Last year we went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for my 30th birthday. Julio had been there before and loved it, so he wanted to show me how amazing the area was, and honestly, I just wanted some quality beach time. We found an all-inclusive resort deal for 5 nights, 6 days including airfare out of LA on Groupon.com. Our coworker Jolene and her boyfriend Jeremy joined us, as well as my friend Lauren and her boyfriend Andy. We spent a lot of time relaxing and soaking up the sun, but there are some things you shouldn’t miss when you vacation in Puerto Vallarta.
This was my top priority when booking the trip because I had seen a picture of the beach from above on Instagram and immediately wanted to go. We booked a trip through our resort for a boat ride out to the islands (which are a National Park), that included a trip to the Hidden Beach, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle-boarding and snacks. It was almost a 2 hour ride out to the Marieta Islands because we were on a large, slow boat, but once we got there, Julio and I were in the first group to get off and swim to the Hidden Beach. At low tide, the water recedes enough to reveal a cave tunnel through to the beach, with a clearance of only about 3 feet. We swam through and there was a photographer there to take pictures of people from the boat, although a lot of people had waterproof phone cases and cameras so they were able to take personal pictures as well. The beach is located in a hole in the middle of one of the Marieta Islands, and is a beautiful natural wonder to see.
Julio had done a zip-lining tour in Puerto Vallarta the last time he had been there and said it was awesome, so we decided to book one for our trip. On our Outdoor Adventures tour through Vallarta Adventures, we not only zip-lined, but we took a donkey ride up a mountain, rappelled down waterfalls, walked over rope bridges, and slid down the world’s 3rd highest water slide drop at the finish. The slide was so intense, we had to wear elbow pads and hockey helmets/face masks just to ride! Our zip-lining adventure was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and definitely something to be sure to book in Puerto Vallarta.
3. Whale watch
We visited Mexico during the grey whale migration season, when they travel from Alaska all the way down to the warmer waters along the Baja peninsula. While we didn’t take a specific whale watching tour (although there were plenty to choose from) we saw whales both on our trip to the Marieta Islands from afar and on our speedboat ride back from zip-lining. The great part about our little speedboat was that it limited us to a relatively small group, so when we spotted a grey whale in the distance, our guide was able to drive our boat within 150 yards of a momma and her baby. They were both jumping out of the water, playing around, and the momma was floating on her back, flapping her giant fins. It was fantastic to get to close to such a massive animal, and the baby was so cute!
One of our regulars at the bar suggested we visit the small town of Sayulita while we were in Purrto Vallarta. Because the location of our resort was about 45 minutes northwest of downtown Puerto Vallarta already, we were only about 20 minutes from this picturesque surf town. Sayulita doesn’t have the touristy feel that downtown PV has, and it true to the Mexican culture around them. The beaches were stunning, and we had an amazing seafood dinner one night while we were there. We also found a taco stand that sold the best el pastor tacos I’ve ever had- we probably went back 4 times over the course of one day! I could spend an entire week in Sayulita alone, and I’m glad we took Dave up on his recommendation.
Obviously when you go to the Baja Peninsula, it’s a given that you’ll spend time in the water. But with all the tours and activities available, we wanted to make sure we spent some time just laying out on the sand right in front of our resort. We stayed at the Grand Palladium Vallarta and we took full advantage of our all-inclusive wristband for the week. There were swim-up pool bars, beach bars, free snorkeling, and kayak rentals all on the property. Their beach area is beautiful, with plenty of umbrellas and lounges chairs for everyone. It was complete relaxation as we sun-tanned, napped, and cooled off in the water for two full days. It was the perfect Mexican beach getaway.
Puerto Vallarta has a lot to offer in the way of tourist activities and beaches. I was very glad our resort was actually away from the downtown scene, although we did go to the boardwalk one night and see the touristy area. Grand Palladium Vallarta often offers the same Groupon deal we bought so if you’re thinking about a Mexican vacation, take a look because the flights from several major U.S. airports are included. Mexico is a great place to visit and Julio and I can’t wait to go back.