We moved to San Miguel in April and have a nice 2 month trip to the Yucatan planned but not until February and March 2019 so we decided to break things up a bit and head over to the coast to visit Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita and Bucerias. (I actually have 4 more posts to write but since we just got back I will go a bit out of order and play catch up to those later). This was a very easy trip and was made more so by the cheap ($110USD RT per person) and short (under an hour) Interjet flight from Leon. We used BajioGo shuttle from/to San Miguel for $21USD per person one way which was also super easy. They will pick you up at your door. Once through baggage claim at the Puerto Vallarta Airport you can easily (since the reps all run up to you or flag you down) find the desk to the pre-arrange taxis into town. Look for the bright yellow cards. The set fare is based on zones. The taxi to our hotel was the equivalent of $18.50USD. Once in town taxis should never cost more than 80 pesos to get around, we learned that the hard way.
Although still the rainy season (just the end of it) we lucked out pretty much with the weather. It poured the first day, but that was because there was a storm out in the ocean and we caught some of it. The next days were just kind of drizzling, but it was a warm rain and nice to walk in. Glenn brought a light rain jacket but never really needed it since it was too hot to use and the umbrella was too cumbersome. And then we did get one really nice day with blue sky where we hung out at the relaxing pool at our hotel for a bit of the morning.
We booked our room at Boutique Hotel Rivera del Rio quite a while ago on booking.com and love it’s quirkiness and history. It used to be a house of the legendary Silver Maria Cortez. The staff are really wonderful and we were very happy we chose this hotel in the Old Town/Romantic Zone which we found very safe even walking back at night. They offer a complimentary continental breakfast with fresh fruit, coffee or tea, juice and nice pastries and if you desire to bump it top to a full breakfast it is $6 more or $11 for two people and the price is actually well worth it. Because we are “genius” level with booking.com we received the full breakfast included in the hotel price. We also received welcome margaritas and guacamole which was really nice. To get to our room, The Mariposa Suite, there were 119 steps!! Some quite steep and narrow. So I would suggest that if you stay here and have any kind of mobility problem or are a bit “wide” in body, that you make sure to check with them about what room/suite is appropriate. There are several beautiful ones to choose from at a range of prices, many include kitchens. We were able to manage the skinny steps quite well in the beginning but after eating out for almost a week we were unsure if we would need to be towed up them at the end. Luckily that didn’t happen. They have a lovely pool (which was right above our room) and then a hot tub on the very top of the hotel. An honor system bar is in the pool area. If you are going to Puerto Vallarta and not choosing the Airbnb route then we would recommend trying to book the Rivera Del Rio. It may not be for everyone however, and we would not suggest staying with children. For us it reminded us of some of the cool funky bohemian type places we have traveled to and it was very relaxed and low key. Perfect for us.
In PV we had some great food, and some not so great food and the same goes for drinks. For libations so many places on the Malecon (boardwalk) have touts trying to get you into their place for 2×1 Margaritas/Pina Coladas. But for the most part they seem to be watered down and we decided to pay for 1 drink at regular strength rather than get 2 weak ones. That way we don’t get as bloated or waterlogged which is always a good thing! (4 drinks at a sitting can do that to you!!). A better bet may be to do the 5×1 Coronas if you are a beer drinker as they aren’t the tiny ones.
One day we walked up towards Nuevo Vallarta and the Hotel Zone to get to the 2 malls (give them a miss) in search of a women’s rain jacket for me. I only had a heavy one back in San Miguel which I didn’t bring and have been trying to find something lightweight. But all we saw were some cheap ponchos. I really thought I would find a rain jacket in PV as it is tropical with so much rain, but that was not to be. So, I would heartily suggest that if you are coming down to vacation in the rainy season or move to Mexico that you bring a nice lightweight one along with you. It looks like I am going to have to go the Amazon route for this and pay extra for shipping through Laredo which is where our mail service is. There is a tourist market along the river walk in the Romantic Zone but we didn’t find the shopping all that unique or wonderful and it seemed all of the stalls and shops had the same sort of items. However, on Saturday, when we were leaving Puerto Vallarta by UBER to go to Saylita we passed a great big local Tianguis Market (along the Libramiento) that looked really interesting. Bummer we missed it as it might be worth a visit.
Nuevo Vallarta and all of the resorts to the north of town were not our style at all!!! and reminded us of tacky Waikiki. Too many touts, too huge and too self contained. We much prefer small rustic streets, street stalls, cute cafes, lots of color, music coming out of windows, and daily life being put out there for all to see. The Romantic Zone offers all of that. We spent quite a bit of time along the south end of the Malecon where we thought there are a bit better places to hang out on the beach and have some drinks and less expensive food than the north end. Puerto Vallarta is not inexpensive!! Also, on note, if you do not have a Kindle (a must for traveler’s we think) and are an avid reader, stock up at a fabulous cafe/bookstore called A Page in the Sun. We saw some books for 5 pesos!!
We thought one of the nicest places to eat along the beach is La Palapa where we had a fabulous dinner served by an equally fabulous waiter, Hugo, with a quick wit. He really helped make our evening and if you find yourself here for a meal try and sit in his section. Dinner there for a bottle of red wine, mineral waters, salad, 2 entrees, coffee, cappuccino and a nice desert including tip was $107 USD. We thought the meal and the great ambience was well worth it.
We watched a few stunning sunsets while eating at La Palapa and at Cuates y Cuetes. At the latter we enjoyed some really nice Tacos Pescado (4 in an order was enough for us to split) and a variety of drinks. During the time we were there we also saw flame throwers, indigenous dancers, mariachis and more on the beach, so it was a very lively time. We were also treated to the restaurant’s live music which was fabulous. They seem to have a very nice group playing in the mornings during breakfast. But they are only there from 9-11am I think. Another nice place next door is Langostinos for a good morning cappuccino or delicious smoothie. Both have good wi-fi which is always a plus. We had a lunch at Si Señor, also beach side next to La Palapa, but were not impressed with the food or the service so we would say give that a pass. We felt that the best part of Puerto Vallarta for beach eating was a small area at Los Muertos beach by the pier (which lights up at night), which is where all these restaurants are. All the beaches get crowded (and we were in low season) but we just preferred this location. Of course you can’t get away from the beach touts either but we found that usually a simple “no, gracias” was sufficient. There are many beaches and coves to the south of Los Muertos that we did not have time to explore due to time and weather but there can always be a next time.
We enjoyed our short time in Puerto Vallarta and would really like to visit again during the season when the whales, dolphins, sea turtles and rays have arrived, but we really have to consider the expense as we found the coast a bit pricey. And we have looked at high season prices for hotels and took a huge big gulp!! We have so many other trips throughout Mexico and elsewhere on our bucket list though that it will be awhile before we head back this direction, but we are certainly glad we visited.
Sounds like you had a fabulous time and worked out where the best areas are. I ate at La Palapa too!! Probably three times when I visited PV mainly because of how great the service and food is and also I was staying at a hotel right there along La Playa de Los Muertos. You’re right that part of the beach has a lot to offer food and music wise and tends to be open late I recall. Those coastal caves and rock formations further to the South that you referenced have all the best snorkeling and diving spots. Glad you have fun!!
We did have fun!! The other posts for Sayulita and Bucerias to follow. We really need to go back over again when not so rainy and we can explore those other beaches/coves. Still for a first time visit we didn’t do too bad. Yucatan coming up in February!!