“ City: Puerto Vallarta / Country: Mexico / World Region: Central America „
Choosing to spend Semana Santa, the week before Easter, in Vallarta was not difficult. I've been to Acapulco, and I spent a month near Cancún when I first arrived in Mexico, so Vallarta was the obvious choice for my next beach trip. Located about 90 minutes by air from Mexico City, Vallarta is served by dozens of flights from the capital every day. We flew early Sunday morning and returned the following Sunday afternoon, getting just over a week in the resort.
Vallarta airport is surprisingly nice. It is certainly better than the tiny thing in Veracruz, but then it is an international airport, with tons of flights to the USA and Canada as well as domestically within Mexico. We arrived at the start of a busy holiday week, but it was less than 30 minutes from exiting the plane to getting into a taxi, as baggage reclaim was quick. When we were leaving to come home, we found the airport had a very good selection of shops and restaurants to kill time before a delayed-as-expected flight.
The airport is located near the Marina, in-between the resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. The only taxi service available is the extortionate 'authorised-airport-taxi' set-up, which cost us 195 pesos (just under £10) to our hotel in the hotel zone. That may not sound too bad, but coming back we picked up a taxi right outside the hotel and it cost 50 pesos (£2.50) for the same journey in reverse.
There are 3 main parts to Vallarta, and we explored all of them.
PUERTO VALLARTA includes the old town and the hotel zone. We stayed on the edge of this and it was an hour's walk along an uninspired road to reach the proper old town. Alternatively, busses run this route too, for 5.50 pesos (27p) per trip. It's easy to get around because the busses all state their destinations on their windscreens, usually in a list of their stops e.g. WalMart, Zona Hotellera, Malecón , Downtown.
The old town is definitely worth seeing. The Malecón or promenade runs along most of it, and from here you can see impressive sand sculptures on the beach below, and catch sight of the Voladores, groups of flying men who fling themselves off a tall pole and spin to the ground on ropes in a nice synchronised way. You can also admire the various statues along the sea front, many of which are designed to be touched / climbed on / sat in. There was always a queue for photos of the ladder one, which I think as a tourist in the town you are legally or at least morally obliged to climb at least once during your stay.
A little beyond this is a small open air auditorium where there were different street performers and bands each night we walked past. Continue on and you'll find stalls selling souvenirs and food. Next comes the Isla Rio Cuale, a small island in the middle of a river where there are various boutiques and restaurants. It's quite a posh area but you'd never know from the rather random groups of (Mexican) tourists swimming in the brown waters, making it look like something from Africa rather than an upscale Mexican beach resort.
If you leave the Malecón and head inland, you can find the town's cathedral and a number of other bars and shops, though nothing too appealing - we were there during Spring Break, so most of the places had a distinctly young and drunken feel to them. The restaurants here are quite expensive for Vallarta, and hideously expensive for Mexico as a whole, as they cater to the tourist trade, but if you're there on holiday and still thinking in £ or $, you won't think them that bad. Most places had English menus and bilingual staff. A selection of fast food joints are also available.
The Hotel Zone is to the north end of Puerto Vallarta and boasts various large complexes, plus the sort of smaller place we stayed in. Unfortunately you cannot walk along a promenade here as the hotels are built right onto the beachfront, with no access except to residents. You can get onto the beach itself quite easily, but unless you want to walk along the sand, you have to head back to the road. There are virtually no restaurants round here, because most of the hotels are All Inclusive, and therefore their guests tend to dine in rather than eat out. Our plan to eat out a few times (we were staying in a self-catering place) soon faltered, so apart from one nice meal at the Italian buffet place, and a snack on the last day, we didn't go anywhere. There are two mini shopping centres in this area, Plaza Genovesa and Plaza Caracol, the latter of which boasts a cinema and decent food court as well as some small boutiques. There are also two massive supermarkets in this part of town Mega and Soriana, so self-catering was not a problem.
MARINA VALLARTA is, no surprises here, the town's marina, and the place where the cruise ships dock. It is about 40 minutes walk from the north end of the Hotel Zone, but again busses will take you there for 5.50 pesos - get off at WalMart opposite the big shopping centre. We headed here one evening expecting to find the old town but on a smaller scale, with just a few restaurants and shops to explore. Instead, apart from the shopping mall, we found nothing but more hotels and the naval hospital - really not all that useful. If you're a sailing fan you might enjoy wandering around, looking at the smaller boats moored there, but otherwise it's worth only the briefest of looks.
