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Trip Report Puerto Vallarta Trip Report

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Just back from 5 days (Feb 13 -17) in Puerto Vallarta. My husband and I have traveled a lot in Europe, but this was our first trip to Mexico. I researched Puerto Vallarta on Fodors (thanks Suze!!), so I felt I should pay-it-forward with a trip report of my own.

As background, my husband and I are in our 40s and typically enjoy immersing ourselves in the culture of a place more than lounging by the pool in isolated, fancy resorts. I picked PV because it seemed to offer a greater cultural experience than some other beach destinations. Overall – Wow. PV exceeded our expectations in dining, shopping, exploring, people watching, weather and overall friendliness and ambiance.

Thursday - Arriving in PV, the airport was a piece of cake. Sure there were a few “timeshare reps” waiting to sell us the latest deal, but we just passed by and grabbed a taxi downtown. First impressions were fabulous. The airport was clean and well-organized, the taxis were easy to locate and affordable, and the taxi driver was super-friendly and eager to point out the restaurants and fun parts of town as we passed by.

Check-in at the Hotel Catedral located near the Cathedral downtown went smoothly. We were greeted by friendly and helpful staff. The Hotel Catedral is clean, affordable, and very centrally located. I was a little disappointed that the small bathroom didn’t have an electric outlet and that the storage space for clothing was limited. We had a room facing the courtyard, and the courtyard amplified the noise of people and traffic in the morning. The Catedral is near to the hotel, so yes – the church bells do start at 5 am. Overall, I enjoyed the hotel, but I might look into a beachfront hotel or condo on our next trip.

By late afternoon we were strolling through downtown (north of the Cual), the romantic zone (south of the Cual), and among the markets on the island between these two areas. We were amazed by just how much there was to do and see! We walked along the Malecon, bought tacos from street vendors (go for it!,.. no, we did not get sick), took photos of the ocean views, and stopped to relax and enjoy Coronas, shrimp skewers, and guacamole under the shade of restaurant umbrellas on the beach. We marveled at the perfect blend of locals, tourists, and expats that filled the area. Based on our experience, PV is neither a “young, party-going college kids” nor a “Disneyland with children running everywhere” experience, but more of an older, more relaxed crowd. – We enjoyed a quiet, romantic dinner at Daiquiri Dicks. I wouldn’t say it was a culinary experience, but dinner was nice and the waterfront setting was lovely.

Friday – After more shopping and strolling around town, we took a 30 minute ride on a local bus from Calle Constitucion to the Botanical Gardens. Other tourists were on the bus and we exchanged experiences. Although aged, the bus felt very safe and the driver helped point-out our stop for us. The bus ride itself offered beautiful views of the coast, private houses, and luxury hotels. Although slightly lacking, in my view, of flora, the Gardens offered several pleasant short hikes through the jungle. It was a worthwhile side-trip from PV. Plan to spend 30 minutes on the bus each way, and about one 1.5 hours at the Gardens. Back in PV we enjoyed a light dinner at the tapas bar NU. The food and service were both very good.

Saturday- Off to Yelapa! The tourists from the bus to the Botanic Gardens recommended traveling to Yelapa, and we followed their advice. As they suggested, we rode a local bus from Calle Constitucion to Boca Tomatlan (less than 30 minutes). After enjoying a little time wandering and enjoying Boca Tomatlan, we took a water taxi to Yelapa. (The alternative is taking a water taxi from Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa, but that is a longer, bumpy boat ride. Plus our option gave us a chance to explore Boca Tomatlan.)
Yelapa is wonderful (go there to relax). You can read all about it online. All I can say is honestly, Don’t miss the Pie Lady! W-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l.

By evening, we were back in PV and getting ready for the Rhythm of the Night (through Vallarta- Adventures). We took a taxi from our hotel to the Maritime Terminal (located near to, but not at the marina – too far to walk). The Rhythm starts at the Meritime Terminal where Vallarta-Adventures arranged a cruise across the bay to a private beachfront area lined with tiki torches. There, we enjoyed a Cirque de Soleil-type show and a buffet dinner. Note that the show occurs in an amphitheater, and then you are shuffled off to separate dining areas (our table for two was right on the beach, while larger groups were seated in other dining areas). Overall, we thought it was nice, affordable experience and a unique way to spend an evening. I’d recommend it for first-timers to PV.

Sunday - On our last full day in PV, we took the opportunity to walk, shop, and adventure through the town and among the hills behind the cathedral. We also walked all along the beach and found tranquil places to sit and take it all in. Dinner was at Langostinos. Without reservations, we easily found a table for two on the beach. Just picture it -- warm night, big moon, frou-frou drink in hand, and feet in the sand. Aaaahh. The service was excellent and we and enjoyed a meal of grilled snapper and tequila shrimp. We watched the fireworks along the beach off in the distance.

Monday morning – Off to the airport and back home. We learned that many tourists return to PV over and over again. This was our first trip… and after our first experience we are already dreaming of finding our way back soon.

Thanks again to Suze on Fodors. Much credit to you for showing us the way.

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