Beaches, boardwalks and more!
Beach/ Pool Lovers
The remodel repositioned the focus of the swim-up bar again to the reason the resort exists, Banderas Bay and the generous ocean. Even if drinks aren’t your thing, you can lounge in the hammocks suspended inches from the water in the middle of the pool or sit in one of the partially submerged lounge chairs. The Coco Bar serves coconut water and cocktails in fresh coconuts. After, they’ll chop up the meat and serve it on a platter with a side of tahine. Yum.
If you’re not the lay-around-and-soak-up-the-sun type of vacationer, you can borrow kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to explore Puerto Vallarta from the sea. Or you can take a bike to ride to the Malecon Boardwalk, a mile-long display of the beauty and creativity Puerto Vallarta freely offers.
This is the centerpiece of Puerto Vallarta. It sits in the cradle of Banderas Bay between the Hotel Zone and the Romantic Zone, which we’ll cross into later. There are magnificent bronze statues along the seawall promenade, perfect to pose with, appreciate and even climb. Shops, restaurants and bars offer wonderful places to take a break and enjoy local culture.
Walking inland from the beauty of the al fresco walkway, visitors can visit Puerto Vallarta’s many art galleries. Perhaps it is because of the open nature of the city that artists feel free to create exquisite paintings, sculptures, ceramics and blown glass. So many are unique and representative of the fantastical imagination of Latin American culture. Another icon of Puerto Vallarta is Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The city is afloat with festivities when it celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival Dec. 1–12, which is when she is said to have appeared to the beatific Juan Diego. On the 12th, the entire country stops to celebrate the miracles bestowed by the “brown-skinned virgin,” so be prepared to get where you need by foot or bike to appreciate the mariachis, rock bands and dancers all extolling their gratitude.
Plan to visit December 5th Cemetery, surrounded by walls of street art. Inside, plots are cordoned off to separate deceased families each decorated in festive and memorable ways. Across the street, the local fish and produce market sells food to locals and restaurants. Buy a bag of tortillas, minutes after they’re made, for $1.
Once the sun drops, the music changes from traditional to hip-hop in one of the many fun nightclubs of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Mandala Puerto Vallarta did not disappoint, nor did any of the next two bars we visited along the street. The music was current, the action vibrant and there were no whistles being blown with the whiplash protocol of Tijuana’s old-school tequila poppers.
An easy walk over the Cuale River bridges, just south of the Malecon Boardwalk, a quieter and denser version of Puerto Vallarta awaits. Here, in the Romantic Zone, also known as Old Town, though downtown is technically older than this area, there are boutiques and jewelry shops. Here, memories can be customized and little taco stands have lines that wrap around the cobblestone streets to taste authentic Mexico.
There is more of everything here, restaurants, bars, stores, than in downtown Puerto Vallarta all packed into a quaint beachside pueblo. In the center is Lazaro Cardenas Park, a plaza that hosts a farmer’s market on Saturdays between November and April with live music and is also a terrific site for people watching. There is parking underground. We had lunch to the north of the park at Conte Del Mar, a restaurant that spilled onto the sand where a mariachi band wailed its melodies to dining patrons. This seafood establishment gets my vote for best chips in Puerto Vallarta, crisp and flaky. We always say you can tell a lot about a Mexican restaurant from its chips.
Take one of the many tour options with Ibarra Tours, available to book through your hotel. Adrian Ibarra took us around the city and dropped chunks of fact about the history and current lives of the welcoming people.
There’s no better way to travel than to feel welcome and connected.
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