NUEVO VALLARTA is the 'new' resort on the coast, and located north of the airport. It isn't even in the same state as the rest of the places. We were under the mistaken impression that it was a proper resort, so once again decided to spend an evening exploring it for a change. This was a mistake: we boarded the bus at WalMart and asked the driver to tell us when we were there, which he promised he would. It was over an hour before we started to get a bit concerned, and about 15 minutes later that we realised we were on our way back to Puerto Vallarta, having taken what we subsequently began to call 'an exciting bus tour' of the resort. It's not that we missed it - it's that there's nothing there apart from some very large, very posh hotels and golf courses. The bus went round picking people up, but it turned out they were all heading for downtown Puerto Vallarta, because Nuevo Vallarta itself does not have a downtown, and therefore is not worth a trip unless that's where your hotel is located.
If you fancy a break from the main parts of town, various tour operators offer day and half-day trips, but these seemed pretty generic - zip lining, swimming with dolphins, parasailing - and nothing unique to Vallarta.
The BEACHES spread throughout the bay are pretty, with nice golden sand, but the developments have built down quite a bit onto the beachfront, so they are quite narrow - nothing like the sand dunes of St Annes I grew up playing on. While we were there, one area was roped off for the Spring Break-types, and lots of beer stands had been set up there, along with a massive sound system. We spent several mornings on the stretch a little north of here, and it was nice and quiet, though that could just be because Mexicans don't seem to get up in the morning. The sea is very rough though, and although there are no shells to be seen, the bit where the tide comes into is full of crushed rocks and pebbles, and rather hard on the feet. In the end I only paddled a bit, since the waves really were rather violent, and in most areas there is no life guard on duty. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea - apart from a few brave souls swimming, there were few people in the water, and no lilos or rings as you might expect.
The reason we spent mornings on the beach, is to do with the WEATHER. Generally, Vallarta is a good weather place though like anywhere in Mexico hurricanes are a risk, albeit a small one. However when we went, days were not all that long, and we wanted to make the most of the sunshine. Being on the west coast of Mexico, the sun doesn't appear in the sky until quite late - about 8.30am at that time of year. Even then it wasn't very high in the sky, and it took another hour to hit the hotel's swimming pool, surrounded as it was by various buildings, so we took to the beach in mornings as this was where we found the sun earlier. The great thing about Mexico is that it gets hot quickly - pretty much as soon as you are in direct sunlight, you start to warm up, even if it's still early. The trade-off for the late sunrises was the pretty sunsets we got over the beach, visible from the Malecón and also from the main road that lead back to our hotel. The sun was setting about 8 - 8.30pm when we were there, so we were generally out and about at that time, and managed to catch it.
I would definitely recommend a trip to Vallarta as an alternative to Cancún or Acapulco. Something about the city just appealed more to me - it has a nice mix of old and new, of Mexican and International, and the perfect weather didn't hurt. It's a place I would like to return to, and one I was sorry to leave.
Despite my advancing years, there are many things in this life that I haven't done. I haven't done a parachute jump although I have piloted a plane. I haven't done a Bungy Jump (too old now anyway). I haven't sailed around the World (on a cruise ship would be nice; anyone offering to pay?). I haven't been to Mexico, I haven't been on an "all-inclusive" holiday and I haven't experienced a hurricane at first hand.
That's hurricane with a little "h" so this is not about New Orleans (sorry, Nawlins), although there they know a thing or two about hurricanes, both with a big and little "h". Instead, we ended up in Puerto Vallarta at the Grand Marival Hotel complex and experienced all three.
Actually, this was not the intention. My significant other had wanted to visit the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula. Our intended destination had been Cancun. However, various limitations had restricted our options to October, hurricane season in the Caribbean. Not the best time of year we thought, ironically as it turned out. So, rather than the East Coast we ended up on the West, the Pacific coast.
Puerto Vallarta emerged as a tourist destination in the mid 60s as the location for the filming of the John Houston film, "Night of the Iguana". The notoriety of the affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (one of the stars of the film), uncovered during the shooting (Taylor was staying at the location although was not in the film) focused the attention of the World on this previously quiet Mexican coastal town.
