I recently wrote an article about how to plan a spur-of-the-moment trip, which was based on preparing for my trip to Puerto Vallarta. I spent 9 days in Mexico, so you as you can imagine, I did and saw a lot of amazing things. I had so many trip-of-a-lifetime experiences, from dining on a deserted island, to exploring a brightly colored beach town, to tasting amazing cuisine--every second of this trip was a memorable one. I wondered how I would be able to include everything in one blog post so I decided to write about my trip highlights along with some history of this amazing resort destination.
About Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a beach resort town of 800 sq. miles situated in the Pacific Ocean’s Bay of Banderas, which is the largest natural bay in Mexico. The city is surrounded by the ocean and mountains making it the perfect place to explore, relax, and take breathtaking photos. It is located within the state of Jalisco, and borders Nayarit, Cobo Corrientes, Talpa de Allende, Mascota, and San Sebastián del Oeste. The beachside oasis is an international tourist destination that is popular among Americans and Canadians.
PV is a city rich in culture. It’s known for many things like it’s pristine beaches, rural villages, water sports, eccentric art scene, cobblestone streets, little shops, top-notch dining and not to far from the town of Tequila. It was once named “La ciudad más amigable del mundo” meaning the friendliest city in the world, and after vacationing there I can see why. From the hotel staff to the cab drivers, everyone was extremely friendly and helpful.
I took a quick 3 hour flight out of LAX to Lic. Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport on a Tuesday afternoon. Once I landed, going through customs was fast and easy; it took about 20 minutes. As soon as I stepped outside I could feel the difference in temperature. When I left Los Angeles it was about 70 degrees, and in Mexico is was 90 degrees--hot and humid. I didn’t mind the humidity since the weather in LA had been on the chilly side during the past few months and I was ready for summer to begin.
Where We Stayed
My family and I stayed at the all-inclusive Hilton Puerto Vallarta located in Zona Hotelera Norte. The hotel was beautiful and well-staffed. When I arrived I was greeted with a tray of desserts and Mexican candy, and then given a bracelet which allows access to the resort amenities. My favorite part of the hotel would be our room since it was situated on the beach. Each morning I stepped out onto the balcony to watch the sunrise and listen to the waves as I wrote about my stay. At night I enjoyed the jacuzzi on our balcony and I fell asleep hearing the sound of the waves crashing and smelling the ocean air.
The hotel had two infinity pools; the main pool was huge and sat in the center of the hotel. From there I would relax while the servers brought me drinks and snacks as I admired the ocean view. The other pool was located on the 4th floor at the sushi lounge and had panoramic views of the Bay of Banderas. I couldn’t get enough of the sushi (the spicy California rolls were incredible), so I would go up there for lunch and once I was done eating I’d cool off in the pool.
Since the hotel was all-inclusive, all of our meals and drinks (alcoholic too) were free. There were several different bars and restaurants to choose from. One was a buffet that served breakfast, lunch and dinner. The selection changed daily and featured some of the best pastries and desserts that I’ve ever had. I never made it down for breakfast though; I preferred to order room service instead while I got ready for the day. There were three 5-course sit down restaurants of Mexican, French, or Brazilian cuisine. I tried the Mexican restaurant called “La Catrina”, and my favorite dish was the churros filled with cajeta, tequila, and chocolate sauce.
The resort also features a world-class spa and a gym on each floor. I had told myself before I left that I wanted to get a massage and facial, and that I was going to find time to workout. Both of those didn’t happen because I was to busy exploring.
The view of the Bay of Banderas from the resort sushi lounge.
Our balcony - this is what we woke up to each morning.
Room service with a view.
Watching the sunset by the pool.
Playa de Oro Beach.
Directly in front of the hotel is the white sandy beach, Playa de Oro where you can rent huts, get a suntan, go for a swim, or take a jet ski out for a ride. In this area the beach is fairly quiet and mainly consists of hotel guests with occasional tourists and locals that stroll by. Some of the locals will try to sell you authentic Mexican merchandise like silver jewelry, sombreros, and beach blankets--you can usually bargain with them to get a good price. The water was a lot warmer than I was used to. During the summer months the temperature ranges from 76 to 84 degrees. Each day a flag is posted on the beach that will let you know if it’s safe to swim.
From my hotel room I had noticed a man that was renting his jet ski out to hotel guests. I inquired and found out it would cost $60 to rent it for 30 minutes. I hadn’t ridden one since I was in my teens, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity since it had been such a long time and I missed it. It was definitely a different experience from riding it in Long Island Sound where there were no waves and the water was calm. In the Bay of Banderas the water conditions change quite frequently. The day I took it out, the water was choppy and the waves were strong. At first, I was a little hesitant--but within 5 minutes I got used to it, and preferred it more than the smooth sailing waters that I was used to. I spent my 30 minutes going up and down the coast and seeing the scenery from a different viewpoint. I made a mental note of what I’d like to see next time I'm here.
Listening to live music as the sun goes down.
About to go jet-skiing.
A local horseback riding in front of the hotel.
Downtown Puerto Vallarta
Strolling The Malecón Boardwalk.
My family and I spent an evening strolling The Malecón which is a mile long promenade filled with shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. We had dinner at La Dolce Vita; an Italian eatery where I had some delicious pasta. I ordered the Penne Dolce Vita; a homemade tomato sauce with mozzarella and served with tomato slices and fresh basil. We then watched the sunset which was fascinating because it was so vivid and we could literally see it drop off the horizon. After that we walked around and stopped in the art galleries and all the little shops that ranged from boutiques to souvenir shops. I loved admiring the famous statues along the way. My favorites were The Good Fortune Unicorn and Triton and Mermaid. They are made of bronze, stone, and other materials and are created by artists from all over the world. Later that evening we stopped by a show at the end of the promenade that had live music and fire dancers. Before we headed back to our hotel, we walked over to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe which is located in Old Town. This area is made up of cobblestone streets and white stucco buildings. Unfortunately, being late at night the church was closed but we could still admire the beautiful architecture from the street.
