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( Originally Published 2004 )
Puerto Vallarta... Where does one start to point out the wonderful qualities of this popular vacation haven? The minute you set foot in the airport you will realize you have arrived at a wonderfully glorious place. You will find the airport staff not only friendly, but well organized. The line for customs is swift, as is collecting your luggage. If you are not traveling with a tour group, have no fear, cabs are at a plenty, and drivers well acquainted with the routes to any destination.
Puerto Vallarta is always a must for me each winter. For over ten years I have never been greeted by anything but golden sun. I have never had one rainy day. You see, Puerto Vallarta has a rainy season, so if you plan on traveling only during their summer months, you will enjoy nothing but wonderful sunny, dry days. I might add the humidity is low, which makes enjoying the heat all the better. Even on a day when the temperature reaches the high 80s, if you head for shade, you will cool off quickly. The evening is always cool, so pack light sweaters.
Where to have that friendly cab driver drop you off? That depends on just what youíre looking for: relaxation, beach festivities, child-friendly hotels, adult-friendly hotels? You name it; there are wonderful accommodations to be had for all. You can find great bargains through tour companies such as Fun Jet, or Worry Free Vacations. You may choose to stay in town, or be a bit more adventurous and stay further out, such as on the south side.
In town you can find many hotels that will vary in price. I have actually toured many of the smaller hotels in Old Town that were down-right cheap. Iíve found that the staff goes out of their way to accommodate guests; the rooms are pleasantly decorated and very clean, with lots of Mexican flair. So, if you are on a tight budget, try one of the little hotels in Old Town. Not only will you enjoy your hotel, you will enjoy the more authentic feel that Old Town has to offer.
Old Town is an area that runs along the beach as you approach the south side of town. It has an abundance of great arty shops, and loads of restaurants. Do not miss spending a day on the beach in Old Town. It gives off energy all its own.
A nice hotel I can recommend in Old Town is the Torre De Oro. This is a small hotel a few blocks from the beach. The rooms are nice, the staff great, and many rooms have good views of the ocean. This hotel is inexpensive, with lots of character. Many of the rooms have kitchenettes, they also have comfortable suites. All are decorated with Mexican flair. The Torre De Oro is very clean, and the air conditioning works well. A good option for a budget minded person or a person looking for the quainter Mexican atmosphere. Itís very nice, plus youíre steps away from some of Puerto Vallartaís best restaurants and shopping, not to mention beaches.
I have a few favorite hotels of my own. As a rule I stay at the Camino Real. The Camino Real is just five minutes south of Puerto Vallarta. The south side of Puerto Vallarta has been recognized internationally as the golden zone of Puerto Vallarta. It is at this side where the mountain meets the ocean. It's my opinion that Camino Real has one of the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta. Its sands are light in color, soft, and have large boulders at each end, which tend to keep it very private. The best part of it is, you are in the country, just minutes from town. The hotel is fronted by the Bay of Banderas, and backed by the lush, green tropical mountains.
Camino Real offers two accommodations: a Standard Deluxe building, which has lovely, well decorated rooms, some with balconies, and all with ocean fronts. The second accommodation you will find is the Camino Club Building. The Club building offers a large mini suite, which includes a large sitting area, large bathroom, and your choice of bed (king or two queens). With the club package, you receive some wonderful perks. Daily buffet breakfast, which I might add is wonderful. It offers just about anything you could imagine, and more. You also have cocktail hour on the bluff at the side of the club, where you can enjoy drinks and appetizers. The staff at the Camino is great; highly superb.
The other hotel I can recommend is an all-inclusive: the Intercontinental El Presidente, also in the Gold Zone south of town. The food is great; you will be served in a beautiful open-air restaurant, plus 24-hour room service. The staff is wonderful, the rooms large and well appointed, all ocean front. The beach is secluded and very nice, with light soft sand, and it feels very private. You will again be fronted by ocean, backed by mountains. The air is fresh and clean. This Hotel is approximately 15 minutes to town. One can take the bus very cheaply, or simply take a cab. The buses are clean and air conditioned.
You will fine a wide variety of restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. You absolutely can't go wrong when choosing a restaurant. You will find such a variety of places to eat. It is hard to recommend one over another. I do have my favorites though. For dinner or lunch, try El Dorado on the beach. You will eat in an absolutely romantic, rustic beach restaurant, that offers a selection of fresh seafood dishes, and more. I might add the staff is so friendly; they make your meal very enjoyable. The price is very moderate, and the food great.