Over the thirty years since, the town has become a popular tourist destination for Americans, Canadians and increasingly, Europeans, especially the Brits. It has also been used as the location for other films, not the least of which is Arnie's "Predator".
Of course, with the fame has come the development. Puerto Vallarta is situated at the mid-point of the coast of the Bay of Banderas, one of the largest bays in the World. Bounded by mountains on all sides, this relatively secluded location enjoys great weather, excellent beaches, clean, safe drinking water and first class accommodation.
Such is the extent of the development (there are hotels and complexes of all the major hotel chains) that it has pushed northwards out of the town, past the airport to create a Marina and, beyond that, Nuevo Vallarta, where we found ourselves.
Nuevo Vallarta is actually in a different State. When you travel the few miles North from Puerto Vallarta to Nuevo Vallarta you pass from the State of Jalisco to the State of Nayarit, where the official time is one hour different. However, because that caused too much confusion for tourists, especially when trying to work out the times of the flights home from Puerto Vallarta airport, the locals all observe the same time in both locations.
The Marival complex consists of two developments, Club Marival and Grand Marival, where we were staying. Both consist of a U-shaped block of rooms and apartments, the open ends facing towards the sea and in the space between each arm, swimming pools, sundecks and poolside bars.
When you arrive you are "tagged" with a coloured plastic bracelet that identifies you as a guest and so entitles you to all that the resort has to offer. Unfortunately it also identifies you to the inevitable touts and time-share sharks as "tourist".
Marival is a superb location. The rooms are large (two double beds), clean and air-conditioned. Ours had a balcony with a sea view. Indeed, the whole complex is kept very clean. This extends to the water, which unusually, in view of Mexico's reputation, is drinkable from the tap. Apparently Puerto Vallarta regularly wins awards for the quality of its water supply.
The staff are all very friendly, extremely smartly dressed, very helpful (they all speak English) but maybe just a little too attentive at times. No sooner it seemed, had you put down your knife and fork or glass at mealtimes when your plate was whisked away or you glass refilled.
I don't think there was any intention to hurry us on our way, this was not high-season so the hotel was not full, it's just how they've been trained to respond. Maybe Americans like it like that, I think Brits would like a more leisurely approach.
There are four restaurants on site; at three you have to book in advance. The fourth, Casa Bella, is buffet style and on a turn-up-and-eat basis. There are also three snack bars for lunchtimes and even evenings, if you prefer.
The food quality could not be faulted, well prepared and of adequate variety. Mexican dishes as well as Italian and other styles are available. Wine (free as well) is generally Spanish, sometimes Mexican (and equally good as any available around the World).
There are also poolside bars at each of the main pools. You can order here to drink at your own spot around the pool or you can sit at the bar on stools in the pool itself and keep cool whilst you indulge. Actually, keep cool is a relative term; the pools are even warmer than the sea!
Of course, the one major drawback of an all-inclusive holiday is that it makes you reluctant to move outside the complex. After all, you've already paid for all this so why let it go to waste? If you go elsewhere you have to PAY! So you tend to sit/lie around the pool and eat, drink and sizzle.
Actually, you don't have to sizzle. Everywhere there are permanent sunshades constructed of a wooden tree trunk on top of which is a palm leaf umbrella roof, adequate shelter for two sunloungers. They even have a little shelf halfway up the trunk for your drinks, sunglasses and sun cream. By the way, note that topless is illegal in Mexico!
Nor do you have to sit around the pool. The beach is golden sand, shelving steeply down to the sea where the beach flattens out and remains shallow for a considerable distance. Be careful of the sea though. It looks calm way out to sea but waves rise up with great suddenness around fifty feet from the shore and break with great power, taking the unwary by surprise. We are not talking "Surfing Contest" but boogy-boards abound.
The tidal range here is quite small and with the water being held mostly within the bay the temperature of the sea is quite amazing. Not only does it pass the Big Toe Test with ease, it passes the Nether Regions Test with flying colours. I've had baths colder than this!
No, this isn't the major drawback of the beach, that's the continuous stream of beach pedlars, selling dresses, wraps, T-shirts and all the usual beach resort tat. In the end you get fed-up saying "No thank you" every minute or so and either ignore them completely, fake sleep or retire to the hotel pool where they are absolutely forbidden.
