Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Here’s what we did in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
This was one of the easiest trips for me to plan. Why? Our plan was to stay low-key, and because I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta a few times throughout my childhood. I was so excited to share my memories, and create more.
Travel Dates: 10-14 February 2018
Airline: American Airlines
DCA – PHX – PVR
PVR – DAL – DCA
Most flights were $450-600 round trip per person, and we didn’t think we’d have time to get away from work, but about 3 weeks prior to this trip, I was determined to make it happen. I was thrilled to find this flight option for $301 round trip per person!
The Catch? We had to go 1 weekend earlier, losing a day because there was no holiday weekend off of work, and no bags, and no overhead compartment access! We would have had to pay $350 each just to have a carry-on. $100 for a bag? No thank you. I’ll just buy things in Mexico if I need more! We fit everything we needed for our extended weekend getaway into a backpack. Travel light! It has many benefits!
Shout out to American Airlines for supporting the military! We were thrilled to learn last year that if you’re active duty military with an American Airlines ticket, you can access their airport lounges! Thank you! (Little perks like this make us loyal supporters of your company, and also make a huge difference for us, and likely don’t affect the business’ profit at all. Great marketing plan.)
As of this post, a tourist visa is only required if visiting more than 180 days. You need a valid passport with at least 1 blank page.
Always check with the U.S. Department of State before traveling to foreign countries. Visa requirements, and crime concerns, are regularly changing.
As of January 10, 2018, there is an increased caution alert due to crime in Mexico. Thankfully Puerto Vallarta was on the approved list for travel.
Hotel: Playa Los Arcos Suites
Finding a hotel was easy. My grandma has been traveling to Puerto Vallarta for decades. While there, she showed us the various hotels she tried out in the “early years,” but they settled on this one. We love it too!
Perfect location: It’s located in the romantic district with hundreds of restauarants within blocks. It’s only ½ mile south of the Malecon. It’s on the beach, with multiple pool options (a pool on the roof too).
There are activities including evening entertainment and dancers. The staff is exceptionally nice. Say hi to Ramon for me! Ramon met me 22 years ago during my first visit to Playa Los Arcos, and he’s still working there greeting guests at the front entrance. That shows you that the hotel must be treating their employees right.
Other hotel options?
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive hotel, there plenty to choose from.
-Playa Los Arcos offers an all-inclusive option, but we prefer to try out the variety of local restaurants.
-There are numerous resort-style all-inclusive hotels, but most are on the north side of Puerto Vallarta and require a shuttle or bus to the downtown Malecon area.
If you’re looking for a less expensive hotel, there are dozens of small hotels nestled into the streets of Old Town. We found a few within blocks of Playa Los Arcos that only cost $50-80 per night. (Additionally, you can buy a day pass to access the Playa Los Arcos hotel pools and beach chairs.)
Transportation: This is one of my favorite features of Puerto Vallarta! Once you get to the hotel, you don’t need any transportation! Everything is in walking distance!!!
To top that off, the public bus from the airport to the hotel is extremely easy and only costs 8 pesos (as of today, that’s 43 cents)! It’s a cultural experience, so it may not be for you, and it would be harder with luggage, but with just our backpacks, it was easy.
Bus Directions at the Airport: Exit the baggage area and turn left (south). Walk to the end of the airport building and look left. You’ll see a public bus stop right there! (It’s on the same side of the street as the airport.) If you’re going to Old Town, look for the bus that says Centro. Do NOT go on the bus to Pitillal. Pitillal goes to rural areas outside of town. Playa Los Arcos is at the last stop. You have to walk 3 blocks when you get off of the bus. It’s about a 30 min bus ride.
If the public bus isn’t for you, the taxis are not expensive either. From the airport to Old Town is about $23. When you return to the airport, it’s only about $11. Have your hotel call the taxi for you and negotiate the rate before entering the taxi. Pay upon arrival at the destination.
Usually we’re on the go between multiple cities, but this trip just has 1 destination! I thought it was more relaxing, but my husband said, “We went 8 miles before lunch, that is “on the go.”‘ Hahaha. Well, 4 miles of that was a run.
There is so much to do, we could have easily spent an entire week here. (And that is not like us to say. We often cover large cities in just 3 days, and don’t feel like we need more time.)
Day 1 – Arrival
We left our house at 4am and had a long day of traveling. We arrived in Puerto Vallarta around 6pm and got to the hotel around 7pm. Our hotel had evening entertainment, so we enjoyed a light dinner with drinks while watching the Mexican dancers.
Day 2 – “First Day”
- Run to the end of the Malecon (2 miles round trip). We went a bit early, it was still dark, so there wasn’t much activity
- Walk to the south end of the beach (about 1 mile round trip)
- Run to the end of the Malecon (2 miles round trip). I need to work out to feel good, so we took another quick run before breakfast. There were more people out, lots of runners. If you’re into exercising, you can feel safe running along the ocean and Malecon here.
- Breakfast at Playa Los Arcos. I ordered off of the menu and enjoyed an omelet for 89 pesos; however, for 205 pesos, you can try a little bit of everything at the breakfast buffet. Andy enjoyed the tamales, chilaquiles, fresh fruit, eggs, and more!
- We spent the morning walking through all of the markets. There is so much shopping available, and you can bargain with everyone. I was on the lookout for hammered silver earrings and a necklace, and leather purse.
- We spent the afternoon sun tanning by the hotel pool during happy hour (2 for 1 drinks) and sun tanning by the beach.
- Dinner at Coco Tropical on the beach with a gorgeous sunset! This was our favorite restaurant. Good prices, great food, great atmosphere and location.
