Puerto Vallerta is often remembered as one of the regular stopping points of the ship in the hit television series, “The Love Boat.” While the series may have come to an end, this Mexican port’s beauty, romance and charm continue.
Located midway down the Pacific coast of Mexico, the city is located along the peaceful waters of the horseshoe shaped Banderas Bay and rests against the background of the Sierra Madre mountains. As with other locations where ocean meets mountains, the dramatic interlude is breathtaking. While the architecture is simple, the white houses with red tile roofs and ironwork on windows give it a quaint appearance. Many of the buildings enjoy balconies with colorful, live flowers trimming the vistas.
It obviously didn’t take long for the local government to realize tourists are one of its most valuable resources, and as a result has gone to great lengths to keep the streets clean, the beaches beautiful and the tourists safe. Along the narrow, crowded streets, you’ll discover special tourist police in white uniforms. These bilingual officers are there to protect and provide information for travelers. Though they don’t seem necessary, they provide an extra sense of security while walking through the town during the day and night.
Puerto Vallerta boasts more than a dozen small beaches, some are hidden while others dot the coast around larger hotels. When making a reservation, make sure that your resort has its own beach.
[ALL INCLUSIVE OR ON YOUR OWN?]
Some resorts are all-inclusive, with the exception of motorized vehicles. When booking a reservation, clarify exactly what is included in the hotel’s price. A number of companies organize affordable, inclusive travel packages. Five star and “grand tourist” resorts often offer lower prices when booking several months ahead of your departure date, while three star resorts will often offer last-minute reduced prices. Surprisingly, some of Puerto Vallerta’s two star resorts including Playa Los Arcos boast of extremely high return rates, but you’ll probably want to stay away from any resorts below three stars, at least on your first visit.
If you tend to eat and drink a lot, then the all-inclusive package is probably for you. The advantage of the all-inclusive is that you don’t have to leave the resort. Huge buffets offer dozens of options, but even with so many choices, you might be surprised to discover that after day three or so, all the food and drinks taste the same. If you’re a light eater (and drinker), you’re better off with exploring the markets and restaurants that line the bay.
Those craving a taste of home will find everything from the Hard Rock Cafe to Planet Hollywood to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville with friendly, familiar fare. But true finds are a bit more off the beaten path. Grafitys is quaint, moderately priced restaurant with outstanding entrees for seafood lovers. Tuna steaks, mahi mahi and appetizers mixing shrimp and octopus in a light orange sauce line the menu. Their steaks and pasta dishes are phenomenal, too, thanks to the French chef who delicately prepares each meal as if it were a work of art. For finer food, stop by De Santos, which is tucked off main street but worthy of a visit. An unusually diverse and delicious menu of Mediterranean food awaits.
While in Puerto Vallerta, you’ll want to take advantage of some of the well-organized day trips available. A number of outfits offer day and nighttime excursions. Whether it’s a horseback ride into the rain forest or an evening dinner cruise under the moon and stars, your taste for adventure and romance can easily be satisfied.
Some memory making experiences include a tour of the Sierra Madre foothills in an open-air, all-terrain vehicle or an air expedition to San Sebastian. If you’re traveling between December and March, a short tour to the nearby Marietas Islands will take you into a protected sanctuary where you can see wildlife ranging from blue-footed boobie birds to humpback whales.
A host of small sailboats would like to take you snorkeling in Los Arcos National Marine Park and nearby beaches. But if you want a truly memorable experience, several outfits offer the opportunity to swim and interact with dolphins. Spaces fill up fast, so you’ll want to reserve a spot before you head south.
A friend and I spent the day at Las Caletas, a tucked away beach resort accessible only by boat. Activities included snorkeling, sea kayaking and a nature walk. Five wildly, hilarious Mexican characters played host to our entire trip and made us laugh on more than one occasion. For information, visit splashmx.com or vallarta-adventures.com.
Shoppers and those wanting to bring home a few memories will have dozens of stores to choose from. Whether its perfume, clothes or Mexican crafts, you’ll find salesmen and women pushing their wares on all corners of the streets and beach. Prices are reasonable, but can almost always be lowered by at least 20 percent with a little bartering. Don’t miss the art galleries sprinkled throughout town, including Galleria Dante and Museo De Arte Munoz Acosta.
If you enjoy nightlife, Valletta offers a number of trendy discos, nightspots with live show as well as comedians. Whether your musical preference is techno, house, reggae or disco, there are numerous hot spots to visit.
[TIPS FOR PLANNING AND ENJOYING YOUR TRIP]
[+] When they say it’s okay to drink the water, it really is okay. When they don’t say anything, whatever you do, don’t drink it.
[+] Call different travel agencies. Ask about Apple Vacations, SunTrips and MLM. Also visit worryfreevacations.com.
[+] You will need a valid passport or birth certificate to visit Mexico.
[+] Banks offer better exchange rates than airports or hotels.
[+] Do not lose the Mexican Tourist card they give you on the flight. If you do, you will be fined.
[+] Don’t buy “silver” jewelry unless it has a stamp guaranteeing that it is indeed, silver.
[+] Avoid all promotions and promises offered by timeshare representatives, unless you want to buy a timeshare.
[+] Make additional memories by taking at least one excursion.
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