The amazing pasta at La Dolce Vita.
Authentic Mexican artwork in one of the shops.
The Good Fortune Unicorn statue -- I love how you can see a sliver of the moon off in the distance.
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe located in Old Town.
A Tropical Jungle
Secret beach hideaway in the jungle.
One of the many highlights of this vacation was the Sunset Dinner Cruise. To start, the boat picked us up at the cruise port terminal and was about an hour long ride. While on it I viewed the coastline and beautiful sunset and enjoyed the open bar. We then arrived at Las Caletas Beach Hideaway; a private tropical island surrounded by a jungle which is only accessible by boat. The beach is ¾ of a mile long with a natural reserve and over 1000 hectares of jungle; it’s truly breathtaking.
We were greeted by people in native costumes and lead to our dinning area as we walked along the trail and took in the scenic views of the ocean and palm trees. We were told while on the boat that the only electricity on the island is in the amphitheater. It was now starting to get dark and candles and tiki torches lit up the island. Once we were seated we enjoyed the gourmet buffet with a variety of dishes to choose from like pasta, fish, chicken, and tacos. After dinner I decided to explore the island some more and took pictures of the scenery. A bell then rang which meant it was now time to head to the enchanted theater for the show to begin.
The show is called Rhythms of the Night - Salvia and it's directed by the co-founder of Cirque Du Soleil along with Vallarta Adventures. Under the stars stands a giant pyramid where the show is centered. It’s a mix of signing, dancing, comedy, stilt walkers, contortionists and acrobats, all set to live music. The whole night was perfect and could be enjoyed with friends, family, children, or for a romantic date night.
The beautiful coastline.
We were welcomed by people dressed in native costumes.
Exploring the island.
Rhythms of the Night - Salvia.
Sayulita Beach, Nayarit
When we arrived this was the first street we saw.
While in PV, we wanted to do some exploring outside the state of Jalisco so we headed about 40 minutes up the coast to Sayulita Beach located in Riviera Nayarit. This beachside community reminded me of something out of the 1960’s. The only way to describe it would be if you combined the ocean and hipster-surfers with Woodstock and hippies. The streets are lined with little stands, shops, surf shacks, and colorful murals that make this seaside community stand out. Years from now when I think about the most colorful place that I’ve traveled to I’m sure this will be number one.
We had lunch at La Rústica which is a beachside cafe. I ordered the most delicious gnocchi that came in an artisan alfredo sauce with a drizzle of infused oil and topped with parmesan cheese. For dessert I had the Profiterole; a homemade choux pastry filled with chocolate ganache and vanilla cream. I also sampled my sister’s Crème Brûlée Talpeno, and both were to die for! Later I did some shopping and my favorite boutique was Revolución Del Sueño where I picked up some jewelry and a Las Bayadas Mexican blanket for $7. (In the United States the retail price is $48!) After that I walked down by the beach and had a cocktail at one of the bungalows that sits directly on the beach. As I sat and sipped my drink, I thought to myself--this is paradise.
A mural that sums up Sayulita.
A street with beachside restaurants and bars.
All the streets are lined with these unique and colorful shops and huts.
Lunch at La Rústica. The dishes: Gnocchi, Profiterole, and Crème Brûlée Talpeno.
Entry way into Muelle de Cruceros.
Our hotel was located about a half mile from Muelle de Cruceros which is a shipping port. Every time a cruise ship docks, the market opens up with about 40 vendors selling authentic Mexican merchandise like handbags, clothing, trinkets, jewelry, tequila, musical instruments, Talavera pottery, and so much more. I spent a few hours going from vendor to vendor and left with some souvenirs. I purchased Ixtlahuahuey Cloud Coffee for my boyfriend, a little Virgin Mary pink box, hot sauce, postcards, and Mexican candy.
Markets where you can bargain with the shop owners and get great deals on authentic Mexican creations.
Colorful Mexican souvenirs.
Beautiful handmade silver and crystal stone bracelets. They retail between $75 - $100 (US Dollars).
I spent my last day on the beach and laying out by the pool and thought about how lucky I am to be vacationing at such a unique and fascinating destination. I thought about all the amazing places that I had just visited. My trip to Puerto Vallarta had everything. A picturesque beach, pool and oceanfront balcony for relaxing, a spectacular variety of culture and sightseeing and delicious cuisines. There were also many things that we didn't even have time to experience that were truly special to this wonderful destination. This is definitely a place that I will be returning to again and would highly recommend to anyone looking for a resort destination south of the border.
There are a few things you should know if you’re planning on traveling to this resort side community:
--The area is safe, in fact it is one of the safest areas of Mexico. The state of Jalisco in which Puerto Vallarta is located is at a number 3 on the U.S. Government travel advisory list, but that excludes areas such as PV.
--When you enter a cab there is no meter; you negotiate the price beforehand.
--Taking a cab ride is cheap which makes it easy to explore and get around. You can also use Uber.
--Mostly everyone speaks English, some speak it better than others but I didn’t come into contact with anyone that didn’t understand basic English.
--Most places accept the credit cards and US dollar, but if you use Pesos you will get more for your money. I recommend downloading a currency converter app.
--It’s a good idea to research what you want to see and do before you leave, and then leave a fews open days at the end of your vacation for anything else.
You can read the rest of my travel tips here.