It’s only taken me months to get to this and I figure what better timing to write another solo travel blog than coming up on the New Year? While I wasn’t exactly solo, I really only shared the hotel with a friend and we mainly did our own thing.
I am always on the lookout for cheap flights, it’s also how I ended up in Curacao and Bali solo. One day in May I was like I need to get out of here, and pronto. So a friend and I got to looking at a flights and we landed on Puerto Vallarta. Originally, I didn’t think much about it – I’d been to Mexico a few times and it was always beautiful and a great time. However, this trip was different. It absolutely blew me away.
There’s something to say when you get off a plane and immediately feel a new culture surround you; it fills your soul in ways you didn’t expect and then you don’t know how to interpret it, at least not right away. In this case, interpretation was a challenge period since my Spanish was pretty rusty. Somehow, it came back faster than I expected and as long as they talked slowly I could understand and (attempt) to respond, trying not to mix in Italian along the way (which I did, a lot).
I flew into Mexico from Las Vegas, as I was there for a few days for work. I don’t think I realized just how far Puerto Vallarta was. Living in California, Mexico was usually a quick flight. However, there were no direct flights from anywhere that I could find. I booked a self-transfer, which just meant I had to check in with two different airlines and change terminals – thankfully I had a long enough layover both times I was fine. Definitely give yourself at least 3 hours if you book this route — it’s worth the few hundred.
Once I landed in Puerto Vallarta that Friday morning and did a quick outfit change, since the temperature went form 60 in Vegas to 85 and humid in PV, I grabbed myself a margarita from the Corona bar outside while waiting for my friend to pick me up to go to our hotel.
After he picked me up we drove to our hotel at the Grand Mirmar Resort, just a tad south of downtown PV in an area called Conchas Chinas. I don’t know if I have ever stayed anywhere more charming, peaceful and welcoming in my life. The second I arrived they took my luggage, offered me a chilled face towel, a welcome green drink and an escort to the room.
Once I unloaded in the room we went straight to the pool for some drinks, sunshine and fish tacos. I was theeee happiest girl in the world.
After a few hours of swimming and sun bathing, we decided to get ready and head downtown for dinner and check out the town. My friend had gotten there the day before me and scoped out a few spots, he found a fun local sports bar called Players and we stumbled upon a yummy Italian spot in Zona Romantica. So we went there night one for dinner.
After dinner we walked down to the pier at Playa de Los Muertos where we strolled along the beach, passed a ton of palappas, street performers, street vendors, food spots, bars and walked out to the dock to watch the sun set. I feel like I say this every time I watch a sun set, however I always feel something different during each sunset ~ something new is always on my mind, yet I also have the same calm feeling knowing the big man upstairs is about to paint another portrait. The sky was a crazy combo of orange creamsicle and pinky-lavender hues before it changed to this bold fire orange with aqua blue mixed in and when it reflected on the water it was as if the canvas had fallen onto the waves and I was speechless.
Day two consisted of more sun bathing ~ I woke up early and went downstairs to have a coffee at the swim-up bar downstairs where Dominick took SUCH good care of me all week – he always greeted with a smile and nothing was too much to ask. He’d bring me my coffee and chat for a little while I sat at the swim-up bar watching sports soaking in the morning without anywhere to be or phone to keep track of.
Once I finished my coffee and time downstairs I went to the rooftop pool where I laid out in the water beds, vital to staying cool in the Mexican heat, and don’t worry I was reapplying SPF 50 like it was my day job. However, I’m pretty sure I got 4 shades darker in 2 days, which is a record for me without burning; I only peeled a little! Props of having a base tan and olive skin undertones (thanks Pops).
After lounging and drinking cervezas by the pool for a few hours I was ready to go to town to grab some lunch and hang at the beach. It was later in the day by now so I planned to go for sunset then stay out afterwords for some dinner and of course more drinks (yes, I drank a lot on this trip – but was responsible and sure to stay hydrated).
