A Tourist's Guide to Puerto Vallarta

Waterfall in Puerto Vallarta

Welcome back Dreamers!

I apologize for the delay in new material, BUT it has been an extremely busy time for me as I wrap up the current chapter of my life to move on to the Grad School Chronicles — 4 days and counting until I move to the U.K.

So I recently got back to good ol’  North Carolina from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and I’m so excited to give you guys the scoop on the community, things to do and restaurants with thee best grub!

For the longest time, I was one of those people who didn’t have much of a desire to go to Mexico because I assumed that it was super, over the top touristy. I’ve always heard about Cancun and Cozumel, which both look like beautiful places, but I’m not a huge fan of being around a ton of Americans on vacation. That’s the whole point of vacation right? To get away from them! Anywho… This trip has completely changed my outlook on Mexico and now I want to go back and explore other cities!

Puerto Vallarta specifically, is ahhhmazing! The people are immeasurably nice. Almost everyone will greet you in passing, if you looked confused someone will likely stop and ask if you need assistance. They even have specific officers that wear white (fact check the color, but I believe it’s white or blue) shirts to assist with tourist’s questions. Of course I have to add, they LOVE us sistahs. I got countless compliments on my curly fro, even from the host during the well-known Rhythm of the Nights show. Additionally, my mother and I were repeatedly asked if we’d like “a Mexican boyfriend” ha! On top of the amicable nature of the locals, another thing I loved about Vallarta was the openness of the community. They have a very large LGBTQ population, with a great percentage being made up of men. Though I’m sure there are some bad apples in Puerto Vallarta, as there are just about anywhere, nearly everyone seemed to be accepting and open minded to any and everyone. That being said, it was definitely a city that allowed you to live in your truth with no judgement. If you’ve read my introduction page, you know that living as your true self is something that I encourage everyone to do. Additionally, we ventured around at all hours and never really felt like safety was much of a concern.

SO, when you arrive to the airport upon exiting there will be one million sales representatives anxiously waiting to offer you extremely discounted excursions through a company called Vallarta Adventures that range from horseback riding and snorkeling to zip-lining and riding ATVs, but…. there is one exception – you have to take a 90-minute tour of one of the resort properties; in other words a timeshare presentation. Multiple representatives informed us that you do not have to stay for the entire time, but I can’t attest to the validity of that as I didn’t go to a timeshare tour. I opted out of doing the tour simply because I wanted more time to review the information, but looking back on it it would have been worth sacrificing an hour and a half of my time as it would have saved us a couple hundred dollars in excursion costs. They give you unbelievable discounts, crackhead prices as I like to call them, on the Vallarta Adventures excursions if you do so. Regardless, I did three excursions: Sea Safari, Yelapa & Majahuitas and lastly, Rhythms of the Night.

Kayaking with Vallarta Adventures

Overall, Vallarta Adventures is a cool company and honestly one of very few companies in Vallarta that offers a multitude of excursions. Most of the excursions are between about 6-7 hours, starting at either 8 or 830AM and running until the mid-afternoon. You will have a specific meeting point either at the Maritime Terminal or the Marina. While waiting for the excursion to take off, you have the option of getting breakfast or a early morning drink if you please. The Sea Safari excursion consisted of taking a boat to the Sierra Madre mountains and going horseback riding up to a waterfall viewpoint and then snorkeling afterwards, finishing with a lunch buffet. Though the idea of horseback riding was nice, it was my least favorite part of all three excursions. As soon as I got a good look at the horses and the condition that they were in, it made me want to opt out of doing it all together. Many of the horses were extremely small, and some of them had open sores that you could tell were irritated. I can’t even lie, it was scary riding them through the mountains, because they seemed tired as all hell. Nonetheless, we made it safe and sound to the top with the exception of some rattled nerves. The waterfall was cool, but not as pretty as the pictures – all due to the recent storms, which had turned the water a dirt brown color. I think I was likely unenthused because I was slightly terrified after the horse ride. After riding the horses back down the mountain, we then took a short boat ride over to one of the many coves to snorkel. This part of the tour was AWESOME! The visibility was incredible and we were able to see so many beautiful fish! The video is a bit blurry as I was using my phone and a bootleg protector, but you’re still able to see some of the marine life. Lastly, they took us over to have a buffet lunch on the beach of Pizota, which was the perfect end to a VERY long day of adventures. I forgot to add… almost all of Vallarta Adventures excursions include an open bar! Each excursion also has a photographer that takes pictures of you and your party for the duration of the adventure for which you can purchase at the end of the tour.