If you do see something you like, haggle. Offer them half what they ask and settle at around 75%. This is a Third-World country so haggling is normal.
There is regular music and games around the pool. You can join in if you want to but there's no pressure. They do amateur shows in the theatre in the evenings as well. This is all done by the staff so expectations should not be too high!
We like to see some of the area wherever we stay and were determined to do so this time as well. We were warned against hiring a car. Apparently corruption is rife in the "Federales" (local police). If you are driving a hire car (which they can easily identify) you will be regularly pulled over for concocted offences and fined around £65 on the spot. It is doubtful any of this ever reaches official coffers.
Also, there are no driving lessons or tests. If you can reach the pedals and can see over the steering wheel, you can drive. Public transport consists of buses, which are plentiful and cheap (Ken, are you listening?). Taxis are another matter. Make sure you know how much you are going to be charged before you get in!
The city of Puerto Vallarta holds around 1/4 million people. It is divided into the "American" northern sector (complete with MacDonalds) and the older "Mexican" southern sector.
Puerto Vallarta easily qualifies as the least attractive city I have ever visited in the entire World (with the possible exception of Atlanta). Some places like this at least have some charm. This has none. Apart from the continual pestering by taxi drivers and bar/restaurant hustlers, you have to be on the continual lookout for time-share sharks.
Really, the only interest was a series of intriguing bronze statues/sculptures along the promenade. These are truly amazing and a natural attraction for anyone with a camera.
South of the "Old Town", across the Isla Rio Cuale island in the middle of the river is the so called "Romantic" zone. Now, what makes it romantic I am at a loss to decide. It bears little difference to the Old Town, maybe a little less hustling but otherwise much the same.
One recommendation though is the "The Shrimp Factory" on Ignacio L Vallarta. They advertise as offering "The Worlds Greatest Shrimp". Well, between the two of us we got through a kilo of the "little" (definitely a relative term) critters and had no complaints. The restaurant is wonderfully cool, especially gratifying when we visited as the humidity was oppressively high that day. I wouldn't say it was necessarily the "greatest" but it was well worth the visit.
One little oasis of quiet we discovered was on the Isla Rio Cuale itself. This little island in the middle of the river (two road bridges cross over it and a couple of pedestrian suspensions bridges also connect to it) is about 800 metres long and 150 metres wide at its widest.
Near the top end (the end furthest from the mouth of the river) is Le Bistro. This elegant bar and restaurant has associations with John Houston, whose bronze statue stands outside its entrance. Inside it has the feel of the Fifties. There is often a pianist playing classics of that era to entertain the customers. We dropped in to have a drink and cool down and would have been delighted to eat there had it not been too early for lunch.
The other recommendation on the island is Oscars, right down at the other end, closest to the sea. Once again we had a drink there though only as an excuse to use their loos (excellent, worth a visit for these alone!).
Fortunately, the Old Town is not typical of the entire area. Beyond the equally uninspiring Hotel Zone to the north of the Old Town and before reaching the airport you will find Marina Vallarta. Base for some of the more expensive real-estate in the area, all of it floating, it also houses apartments, hotels and a whole range of restaurants.
Visually more attractive, the hustling is almost non-existant and good-natured when experienced. The prices are also mostly higher! Ah well, you can't win 'em all! Here you can eat just about any style of food. On our first visit we chose at random pretty much the first restaurant on the dock.
The Sea Fare proved to be a good choice. We had their speciality, Paella, probably the best I've ever eaten. The whole meal came to around £40 for two people. Outstanding! Service was excellent too although, admittedly, we were their only customers at the time (after all it was by then 4.00pm). The reason we were so late was that we had spent the afternoon at the Dolphin Adventure.
However, there are many other restaurants, styles varying from Chinese to Argentinean. The one other occasion on which we ate here we chose Suzie Wongs, as you will have guessed this is the "Chinese" offering.
Yes, the parentheses are well deserved. I have never ever eaten a worse Chinese meal in my life. We had, as an example, for our main course their Peking Duck.
Now, you would probably know this as the well-known favourite, Crispy Aromatic Duck. It was neither crispy nor aromatic! In fact, tasteless would probably be the best description, that is, tasteless as in, totally devoid of taste.
