On Mexico’s Pacific coast, where the jungle-filled slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains meet the glistening waters of the Banderas Bay, lies the scenic resort town of Puerto Vallarta.
Just a few hours away aboard an Aeromexico Airlines flight, Puerto Vallarta’s welcoming beaches, wide array of family-friendly activities, and vibrant nightlife make it the perfect vacation spot both for adventure seekers and those who just want to lay back and bask in the sun.
Where I'd stroll
Tourists and locals alike can be found walking the boardwalks and cobblestone streets of Puerto Vallarta’s bustling downtown, called El Centro. The area features boutiques and craft shops to browse, artwork to admire, and plenty to eat, from delicious street food to more upscale fare. In the evening many of the restaurants turn into nightclubs where you can dance the night away.
What I’d eat
Tacos and quesadillas make for great Mexican snack food, but authentic Mexican cuisine goes well beyond burrito borders. Foodies can visit local favorites such as Trio and El Arrayan to sample some of the best dishes Puerto Vallarta has to offer, including lobster and shrimp-filled paella, braised pork leg, and a variety of fresh seafood ceviches.
Where I’d do my best Captain Jack Sparrow impersonation
The Marigalante Pirate Ship offers a full day of swashbuckling fun. Activities on board include a kid-pleasing pirate show, tons of contests and photo ops, breakfast, lunch, and an open bar to keep the adults entertained. A beach excursion includes kayaking, snorkeling, and banana boat rides, all supervised by the talented and attentive pirate staff. The trip costs $85 US for adults; kids under 12 go free during the morning excursion.
How I’d get around, part 1
Via speedboat. The beach hideaway of Las Caletas is so remote that it’s only accessible by boat. Luckily, Vallarta Adventures provides thrilling, Miami Vice-style transportation to take you there breezing through the water at 40 miles per hour.
Once ashore, you can hang out with wildlife including parrots and monkeys, take a yoga class or a nature walk, swim with sea lions, or simply swing from a hammock and sip a cocktail.
How I’d get around, part 2
Via ATV. To take in the most panoramic views in the Sierra Madres, there’s only one way to go. The staff at Green Zebra Adventures will teach you to ride a Tomcar, an easy-to-drive vehicle that’s made for off-roading, effortlessly handling steep hills and rugged jungle terrain. Be warned: the scenery as you progress through the mountains is beautiful, but your clothes won't be. Come prepared to get down and dirty!
How I’d Unwind
After all that activity, relaxation is key — this is a vacation, after all! Catch some rays poolside at the Westin Hotel, tamarind margarita in hand. After a day lounging in the sun, dine by candlelight at the hotel’s beachside restaurant, then retire to the plush and pristine white bed that comes standard in every Westin room.