OKAY, I won’t elaborate as much on the other two excursions as I don’t want to be a complete spoiler, but I will say, Rhythm of the Nights was worth doing at least once. It was a culturally enriched performance that was fairly similar to seeing a Cirque du Soleil show. The island was set up to completely cater for the event from docking and seeing the dimly lit lights spread out amongst the island to the layout of dinner. The ambience was one to remember and the show had some immensely talented performers that put their heart into their work. The Yelapa and Majahuitas excursion was also a great time as we were able to snorkel once more and went to an even better waterfall that we were able to swim in. The water was FREEZING cold, but it was such a memorable experience.  How many times can one say they’ve been to a private island and jumped into a waterfall? I’ll wait… Exactly! If you do make it over to Yelapa, be sure to get a slice of chocolate pie from one of the sellers on the beach. It was home made, with some of the fresh cocoa that grows right there in Yelapa. I wouldn’t ever steer you wrong, promise. If chocolate isn’t your thing they have cheesecake, coconut and other flavors as well. All in all, you won’t go wrong with booking a tour with Vallarta Adventures. Speaking more specifically on the guides of the tours, they were GREAT! Just to give an example, on the Sea Safari tour Hugo helped my mother out a ton! He was able to encourage her and make her feel comfortable enough to give snorkeling a chance, and she was even able to see some of the fishies! He told her if anything happened he’d jump in and save her. They really do put their all into their work and they go above and beyond in their customer service efforts by even providing funny entertainment on each boat ride.

Fish Pedicure Spa

 

In addition to the excursions, a couple of cool other places to check out are the Sapphire Beach Club, the local flea market, fish pedicures, the Botanical Gardens and Chile Tequila II. The Sapphire Beach Club is a nice hang out spot that’s right on the beach, for about $10 they provide you with beach chairs, a slightly private spot on the beach, an outdoor pool and an area where you can have lunch/dinner and drinks. The drinks were also pretty good! The flea market has a variety of things from shoes to travel trinkets. If you’re wanting to get in a quick lil turn up for the free.99 go into the Chile Tequila II stores! They will call you over and offer free samples (shots) before you even get a chance to walk by. They will literally give you shots on shots on shots until either you leave or decide to make a purchase. Turnt. For. The. Freelo. Lastly, this is the tourist in me, but I had to get a fishy pedicure! I’ve seen so many people post their videos and talk about how soft their feet felt afterwards, so of course I had to give it a shot! It was 250 pesos, which is more or less $14. If you’re feeling fancy you can even get your nails done there afterwards. All of these places listed above, can be found along the Malecón, which is the boardwalk.

I’m getting down to the wire here… Lets talk about money. If possible, pay in pesos. If you pay in US dollars, your return is going to be a bit less than it would be if you paid in pesos. I know this may vary, but based on my experience, many people guesstimated on what your change would be when paying in dollars, and more often than not you were given the short end of the stick. With pesos, they’re giving you exactly what they owe you back. If you could care less about doing excursions, then you can EASILY go to Vallarta for let’s say 5 days with a $300ish budget. Be sure to have cash/pesos handy, as not everywhere has the capability of taking cards. All in all, it’s a very very affordable city. I will tell y’all as a gentleman there told me, everything in Vallarta is negotiable with the exception of shopping at Walmart and Sam’s Club. Never accept anyone’s first offer, from the excursions to purchasing tequila – don’t settle my friends!

I'll finish with this...one of my absolute favorite parts about Puerto Vallarta is the FOOD. The food there is to die for! I like to consider myself as food boujie, and you can take my word for it… The food is good enough to make you want to slap your mama (not my mama, YOUR mama). The food is absolutely amazing. If you're interested in reading about (and seeing mouth-watering pictures of the cuisine during my trip), be sured to stay tuned for my next post!

Okay I lied...One more thing! A friendly tip, try to brush up on a few Spanish words. I have a background in Spanish as it was my minor in undergrad and I studied abroad in Spain, but the locals were even MORE friendly, as if that’s even possible, when I spoke in Spanish. Even if you’re not fluent, it’s the genuine gesture that counts.

*Takes deep breath* …. and that’s all folks!

Xoxox,

Your Favorite Dreamer

 

IslandsAmber Blackmontravel, mexico