Now, you all know I'm sure, how you eat Crispy Aromatic Duck. You get a Chinese Pancake, coat it on Hoi Sin Sauce or Plum Jam, load on the shredded duck and decorate with cucumber and spring onion julienne. First problem, no Chinese Pancakes! Instead, French Crepes!!!!!! Can you imagine! The combination was awful.
So, if you fancy a Chinese, my recommendation is to give Suzie Wongs as wide a berth as possible.
Swimming with Dolphins
I mentioned the dolphins.
If you have never done this then grab the first chance you can. It's an experience not to be missed. Located at the southern end of Nuevo Vallarta, the pool is home to eight of these beautiful creatures.
The complex looks clean and well managed. The dolphins do not seem stressed or unhappy so I conclude that they are treated well. You get to spend 30 minutes in the water with them during which time they swim around you and allow you to stroke them.
They seem to enjoy their contact with their human guests. They are being fed at the same time so obviously there is a reward incentive! There was even a one-year old baby dolphin swimming with its mother and learning the tricks. From our point of view the whole experience was unforgettable.
If you go then a few words of warning. Do not put on any sun tan lotion or indeed any skin preparation. It comes off in the water and is very bad for the dolphins. You will in any case be required to shower before entering the water even if you have observed this requirement. Even our natural skin oils are bad for the dolphins.
As you will be in the water for some time and the effect of the sun is just as great as when lying on the beach, unless you have a great tan (I don't) I suggest you wear a T-shirt in the water. I did and it didn't feel uncomfortable. What's more I didn't get burned.
If you want to take photos, you will need a waterproof camera. Be careful with it in the water as hard objects such as these can hurt the dolphins.
You will be offered a video, taken to remind you of your visit (this happens with most of the events in which you can partake). It costs about £20 and will be shown regularly, especially this Christmas.
Another first was horseback trekking up into the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. I have once before, many years ago been on a horse. I wouldn't call it riding, it was once around a paddock and the animal was on a lead! So, as you will gather, I was a little nervous. I had no need to be.
The day was organised by Rancho Palma Real. Their base is near Las Palmas, about 15 miles from our hotel over rough "roads". We were taken there by coach. They have numerous horses, all very well mannered and no problem for even a novice like me. In fact, I expect that they are so used to their daily routine that they would probably follow the route without you making any effort to guide them!
The trek followed small pathways and streams into the forest, climbing hundreds of feet through lush vegetation, the sort you would never see if you simply stayed around your hotel pool.
After around an hour you leave the horses with the guides and climb up paths and across rope bridges that the horses, no matter how nimble, could never manage. After about 10 minutes you emerge into a spectacular arena.
A waterfall hidden deep in the forest plunges over a 100 foot drop into a pool between sheer cliffs. The noise is formidable and the wind created by the impact of the water is stunning. Here you can spend around 45 minutes paddling and swimming (if inclined; the water is somewhat chilly!) and indulging in a few bevvies before returning to your trusty steeds.
The return journey is similar but follows a different route. Frequently we came across cows seemingly lost in the forest but appearing to be totally unconcerned and enjoying their "day out".
Once back at the ranch a late lunch is laid on and you get back to your hotel late afternoon. All in all a wonderful day and for me a superb new experience.
An Encounter with Nature
Most excursions are arranged by Vallarta Adventures, based at the dolphin pool. One of their events is a Sierra Madre tour in one of their Unimogs (4x4 troop carrier trucks built by Mercedes-Benz and used also by the Swiss Army). They take you out for the day, exploring the area way back from the coastal tourist regions, passing through what I gather are typical towns and villages of the region.
I'm not sure what the locals get out of it as we didn't really get an opportunity to have more than a quick guided tour around one town centre. There really wasn't anything to buy as these are not tourist locations. Food is really the only thing on offer but under the circumstances what would be the point?
In one shop, the local butchers, the guide explained that every part of the animal is used. Even the left-over scraps of skin are cooked and when I had a look, what did I see? Pork Scratchings! So that's where they got the idea!
Eventually you arrive at the gate to a private road up into the mountain foothills. From here it's all on foot. You climb up established footpaths and get to see all sorts of examples of local vegetation, animals and insects.
On our visit we had an close encounter with a snake, a scorpion and millions of fire-ants, fortunately in all cases, not too close! There were also various lizards and also a bat, all beautiful creatures and in all a unique experience.
