This winter was brutal, and escaping the trail end of it to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, was seriously wonderful. I’d been there four years ago, as a graduation present from my moms best friend who has a time share there, and loved it. And it didn’t let me down on my trip this year.
Puerto Vallarta is in a bay, with mountains and a stunning view of the ocean. The weather is wonderful, the food is excellent, the people are friendly, I mean, what’s not to love? Fifty years ago P.V. was a small town of about 8,000 people when director John Huston filmed The Night of the Iguana there, starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I intend to. After the filming of this movie, P.V. exploded into a tourist paradise, resorts popped up, people moved to the area, and now its a thriving destination.
One thing I really like about P.V. is that while its built around the tourism industry, everything isn’t about catering to the tourists. There is a beautiful boardwalk with sculptures every block by local artists, amazing sand are being created on the beach constantly, and on the weekends there are always shows at a small outdoor theater/stage area. These shows aren’t for the tourist, most of whom are English speaking, but rather for the local community and performed entirely in Spanish. We caught part of a clown show (I’m not usually a big fan of clown shows, but this was fun) a little ways down from the stage area where there was another show going on. The culture there is just so much fun, so relaxed, and yet the locals I spoke with work incredibly hard. It’s really an amazing place, a great vacation spot that doesn’t feel like a total tourist trap, despite the tourist-targeting that occurs from people trying to sell tours or time-shares.
I was the youngest person in my group by a good 30+ years, but that’s what happens when travelling with your mother, grandmother, mother’s best friend and her boyfriend. I had a lovely time. We stayed at the Villa Del Palmar, the same place we stayed four years ago, in a suite over looking the ocean. Just being in the room, having breakfast on the balcony while looking at the ocean and mountains, was amazing and really made me appreciate the beauty of the world. We were about a 35-45 minute walk to the boardwalk, so we usually walked one way and took the local bus the other. When we went out for dinner, it was to small, locally owned restaurants, like Lolita’s, where not only was the food amazing, but the owner/server was incredibly friendly and kind. That’s not to say that there aren’t places targeting tourists (like any of the many clubs), but its not overwhelming.
We would walk the boardwalk in the evenings (the sun is just a little to strong for me to be doing too much during the day), enjoying crepes, whatever activities were going on, and stopping in the shops. However, you don’t actually need to leave the beach to get your shopping in. There are many locals who walk the beaches, carrying piles of beachy dresses, cases of beautiful jewelry, snacks, toys, and sarongs. And if you like a dress, but want it shorter, they will make it for you right there. If you have a pattern you want them to use, need a ring re-sized, they will get it for you.
When I figured out what I wanted, I went to the beach to find it rather than the stores on the boardwalk, I wanted to support those who sell on the beach and spend their days in the sun, roaming the beaches in their all-white outfits. The people I bought from were amazing. Alfonso and his wife Rosa hemmed two dresses for me and Louis came back the morning I was leaving with a ring that had been re-sized for me. These people work harder than most people I’ve met, and they are good at what they do.
My taxi driver on the way back to the airport when I was leaving was originally from Mexico City and had moved to P.V. with his family to escape the dangers of that city and seek a safer area to build their life. It’s easy to feel like your taking advantage of the locals, those beach sellers, that the culture is being comodified for the entertainment of foreigners. However, if the tourism industry in P.V. means that people can relocate there to better their lives, I think that’s a pretty good thing. Something else I like about P.V. is that while, yes, most of the vacationers are foreign, many are also from Mexico and have come to enjoy a beautiful part of their own country.
We spent days lounging around the hotel, hopping from beach to pool to room and back again. We went on a tour up into the mountains to see the botanical gardens, which was lovely. I could have spent the whole day on the sofas overlooking the mountains, sipping deliciously cool hibiscus tea and enjoying the breeze. For those interested in ever going, don’t do the tour, just take the local bus up. That particular tour was the only less-than-enjoyable part of the whole trip. My mom and I took a catamaran tour to a secluded area for some snorkeling. Unfortunately, the water was choppy, so the snorkeling wasn’t so good, but the whole trip, with music playing quietly, dolphins jumping around, was completely worth it and probably the best tour I’ve ever been on.
Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful place, with friendly people, great food, and a view that I would be happy to see everyday. The artwork, the culture, the performances, everything is clean and well taken care of. It really made me appreciate the beauty of the world (though, the amount of jelly fish is scary. thanks global warming.) and a little envious of the expats who have retired there. To anyone looking for a good vacation, I highly recommend heading to P.V. It’s got a little bit of everything, so if your traveling with your 87 year-old grandmother (if your so lucky), children, or anyone in between, there is something everyone will enjoy.