Mexico 2006 & 2008: Puerto Vallarta
I visited Puerto Vallarta which is on the Pacific side of Mexico twice-once with my sister and then as a bridesmaid on a bachelorette trip. Both trips were tremendously different, but oh so fun.
In 2006, I had just gotten my teaching credential and was interviewing for jobs. I had some leads, but still it was nerve-wrecking waiting to hear from prospective employers. To calm my nerves and to celebrate, my sister, Hina and I decided to take a quick trip to Mexico. We chose Puerto Vallarta because it is far more economical than the Caribbean side of Mexico. We searched online for some inclusive packages and found a great deal and quickly booked it.
We flew to the airport and took a cab to the hotel. Let me tell you something about the driving conditions there-they are bad! It's crowded and maybe it was the driver (or the second driver we had), but we thought we were going to die. The trip to the hotel was pretty. We drove along the coast and saw many resorts and hotels. But the ride there -uff!
We got dropped off at the entrance of the lobby in one piece (thank Gawd!) and then we made our way to the hotel rooms. The lobby was very cute and tropical. There was Mexican (or island) music playing and the warm, sweet air welcomed us with open arms. The hotel room was nice too, but it was the view that got us. We had a private balcony overlooking the ocean! We almost died of happiness. It comes as a no-brainer, but always try to get an ocean-view room. It changes your whole experience.
Anyways we settled in and went straight to the pool or was it to eat? lol. Anyways, days were spent lying on the beach or by the poolside and having endless supply of exotic food and drinks (all inclusive). We met great groups of people from all around the world and from every age group. Our nights were spent watching great (and free!) shows the hotel put on. The amount of water sports were endless. I only got to do parasailing. Literally, it was a split-moment decision and I paid only $40 dollars. That was a wonderful experience. The boat was on the shore and I was strapped in to the parachute and then there was lift-off and I flew like a bird. Amazing experience!
We had some great stories as well. Bored of the resort life (Yes and don't judge us) we took some day trips here and there as well. One of the fun things we did was visit a water park. I don't remember how we found out, but there is a public bus that takes us there. We could have taken a cab, but we wanted to be adventurous (I guess we forgot about the cab ride from the airport). Anyways, in Mexico there are no bus stops. We searched for one and looked as clueless and dumb as possible. Finally we saw a middle-aged woman standing by the rode with groceries so we stood next to her. One thing that helped us was our background from Pakistan. Pakistani public transportation is the same with no bus stops. People just huddle together in a group and the bus comes and picks them up. So we tried that and Mama Mia it worked! The bus picked us up. We got a lot of stares from the locals on the bus and we were not done being both uncomfortable and excited, when a Mariachi guitar-person starting playing the guitar on the bus! Talk about good timing!
Another day trip we did was ATV driving. At our hotel, there were booking agents that would sell tours to the visitors. There was bungee jumping, fishing, snorkeling, and urban tours-we booked an ATV tour. A tour bus took us to the inner-skirts of the city and that's where the ATVs stood. Most of our group members were male and let me tell you, that helps! Those machines are heavy and dangerous if flipped. This other girl and I were the only female drivers on this trip. To be honest, it was empowering and I was quite proud of myself. We drove through forests, unpaved paths, and even rivers. Let me tell you this-you get dirty! If you see our pictures, we are covered in dust. They even give us a handkerchief to cover our faces. The tour lasted the whole day and it was wonderful to come back to the hotel, take a shower and look at the sunset by the pool.
My second trip to Puerto Vallarta was spontaneous and full of drama. It was a totally different experience, but loads of fun. The Maid of Honor had lived in this city for some time so she knew the places really well. This time instead of a cab, she drove us around. On this trip, we stayed at a condo/apartment by the beach. Totally worth the extra money! The building was near a market so we got to do a lot of souvenir shopping as well. There are people on the beach trying to sell you stuff, but please haggle.
One of the first things we did was a have a candle-lit dinner on the beach. It was so beautiful! The sun was setting and the cool, warm air mixed with the sweet, live music made us think we were in tropical paradise. This time around we explored some of the night life of Mexico. Not my cup of tea, but hey its an experience. I wouldn't recommend doing this with just girls. Looking back I thought it was a huge risk we took and I felt unsafe the whole time. The only thing that kept me together was the fact that we had a former local (the Maid of Honor) with us.
Some of the water activities we did was snorkeling and banana boating-both tremendously fun! We hired a boat to take us to a cove where there is plenty of marine life. The sailors warned us about jellyfishes and they weren't lying. I spent about two minutes in the water before I was being pricked by hundreds of needles. The two minutes I had swimming with the fish was magical though. The banana boat was cool and adventurous as well. The boat driver asked us if we wanted to be flipped. I was all up for it but, the groom's sister was hesitant so we told him no.
Since we had a car, we took another trip that was quite memorable. There is a forest (more like a jungle) a few miles away where Arnold Schwarzeneggar's, The Predetor was shot. That was beautiful! It rained there the whole time. We had to cover the hood of our jeep! If I remember right, we had a chance to visit the zoo too, but because of flight conflicts we didn't.
So, if you are looking for an economical and tropical vacation, then Puerta Vallarta is a choice to consider. Cabo may have the blue waters, but Puerto Vallarta is far less expensive and touristy. Pack sunblock please- you will get burned. Happy Traveling!
* One activity I remember doing was swimming with the dolphins. It was a lovely experience, but now I hear all sorts of horror stories about mistreatment of dolphins during the training process. So I personally don't recommend this, but do want to inform you about this activity.
Check this website out: http://visitpuertovallarta.com/