Travel Diaries: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Rachael here! In July my husband and I both had a week off from work, so we looked at each other and said, “pick a spot!”. We knew we wanted to get out of town, and we decided to combine it with a trip to see family as well. So off to Puerto Vallarta we flew, with just a few days notice. We tried to have a good balance between fun family time and romantic time with just the two of us. Mission accomplished. Here are some of our favorites, for anyone who is planning to visit this beautiful Mexican state of Jalisco.PuertoVallartaTravelDiaries

Lodging

We went with Air BnB, and sadly ended up with a dud of a place. The apartment and location was great, but the host was a nightmare to deal with. Job is turned off of airbnb because of it, but we’ve had many good experiences with airbnb prior, so I am willing to try again on a different trip. I won’t recommend our exact condo, but as far as locations, it really depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. As for us, we wanted close to the beach, near restaurants, culture, spas, and romantic streets to walk around. Zona Romantica was the best for our needs, and we loved staying in this area. It felt like a really good mix of authentic Mexico (i.e. not a huge resort that could be anywhere in the world), but had some good amenities and things to do for travelers. If you are going for pure relaxation and beach, and don’t care about being close to nightlife/restaurants/spas, etc, we recommend going slightly south to the Conchas Chinas area (still within an uber ride to town), or head quite a bit up North to Nuevo Vallarta to stay. We traveled to all three of these areas and enjoyed visiting each of them. Again, it just depends on what you want from your vacation.

 

Food

I could go on and on about this. We go hard when it comes to food when we travel. For the few days before we left, we ate really simple, to prepare our palates (and bellies) for all the good food we were going to eat. We also have a pretty strict rule about eating the food of the area wherever we travel. I.e., when we are in Mexico, we are eating Mexican food for every meal (we cheated a few times with gelato, but otherwise were 100%). Sure there are lots of Italian restaurants, and “American Food”, and other types of food, but we want to experience the food of the area we are in! In Puerto Vallarta, that meant a lot of seafood, some interesting local specialties (like torta ahogada), and general Mexican favorites (taaaaaacos!).

A few places we recommend trying while in the area.

El Arrayán

Address: Calle Allende 344, Centro, 48351 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

This was one of our favorite meals of the trip. It’s a tad “upscale” without being stuffy, and has an awesome environment. The staff was attentive, kind, and knowledgeable, and the food was all spot on. We loved all their salsas, and virgin cocktails, and even made room for some incredible chocolate and cinnamon cake with coffee ice cream. Our maid dishes blew us away (Duck carnitas, and chicken mole). Grab your significant other, and head to El Arrayán.

Tortas Ahogadas Toño
Address: Lisboa 136, La Vena, 48320 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Great location for this local specialty. The bread is crispy and firm to hold up to the sauce it is dipped in.
Marisma Fish Taco
Address: Naranjo 320, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Fish tacos. Enough said. BUT, also try their tamarind drink, it’s one of the best I’ve had. The cook is a spicy and spunky lady, who loves to make her customers laugh. We got lots of fish tacos, and also shrimp tacos which were bomb. The smoked marlin taco was not my fave, but that’s just preference. It was all well made.
Restaurant El Set
Address: Carr. Costera a Barra de Navidad 1182, Conchas Chinas, 48390 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
 We went here for breakfast one morning and were the only ones there when it first opened. It was peaceful and lovely to have the place to ourselves. The main draw to this place is the view. It is an incredible overlook onto a white sand beach, palm trees, the works. The food is solid (chilaquiles and a fresh fruit juice is my recommendation). Have I had better Mexican food? Sure. But for a quick, tasty breakfast with a gorgeous view, this is a hit.
Address: Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez 128, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