I walked around Zona Romantica again, blown away by it’s charm, history and just sheer beauty. I am SUCH a sucker for vines cascading down the sides of colorful houses and bouganevilla spilling over everywhere. I made my way to the water and walked with my feet in the ocean until I reached an end and was starving. There was a lady outside offering coconut shrimp samples so of course I tried one and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life so decided to have lunch there – place was called The Blue Shrimp (how fitting, right?) and I highly recommend adding it to your list of places to eat in PV.
I got a table by myself facing the water and ordered all the Moscow mules I wanted (to a point obviously since I was alone – have to be careful and cautious). The menu had everything my pescatarian heart could ever want so ordering was very difficult because I wanted everything. My server could tell I was struggling so asked me what I like – and we actually conversed in Spanish! (I was SO PROUD and he was excited to practice English). I told him I decided to come inside after tasting the coconut shrimp and that I love ahi tuna. He told me he knew exactly what to order for me and to trust him, that if I didn’t like he would bring me something else. So I agreed. Before I knew it he had brought out an entire platter (I mean like a 12-piece PLATTER) of the coconut shrimp as well as seared peppercorn ahi tuna tar tar with mango salsa ~~ I died inside. And I ate every last bite. I took my time and hung out for a bit until I was ready to go. I knew I wanted to go on a boat one day while there so I walked down the road to find a tour company and bought a boat ticket for the next day to tour the island, see some secluded beaches and snorkel – I was so curious what marine life was in the waters of PV!
After I got my boat ticket it was starting to get late and sun was about to set so I walked all the way down to north shore past the city center and PV sign. The walk along the boardwalk / water had to be at least four miles but worth the stroll for sure.
I watched the sun set on the sand and worked my way back to city center when I noticed huge crowd gathered and sitting on this set of stairs that curved into an arena-like area, and there were groups of dancers lined up to perform. I could see they were doing hip hop, flamenco, salsa and even some dressed up western for line dancing! So I stood and watched for awhile, it was a like the Puerto Vallarta “So You Think You Can Dance” – so I stayed and watched for a bit before heading back to the hotel.
Day 3 – BOAT DAY!
Today was up and early to make it to the marina by 9am to leave on the boat. There were loads of people and several different tours leaving so I had to really pay close attention and listen carefully to which boat to get on so I didn’t end up going to the wrong place.
Once on the boat, there was an MC on board and he was HILARIOUS. Once they went over the safety rules and plan for the day they handed out snorkel gear for those who wanted to go. Of course you know I went without hesitation, even though this was the coldest of the days I was there and the water was freezing.
Once I was in the water I decided to do some free diving (was not supposed to since we had life vests on due to how far out we swam but I did it anyways – oops). We swam under this cave area and when I went down I saw at least 10 schools of different colored fish below and around me, even saw a jellyfish.
After being in the water for about 30-45 minutes we were pulled back on board to go to the next stop which was about an hour ride out to a secluded waterfall area where we could get off and explore around for a bit. Until then, we played games and the drinks started flowing onboard – part of the tour was unlimited bar access and lunch was provided. They served fajita style tacos and homemade salsa and it was SO GOOD. It sounds so cliche but I could seriously eat tacos every day for every meal and never get sick of it – there are so many ways to do it!
Part of the waterfall portion was a 45 minute walk to the waterfall or a 20 minute horse ride, so of course I took the horse route. I added some videos below of what the ride looked like, it was literally the beach outback of Mexico and I was SO in love with it. My horse Charley was an absolute sweetheart and I wish I could have brought him home with me (where in the world I’d keep a horse in NY I have no clue but I could figure it out haha). While the ride felt an hour long – it was well worth it once we arrived, numb butt aside. We got to float around and have some drinks while enjoying the waterfall. We got to stay for about an hour before we had to head back. While I was in the water a woman asked me if I was from Mexico and I was l like no I’m from the states – she was from Houston and her and her husband made a bet I was from Mexico or the US! HAHA! Funny to hear where other people think you’re from, and I guess my tan was showing?! She said she guessed I was from Merida and he guessed I was from California ~~ safe to say the husband was definitely closer however after looking up Merida I sure wouldn’t mind living there.
