Picking the perfect destination is overwhelming. Distinct landscapes and regional charms allure from around the globe. For an exhilarating Mexican coastal getaway with stunning tropical views, consider Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The coastal town sits along the Pacific coast, and will win you over with its island beauty and hospitality.
Old Vallarta, accessible via cobblestone roads, is lined with red tin roof buildings along steep hills. I was mesmerized by the rustic charm of the historic city, painted with colorful storefronts, adorned in bright orange and pink exteriors and arched wooden shutters. The Sierra Madre Mountains serve as a backdrop throughout the city, which sits along Banderas Bay. At the heart of the city is the ornate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe or Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe church, commanding attention to its rooftop crown.
Nearby, the Malecon, 12 blocks of daytime shopping and nightly entertainment along the Banderas Bay, attracts locals and tourists. An amphitheater provides daily entertainment each evening. It’s a vibrant place where native dancers will perform on the sidewalks, as open air clubs generate all genres of music.
A must stop for traditional Mexican cuisine is at El Arrayán Restaurant in the heart of Old Town. The quaint restaurant has an open courtyard with an Arrayán tree, providing beverages made with the sweet and sour arrayán fruit. Vibrant local prints bring character to the walls. The atmosphere is as heartening as the food. I started out with the roasted crispy cricket tacos, which offered a nutty flavor. The high protein insects are organically grown and imported from Oaxaca, Southern Mexico. Sautéed and served with tomatillo-avocado salsa in corn tortillas, they offer a slight crunch. Consider braving the appetizer with an arrayán margarita 100% locally grown. For the entrée, I selected the beef barbacoa which was heavenly. The tender steamed beef is prepared in an avocado leaf with plantain leaf and thyme. It was flavorful and juicy and served with Nopal cactus salad, and ‘borracha’ salsa. Cactus is a bit slimy, comparable to okra.
Las Caletas Day Trip
Experience the perfect daytrip to Las Caletas, once the private home of film director John Huston. Accessible only by boat, the area offers a harmonious blend of tropical vegetation, mountains and coastal beauty. Vallarta Adventures provides an all-inclusive trip (with buffet, snacks and drinks) in paradise. Upon arriving, guests are greeted with a welcome buffet including home-made made corn tortillas and fresh hibiscus juice. After light refreshments, I was free to choose my course for the next four hours. Whether its relaxation, low intensity or high intensity activity, there is no shortage of options. Traverse the mountainside to brave a zipline, chill at the spa, lounge in a hammock along the beach, kayak, canoe or snorkel. Teens have their own area for discovery and adventure. I found my place on an anchored wooden raft in the water, complete with a hammock, tropical plant and two beach chairs. After a snooze, I opted for more chill time on one of the adult only balconies on the cliffs within the mountains. Another great activity was the cooking class. There was one on making guacamole and another where seafood paella was being prepared, which would be served in the lunch buffet. Yield to a passion fruit margarita while learning how to prepare island cuisine. After enjoying all the recreation, a hearty buffet is provided, which incorporates fresh seafood and tropical fruits. Guests dine alongside the cliffs on outdoor tables.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is the place to stay, with assiduous staff that are warm and friendly, consistent with the hospitality found throughout the region. An open-air courtyard offers a mini tropical rainforest within the center of the hotel rooms. I had a view of Old Vallarta and the mountains from my balcony, which would illuminate from city lights at night. The spacious resort in on beach prime location, with an infinity pool facing the beach. A coconut bar by the pool serves fresh coconuts to order, with one of several alcoholic or non alcoholic additions to the coconut water. I hydrated with a Skinny Coco, consisting of coconut water mixed with cucumber, mint and ginger.
A must have at the beachside restaurant Las Casitas are the fried lobster tacos, topped with Manchengo queso and slaw. Another winner is the red snapper entrée which is divine. I was served a hearty portion of the fresh catch, which is marinated a sweet mango Thai chili and served with udon noodles and vegetables. The chili was not overpowering, offering a hint of flavor. I also relished the seafood soup consisting of hearty bites of fresh catch including lobster, snapper and crab in a flavorful tomato broth. And then there is ceviche, which is a must at coastal restaurant. Choices include fresh red snapper or shrimp, which are diced and tossed in succulent citruses including lemon, lime as well as cilantro, onion and tomato.
For additional pampering, take time to enjoy the Ohtli Spa. I found the 80 minute Fire Opal Balancing Stone Therapy massage extremely beneficial for muscle tightness. The basalt stones were not too hot and enhanced the massage experience.
The Mexican Fire Opal is said to stimulate circulation and provide energy.