La Palapas, also in Old Town on the beach, is an upscale restaurant, again romantic and elegant, with a wide selection of food to choose from. Each evening soft, easy listening is provided live via the group Pacific Nights. This is a must-see restaurant.
The Bistro offers another elegant dinning experience. The Bistro has a large selection of dishes to choose from, along with nightly jazz. The decor is elegant, very dreamy.
If you are in mind for a real celebration, try Bogartís. Itís very upscale and pricey, but worth every penny. You will think you are in the Kasbah. The decor is beyond belief; the food great.
If you lean toward natural healthy food, try Papaya. This is one of Gringo Gulches best kept secrets. They offer a great selection of healthy, freshly prepared foods, along with healthy Mexican dishes. You will find this food superb, and not realize youíre eating healthy. Papaya is very inexpensive too. They make wonderful fresh fruit smoothies.
You will have no trouble finding great, interesting places to dine in Puerto Vallarta. For breakfast, you must stop at the Pancake House. You will love these pancakes.
Beaches, beaches, beaches. You are literally only steps away from a beach anywhere you find yourself. So remember to wear your bathing suit under your clothes, if you love to swim.
Playa Los Muertos, which rims the Old Town section, is a great day at the beach. Great beach lined by bars and restaurants will make sure you are kept well-fed and watered. This is also the place to barter with the vendors, as there are lots of good deals to be made.
There is no shortage of great sea excursions in Puerto Vallarta. You may choose to take a cruise along the wonderful Bay of Banderas in a buccaneer ship, or perhaps just a sunset cruise. Do you love to snorkel? They offer daily cruises that will take you to the best spots, and serve you up a wonderful breakfast and lunch, not to mention, music and booze.
If you yen to deep sea fish, you can visit the Mariana district, and pick up a tour boat, or rent a boat and crew for the day. Your hotel will prepare your catch for you and your guests to dine on.
Perhaps you're a movie star buff? If so, visit Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burtonís former Puerto Vallarta home in Gringo Gulch. You will see great memorabilia, plus they have some old personal photos that have been converted to postcards you can purchase. It is a fun place to visit. I might add they have a wonderful guide, with loads of good dish on the couple. If you want to spend a night, it is Puerto Vallartaís only Bed and Breakfast. Itís very reasonably priced, also. If you wish to visit Dickís favorite watering hole, Tequilas, you can't miss it. Make sure to sit upstairs on the balcony; the waiters will point out Dick and John Hustonsí favorite table. The view is great, for a few moments you too will feel like a celebrity.
You will find great shops everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. You will find wonderful goods you never knew you needed!
If you love Mexican tiles, please make sure to visit the tile factory. You can watch the tiles being hand painted. If you wish to take some home with you, they will ship or pack your purchase for the plain ride home. You will not believe how cheap the tiles are purchased in Mexico. Also, right next door you will find the glass factory; stop in, you won't be sorry.
Are you looking for a wonderful way to spend your last night in Puerto Vallarta? I love to have my last dinner a-top the wonderful Hotel La Siesta, which is located in Gringo Gulch. The Panorama restaurant is on the top four floors of the La Siesta Hotel. There is not a better "view" or restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. The top four floors of the Hotel La Siesta comprise this outstanding restaurant that was architecturally designed with an Arabic flavor and marble floors. This elegant, informal dining atmosphere is enhanced by strolling entertainers that play the harp, violin, guitar, and even a baby grand piano to make your evening an unforgettable experience.
The food at the Panorama restaurant is excellent; many dishes are prepared right at your table. It has a 360 degree view. If you dine on a Friday night, you will enjoy the fireworks that are displayed off the Buccaneer Ship in Banderas Bay. It is a spectacular show! Any other night you can take in the beautiful sunset that Puerto Vallarta is so well known for.
I must also mention the Hotel La Siesta. I have had several tours through this lovely hotel. It is decorated in traditional Mexican flair, all rooms well appointed with wonderful views, spacious, spotless, and inexpensive. Gringo Gulch hotels are not on the water, but give excellent atmosphere, and wonderful ocean views along with the wonderful city night views. I might also mention the pool; it is wonderful, all tiled in the glorious Mexican tiles, surrounded by lots of greenery, and gorgeous bougainvilleas.
I hope I have given you a bit of what could be in store for you if you visit beautiful Puerto Vallarta. It is hard to sum into words this magical destination. The beaches, the food, the accommodations, the weather, the people. It all adds up to spell M-A-G-I-C. Once you have visited this wonderful Mexican town, it will beckon you back, time and again.