Puerto Vallarta greats you with its luscious greenery, mountains, and clear turquoise waters through the airplane window, a view slightly different from the Cancun side. The coast stretches out as a curly ribbon dotted by hotels and houses stacked on top of each other. The skyline is alluring and a little messy, with different colours and styles of architecture illustrating the fast growth of the region; the city is only a 100 years old but its history is worth a millennia. Looking through a taxi window the hotels seem small and uninteresting but as you enter you realize all effort has been put into the side facing the ocean – these hotels are cascading buildings that drip into the ocean – everything is built to be seen from the water.
The Downtown and resort areas are both heavily occupied by North American snowbirds – as you walk through the streets or get on the bus it’s easy to think you might be somewhere in Florida where aunts and uncles go to spend the cold winter months. But this is more exotic and people who own this country do live here. For this winter getaway we stayed at a nice resort, Grand Fiesta Americana, drank champaign and margaritas, and took day trips to see the region beyond the walls largely occupied by other Canadians. Next time I’d like to stay in a small town, eat at family owned restaurants, and sleep in a traditional home where I can truly experience the culture. But that will be another story.
The friendly resort staff and welcoming decor helped us switch “On” vacation mode after a few hectic weeks at the office pretty much immediately. This was not our first adults-only resort but in many ways the experience was much better than Cancun. The demographic here is a little older on average with a few clusters of wedding and bachelorette parties scattered around, floating in jacuzzis or waiting for their party bus tour in the lobby. The evening entertainment was cabaret style, seductive, and with a dash of Magic Mike but as the days went on we realized the adult theme was not just in Grand Fiesta – Puerto Vallarta is very adult, the shows, the tours, the bars, everything is adult-friendly with adult themes and bottomless cocktails wristbands. It has been entertaining, to say the least.
To mix up things up we pre-booked a couple tours, explored the Downtown, ate out at a nice off-resort restaurant, and went out for a hike. Here’s more about those:
There was also a tour trip to San Sebastian del Oeste but it was rather insignificant due to the tour limitations. We did try some great food and tequila though.
A few side notes
Doing research pre-trip I realized there isn’t much clarity about the region online: prices for everything range, safely tips are all over the place, no exact information, clear tour reviews or directions can be easily found. So here are a few quick common answers, the rest are woven throughout the stories linked above:
Money and tipping: pesos are best, dollars work but they are hard to convert for the locals. Taking money out of an ATM might be your best bet to avoid extra charges. This Tipping Guide from the PV tourism board is a great resource. Things are generally a little cheaper in pesos versus US dollars.
Getting around: taxis are cheap and widely available, we took one to and from the airport and it was significantly less than pre-booking a shuttle. It’s important to pay attention to standard rates posted in your hotel to avoid getting overcharged, here are the airport taxi rates as of February 2019. Taxis only take cash. There is supposedly Uber but we haven’t tried it because not many cars seem to be available. Local buses are frequent and easy to use, the stops are not always marked so just ask a local or hotel staff. The roads around the region are very rough so being in a car for too long can be nauseating.
In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR lens. To see the trip on Instagram look up #xoVallarta19