WHERE MEXICO COMES TO LIFE
By Patricia Lee
Photos by Eddy Spivak
Boasting gorgeous beaches, perfect weather, rich culture, exciting activities, bustling nightlife, great cuisine, and charming art, Puerto Vallarta lures paradise-lovers, adventurers, partygoers, beach worshippers, and culture seekers.
That's why we booked a short trip to this great sounding place.
Just a short two-hour flight from Los Angeles, we arrived in mid-afternoon. We grabbed guidebooks, maps and rented a four wheel drive Jeep - the perfect vehicle to do a little "off road" exploring.
We began the adventure by driving towards Mismaloya. We passed incredible scenic views and sought to find the waterfall in El Eden. After twenty minutes of off-roading fun through windy, lush, mountainous terrain, we reached a dead end. Stairs guided us to the spectacular waterfall. As roaring water cascaded over enormous rocks, we swam around and underneath the waterfall. On our way back, we pulled to the side and watched the sunset beyond a breathtaking view of Los Arcos.
With one of the world's most beautiful bays, Puerto Vallarta proved to be an outdoor delight offering kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, bungee jumping, atv treks, canopy tours, and more. For us, secluded Marietas Island beckoned us. Puerto Vallarta's central location on Banderas Bay made exploring nearby cities a breeze. Forty-five minutes away, in Nuevo Vallarta, we rented a jet ski and raced twenty exhilarating miles into the ocean to unparalleled soft, white sand and luminous, turquoise water. (For a shorter trip, rent transportation in the Punta Mita peninsula, which is just miles away from Marietas Island.)
For a bit of bustle, Malecon's downtown beach boardwalk had something for everyone. Intriguing bronze statues along the promenade provided an outdoor art show, as we strolled the lively walkway full of street vendors, street performers, tourists, and locals. Adjacent to it, crowds flocked to the beach and its hypnotic blue ocean. Sunbathers relaxed on soft sand and parasailers absorbed breathtaking views, as children and adults enjoyed the warm ocean water with body surfers, jet skiers, and boaters. Downtown, the flea market overflowed with colorful and unique handicrafts, ranging from sombreros, blankets, and jewelry, to leather goods, ceramics, and artwork to name a few - all enticing us into endless exploration.
Foodies at heart, we often opted for the rich flavors of local, non-touristy haunts. In Nuevo Vallarta, the asada tacos and burritos at Peter & Carmen's Burritos & Tacos stand tantalized our taste buds. A few blocks away, we fancied Angelo's mix of great Italian food and classy ambiance, as we dined to 40's jazz wafting softly around us. Towards Nuevo Vallarta, we joined seafood revelers at a local hotspot called Mauricio's, a large, open-air restaurant stand. Sitting on blue plastic Pepsi chairs, we feasted on simply savory, generous portions of lobster, fish, steak, and shrimp.
Just before Nuevo Vallarta, in the village of Mezcales, dirt roads led us to El Canelo, a restaurant bar. Star shaped fixtures hang from the ceiling and old photos from Mexican history adorn brick walls. We sipped Coronitas and snacked on freshly made, mouthwatering nachos, guacamole, and salsa. Across the street and open until 3 am, Pollos Rostizados Y Asados' tasty tacos and creamy guacamole partied in our palates and left us wanting more.
At sunset, Malecon transforms into a partygoer's delight. Stuffed to capacity, patrons spilled out from open-air bars and restaurants and into a sea of fellow partiers carousing in the streets. Inside, lively crowds drank, chatted, flirted, people watched, and danced, as groove inducing beats, ranging from hip-hop and house to rock and salsa played in the background.
After our daily adventures, we craved relaxation and rejuvenation. In Puerto Vallarta's romantic zone, Playa Los Arcos' warm colored rooms and wooden, handmade decor created a cozy, beachside atmosphere with old world charm. From there, we easily walked to the boardwalk, restaurants, bars, and shops.
We spent our last four days in Nuevo Vallarta, at the luxurious beachside resort, Villa Del Palmar Flamingos. Ocean facing rooms enveloped a lavish, mini paradise of palm trees, greenery, lounge areas, and an exquisite lagoon made up of three connecting pools. Daily happy hours at its various bars, fun games, water aerobic classes, pool volleyball, onsite masseuses, spas, and amazing evening shows entertained and relaxed patrons.
As the plane descended upon LA, I found myself wistfully recounting the amazing time we had in Puerto Vallarta. I long to return to this outdoor heaven, also known as the birthplace of agave and Mariachi. But who knows? I just might, for this paradise a close escape to a hectic life in Los Angeles.
Where to eat:
Peter & Carmen's Burritos & Tacos: Corner of Olas Altas/ MM Dieguez
Angelo's Italian Cuisine Steaks: Rodolfo Gomez 158-A Esq Olas Altas Col
Mauricio's: Road to Las Palmas 176 Ixtapa/ Off highway 200
Mezcalez: El Canelo: Crucero
Pollos Rostizados Y Asados: Carr. A. San Juan S/N
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