We were also told how the locals, during the invasion by the Spanish Conquistadors, made the life of these odious, vicious and wholly unwelcome "guests" a misery by spiking their drinking water with the sap of the Montezuma's Revenge tree. The effect was to cause painful and disabling intestinal problems and contributed much to the eventual decline of Spanish influence.
The day's outing ends with a beach barbecue. A secluded and undeveloped beach is the destination (not private note; no one may own any portion of beach in Mexico).
The food and drink is all free and consists of the usual local beer and spirits along with salads, burgers, various meats and, of course, chillis. In general, entirely acceptable, tasty although basic.
Oh yes, I completely forgot about the hurricane didn't I? I have to say, full marks to the hotel for their preparation. We knew it was coming because of Michael Fish (OK, he was right this time) on BBC World on the TV in our room. We knew it was going to be close and with winds up to 180mph.
The staff must have spent most of the night before storing away sun-loungers, chairs, tables indeed, anything that would get blasted into oblivion, taping up windows to prevent breakages or sharp pointy bits flying around.
We were woken at 6.00am and advised to congregate in the Convention Center along with around 2,000 other guests. Clearly the most secure part of the building, here we were to ride out the worst excesses of the storm.
It was hard to guess what was coming. At this time the wind was already strong but not extraordinarily so. Within an hour the sea was raging and the palms being whipped about like daffs on an average British summer day (!)
At its height they closed the doors to the huge salon and started showing movies. At this point the electricity failed and the lights went out. It took them about 10 minutes to get the backup generators running and these they used for the remainder of our incarceration. Unfortunately there was not enough power to run the air conditioning. 2000 people generate a LOT of heat, so they had to open the doors again!
I have to say that I didn't see much of the storm. The hotel staff were keen to keep their guests well away from potential danger. I did manage to get an idea of the extent of the storm when I escaped to the loos. These were down in the basement but this was also the level of the loading bay, which was open to the outside world. From here you could see the sea. The waves were mountainous. I would guess the swell was at least 20 feet.
Fortunately the full force of the storm didn't hit us directly. The eye passed up the coast still at sea but came ashore about 60 miles north of us.
We finally escaped around 3pm when the storm had passed far enough beyond us to no longer offer any danger. The devastation was formidable but it could have been a lot worse. All but one of the hotel's pools had been inundated by the sea. Several rooms (not ours, we were on the top floor) had had their windows smashed by flying debris or, in the case of the ground-floor rooms closest to the sea, by the force of the waves.
Much of the beach had been washed away, including all of the beach sun shelters, and these things were BIG! Many of the palms had been uprooted. A section of the beach front wall and steps (concrete!) down to the sand had been destroyed. It's hard to imagine the sheer power of the see but this really brings it home to you.
Hurricane Kenna proved with devastating clarity that even if it isn't a monster (it started out as Cat 5 but downgraded to Cat 4 during the day) you treat it with respect or suffer the consequences.
All this happened right at the end of our holiday, fortunately for us. The sea had not reached one of the pools so, of course, everyone used that for the remainder of their holiday. We got to have a look around the complex and were impressed how quickly they got to work to clear up the mess.
Gangs of guys worked on the pools, firstly pumping all of the water back into the sea and then digging out the sand into wheelbarrows and tipping it over the edge onto the beach. Not that it made much difference to the beach, which was now a good eight feet lower than before! I guess they're going to need to dredge the sand back out of the shallows.
They had one pool back in use after two days and another just as we were leaving. They clearly had a lot more work to do though.
We didn't get to go back into the city before we left. However, we spoke to the local reps, who told us that virtually all of the bronzes on the promenade had gone and much of the sea-front property had been devastated. I hope they get their bronzes back. Could be a good holiday for anyone with their own metal detector!
As I said at the beginning, it was ironic that we ended up in Puerto Vallarta, seemingly a place safe from hurricanes. As it turned out, this had been their first in 15 years and their worst for 30 years.
Sitting here now as I am on our balcony writing down my thoughts, I will at least be able in future to say, when I hear reports of similar storms, "I know how it feels". Now the sun is out again, it looks like it's going to be a nice day!
