Text by Jhovaneé Monge - Photos: Danilo Rottigni
If you're unfortunate enough to have only one day in Puerto Vallarta, don’t even think about trying to do it all. Just go for the gold, right at the heart of the city. Straight to the Vallarta Malecón, where even the universe stands down to take notice.
Walking along the broad ocean walk at any time of the day will give you a different experience. In the mornings, joggers see downtown at its quietest, in all its humility. But the evening is when it comes to life.
Visitors casually stroll, cameras in hand, snapping happy shots of the many sculptures along the walk. With benches for observing humanity.
Music invariably starts from some corner, sometimes the classical strings of Vivaldi, the blaring trumpets of Mariachi, or maybe the xylophone marimba.
Three-day Vallarta plan
For a three-day visit, you still must start out on the Malecon. It’s the only sure leverage I have for getting you to visit us again! So after a half-day there, I’m going to lead you out to one of the beaches in Puerto Vallarta, so get on your comfortable shoes.
Sandals are OK since there will be some walking on the beach, but you’ll be crossing rocks as well. So make sure they are not only comfortable but safe and secure. You also want to apply sunscreen, no matter if it’s morning or afternoon since the reflection of the sun on the water can burn you even if it’s cloudy. Don’t take the chance of ruining your vacation.
Playa Los Muertos
Grab your parasol and head south beyond Playa Los Muertos; you’ll pass some landmarks that I’ll point out to you. You’ll recognize one, it’s a replica of the Seahorse Statue found on the Malecón. And right up from that, to your left, is the stairway leading to the street above. Called the “poor man’s gym,” this stairway will get you in shape in no time at all. There are regulars who go up and down six or ten times without stopping.
Even if it looks like you can’t go much further, keep going south on the beach. You can follow the irregular coastline all the way to the restaurant below El Set. Stop and have a drink, maybe lunch. Then, either start back or head up the street to the road above to catch a taxi or bus back to town.
Now you’re going to want to do something different. Since Puerto Vallarta is on the sea, you’ll want to do something on the water. Visit Las Caletas, a hideaway for the late director John Huston for the last 20 years of his life when he wasn’t tightly involved in making a movie.
Go whaling. Or at least, the modern form of whaling, which means viewing the giant marine mammals as they breach, which is their act of leaping from the water, as well as performing other whale-like activities like blowing and sounding.
Swim on private beaches in hidden coves, accessible only by water. Or if you’re gregarious and daring, try parasailing, wave-running or bungee jumping. Or even stick to surfing along the northern shores. But do water.
At night have dinner with a view of the sea. There are many restaurants of every price range, menus with a fusion of flavors that trigger Caribbean nights and Latin music with the perfect Asian touch. Experiment and experience something new in Mexican flavors that broaden and expand your palate. Take pictures to show those you love that the stories you tell aren’t just tall tales.
On the third day, you’ve fallen in love. You want to do everything and nothing at the same time. Ride a horse into the mountains to a waterfall that washes all your cares away, even the fact that you forgot a bathing suit and are wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Your last day is nearly at an end, but you can’t spend it in your hotel so you head out to the Puerto Vallarta Malecón. I told you that you’d be back. This time you don’t even need to take pictures; you just want to walk and feel the ocean breeze and see what’s going on around you.
The colors blend, swirl, separate. Sounds do the same. People smile and your heart catches in the passing acknowledgment. As the sun goes down, you haven’t made it to your restaurant yet for the sunset cocktail, but you don’t feel like rushing. Everything begins to turn orange, then red, and you join the collective hush as the sun joins the sea.
More time in Puerto Vallarta
If you’re fortunate to have more time, don’t even stop to catch your breath.
Go into the mountains by small plane to visit a Huichol village and buy amazing bead art right from the ones who create it. Also by small plane, visit San Sebastián del Oeste, a small village emerging from its past as a mining town; or check out Mascota, an agricultural town hidden in the flatlands of the mountains to the east of Vallarta; or finally, stop in at Talpa de Allende, home of the Virgin of Talpa, where pilgrims can more than outnumber residents during special days.
- For the contemplative, go deeper into the countryside, enjoy birdwatching, set your sights on many of the over 300 winged species that call Banderas Bay home during the course of the year.
- Experience the baby turtle release during nesting season.
- Or stop in at the university to visit the crocodile pond, free of admission, and learn more about these marvelous reptiles that call this region home.
- On Isla Rio Cuale, look for handicrafts, beaded jewelry, hammocks, carved obsidian, and wood.
- Visit the FREE cultural museum which focuses on art, culture and the history of the region on the Cuale River Island.
- Stop in at the workshops on the east end of the Cuale Island, where classes are offered in painting, music, photography, printing, sculpture and much more.
The more you look through your new eyes and spirit, the more you will discover as Mexico opens doors to you unimagined. In this amiable land, where the real treasure is the people, you can learn to enjoy life at its very best again. Don’t let a day go by without a genuine experience.