Puerto Vallarta is a part of Mexico that I had not experienced before, having only ever visited Mexico’s Caribbean coastline previously. I’d heard that the Pacific side is very different and I was excited to find out more.
After arriving to a wonderful welcome at Secrets Vallarta Bay, Puerto Vallarta, the first thing that struck me was the views out across Banderas Bay from the open air lobby bar… I would definitely be returning for a sundowner after settling in!
One of the many unique features of this resort is the access to the sister property Now Amber which is located next door. Both resorts have gourmet dining from a selection of a la carte restaurants, but the resort was also planning a Mexican Fiesta that would be taking place on the beach that evening with food and entertainment.
The following morning, I woke early and headed out onto my balcony to be greeted by the sight of dolphins playing just off shore in the calm, quiet sea, glistening in the early sunlight – such a memorable and special moment. Dolphins and humpback whales are all regular visitors in the bay and the tours guarantee whale sightings from December to March.
I wanted to join an Amstar tour to learn more about this incredible destination, so I picked the City and Jungle tour. The first stop is El Malecon, the boardwalk shopping area of Puerto Vallarta, which has everything on offer from charming boutiques and restaurants, to cigar factories and art galleries.
My favourite part of this beautiful town is The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a truly beautiful and impressive monument of faith built by the people. This church in the heart of the town was built with bricks, stones and materials donated by its people over a period of 30 years, resulting in the visible layering of different bricks.
With 80% of the residents of Puerto Vallarta being Catholic, it is not difficult to spot the religious people on public buses and footpaths as they all make the sign of the cross as they pass by the church. This pride and sense of belonging is just one of the differences that make this area magical.
The bars and restaurants here are filled with tourists and locals alike with a sense of unity compounded by the love of sun, sea and music – an experience not to be missed!
Taking a trip up into the Sierra Madre Mountains cannot come more highly recommended. I visited a family run tequila distillery and learnt about the process of making quality tequila. Of course you get to sample the products of their labour, and come to understand that pure Mexican Tequila is a flavour to savour and doesn’t need the salt and lime to disguise its taste….in fact, the addition of salt and lime was one made by the alcohol companies to make the poor quality Tequila more palatable.
Of course it would be wrong not to visit the bay where the Richard Burton film ‘Night of the Iguanas’ was made, where a beautiful beach overlooks the turquoise seas and stunning rock formations called Los Arcos. I happily had my picture taken with a giant Iguana– one for the album!
Heading further into the mountains, we had lunch by a beautiful stream overlooking the rolling landscape and being entertained by the local musicians. For the adventurous, there is the option to take to the skies and zip line your way around the mountains.
As the night draws in, one of Puerto Vallarta’s most popular tours – ‘The Rhythm of the Night’ is just beginning. After an incredibly scenic boat ride you land on the beach of a beautiful cove at Las Caletas and are guided ashore by flickering torches and candles. After a delicious dinner at a seaside table, the haunting flutes and beating drums beckon you into the jungle to witness the dance performance influenced by myths, legends and cultures of Mexico.
I was lucky enough to spend the second part of my trip at Nuevo Vallarta, about 30 minutes along the coastline from Puerto Vallarta, where I stayed at the beautiful and peaceful Dreams Villamagna Resort and Spa. This very spacious and quiet resort is part of an apartment community, making it perfect for relaxing by the pool with the family and enjoying the incredible Unlimited Luxury concept. I particularly loved the roof top Gohan Sushi Bar, with its excellent sushi and magnificent spot for watching the sunset and turn the sky shades of pink, purple and orange.
Puerto Vallarta is a little slice of pure Mexican paradise that I can’t wait to return to!