The first time Jeff & I visited Mexico (probably 20 years ago), we actually stayed in Nuevo Vallarta. An area North of Puerto Vallarta where lots of big, shiny, all-inclusive resorts were being built. But during that first trip, we took a cab ride into town (30-40 minutes) and we loved it there. The Romatic Zone in Puerto Vallarta feels like real Mexico, as opposed to an all-inclusive haven. There are lots of great restaurants, tons of shopping, and plenty to see. We found our way to a smallish hotel called Playa Los Arcos and stayed there twice more in subsequent years. It’s not fancy compared to some of the all-inclusives in Nuevo Vallarta, but it is authentic and charming. We also knew that by staying here with our kids, they would get more out of this trip than they would your average warm weather beach vacation. Old PV, while charming, can be a little bit gritty, and pretty different from life in the Boston suburbs (exactly what the girls needed). So off we went…
Turns out the girls totally appreciated this part of town too. So many interesting shops and street vendors. Something different around every corner. We were out walking one afternoon, and I was taking Grace’s picture and this boy (16 or 17 maybe?) came out of one of the shops and handed her those flower petals. I’m not really sure if he saw us coming or if he was just hanging onto them waiting for a cute girl to walk by, but she totally blushed and it was pretty sweet.
Of course they also loved the beach:
Here are a few more details from the area where we stayed:
One thing about PV is that there are lots of dogs and cats roaming free. Some may belong to owners, but most probably don’t. There is now a shelter that does great work to take care of many of the strays in PV and find homes for them in the US & Canada — the SPCAPV There were so many friendly cats and dogs we came across — the girls would have taken home all of them if they could have.
We spent our mornings on long walks through town, exploring the hilly areas and always wondering what was around the next corner. This is so typical of the way we travel. Whenever we think we might be ready to turn around, we wonder what we might miss if we didn’t walk just a little further.
After exploring we’d spend the afternoon on the beach and jumping in the waves. And at about 5:00, I’d soak in the absolutely amazing light that I remembered from so many years ago, and photograph silhouettes of the people walking by.
Then there was the quest for dolphins. The girls were BEGGING to swim with dolphins and there is a facility in Puerto Vallarta where you can do this. But I just couldn’t do it. Dolphins don’t belong in a pool but in a giant pod of other dolphins in the ocean. And believe me, we had a lot of debates in our family in the weeks leading up to this trip (“If we don’t swim with them someone else will!”), and I knew how badly the girls wanted to see dolphins. So we chartered a boat so that we could go out on the water and hopefully see dolphins in their envionment. The captain said — “Oh yes — always — we see dolphins!” We were so excited! And while it was certainly a lovely boat trip out to Los Arcos… sadly, we saw no dolphins. But you know — there’s a lesson for the kids. Nature is in charge — not us. It was not the day to see dolphins, and the good news is it was up to them, not us. We still had a great time and saw some awesome fish where we stopped to snorkel (yeah, ok, little fish, even colorful ones, are not the same as dolphins… but it is what it is…) ;)
Everyone’s clearly got their eyes peeled for dolphins…
Here we are arriving at Los Arcos — a pretty awesome place, dolphins or not.
A whole lot of our trip was just plain fun — which is exactly what we needed after this winter. Fish tacos and cervesas on the beach at lunch, trying on sombreros in the stores, drinking margaritas as big as our heads (us, not the kids!), buying jewelry from the beach vendors (these people work their tails off in the hot sun — so be nice to them if you ever go to Mexico!)
And of course our trip would not be complete without dinner at La Palapa (second photo above). Jeff and I ate here almost 20 years ago on our first trip to Puerto Vallarta. Our first big trip together. Table in the sand. Flaming Mexican Coffees made tableside. And the biggest sea turtle we had ever seen comes crawling up on the beach right next to our table. It was an unforgettable dinner so of course we had to come back with the girls. And it was equally magical (ok, except for no sea turtles — apparently the wildlife was not that excited to see us during this trip!). And here was the part of the trip where I got a little teary (it always happens). Our kids didn’t even exist on that night so long ago. And really they were so far from our minds we couldn’t have even imagined them (we weren’t even engaged then!) that it was pretty amazing to sit in that same spot and contemplate where we are now. And life is good.