I’ll talk about visiting here later on in the post, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you to get a chicken mole tostada here. It was one of the best dang mole tostadas I’ve ever had. Just the right amount of spice, chocolate, super crisp tostone, ahhh. It’s right off the malecon, so easy to hop into for a snack. We tried a few other things here that were “meh”, but I would go back for that tostada.
Tacos de Birria Chanfay
Address: Venustiano Carranza 373, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
A local specialty. I recommend the beef taco birria, crispy style. Totes delish. Go for breakfast.
Address: Basilio Badillo 162, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
We went to the location in Nuevo Vallarta with family. That address is: Pancho’s Takos, Valle de México 113, Valle Dorado, Mezcales, Nayarit, Mexico
Really, really great tacos. More northern style. My husband called the pork chop taco revolutionary (and he’s Mexican). We got way too much food, and ate every bite. Tip: ask for grilled baby onions and chiles. Squeeze lime and salt over them and you are in business.
Did we order this twice in a row? Yes we did. Aquachiles is one of my favorite Mexican dishes, and this guy is a legend. He makes the best fresh aguachiles from the catch of the day, and delivers it to your door. Brilliant. I love the classic green, and the mango and basil.
Cenaduría Coyoacan
Address: Calle Valle de Zirahuen 275, Valle Dorado, Mezcales, Nay., Mexico
This is a place to try if you are in in the Nuevo Vallarta area. It had delicious pozole, and we also tried the pambazos, and gorditas. This is a local joint, and you’ll feel like a local eating there.

Day Trips

Sayulita

This is the cutest little hippy surfer town. The beach was too busy at the time we went, but we carved out a little corner and enjoyed it for a little bit. The best part was walking around the little town, looking at all the shops, admiring the colors of the Papel Picado and pom poms made by local women, and eating churros (churros unrelated to Sayulita, I just really enjoyed them).

Nuevo Vallarta

Take a drive up to Nuevo Vallarta for the beaches, and some great food. We took uber up there several times to see family, and they would very kindly drive us back down to Puerto Vallarta. It’s about 30 minutes without traffic, 45 with.

We didn’t go to Marieta Islands this trip, but some family members have been and enjoyed it. Worth looking in to, but from all I’ve heard, go early in the day to avoid crowds.

 

Favorite Beaches

There are lots of beaches up and down the coast, and if we had tons of time and a car, we would have tried more. But we got to enjoy 6-7 in our short time there, which is not too shabby. Next time, I want to try out some of the incredible beaches that are only accessible by boat. Here are our favorites out of the ones that we did see and enjoy:

Conchas Chinas Playa

Our all time favorite. The most incredible light turquoise water, quiet and secluded (go early to have the beach to yourself), and perfectly soft sand. There are huge rock formations that form tide pools, and you can search for lots of fun sea creatures. The water was clean, and the waves were so chill, which made it a really relaxing location.

Playa Palmares

Clean, not so busy, clear water, gorgeous views.

Nuevo Vallarta Beach

This beach had great waves for body boarding and jumping in. It was family friendly and had easy parking. There was a pool for those who want to go from pool to ocean and back.

 

Things to Do:

  • Make your own food tour (see above for ideas of where to go). We interspersed our food tour with three museums.

–Cuale Museum (Archaeological Museum), free. This is on the Cuale River Island and is small, but worth a few minutes to learn about the trade industry in Mexico. It’s fascinating to see how other countries have affected Mexican culture and visa vera.

–Naval Historial Museum, free on Wednesdays, a few bucks otherwise. This was a cool museum! At first, I was wondering if we should skip it but I’m glad we checked it out. It also was a great place to take advantage of the AC during the hottest time of the day.

–ChocoMuseo, free. Calling this a museum is a stretch, but there is a chocolate shop, chocolate cafe, and a tiny area were they some plaques on the wall talk about how chocolate is made. It’s a cute place to hop into, and the chocolate is really good (see also: chicken mole tostada).

