This page was created on: May 21, 2014
TRIP REPORT – 5 WEEKS IN BANDERAS BAY: PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO & RIVIERA NAYARIT
April 12 – May 18, 2014. There was so much fun, adventure and excitement during this holiday that it’s hard for me to condense it into one short trip report. So I’ve chosen to list out just a few of the highlights. With all of the organized festivals, events and activities happening in and around the Bay during the months of April and May, it’s really hard for me to even think of this time period as being “the low season”:
• Stayed at our condo in Nuevo Vallarta, a perfect home base for activities all around Banderas Bay, both north and south of Nuevo Vallarta. The neighborhood of Nuevo Vallarta provides a wonderful and tranquil beach retreat that we greatly enjoy returning to each night after fun activities around the Bay. The beach is so peaceful, and we enjoy just sitting there watching the sunset out on the sand with hardly anyone around. Very private.
• San Sebastian with Vallarta Adventures and 2 of my friends – it was a good tour. Very well worth it. And it included tequila tastings, an incredible lunch at a gorgeous, rustic, Hacienda-type restaurant in San Sebastian.
• Drove back to precious San Sebastian with hubby for the May “Festival de la Raicilla y el Café”. The drive was very easy and took 1 hour, 15 minutes. The festival was so darn cute, and Jorge made a few purchases from the Raicilla vendors. We really enjoyed our day there.
• Attended the final Folkloric Dance event at Lazaro Cardenas Park; it was a very special performance as it was the last one of the season. It was about 2 hours in length, and we took some great pics of the dancers and met the director.
• Drove to Sayulita with 2 friends for the super lively beach festivities during Semana Santa. There were giant double decker stages set up on the beach with dancing girls wearing attire similar to cheerleading outfits, but with cerveza logos on them like Tecate, Pacifico, etc. The huge speakers pumped out great music to the beach goers who were lined up umbrella to umbrella, towel to towel.
• Returned to the great atmosphere of Sayulita many times with hubby for fun & sun (and his bike rides), and stopped by San Pancho and Lo de Marco. Love the drive, and love these special towns.
• Drove to El Tuito, but unfortunately missed the Folkloric Dance Festival on April 26. It was a super easy drive just 18 minutes past the Botanical Gardens. This is a small old town with a great rustic flavor.
* Unfortunately missed the free concert at the Marina in La Cruz de Huanacastle which kicked off the big Salsa Mambo Festival 2014 in Riviera Nayarit. The remainder of the festival was held at the Marival in Nuevo Vallarta, and we wanted to stop by but we were so busy we didn’t get a chance!
• We eat out every day, so it’s impossible for me to name every single restaurant. But off the top of my head: Le Kliff, Cuale Paradise, Barcelona Tapas (our big favorite on this trip), El Patio de Mi Casa (super cute little place), Dinomita (Nuevo), Fajita Republic (Nuevo), Derby Burger (both PV and Nuevo Vallarta Locations), Porto Bello, 3X3, Rincon de Buenos Aires, Wine & Burger, Porto Fish, Mr. Cream Pancakes & Waffles, Vancouver Wings, Pepe’s Tacos, Tacos on the Street in La Cruz, Oso’s (fantastic ceviche), Marismas, brunch at the Marival in Nuevo, and so many different restaurants all over the Bay.
• Rhythms of the Night by Vallarta Adventures with 2 friends – we had a wonderful time! The show was excellent, as usual, as was the gourmet dinner buffet. I love the cruise to and from the location at Las Caletas by catamaran. For me, the best seats are on the top floor of the catamaran, front and center with your feet dangling down. On the return trip you can view the glistening lights from the shores of Puerto Vallarta, and then lay back, listen to music and enjoy the starry skies.
• One morning we shopped at the La Cruz Fish Market.
• Vallarta Food Tours, Taco Tour with 2 friends – this evening food tour was excellent. It took about 3 hours, and a lot of walking, learning and eating! So many incredible places to eat in Vallarta.
• Vallarta Eats Tour with hubby – we really enjoyed this fun day tour with guide Memo. This is a different tour company that the one above, and they too did a great job. This yummy tour had about 8 food stops and was about 3.5 hours in length.
• Daytime Luxury Sailing with Vallarta Adventures and 2 friends – was really lovely. My friend jumped into the water and swam to shore during our lunch stop. There were some jellyfish visible in the water that day, so I did not jump in. But it was a great day of sailing on the sparkling waters of Banderas Bay.
• Visited the Botanical Gardens with friends and purchased a charity tile that during our trip was created and installed.
• Return trips to Botanical Gardens with hubby. This is a very special & enchanting place! It is a meticulously manicured botanical jungle area (really huge), with winding paths, swinging bridges over the river, and so much incredible beauty.
• Visited Natasha Moraga’s mosaic wall in Marina Vallarta & purchased a sponsorship tile. We love her first mosaic wall in downtown PV (Romantic Zone), and wanted to be a part of her second work. It was even more special when we discovered that there was a Chilean connection with Jorge, as Natasha’s family is from Chile! And the artist that handled the donated funds uses the same maid that we do, and the maid has been her child’s nanny for 8 years. This is such a small, small world.
