Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips
There’s a lot of talk these days about traveling overseas, especially as it relates to retirement destinations. It may not be for everyone, but for the adventurous, traveling overseas can provide beauty and bounty at a fraction of the costs here at home. We visited one such location last month as we explored the Mexican jewel of Puerto Vallarta during Christmas time. We thought we’d pass on a few Puerto Vallarta travel tips to make sure your next vacation is as good as it can be!
Puerto Vallarta is a popular vacation destination for US and Canadian travelers because of it’s lovely beaches and friendly people. It’s the 5th largest city in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Interestingly, Jalisco happened to be the place where the “affluenza teen” and his mother were (recently) taken into custody while on the run from US authorities.
Puerto Vallarta’s beaches are lovely, and the sunsets are incredible! Like many beach towns in Mexico, you’ll need to contend with the beach vendors that are trying to sell tourists their “trinkets”. For those that just can’t get enough “silver” jewelry, kites, cigars, pipes, and other wearables, the guys on the beach have you covered. Most of the licensed concessionaires are dressed in white jumpsuits (like the caddies wear at Augusta). You can get anything you want on the beach, but we’re accustomed to saying no thank you (no gracias), and the vendors generally move right along.
Though the beaches look welcoming, insiders say the waters can contain high levels of unsafe bacteria – especially during summer months which is the rainy season. So here’s a Puerto Vallarta travel tip: Look around for locals in the water before taking the plunge.
Getting Around Puerto Vallarta
Getting Around Puerto Vallarta is easy whether you have a car or not. If you’re not accustomed to crazy drivers, you might not want to get behind the wheel. It also should be noted that many of the roads are rough and unfinished. For most visitors (especially those living in and around large cities) you’d be just fine renting a car, but unless you really want to get out of the city there’s no need.
Here’s another Puerto Vallarta travel tip… Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding areas have a great bus system that runs all day until 10:30 pm. Prices range from 7 pesos to 23 pesos depending on the zone you’re traveling through. While we were visiting, the exchange rate was approximately 16.50 pesos to the US dollar making bus travel extremely affordable and at times very entertaining. Don’t be surprised if singers, musicians and performers jump on the bus to serenade you. It’s your option to tip or not, but some of the performers are quite talented! Most of the locals ride the bus.
Taxis are also prevalent. Taxi fares aren’t managed by a meter, but rather “zones”. For example, you can take a cab from the marina hotel district to the airport for 65 pesos (no extra “fees” like here in the US). During our trip, this equated to around $4 US dollars. Taxis are everywhere too. As mentioned above, the locals ride the busses so the taxi drivers are always looking for fares. If you’re not up for the bus ride, taxi is the way to go.
Puerto Vallarta Hotels
If you decide to visit Puerto Vallarta, there are a lot of housing options to choose from. Depending on how long you want to stay you might want to consider Airbnb.com. We found multiple listings ranging from a few days to much longer on the popular vacation rental site. There are many hotels to choose from too. Naturally they come in all shapes and sizes (and in all price ranges).
During our trip we stayed at the CasaMagna, a Marriott Resort. This destination hotel sits in the marina hotel district and has great options for the whole family. The CasaMagna features a huge pool with a swim-up bar. They also have a large jacuzzi as well as a kids pool, but most of the kids are frolicking in the big one… Can you blame them?
Though entirely gorgeous, the CasaMagna is getting a bit dated. Staff was working on updates during our visit, and it was evident that they were making some progress. The CasaMagna has all the amenities you could possibly want while exploring Puerto Vallarta… But it was the service that will keep us coming back. The attention to detail, and eagerness to please was second to none. I stay at Marriott Hotels at least 50 nights a year and I can say that the service at CasaMagna was outstanding.
The Food in Puerto Vallarta
We ate at 3 of 4 restaurants located on the hotel property and none of them knocked our socks off. Our recommendation is to try a few, but get out of the hotel and explore some of the other restaurants in the area. One that we’d recommend within walking distance of the Marriott is Bacha’s Mexican Restaurant in the Marina. The owner is a fun loving back-slapper, and he’s very grateful for your business. Huge margaritas and table-side guacamole are just two of their specialties. *Bacha’s Mexican Restaurant is very family friendly.
Once we got settled in and became comfortable with our surroundings, we also left the hotel for breakfast each morning. You don’t have to walk far for some of the best huevos rancheros you’d ever had!
Here’s what Barry Golson at AARP The Magazine says about Puerto Vallarta:
We’re happy to be back home after our first sunny Christmas in beautiful Puerto Vallarta. Even though it’s raining here in Oregon, we know that Puerto Vallarta is just a stones throw away (by air). I know I speak for the whole family when I say… (In an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent)… “I’ll be back”.