  • Walk the Malecon. It’s a long boardwalk along the beach and has lots of really cool art sculptures to see and shops to enjoy. Check out playa Muertos while you are here, not to hang out on the beach (way too busy for my liking), but to watch the sunset, and walk the pier. If you are staying in Zona Romantica, Playa Muertos is the closest beach to you. It’s nice to check out, not to spend hours at.
  • Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Check out this stunning church as you are walking the Malecon. It has a crown! It’s a really beautiful piece of architecture, and well worth a trip inside as well.
  • Palo Maria Cascadas. This is a jungle hike to some impressive waterfalls and swimming holes. Fair warning, it’s a tricky hike (and we followed some locals on a secret back way that ended up being the secret harder way). I would not suggest it for kids of any age, and make sure you are confident in your footing. Once you get to the “trailhead” (it’s just off the road, down from a little bridge) follow the fence for as long as you can, and then follow the river. Our route then took us up a steep cliff for a while to get up to the top pools, but you can also go to the bottom pools much easier, and then from the bottom pools you can climb a rope up to the top pools. Again, I don’t really know why we followed the locals, but alls well that ends well. It was very satisfying to make it to the pools, and the water was clean, clear, and refreshing. It also 100% felt like we were in Jurrasic Park while we were hiking. And that we were on the wrong side of the fence haha. We didn’t see any dinosaurs, but we did catch sight of lots of other local bugs and animals. The flora was stunning.
  • Get a Massage Job found a place close to our condo, and he got an almost 2 hour, deep tissue massage for about $50! He went to Metamorfosis. There are tons of places, so just look for one near you, and get your relaxation on.mexicophotos

Let us know if you have gone, or are planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta! We want to hear what you like!

Read * Watch * Listen

Happy Saturday! We love to get up early on Saturdays to get work done, so then we can relax and enjoy some leisure time in the afternoons. Here is a quick roundup of what we have been loving to read, watch and listen to on Saturdays (or any day we can snag a few minutes ;). There is so much out there to choose from, but these are a few items of media that we feel are worth your time and attention.

ReadWatchListen_read watch listen 1

  1. Crazy Rich Asians. Read the book before the movie comes out! It is a fun, light book, with plenty of silly drama.
  2. Educated. A fascinating and moving memoir about author Tara Westover’s experience growing up in an extremist household without formal education or healthcare, and how she went on to better her life in extraordinary ways.
  3. Sonnets from the Portuguese.  Elizabeth Barret Browning’s sonnets are something to escape with. Her writings of love are magnificently written.
  4. Traveling Home. You of course already follow The Bucket List Family. Well, this is their new show that came out July 1st (on YouTube-Home Love Network), about collecting inspiration for their new home, from all around the world. We really enjoy the down to earth, adventurous, and sweet nature of the Gee Family, and the Home Love Network does a great job at sharing the process of designing their new home in Hawaii. New episodes every Sunday.
  5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 10/10 would recommend this documentary. It is a salient and heartfelt look at Fred Roger’s life and vision for the show ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’, and how he calmly used his skills to reach children (and adults) in a way no other show on television did. This documentary is not “in your face” with its lessons, but they are powerful. Bring tissues.
  6. Queer Eye. Season 2. Enough said. (But seriously, if you haven’t already watched season 1, please evaluate your life, and then go watch it all).
  7. I Put a Spell on You, Album by Nina Simone.  The sweet, soulful sounds of Nina Simone are a go-to in our house. This album is the perfect one to start with if you’re new to Nina. Put it on and chill out this Sunday afternoon.
  8. Downtown, by Allie X.  This was a recommendation from a friend who I always trust with music advice. Allie X has a great, airy sound, and her music is creative and new. Start with the song Downtown.
  9. Judge John Hodgeman. I am a huge podcast geek, and Judge John Hodgeman is one I put on when I need something witty, quick, goofy, that makes me laugh. Everyone needs something lighter in their podcast roundup and this one’s perfect in its ability to be funny and smart.

 

What are you reading, watching or listening to these days? We love recommendations!