Content Produced in Partnership with Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
Did you know that Puerto Vallarta is regularly voted one of the best places to retire in the world? Yup, over 20% of the population is expats who move for access to the water, mountains, good flight connections, reliable medical coverage, and a favorable cost of living.
Puerto Vallarta also feels decidedly less touristy than Cancun or Cabo. You still have resort row, but the downtown core feels more like a traditional Mexican city. Cobblestone streets are teeming with character and color rather than being overrun by spring breakers or honeymooners. For those in search of that perfect Shangri-La place, there’s a lot to love here.
It’s an easy quick getaway to paradise, but if the “do I really have to leaves?” start creeping into your head, know you’d be in good company. For now, here’s a few of the not to miss Mexican moments. But be warned: they may convince you to consider putting down more permanent roots.
Become a Tequila Connoisseur
Put down the salt, limes, and shot glasses because much like a good scotch or whiskey sipping real tequila is a refined experience. Similar to how authentic champagne must be produced in that region of France, real tequila must be produced in the state of Jalisco where the agave plant is cultivated and designated with a registered denomination of origin.
The Marriott Puerto Vallarta is ground zero for tequila lovers with a collection of 270 rare bottles that span 100+ brands. It’s the only Marriott property in the entire 7,000+ hotel portfolio that produces its own private label, CasaMagna (in handmade bottles no less). Your resort fee includes a guided tasting experience with the hotel’s in-house tequila sommelier or one of the certified staff members, to which over 80% are trained in the spirit. You’ll get to sample all five varietals (white, silver, gold, aged, and premium) with an optional pairing menu and learn all about barrel to bottle production.
Eat All the Things
Food in Mexico is some of the most addictive and cravable on the planet so much so that it’s one of just two cuisines designated by UNESCO an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. To celebrate their strong culinary traditions, Puerto Vallarta has a number of standout dining experiences from street food to high-end molecular gastronomy and everything in between.
Take a cooking class to learn to make their sensuous ceviche (curry may or may not be the secret ingredient), eat your way around the local markets on a food tour, visit Choco Museo, the free chocolate museum, or try a taco and margarita pairing. There are sunset dinner cruises, an acrobatic island dinner show called Savia from the founder of Cirque de Soleil, and private sunset meals.
Fun foodie fact: In Mexico lemons are limes and limes are lemons.
Meet the Locals
Area hotels and the local Puerto Vallarta government have joined forces to create a robust sea turtle protection program where they release over 60,000 baby turtles back into the ocean each year. Arriving in mass June through December, it’s quite the sight to see thousands of tiny Olive Ridleys (the smallest turtle species) painstakingly crawl onto shore, dig their nests in the sand, and lay 50-250 eggs apiece.
On their own, it’ s estimated that only 1% survive in the wild, but with some assistance, Marriott’s nursery has bumped that up to about 30%. The turtles and eggs are cared for by an on-staff biologist who monitors the incubation and hatching process. Guests are invited to help patrol the beach at night and release the turtles back into the ocean, which hidden from predators, is when they have the greatest chance of survival. Keep in mind that while there is a designated hatching season, dates and times are impossible to plan around as it’s just the circle of life. It’s truly lucky to be able to experience such an incredible natural wonder.
Explore Puerto VallARTa
Puerto Vallarta is a hotbed for artists and creative types. There are guided tours and gallery walks every Wednesday evening November through May, but you can also follow the Art Walk map and make your own self-guided tour. Centered around Guadalupe Sánchez Street just beyond the Malecon, there are over 10 galleries to peruse. Keep your eyes peeled for Mexican folk art, Aztec wood carvings, blown glass, tapestries, insane beading, indigenous designs, and Dia de Los Muertos figurines and caricatures. Set in rustic cobblestone haciendas, the different spaces are art themselves with multi-level patios and secret gardens. Galleria Dante is one not to miss with colorful blooms framing both the portraits and the sculptures.
Once you get a sense of the style, try making your own masterpiece at a craft and cocktails party. Fueled by a little liquid courage, painting is a great creative outlet to try your hand at recreating the famous works of Frida Kahlo or other well-known producers (no unibrow necessary). Try to emulate their style of flowers (a unique technique created by tapping the back of a spoon) or a dreamy beach-scape. Plus, is there any better souvenir than your own creation?
Work up a Sweat
If you’re looking to get active, the lush jungles and mountainous landscapes are primed for adventure. Above ground, off-roading and ATVs are popular, especially since you can take them roaring across Jorullo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world. There are also zip lines, horseback riding, jet boats, and waterfall rappelling for the adrenaline junkies. When you’re ready to cool off, SCUBA and snorkel tours are also fan favorites.
Puerto Vallarta is on one of the largest bays in the world so there are tons of beaches each with their own personality and appeal. Keep your eyes peeled because whale sightings and tours are common December through February. Walk the Malecon, a 12-block oceanfront esplanade teeming with public art, street performers, and tidal views. The Zócalo (or the Plaza de Armas) is the central plaza and home to the Church Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe, one of the most iconic and photographed spots in Old Town.
At the southern end of the Malecon, Playa los Muertos is one of the most happening beaches, but you can also head to the Marina for a boat or dive excursion. Playa Mismaloya is fairly famous since it was the setting of The Night of the Iguana starring Richard Burton. You can see the rocky outcrops of the national park, Los Arcos Marine Park, right from shore.
Treat Yo’ Self
Mexico may not subscribe to siestas like Spain, but you’re on vacation so there’s nothing wrong with a little R&R (spoken from the true adrenaline queen herself). Hit the spa, indulge in some much-deserved pampering, and let the Vitamin Sea do its job. Or, post up by the pool and work on your tan. The perfect brown tinge really is the best souvenir. As they say, a coconut a day keeps the doctor away (or something like that), but margaritas seem to work wonders too.
If you want to take home some treasures, the Flea Market is a great place to shop, which is attached to Isla Cuale, a secret island hidden right in the middle of the city. Accessible by suspension bridges, it looks like a hidden jungle meets riverwalk meets street market.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta: Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
They say the devil is in the details and the Marriott Puerto Vallarta certainly knows how to make every touch a personal one. From the poolside coconut bar to chilled cucumbers at the spa, and an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, their recent multimillion-dollar renovation is bright, airy and pretty darn close to paradise. All rooms come with private balconies and are steal starting at just over $100/night on a private beach.
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