• Took the wonderful & informative Malecon Sculpture Tour given by Gary Thompson. At the beginning of the tour, the artist who created the Millennium sculpture arrived to speak about his creation and it was such a treat!
• We purchased a charity tile to support the Los Mangos Library. This library provides so many essential services to the locals of PV, that it was a no-brainer that we wanted to support this facility.
• Visited the beautiful Los Mangos Library, spent a bit of time there just looking through the books and the rooms, and viewed our new tile that was just created and installed in a great location at the top of the steps to the library.
• Several trips to nearby Bucerias. There was a Kite Surfing Contest this past weekend. My husband will most likely be taking lessons from one of the guys he met there prior to the event. We both enjoy watching all of the kite surfing that goes on in front of Acqua, and Jorge wants to learn to kite surf.
• International Beach Polo Cup, Riviera Nayarit (Event in Nuevo Vallarta, Hard Rock Hotel). This was an English-style polo event that took place on the beach!
• Spent the afternoon and evening at the wonderful Mother’s Day Festival, in Riviera Nayarit along the marina promenade in Nuevo Vallarta. There were lots of food booths, a charity raffle that we participated in to help a man pay for prosthetic legs, and great entertainment. We were the last to leave the event as we ended up seeing one of our friends and met his wife and family and chatted the whole evening.
• Attended the huge Volleyball World Tour. It was fantastic! My husband loved that the men’s Chile team won their match over Austria. Israel won out over the USA, Mexico won their match against Norway, etc., etc. There was huge and modern professional stadium seating on all four sides of the main match, with other matches taking place on four sand courts located outside the main stadium’s sand court. Huge video monitors were installed on both sides, and it was a very well-run event.
• Attended the Bugainvilia Festival in Lazaro Cardenas Park; it had a small but cute set of floats/parade, food booths and stage entertainment.
• Trips to Boca de Tomatlan, taking water taxis out to Yelapa. It is so fun to take the water taxis, and always such a joy to visit the more secluded beaches of PV that are only accessible via water.
• Went to both of the Saturday farmers markets in PV on three occasions. I love visiting the booths there and have fallen in love with Chelow bracelets (I now have three). Another must is purchasing cheese from the man who makes a variety of incredible organic cheeses, and enjoying refreshing Horchata drinks. I also look forward to buying unique pastries and goodies from expats who are bakers.
• Enjoyed having the opportunity to meet up with three lovely women who post on TA. I had the joy of meeting two in PV, and one in Bucerias who ended up selling me tickets to the huge PV Altruism Festival.
• Took a wonderful “Learn Vallarta” walking tour by Sandra at escaperoutevallarta.com. I bought two of her books, and had a wonderful day touring with her and two other women.
• Walked the streets of Vallarta, Nuevo, Bucerias, etc. with our clipboards, notebooks and cameras to record all of the little details we wanted to remember and share with the online community. I wore out three pairs of shoes in the process!
• Learned so many new things just walking around, taking tours, attending events, talking with locals, asking questions, etc. We love the adventure of it all!
• Watched newly-released Hollywood movies at two different theaters: Cinemex inside the Galleria Vallarta Shopping Mall, and at Cinepolis inside the Lago Real Shopping Mall in Nuevo Vallarta (where Walmart is located). The ticket prices are about $3.50 USD in very modern theaters. I love that their popcorn is served in containers that are split in two: half regular buttered popcorn, and the other half caramel popcorn. The seats at these theaters are so comfortable!
• Attended the Altruism Festival that was at the Marriott Casa Magna in Marina Vallarta. This was a HUGE event. The funds raised were split between several local charities. This was one of the best-run food events we have attended, and the atmosphere was simply beautiful. Just a top-notch, elegant event.
• Visited the kiddos at Casa Hogar and dropped off our donation of cleaning supplies. We have a soft spot for this charity. And we love the director Aurora.
• We enjoyed after-dinner beverages with our new friends William and Paola of Barcelona Tapas. Here was another Chilean connection in that Paola recognized Jorge’s Chilean accent when we were at a festival and he was ordering Margaritas in Nuevo Vallarta, and began a conversation with Jorge. And through this couple, and by chance, we ended up meeting and having after-dinner beverages with them as well as one of the wonderful ladies who is involved with the Food Bank in PV. I will be including this important charity on my website for tourists who want to volunteer for a day while on vacation. She and her fiancee are friends with William and Paola of Barcelona Tapas. We feel incredibly blessed to have met these fun new friends AND discovered one of our new favorite PV restaurants in the process: BARCELONA TAPAS. Our dinner was excellent, and every plate we saw coming out of the kitchen was beyond gorgeous and delicious looking.
• We had dinner with several sets of new and wonderful friends we met in PV, and also some of our wonderful neighbors at Acqua.
• Attended a Gary’s Groupies dinner set up by foodie Gary Beck. This Italian dinner was fabulous, and the chef is from Italy.
• During Restaurant Week we enjoyed a FABULOUS dinner and drinks at Barcelona Tapas. Again, I highly recommend this gem of a restaurant for anyone visiting Puerto Vallarta.
• It was a special treat to see dolphins jumping out of the water, close to shore, in front of our condo complex in Nuevo Vallarta.
Simply put: We had an absolutely incredible time all over gorgeous Banderas Bay!