Puerto Vallarta - A Near Perfect Tropical Resort City
Puerto Vallarta, a city that stretches along the southern shore of the Bahia Banderas on the Pacific coast of Mexico, seems to be a near perfect resort city with its tropical climate, great beaches, restaurants offering cuisine of many varieties at a range of prices, hotels with accommodations to suit every taste and budget, friendly people and plenty of traditional Mexican culture in evidence.
We had decided to make Puerto Vallarta (PV) our first stop in our journey to Mexico so we flew from LA to the PV Aeroporto, cleared customs with little hassle, and headed to the Prepaid Taxi desk to inquire about a taxi for the 4-5 mile ride into the Centro. When we learned that the cost was M$ 230 (M$ = Mexican pesos), or almost US $20, we opted instead for the bus which cost M$11, about US$ 0.85!
The ride took us through the north side of the city, past big box stores, American chain hotels, and the cruise ship marina, into the Downtown Zone with narrower streets and older, more traditional, Mexican buildings. The bus stopped before it reached the end of its normal route due to the Virgen de Guadelupe processions. The actual day is December 12 but we learned that on December 10 the celebration of this major holiday had begun!
Blair had met an American couple on the bus and they offered to assist us to proceed on to our hotel further on in the Romantic Zone so we accepted the offer. We all took a taxi to the Hotel Eloisa, we said "Gracias" and parted ways. WOW - certainly a wonderful way to start a stay in a new place! After checking into the hotel, we admired the view from our balcony (and later at sunset).
Then we headed out to explore along the Malecon, the broad walkway along the waterfront, with wonderful views of the very blue Pacific Ocean. Sculptures, both metal and sand, provide artistic interest all along the way. Landward were shops and restaurants, food stalls and small cafes, as well as a giant condominium under construction.
Further on we passed the city's trademark 'Seahorse' sculpture, before stopping for cervesas in beachview cantina.
We again stopped to admire the Cathedral Lady of Guadelupe, wonderfully decorated for the occasion (below middle), and again a few days later for Christmas (below right).
We heard music and went outside where people lined the street and watched with them as the procession of people dressed in white, carrying candles, walked by - the processions in honor of the Lady of Guadalupe. From a nearby restaurant with upstairs dining we had a great view of the celebrations below and were charmed by the catedral at night.
Next day, after desayuno (breakfast), we began to search for a mobile phone store where we could buy a Mexican Sim card for our phone. We found a shop and a knowledgeable young man who spoke excellent English, and soon our phone was equipped for calls in Mexico, as well as to the USA. Back on the street, we met a friend from New Mexico! It is a small world, indeed!
The rest of the day, we continued our explorations of the city, admiring architecture, stopping for cerveza under a palapa (palm umbrella) on the beach where vendors came by offering all sorts of stuff. We bought tickets for a boat ride to Yelapa, down the coast, for the following day. After dinner, we discovered a group of young dancers performing graceful traditional folkloric dances in the park and stayed to watch.
Over coffee the next morning, we asked ourselves 'Do Nomads take vacations?'. Since we travel most of the time, how would we decide when we were on vacation?
Day trip to Yelapa
Our Capitan stopped near Los Arcos, three large rocks out in to water with wave-cut arches through them, to feed bread to the fish which arrived in large schools. Some fish had dark bodies, fluorescent orange tails and blue fins; others were silvery striped; all were hungry!
Groups of dolphins raced the boat as we continued to Yelapa, a tiny settlement along a small bahia. Soon the boat beached and we hopped out into the water and up onto the beach. We were greeted by a man and his iguana, He offered to let me (Susan) hold her so Blair could take our picture. Why not, we thought?
Later, we learned that iguanas are becoming endangered and tourists are urged not to do what we had just done as this encourages people to capture these lovely lizards. Who knew?!
After this, we accepted the invitation of the owner of the establishment where we had landed to sit in the shade and enjoy refreshments. Several hours passed as we sat and watched the action. Fishermen delivered the fish that would later become Blair's lunch, and the cerveza boat arrived and made deliveries to the cafes along the bay.
A large excursion boat anchored in the bay and the passengers were delivered to the cafe up the beach (good) for lunch. After a while we walked up and down the beach enjoying the wonderful scenery. We then returned for lunch, a great feast of guacamole, tortilla soup, fresh snapper, rice and refritos washed down with cerveza. Yum!
After this a walk was in order so we explored the calles back from the beach where the people live in small houses nestled in the trees. The view of the lush green vegetation and dark mountains was a vision of tropical paradise if there ever was one. Late in the afternoon, the boat arrived to take us back and we were ready to leave paradise to return to the city!
Fortunately, the beach views and a few low key beach cafes have survived.
We walked along the path toward the ruins of the movie set, past wave washed rocks where crabs hunted and lizards sunned.
Then we stopped at one of the beach cafes for snacks and drinks and had a delightful conversation with Howard and Betty from New Jersey about nomad living and urban ecology as well as the state of affairs back in the US. They urged us to include a page on Nomad Living on the PioneerWest website.
After only five days in Puerto Vallarta, we had not learned enough to analyze the urban ecology but we couldn't resist making a few observations.
First, it was clear that the developers made all the decisions on land use planning, enabling condos to encroach on the city's historic zones, along the Malecon, and climb up into the mountains back of the Centro. We wondered whether PV will lose a piece of its soul as this 'condo-ization' continues.
Stopping for a drink, we learned from the owner that OXXO, a developer of 7-Eleven - type stores, was opening new locations throughout the city, selecting locations across from existing locally owned shops and creating a very difficult competitive environment (a story that sounds conspicuously like that for a certain coffee shop chain in the US).
Still, we pleased to see that there were plenty of small shops of all sorts, several Mercados filled with stalls selling folk arts and crafts, dozens of locally owned cafes, cantinas, cafes and restaurants, all attracting locals and tourists alike.
We truly felt that we had had a fine, restful, fun vacation and we'd recommend it to everyone!
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