To say I haven’t traveled much internationally is an understatement. That’s part of the reason why this blog is focused more on food than it is travel. My international travel has only consisted of crossing the US borders to Canada and Mexico. I have a great appreciation for both of our neighbors north and south because each offer great experiences. On this trip I had the opportunity to stay with my girlfriend’s aunt and uncle in Puerto Vallarta. I am so grateful they were nice enough to open their doors to me since this was the first time, I would meet her aunt. And after a few margaritas, we hit it off. If you are ever nervous about meeting the family members of your significant other, Mexico is a great place to do it. All jokes aside they are some of the kindest people I’ve met and we had a lot of fun.
With the price of a plane ticket, we were off to Puerto Vallarta. This was my second time going there, the first time being a graduation present from my folks to go with some friends to celebrate finishing high school. My first trip was fun, we ran the town going crazy, partying as hard as you would expect most teenagers to do. Unfortunately for me, I ended that trip with one of the worst ear infections I’ve had in my life. I got the ear infection by swimming in the ocean one night, because that’s what drunk teenagers do. So, it’s fair to say the trip this time around was a lot more enjoyable for me. Being older, more responsible and thoughtful of how you want to spend your time, was way better then wandering the street like a drunk jackass. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a blast to do when you’re young, but I enjoyed this trip more.
The aunt and uncle rented a condo from VRBO located in what is known as the romantic zone of Puerto Vallarta. The romantic zone has the highest concentration of restaurants and bars and is considered the old town. You will also notice a lot of guys walking small dogs around and the occasional drag queen or transgendered person because the gay community is big in this area. Coming from Seattle, it is not much different than walking around and the capitol hill neighborhood. It’s a great location to stay because you can walk just about everywhere to the river, down to the beach and there are plenty of taxi cabs and buses available to take you further. We did not get raped, kidnapped or murdered or ever have the feeling that that was a possibility. Contrary to what some US politicians would have you believe.
The airline had lost our luggage on our flight down, so we had to go to the nearest shopping mall to purchase clothes and swim wear. We went to the Liverpool department store which is basically like Macy’s. It is a convenient 10-minute drive from the airport. Pro-tip, if an airline loses your luggage make sure you ask the right questions like “if I buy clothes, up to how much money will I be reimbursed” because most likely there is a limit. Basically, just try to get as much information as possible, confirmation numbers, contact numbers and don’t go on a crazy shopping spree because they will only reimburse you so much in Mexico, the rest you have to figure out with the airline’s baggage service. The whole situation is a big headache, so use your best judgement. Also, make sure to ask where your luggage was last scanned so you have an idea if the airline knows where it’s located. After shopping for clothes, we spent the rest of the day at the pool. The next day was similar, we got massages and stayed near the condo waiting for our luggage to be delivered. We got a little cranky by the end of the second day after dealing with the airline, but we finally got our luggage that evening.
The next day we went on a snorkeling trip. I would highly recommend signing up for one of these trips if you haven’t before. In all honesty the snorkeling part isn’t great because you cannot see that many fish. They do allow kayaking and paddle boarding, and if I went again, I would choose to do that over snorkeling. The trip itself is just fun, they feed you breakfast, lunch and cocktails on the boat. We saw whales breaching the water and tons of dolphins surfing the wake from the boat. The crew even puts on a lip synch show on the end of the trip so with that and several cocktails, you’re feeling pretty good as they drop you back off on the docks. The company we went with is called Vallarta Adventures which I believe is one of the largest excursion companies in Puerto Vallarta.
The next day we spent at Los Animas beach. To get there we took a bus which costs 20 pesos ($1.06 USD) that we picked up a block away from the condo. When you arrive at Boca de Tomatlan beach you need to walk down to the pier to catch a water taxi to Los Animas. I believe the cost of the water taxi was 90 pesos ($4.77 USD) and you really feel like you’re in for an adventure when you’re riding in on the way in to the secluded beach. The rest of the day we just spent swimming, ordered a couple buckets of cervezas, drinks, fish tacos and ceviche. We had a great time and amazing service.
That night we had what I would say was our favorite dinner of the trip, at Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana. We wanted some of that real authentic Mexican cooking and we got exactly what we wanted. We started with freshly made margaritas with about a half bottle of Don Julio poured into each glass. The server mixed the salsa table side with all fresh grilled ingredients in a mortar and pestle. The salsa was slightly warm from the grilled tomatillos that melted in your mouth every bite. Guacamole was also prepared table side and delicious as expected. For our entrées Sarah ordered grilled octopus and I ordered a molcajete. The octopus might have been the best I’ve ever had, cooked perfectly and my molcajete was amazing.
The next day we just had a pool and shopping day. While walking around town we came across the Blue Shrimp restaurant for lunch. The service and food were great but it’s a little pricey as is most of the restaurants off the beach in town. We spent that evening dining on the roof deck pool at the condo because the resident’s put on a mariachi band pool party. It was kind of an “end-of-season” party for the snow birds who travel down to get away from the winter weather and stay in PV for months. Makes me jealous, but now I have goals to do be on their level some day.
The next day we went to Mismaloya beach. To get there you take the same bus as we did to get to Los Animas, on the but window it says “Boca, Mismaloya”. The stop to get there is just a few stops closer than Los Animas and you don’t need a water taxi to get there. From the bus stop just walk down the hill and you will reach the beach. I don’t know if it was the spot we chose, but the chairs were not as comfortable and the service was a little slower there, but what’s the hurry when you’re in Mexico? We did get to rent some boards to go paddle boarding. The water was perfect for it. We also made some friends with the local dogs who just wanted to chill under our seats in the shade and scavenge any dropped food. It was another great day, just relaxing at the beach.
The next night we talked the aunt and uncle into finally checking out Pancho’s Takos which is a very popular restaurant downtown that people line-up for. You can’t miss it with their large spit of al pastor skewer roasting in the front of the restaurant. We got there at a good time and only waited maybe 20-30 minutes to get the 4 of us seated. The tacos were good, but nothing really mind blowing. We did have to sit right in front of the al pastor spit roasting away, which is really hot and kind of uncomfortable. It is.. what you would expect basically. It’s tacos and drinks. Don’t go out of your way to eat there, but I wouldn’t say you would be disappointed either. The cost of the tacos we ate and about 2 margaritas and 2-3 beers each was only 1,300 pesos. That’s about $69 USD for a 4-person dinner with drinks. I can’t complain much about a cheap and delicious dinner.
After that we spent another pool and chill day shopping. FYI, I’m not good at haggling because I begin to feel bad for the vendors desperate to make a sale. I got called out by Sarah and a passer bye thought it was funny as hell. He said “You must be Canadian?” I said “Close, PNW/Seattle”. We were both like “Yeah close enough”, and had a good laugh.
On Saturday there is a market with food, art and specialty products. It is definitely worth checking out, we shared a really good quesadilla, had some fresh coconut water and bought a couple souvenirs.
The last night on Sunday we went down to the beach to restaurant El Dorado. It had a beautiful view but was the most expensive meal we had on the trip. Partly because the drinks we ordered were $15 dollars each which we didn’t realize until later. The food was good, but the service was really slow. A dinner that should’ve taken about an hour, took about 2 and ½. After that meal we were just kind of ready to get back home since it seemed to take forever.
Well there it is, another great time in Mexico. I really can’t wait to go back. I plan to expand my travel to other regions of Mexico because you do get different experiences just like traveling to different states in the US. They’re the same but different. However, Puerto Vallarta is special and I can’t wait to go back again.