Life in Puerto Vallarta - Relaxed, Easy, Urban

From time to time, Nomads need a break! Perhaps readers will recall that on two previous occasions, we have lived in Puerto Vallarta to do research, think, write, and create web pages. This has worked well for us. Life in PV is relaxed, easy, urban, and conducive to clear thought and sometimes splendid inspiration. Here, we can walk on the playa, watch the sunsets, drink cerveza, eat great food and WORK!

So, we returned, settled into a comfy apartment in the Zona Romantica just two blocks from the playa, organized an efficient work space, connected to Wifi and began. We savored warm 'Bienvenidos!' from friends and slowly adjusted to the warm and humid late summer weather here.

The Zona Romantica is the area of the city that preserves the lively ambiance of a Mexican town with an overlay of Norte Americano tourist oriented facilities. Here, small tiendas sell food, others offer handicrafts, artworks, massages or tastes of tequila, swim suits and flip flops, souvenirs of all sorts, adventure trips, and tours to see the big resorts that have infested the northern reaches of Banderas Bay.


Superficially, this might not seem entirely appealing; and yet, it is amazingly easy to enjoy the Mexican ambiance of the place. The whole Zona is pedestrian friendly with wide sidewalks and the amazing visual appeal of shop windows and folk arts stalls, sidewalk cafes, the diversion of the people passing by, and the charm of the local architecture. Cafes and bars are thick on the ground so finding a meal or a drink is just SO easy. If we wander too far, there is always a bus to take us home.


The city of Puerto Vallarta sprawls along the edge of Banderas Bay, offering pale sand playas, the Malecon bay front walkway, and the water of the bay with its ever-changing shades of blue for the delight of residents. Facing west, the city enjoys spectacular sunsets, while the views to the east offer darkly verdant mountains. Admittedly, the views toward the mountains have been partially obscured by the thickly encrusted high rise condos that have been built in recent years but the setting retains its drama.


A walk north from our apartment along the Malecon is a journey through all that Puerto Vallarta is for us. Beginning with a narrow walkway along Playa Los Muertos, we soon reach the great sail of the new muelle, the pier. Lighted at night, it stands proudly as the city's newest icon. Just beyond the muelle is Langostinos, our favorite restaurant/bar. We are regulars now so we receive hugs and smiles from all the staff as we select a table with a good view of the water. The staff is pictured here with Katrina on Halloween in a party mood! Some nights, another friend, Frankie, plays guitar and sings classic pops.


Continuing north, the Malecon is broader and shaded with palms. A rise leads to the puente over the Rio Cuale just at its confluence with the ocean.


It's a perfect place to look for black necked stilts, Kiskadees, frigate birds, and pelicans, (below) and sometimes snowy egrets and cormorants.


Stairs lead down to the Isla Cuale where the Museo Arqueologico offers an amazing collection of objects from archaeological sites in the local region. Continuing along the shady paths of the Isla, there are more opportunities to spy more birds and also iguanas, often sunning on branches above the rio. Here, too are more stalls offering every sort of souvenir and handicraft for sale.


Returning to the Malecon and continuing north, past more shops, cafes, and intriguing sculptures, its a short walk to the Centro.


Here is the heart of the old city where the tall spire of the Catedral Nuestra Senora de Guadelupe dominates the scene.


Nearby is the Municipio, the Los Arcos performance space and a delightful plaza with gazebo where a band plays every Sunday evening. This is where the city's Mexican ambiance truly flourishes!


The Malecon continues on north several more blocks but is less interesting, in our view. Of greater interest is the barrio behind the waterfront. This is an older area, with cafes and tiendas, and the Ley's Supermercado, where shopping is an authentic Mexican experience. Further back from the waterfront, the terrain rises steeply, affording folks with strong legs a place to live with an awesome view of the bay.


This barrio ends abruptly at the sports stadium and from here the city turns to urban sprawl, PV style. High rise hotels and condos dominate the waterfront, the road turns to a multi-lane speedway, walking is unpleasant, and big box stores and non-descript strip malls abound. Further on is the port where the cruise ships come into PV. This is not the PV we love!

Back in the Zona Romantica, we feel so at home, savoring the settled life for now. But before long, the yearning to wander will grow and the Nomads will be away again!

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