The Fools’ Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Jetting Down To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
After spotting a too-cheap-to-pass-up hotel-and-flight deal, we booked a 5-night trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Many water sports enthusiasts head to Puerto Vallarta for kitesurfing or scuba diving. We, however, had no particular goals or plans – a rarity for the couple who usually has at minimum a list of sights and an eatery or two to visit. (Heck, we even managed to turn a 12-hour layover in Switzerland into a whirlwind day trip.) But sometimes there’s pleasure in not having an agenda. So, with a come-what-may attitude in mind, we headed south of the border.
How We Did It
This was our first international trip using Southwest Airlines. If you fly out of LAX, as we did, note that you have to check in at a domestic terminal and then catch a shuttle to the international terminal. So plan to arrive early.
We stayed at the Sheraton Buganvilias Resort. For the most part, it was nice: clean with a beautiful pool and accommodating staff. However, multiple floors were under construction. So we sometimes had hammering or sawing interrupt afternoon naps or wake us up before we planned.
No car rental. Aside from taxis to and from the airport, we walked. For better or for worse, Puerto Vallarta caters to tourists. So we never once felt unsafe.
What We Did
Lots and lots of walking. Paseo Díaz Ordaz. Malecon boardwalk. Over the Río Cuale to Los Muertos Beach. Again, we were in this trip primarily to take it easy. So there were no fabulous day trips planned. Just lots of sun on the beach, nights reading while lightning flashed outside our window, and plenty of eating – though not at our hotel. After one meal there, we decided to eat elsewhere. Not only was the food overpriced, but it was also rather bland.
Where We Ate
- 100% Natural. The breakfasts were really tasty and healthy, although a little overpriced. Lots of vegetarian options and some organic, which is why we visited. While we are generally open to eating anything at least once, we try not to stray too far from our primarily-vegetable diet for more than a few days at a time.
- Mariscos Cuetos. We had a really good dinner of large shrimp and chicken fajitas. They’re a bit pricy compared to other seafood eateries in the area. But their food is high quality. Bonus points for the band that plays while you dine.
- Layla’s. Our top pick. This was the priciest place dined at, but the food and service were really great. Beautiful ambiance on the balcony. The owner and waiter even shared a drink with us.
- Pan & Cué. Pretty standard Italian fare. Really can’t go wrong with anything here.
- La Bodeguita Del Medio. We wanted some Cuban food, so we came here. We thought it was not nearly as flavorful as it should have been. Also, we’ve had much better Cuban food in California.
- Natureza. Great smoothies and crepes. Again, lots of healthy options.
We also ate lots of ice cream, crepes, and street tacos at various stands. Flavor-wise, the ice cream can be hit or miss. But it’s cheap enough that you can’t complain.
Some Travel Tips
- If you have USD: exchange some of your currency for peso, but also make sure to keep some USD 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s. Then, when paying, ask the cost in both peso and USD, and use the cheaper option.
- Exchange money via an ATM and not at currency exchanges or money exchange machines. You often get a much better rate with ATMs. Remember to check with your bank on ATM fees.
- To save money on airport transportation, skip the white airport taxis and walk to the main road. Hail a yellow taxi. The airport taxis cost about $20 USD, while yellow street taxis cost around $10 USD. (At the time of this post, the exchange rate was 1 USD = 18.12 MXN. So, following our advice in tip 1, we chose to pay with peso, a cost of ~$5.51 USD).
- Use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.