico is (of course) heavily Catholic, and our area has more than its share of impressive cathedrals. There are, however, several other churches which cater to various Protestant creeds. Many of these same churches provide valuable charitable services to the Mexican community. Please visit www.chapala.com/chapala/churches.html for a lakeside list of churches. If your church is not listed, not to worry, Guadalajara only 45 minutes away is a big cosmopolitan city where you can find just about any kind of church.
THEATER AT LAKESIDE
By Michael Warren
Lakeside boasts the oldest English-speaking theater in Mexico. Back in 1965, people interested in the theater got together and said “Gee, let’s put on a show!” They started out in the Chula Vista clubhouse, with an original production of “The Saddlebag Saloon” written and directed by the first president Betty Kuzell.
Then, a few years later, some alumni from the famous Pasadena Playhouse in California retired to this area, and set to work gathering funds for a permanent theatrical home. The current building – the Lakeside Little Theatre – opened in 1986 with a production of “Don’t Drink The Water” directed by Rocky Karns. It’s a splendid place that seats 112 people, a theater that any community group in any country would be proud to have.
Currently there are 6 shows every winter season. Each show has 9 performances, mostly evenings at 7.30 pm except for two Sunday matinee shows with curtain time at 3 pm. Sometimes a musical show requires one or two extra performances, due to popular demand. Anyone can audition for a part, or assist backstage with make-up, wardrobe, set design and construction, or any other job that the director may require. Of course there are some people with considerable show business experience, either as actors or directors, and they help by passing along their knowledge to others. And at the same time many retirees who never worked in the theater before have found a second career in the Lakeside Little Theatre. It’s demanding and it can be a lot of fun.
RESTAURANTS AT LAKESIDE
Lake Chapala has over 100 restaurants catering to the foreign community, all in their own way distinctive. Greek, Italian, Argentinean, Chinese, American, International and Mexican are but a few of the restaurants that can be found. Some are outdoors, indoors, big, small, high-end, with views, with palapas, on second floors you name it. They are scattered all over lakeside, and what’s most important most of these outfits have low-end prices, considering the strict budget of the retiree. You can have a nice dinner with a glass of wine with what you pay for a combo at a fast food restaurant in North America, lunch is much less.
The big city of Guadalajara is less than an hours drive away, and features literally hundreds of excellent restaurants–but why drive that far when you can enjoy the finest dining right here at lakeside?
Treating yourself to a nice dinner will become much more frequent than up north. This is but one of the reasons why foreigners enjoy their life greatly at lakeside.
THE CHAPALA SOCIETY
Serving Lakeside ex-pats as well as the Mexican community for more than fifty years, the Lake Chapala Society today has a membership of around 3600 representing more than 24 nations, and is the largest ex-pat organization in existence worldwide. The LCS is located in Ajijic, serving as an informational resource and meeting place for Lakeside’s expanding ex-pat community.
Membership benefits include access to a 20,000-volume library, a video library, resources on Lakeside living, as well as a wide variety of recreational and learning opportunities for its members, staffed by over 170 enthusiastic volunteers. Weekly and quarterly medical services are offered to both ex-pats and Mexican locals. A ticket booth for local charity events is a recent addition on the spacious tropical grounds. A membership Directory containing local business listings, as well as vital medical, utility and government phone contacts is available annually to the membership. The LCS website, https://lakechapalasociety.com, maintains listings of daily activities, community events, Consulate notices, etc. of interest to ex-pats.
Fiestas and other events benefit the LCS educational and scholarship programs for the Mexican community; dinner dances and drama productions benefit the LCS Library Fund. In addition to the Scholarship Program for local Mexican youth, the Society also conducts free on-going classes at the Wilkes Education Center in Computer Training, Cooking, English, and Art, all staffed by volunteers.
CHARITIES AND NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Lake Chapala is well-known for its climate, affordability, its affable people and for all the help that the open-hearted foreign community give to the many charities at Lakeside. The majority of ex-pats living at Lakeside are active in one or more of the many non-profit organizations. Indeed, many of them were founded by foreigners. There are over fifty diverse charities in our area and new ones are always being formed.
So why belong to a non-profit organization? Since being retired gives people a lot of free time, many have the time to put something back into the community. It’s also a great way to make new friends. But most importantly, what better way is there to help those who are not as fortunate as yourself?
If you measure Lakeside by the character and caliber of its people, you will fast decide that this is the place to be.
See here the list of non-profit organizations