When my wife and I decided to get married in May of this year, our first destination was Cancun in Mexico. However, after our initial enquiries, we were advised that the better place in Mexico to be married was Puerto Vallarta. Our first thoughts were ‘Puerto where?’, and every time people asked us where we were getting married, we simply said ‘Near Acapulco’ as nobody had really heard of Puerto Vallarta. How our views have changed since !! Puerto Vallarta is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It has something for everyone – blue seas, golden beaches, local culture, hot sunny weather. This place has everything you could ever dream of for a holiday in paradise. As it was to be our wedding destination too, Puerto Vallarta added that little something extra to make our day even more special. We stopped at a magnificent hotel called The Club and Grand Marival Hotel. It was all inclusive and had everything – 6 swimming pools, 7 restaurants (Traditional Mexican, Italian, Chinese, A la Carte, Snack bars), a gym (not that you use one of them on holiday!), entertainment every evening, 6 bars, and even a night-club on campus. You would be forgiven if you went here and stayed on the hotel site for the whole 2 weeks without venturing out into the local surrounding areas, but we managed to drag ourselves away a few times. The local culture is amazing here, in particular the local Mexican people. They are so friendly and polite, and their grasp of the English language is extraordinary! There are so many activities to do here – visiting Mexican markets, sight seeing ancient ruins, swimming with Dolphins, water sports, etc. Or of course just plain old sunbathing! I think no matter where we went to get married it would have been special – especially as 24 of our families came with us, but Puerto Vallarta certainly made it a not only a great holiday, but a
special memory forever.
I have just arrived back to drizzly dull England after a hevenly fortnight in Puerto Vallarta. I really don't know where to start. Well here we go anyway. After a remarkably pleasent 14 hour flight from Manchester I was delighted to discover that our transfer time to the hotel was only 10 minutes. Puerto Vallarta is situated in the Bay of Banderas. Almost very day we saw dolphins swimming just yards away from our Hotel. A 25p bus fare got you anywhere within a 5-8 mile radius. The town centre is pleasent with a vast aray of shops, cafes and bars - Hooters, Carlos OBriens and Senior Frogs to name but a few. We went horse riding one afternoon. It was fantastic, we trekked through part of the jungle at the base of the Sierra Madra mountain range. Seamingly out of nowhere we found ourselves on the old set of Predator where there was a lovely waterfall that you swim in and around. these are just a few of the activities that are on offer. I shall not continue to bore you with the details of my holiday why not try it for yourself. If we wanted to we could have done something completely different each day. Although I have to say I am a complete sun worshipper and I have been rewarded with the most fantastic tan. Thank You sun.
People say they save up all their lives to get the holiday of a lifetime!! But how do you know that you are going to enjoy that holiday? I went to Puerto Vallarta in 1996, there ws no lifetime saving (I am only 26) no working all the hours under the sun! Just a last minute deal to Mexico, and what a last minute deal it was! The best holiday I have ever had, and then that is when you can say it was a holiday of a lifetime because you may never experience the same thing again (although I do hope to return very soon). The weather was outstanding not all sunshine though may I add, there were many amazing thunder and lightning storms, like beautiful shows in the sky at night, but these stroms always soon passed and then came the sun again. The people are all so friendly and to learn a little of their language before you go, for basic conversation, and they will treat you with the utmost respect possible. They asre genuinely willing to help and see that you enjoy your stay, although there are the usual things to take care with such as not being ripped of by taxi drivers and stuff but you get used to them very quick. Food! Well there is an abundance of choice be it in your hotel on the full inclusive menu or the bars and restaurants in the main town, from Hard rock Cafe to McDonald's it is just like home away from home, then the shopping prices are unbelievably cheap from jeans to pure silver which Mexico is very famous for, never have I seen such beautiful silver until landing on these shores. The night life goes on into the wee small hours too, with all the pubs and clubs open until the sun comes up, and with many excursions with the tour operators I am sure there will be at least one night you won't remember getting back to your hotel or did you get back!! The beaches are also stunning with miles and miles of white sand in some areas and some lovely unspoilt areas that are amazing to just see, there are many
things to see and do on the beaches from swimming to water skiing you name it they have it.... So if you are looking for that not too expensive holiday of a lifetime why not make a last minute booking to Mexico you'll be glad you did!
Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican resort city. Situated on the Pacific Ocean's Bahía de Banderas, the city is a popular destination for tourists, including students on spring break. It includes the northern suburban town of Ixtapa, which is not to be confused with the better-known tourist resort of Ixtapa in Guerrero.