It is very easy to fall in love with Puerto Vallarta (PV). Warm weather, clear beach, great food and show, and extremely friendly people. Here are the things we loved and things we could have skipped in PV.
Marietas Islands Hidden Beach tour is the #1 on my list, an absolute must-do! These groups of isles are more than an hour ride from PV, they are beautiful with rugged rocky shore. Boats can’t dock there, you have to swim to get on the islands. The tour company provides life jackets and gaggle gears for the swim. The water is so blue and the islands very beautiful.
There is a hidden beach, you can’t see the beach from outside sea, have to swim over the low overhand to get on the beach, so check the tide table for low tides. Only 80 people per day are allowed to get on the island, six people to get on the beach in any given time. Make sure to book early.
On the way to the islands we saw whales and many dolphins.
We also highly recommend the Rhythms of the Night Dinner Show! The show is on Las Caletas, an hour boat ride to the south of PV, a place of sporty recreation during the day and romantic candle-light dinner and entertainment at night. There is no electricity there, four thousands lit candles were waiting for us when we reached the shore!
The food was great and the show was full of amazing acrobatic moments. Each evening there are two dinners and one show in between, so make sure to specify which dinner you want for the evening when booking. I wish I knew more about Mexican culture and language to understand the show. What a wonderful way to spend the night.
Puerto Vallarta is a very artsy tourist town. There are many wonderful art displays over every corner of the city especially the one-mile long El Malecon Boardwalk along downtown water front. Every Tuesday morning there is a guided art sculpture tour, it costs $15. Although you can easily do a self-guided tour, just walk along the boardwalk you won’t miss anything. The dance of the Flyers, Danza de los Voladores, is a preserved ancient Mesoamerican ritual.
If you have children, the Turtle Camp is a wonderful and fun educational activity with the whole family. You learn about the life of turtles, at the end you can hold a baby turtle and release it back to the ocean.
The Puerto Vallarta City tour is suitable for someone who wants to see the whole city in one day. It is too crammed in my opinion. The bus picked us up from our hotel and everybody else, it was a bus-ful of tourists. We stopped at many attractions briefly including Malecon boardwalk, the church of Our Lady Guadeloupe etc.
We had lunch at a family-owned restaurant near Mismaloya, very unique setting in the wood. Afterward we walked to a nearby tequila distillery for tasting. They even blocked big chunk of time for us shopping for souvenirs, twice! It was a whole day tour.
We stayed at Marriott. Everywhere we travel, I like to book Marriott for lodging, just love the bedding and pillows and their affordable price. This resort offers many water activities and have a couple of restaurants and nice pools.
I like the location, walking distance to food and market. There is a public bus stop outside of the resort, the bus fare to downtown is only 7.5 pesos. (The exchange rate $1=19 pesos!) Our bus ride was fun, we met many snowbirds from America and Canada on the bus.
And taxi is very convenient and reliable, about 80 pesos from hotel to downtown.
When we were in Mexico City two year ago we fell in love with the real Mexican food. So this time in Puerto Vallarta we were searching for authentic seafood at the places where the locals went. We tried a handful of the local favorites, and liked most of them, especially fresh seafood, even the food from street vendors and night market were excellent.
The Cafe des Artistes is on the top list of my recommendation. It is at the high end, about $50 per person. Really romantic, perfect for anniversary or any special occasion. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, the exquisitely prepared food is accompanied with romantically serenaded music. They have the best pumpkin soup, the fish dish is so flavorful, and the dessert is to die for.
Another restaurant on my recommendation list is La Langosta Feliz (The Happy Lobster), a seafood restaurant. If you don’t order the gigantic seafood platter (shown on the picture above), we didn’t, the price was very cheap–four of us spent about 1,500 pesos, less than $80!
We had quite adventure there, I had to share this story!
As I mentioned before, our love of food always push us to search for authentic local food. One taxi driver highly recommended the Happy Lobster, so we decided to give it a try. We left from Malecon boardwalk thinking it would be a pleasant walk, it turned out way too far to get there on foot. As we were asking a local woman how much further we needed to go, we were approached by an elderly man who warmly volunteered to take us there. Not only that, he also acclaimed to be the owner of that restaurant and offered us 20% discount! Apparently he owned a couple of restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, the Happy Lobster we were going was currently managed by one of his sons! “Just wait here!” he said, “Let me go and get my car, I take you because I am going there anyway.”
What do you think? If in your shoes, would you wait and go with him, in a city where you were a stranger?!
As soon as he left, we waved down a taxi. We couldn’t get out there fast enough! It turned out we were only half mile away.
The restaurant was awesome! Seafood was great, fresh and tasty. Lots of locals and tourists like us were there. The waiters spoke good English. The service was prompt and warm, the food portion was decent. I had octopus ceviche and freshly caught snapper (see the pictures above), loved both. If I had to pick on something, the music was a bit too loud to our taste, especially the band came to the table side and played.
By the time we ordered and chewed on our appetizer, lo and be hold, that elderly man walked in and straightly approached our table, padded my husband’s shoulder “haha you made it.” !!!
The manager (on the right) was indeed his son!!
We are so accustomed to not trust strangers; we teach our children that and we model those teachings ourselves. We may be safer but how we miss otherwise great opportunity to make friends! People are much more genuine and loving than we portray them! Especially in Puerto Vallarta!
So if you visit Puerto Vallarta, please go and eat at the Happy Lobster. If you see him, ask for a discount, I guarantee you will get it. (I didn’t get the discount he promised since I didn’t even want him to remember our prior conversation.) His heart is made of gold.