Another younger couple was ease dropping and chimed in, they were originally from Dallas but lived in Long Beach – such a small world.
We left the waterfall and got back on the horses to go to the boat. After we got back on the boat we went for another 30 minutes until we got to a beach area where we docked for a bit. I swam around and laid on the sand. Even though it was pretty overcast, I still got some serious sun.
After the boat day was done and we docked – the Houston couple and Long Beach couple were both going to dinner downtown and invited me to join them, so I went. We went to a spot called Langostinos – a hot spot near Zona Romantica and a must-stop-spot.
After dinner I headed back to the hotel to clean up and get ready to meet my friend out at Margaritaville with some people he met at the pool. When I got there the shots had started flowing already and it was about to be a fun night! I sat at the bar and met a couple next to us from Huntington Beach who were there for a wedding and they were SO fun. The girl and I immediately hit it off and before we knew it we spent the whole night out together – I live for nights like this, nothing compares to traveling without a planned itinerary and making friends along the way.
The next day we slept in a little, got breakfast in town at the Pancake House in the garden terrace, this is another hot spot in PV however only open until 2pm.
Since it was our last night in PV – we decided to go out one last time. We got cleaned up and started at Players again where we had made some friends, then went to a new spot where my friend had been the night before when I went home and he said it was a blast. We ended up running into the same ladies he met there that previous night as well and they were a BLAST. There was a woman going around blowing a whistle and pouring (2-3) shots into peoples mouths then shaking their heads. I must’ve had a target on my forehead bc she got me a few times. It was possibly my favorite night out there – you bet my hair was up before the night even started.
I got quite a bit of backlash and skepticism from my Mexico posts – like how could I be so foolish to go to Mexico alone?
Let me debunk a few myths for you:
- Puerto vallarta is VERY safe. Just like ANYWHERE – don’t walk around deserted areas at night alone, stay out of weird alleys and dark streets and don’t take drinks from strangers. These are kindergarten basics you should follow ANYWHERE – whether you’re in Paris, Omaha, Mexico – doesn’t matter. Just basic safety precautions.
- Gangs are not active in PV – this is not Sicario territory
- What about the resorts drugging people? Where we stayed was a boutique resort, not a touristy all-inclusive and not Cancun.
- Getting sick in Mexico is NOT from the water – while yes you should avoid drinking the tap water, it is safe to drink. Usually people who get sick in Mexico are actually just extremely dehydrated and overexposed themselves to the heat, especially if they’re not use to it. It’s so important to take breaks, drink TONS of water (especially when drinking alcohol) and wear sunscreen (at least SPF 30-45).
- Yes, scams are real – just be smart. If something doesn’t add up – ask again. And again. And again. And if they still say no then walk away.
- ALWAYS understand the exchange rate and COUNT YOUR MONEY! There was one instance where I was shorted $100 USD when I was exchanging and I am thankful I stopped to count because I looked at the teller and was like uh you are way short, I gave you $300 USD. And she giggled this weird guilty tone and I was like yeah, try again. Might have been an honest mistake ~ regardless was glad I counted.
I never thought I’d be as in love as I am with Mexico, also helps that:
- it’s not hard to get to
- It’s cheap once you’re there
- The people are SO FRIENDLY
- The food is out of this world
- The charm factor is off the charts
- The historical features is beyond comparison
- The language barrier is workable
- The weather is gorgeous, typically sunny and minimal rain
So next time you think going to Mexico is dangerous, dirty or lack the exotic factor — think again, you just have to venture off the beaten path and outside the four walls of the all-inclusive world. I cannot wait to go back and see more hidden, underrated gems like Merida, Yucatan, Cozumel, Tulum, Mexico City – the list goes ON. I’m coming for you in 2020!
Feel free to message me with any questions or recommendations! Everyone’s travel style is different so happy to help navigate travel plans to what you’re looking to go-see-do.