Lake Chapala, Chapala, Ajijic, Mexico
Chapala is a bustling Mexican town located on the shores of Lake Chapal about an hour's drive from Guadalajara. They have a small sandy beach lined with hotels and the view of the lake and surrounding mountains is quite impressive. There are some expats living here but the vibe remains totally Mexican. On weeksends hoards of Mexican tourists from nearby Guadalajara fill the city.
What to do
There is a park on the lakefront with a large public swimming pool. Perhaps due to the greenish color of the water, it is rarely used. If you like, you can rent a boat to go out to a small island in the lake where they have a restaurant. Other options would be to take a drive around the lake, or a take day trip up to the pristine mountain village of Mazamitla. There are thermal hot springs in San Juan Cosala with several pools and a steam bath in a natural cave.
On the main street you will find Leņas which specializes in molcajete - meaty dishes served in bowls made from lava. Right next door is a Mee-Mee Chinese Buffet which is a real bargain for 50 pesos. There are several more restaurants along the waterfront. The American Legion has a fish fry on Fridays but get there early (12 noon) because they often sell out. About a block from the American Legion is a restaurant in someone's home called California Kitchen which has all sorts of homemade gringo food like corned beef sandwiches and meatloaf.
Getting to Lake Chapala
You can fly into Guadalajara International Airport and take a taxi from there for about 300 pesos. If you are taking the bus, it is more problematic since all the long distance buses arrive at the new station (Central Nueva) while the buses to Chapala leave from the old station in the center of town. You can take a bus or taxi from one station to another. If money is no problem you can take a taxi from the main station (Central Nueva) directly to Chapala for about 350 pesos. By bus it is about an hour and a half, by taxi about 50 minutes.
Buses run along the lakeside about every 20 mintues from the town of Chapala, past Ajijic, the hot springs and Jocotepic. The local buses cost 3 pesos and the larger faster buses are 7 pesos. There are also frequent buses to Guadalajara that you can catch at the bus staion in Chapala or the ticket office on the main road in Ajijic.