- Walk the Malecon at night. There is so much going on. There are typically performances at the arches (Los Arcos), street performers, music, and more. It was a Sunday night, and there were hundreds of locals by the arches, and the Malecon was packed. It’s a ½ mile stretch one-way, so a 1 mile walk.
Day 3 – “Second Day”
- Run along the Malecon, and further, to a local fitness track. There were dozens of locals working out here, so it was a fun experience to join them.
- Breakfast at Fredy’s Tucan. This is a very popular place, so there was a 15-minute wait. I enjoyed a delicious local Mexican dish.
- Yarita Bakery (Google Maps pin: https://goo.gl/maps/q9jwUUKD1RN2) across the street is delicious if you want to pick up dessert on the way home. Even better, go 1 block further inland and buy bakery from a local on the street corner out of her basket. It’s likely only 7 pesos.
- We walked the beach again, suntanned by the ocean, and swam in the rooftop pool at the hotel. (The hotel has 3 buildings. No matter which you stay at, you have access to all 3. The rooftop pool is at Casa Dona Susana.) Then we explored the streets of Old Town (The Romantic Zone).
- For dinner, we wanted to eat at Los Arbolitos near the foothills, but sadly they closed last month. It was still nice to walk the streets back to the river. We enjoyed fresh churros from the street vendor for only 10 cents each. Instead, we ate at the famous Daiquiri Dicks on the ocean. It was delicious, but a bit overpriced.
Interested in fresh churros? Here’s a Google Maps link to our churro guy! https://goo.gl/maps/fEoLFc7rVRT2
- In the evening, we walked the Malecon again and enjoyed frozen yogurt.
Day 4 – “Third Day”
- Ran the malecon
- Breakfast at the café on the side of Los Arcos. (Omelets are only 59 pesos and include fruit and chilaquiles or pancakes!) Delicious!
- Today we went on our “adventure.” We wanted to do it like the locals, so we took the city bus south to Boca. The bus is only 8-9 pesos each! Here’s the Google Maps pin for the bus stop from “Los Arcos” to “Boca:” https://goo.gl/maps/gLuDY6jg2Ko
Boca was a small village with a quaint beach. From there, we hiked around the peak to Colomitos. Sadly, the Ocean Bar in Colomitos shut down because the owner didn’t pay his federal taxes! There were a few locals also at the small beach, and we met a few more groups walking to the next famous beach, Las Animas. Colomitos is about a 40-minute hike if you’re in great shape, but it’s very hilly with uneven ground, stairs, dirt, etc. We took my 83-year-old grandma with us, so we went slow to make sure no one got hurt. It took about 1 hr 45 min. (I wouldn’t recommend it for elderly. Instead, take a water taxi from Boca in only 5 minutes. We took the water taxi back. It probably should have cost 60 peso total, but he knew we weren’t going to hike back so he charged us 70 pesos per person.)
- In the afternoon, we enjoyed the beach and ocean back by Playa Los Arcos.
- It was hard to decide on dinner. There are so many restaurants I remembered from my last visit, so I went to Trip Advisor. The #8 restaurant was one I remembered, La Palapa. It’s also just a few blocks away on the ocean. Gorgeous setting; however, also a bit overpriced. I enjoyed my meal, but we’d prefer less expensive Mexican food.
- Tonight was the Mardi Gras parade. It started by the Sheraton about ½ mile north of the Malecon and ended just past our hotel. I was a bit disappointed. I thought Mardi Gras was more of a carnival celebration; however, this was more of a gay pride parade.
Day 5 – “Last day”
- We took our normal run and saw the “regulars.” As we passed the fresh fish market, a man said, “just on time, like clockwork.”
- We liked yesterday’s breakfast so much, we ate again at the café on the side of Los Arcos.
- Walked through the streets of Old Town and the markets behind the Malecon.
- By Noon we had to head to the airport. To save time, we took a taxi for about $10 + tip.
- We found “fish on a stick” for only 30 pesos each. It was usually Marlin. Delicious!
Here’s the Google Maps link to where we bought our fish on a stick: https://goo.gl/maps/3JG7WAKHsjo
- Walk inland a few blocks to where the locals catch the bus. There are multiple food stands or people selling street food for great prices. Try the Tortas for only 30 pesos! It’s a grilled sandwich with a variety of meats on a bun similar to a Kaiser roll. Also enjoy their fresh sugar donuts with custard filling for only 7 pesos.
Here’s a Google Maps pin to the bus stop in Old Town featuring multiple local street food vendors. There were a few bakery people and Tortas stands. Delicious!
- The city buses are old and rundown, but you will see tourists take them. Often locals board the bus to sing a song or play guitar. Have pesos not dollars.
- Most places accept USD or credit card, so you don’t need to exchange much money into pesos.
- Get a massage! I wanted to but ran out of time. Don’t go to your hotel and pay $90 USD. Find a local place. Many were 400-500 pesos per hour, and just as we were leaving I found one for 350 pesos.
- There are PLENTY of other excursion options.
- Parasailing available all up and down the beach
- Banana boat rides
- Whale watching boat excursions (Especially in January & February)
- Day trips by boat to Yelapa beach or Islas Marietas
- Tequila factory tours (Did you know tequila is from the town of Tequila in the Mexican state of Jalisco?)
- Horseback riding
- Zip lining and canopy tours
- Snorkeling or scuba diving
- Visit movie scenes from The Night of the Iguana, Predator, Revenge, Limitless, etc.
- And more!
We will definitely be back to Puerto Vallarta. We love the local culture and food. It ranks high on our lists of places we’ve travelled; comparable to areas of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand such as Hoi An and Phuket. (But Puerto Vallarta has even more to do!)