I recently traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for my mother’s 50th birthday. I wanted to take her on a trip where she actually had to use a passport. Mexico came to mind because it was somewhere neither of us had been and it was not hurricane season for that part of the country. Puerto Vallarta came to mind because I have friends and family members who have traveled there before and I have heard how beautiful it is. Not only that, but it is a pretty affordable place to travel.
Puerto Vallarta is a city in the state of Jalisco. Jalisco is located on the west coast of Mexico. Known for its beautiful beaches and sunny weather with minimum rain, it seemed like the perfect place to go.
We flew out on a Friday morning arriving around noon to Puerto Vallarta. Getting through customs was literally a breeze. It was the quickest I have ever gotten through customs in any country. Then immediately we were bombarded by timeshare presentations. Note: Set up transfer service or car service before you arrive into Mexico as that is part of the timeshare pitch along with excursions and tours. Once we got through the hall of timeshare people we were greeted by our driver with the company Vallarta Transfers and Incentives. We were given cold beer and bottle water.
We arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel in the newer area of Puerto Vallarta (Nuevo Vallarta). We were immediately greeted by the bellmen that took our bags and explained the next steps. We walked into the lobby to checked in. During the check in process we were greeted by another person who handed us Mojitos. My mom was super excited about the whole experience. They told us our room was ready, and we headed up.
Once in our room we noticed a very large hot tub inside the room with a mini bar and fruit tray. We opened our windows to the beautiful view of the ocean and pool area. This was our first time at an all-inclusive resort so were both excited. Yes I know… “How am I a travel agent who has never been to an all-inclusive resort?” Simple answer, my family likes to take cruises, LOL. We explored the resort the rest of day and turned it in early because we were exhausted from traveling.
The next day we scheduled a city tour with a local tour company, Estigo Tours. I found them on google by the way. I am always looking for local tours and smaller companies they offer tours because I want an authentic experience. I personally feel large company tours do not get as in depth with the local culture. Local tours are normally always flexible and center around what the client would like to do. Also, local tours tend to take you off the beaten path into the areas where the good food, shopping and culture really are. We were greeted immediately as we stepped out of the taxi. They even greeted me by name, which was exciting lol. I signed in, we took pictures and we took off into the city.
Bryan was our tour guide and he is a native of the Puerto Vallarta. He lived in America for six years and then came back home with his family. He was very accommodating, even tailored our tour to what we wanted to do. We were never pressured to hurry and go to the next place, or to do things we did not want to do.
We stopped in a shop that hand crafted pottery. We learned about and the cartoon illustrator who started the skeleton figures. We learned about La Calavera Catrina and why the illustrator used her as the focal point of his illustrations. We learned about the “Day of the Dead” and how the movie “COCO” was actually accurate. Side note: I LOVE the movie COCO; actually more than my child loves it. Every time I see the illustration for COCO, I say “Mama Coco”. Don’t judge me. LOL. Disney did an awesome job with COCO and sticking closely to Mexican heritage.
We watched a man make beautiful figures using glass beads and a needle. We drunk tuba water (water made from coconut palm, walnuts, diced apples, and palm sugar) which was really good. We were able to shop in the flea market as well as the street markets. Haggling is the name of the game when shopping in Mexico. And my mom is very good at haggling. I mean she does it every time she goes shopping so I’m not surprised she talked her total down from $100.00 USD to $55.00USD for an authentic leather purse and wallet, LOL. And most vendors accept Pesos as well as USD.
Afterward we took a stroll through the Romance District which is a very cool area. It’s also a safe area for the LGBT community. Bryan let us know that no one bothers the LGBT community in Puerto Vallarta; they are free to live as they choose without persecutions.
While walking through the city I never once felt unsafe. Everyone was nice and greeted us, even in the back alleys. All the things I heard about Mexico prior to my trip there were not true or at least during my visit I did not notice any of it. I have been to other countries before where I felt unsafe and I did not have that feeling at all. Bryan did inform us that Puerto Vallarta was one of the safest cities in Mexico and after the tour Bryan got us a taxi back to the hotel.
We return to our hotel and enjoyed the rest of our evening. The next morning we ate breakfast and I tried Mexican coffee, which was pretty interesting. Mexican coffee has cinnamon, orange peel, sugar, anise and clove. It was a little thicker than most coffees I’ve had, but good. After breakfast we checked out and waited for our driver. I must say the staff at Hard Rock took great care of us from beginning til end.
I will visit Puerto Vallarta again, but next time I will stay in a local hotel and eat the local cuisine so that I can experience more of their culture. Being in an all-inclusive resort made me feel like I was disconnected for the pulse of the city. Not a bad thing, just different than most of my international trips.