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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

It's almost been a month since I lfe for this trip! It was an amazing adventure and I'm excited to share it all with you! So feel free to read, scroll through the photos, and tell me your favorite spots to vacation!

I'm not normally what you would call a "vacation person". I mean, I love time off spent doing something wonderfully relaxing, but growing up we did "trips" moreso than vacations. Long crosscountry drives pulling the pop-up trailer behind my parents flower delivery vans. We would go camping, hiking, fishing, etc., but until I was 14 we normally just did trips that were meant for lots of action and adventure! When I was in high school we made our first trip to Cabo and our family really struggled with the idea of just sitting by the pool all day, so we'd go into town, jetski on the water, and so much more. Since then we haven't really done a "relaxing vacation". Now that I'm a grown woman, but still one trying to pay off school, life, etc. I don't exactly have the means to take a vacation. I'm so fortunate though that my boyfriend's (Tyler) family included me on their family vacation this year.

We stayed for 10 days at the Villa del Palmar in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. We spent many days relaxing by the pool, but my favorite parts of the trip were when were out exploring. Below are some of my favorite parts from the trip and helpful suggestions if you are planning on visiting anytime soon!

Things you NEED to do!

  • Take a food tour! For Christmas the BF and I bought his family tickets for a taco food tour in Mexico. So, on our 4th night in town we went out on the town with Puerto Vallarta Food Tours. 1) The price was incredible for the amount of food that we ate over the 4 hour tour. 2) The knowledge you gain on this tour can't be found the same way in a book, we got one on one time with a local who gave us history lessons as we walked through the parts of town that made it so magical. 3) You eat the BEST food in town. Most are street vendors, but they are the best of the best and the tour guide will teach you what to look for in a street vendor to know if your food will be safe and sanitary. 4) They give you a list of other places to try around town after your tour, so you can keep the tour going yourself on other days. 5) Ask for Amanda (great name btw). She was incredible and we were so happy to have her. She took extremely good care of us, taught us a lot about the city, and kept us laughing the whole time. 6) The Marlin tacos from Mariscos La Tía(Honduras 215, 5 de Diciembre, Puerto Vallarta, JAL, Mexico) and Julio's Churros (corner of Urugay and Calle Peru) were major highlights and we visited both again during the rest of our trip!

  • Take a Jungle Tour! I know a lot of people hate those tour buses that go around cities with tourists, but honestly this is one of the best ways to learn a lot about the place you are visiting. Our "Jungle Tour" was put together through the resort so we weren't really sure what we were in for. At the start of the tour they pulled over and had us change buses. We were all confused, but apparently it happens a lot so don't be concerned. Then they took us on a 30 minute "break" to a silver shop...we stayed outside for a while and contemplated even finishing the tour. My BF's brother and his GF actually took this opportunity to leave and go explore on their own. But we stuck it out. The second location was a little tequila distillery in a small village. Just going into this village was a treat alone...we met some cute puppies, Tyler got to try a LOT of tequilla, and we may have wondered for a bit to take pictures and found that one of the houses was painted with the CocoCola logo! Our next stop on the tour was about a 40 minute drive south on 200. We ended up seeing a waterfall and going to a local village in the "jungle". We ate a local restaurant, walked through the streets, and saw how a village runs outside the main city. The trip was free from the resort, but I suggest looking on trip advisor or asking your resort/hotel for their favorite tours!

  • Get on a boat and go snorkle! For Father's day, Tyler's mom decided to rent a boat to go across the bay and to Los Arcos National Park. Obviously renting a boat yourself isn't always something everyone can do, so ask your resort or hotel for their recommendation of a tour that will take a boat out on the bay and to Los Arcos. I'm usually really awful in open water and with so many fish, but it was such a fun experience! Also, snorkle gear doesn't always fit over my huge schnoz, so it was nice to lay out on a life jacket for the times when I had trouble with my mask. On the way back to the Marina, the men running the boat let us do a bit of fishing and we took the long way in to see the city from the bay. I think one of my favorite bit though was sitting on nose of the boat...I felt pretty cool in that moment. haha. Guys, this is a must do!

  • Go shopping around town! Another really fun morning or afternoon activity is to walk old town, the Malecon, the Marina (moreso for food, fishing or the lighthouse bar), and the path along the Rio Cuale. So many street vendors selling gorgeous blankets, dishware, dolls, jewelry. I'm awful at haggling, but these are the places to do it. I just paid what they asked of me since everything was so gorgeous and handmade I couldn't imagine asking them for a lower price. I also just wanted to put them all in some AC for awhile...it was so stinking hot out! But it was really fun to wander around and explore the city however we wanted. We had a general paper map, but really make sure someone has a good sense of direction before you get too lost! And if all else fails, hope in a cap and get back to a place you know.

  • Try authentic restaurants! A lot of restaurants that we went to were not necessarily authentic Mexican food, but moreso an American-ized restaurant serving American tourits. I would recommend trying to ask cab drivers, resort workers, locals their favorite places for food. Also, use the internet and look up places. We even used yelp (I know crazy!) on our last night and ended up at El Barracuda! It was on the beach, somewhat tucked away, so we definitely thought we were missing it, but it was such a bright, fun, beautiful place. You can sit on the beach if you wish. Our view of the beach was cut off right before we left because of the INSANE storm that hit. My favorites here were the cheese chicharron and the blackened tuna! Oh and my blackberry lime mocktail. Do a little bit of research before hitting the town. Find some really good, classic mexican places. You'll be so glad you did! And whatever you do, don't stay at your resort for every meal! Go out. Explore!


Helpful tips:

  • Get pesos! Before leaving your home country get a lot of cash, then exchange it in Mexico. It's a better rate in Mexico, but it's also just better to make sure you come with money on you, otherwise you have to find a bank, which isn't always fun. 

  • Tip! Basically you need to tip everyone here. It's important to understand that many companies, restuarants, etc. don't factor those parts into their costs, so you really need to make sure you are tipping and well. The pay for jobs down there isn't great anyways, so you're really showing your appreication for their hardwork...especially at the resorts, they make you feel like royalty, so you should most defintiely show a lot of gratitude. Just always remember to be gracious!

  • Learn some actual Spanish phrases! I can't tell you how many people I had to apologize to for being a "silly American" who only speaks English. Really it's odd to visit a country and just expect everyone to speak the same language as you. I looked like a doofus trying to speak English to some cab drivers that only speak Spanish. In the end we got to our locations, but I would have felt a lot better about it if I could have spoken a bit more of the language.

  • Leave your phone in your room...or keep a close eye on it! So, I may have lost my phone in a cab on the way to dinner one night. It was not securly in my purse and when we got to the restaurant I just hopped out, not even paying attention. I don't have service in Mexico and I don't get wi-fi unless I'm at the resort. I usually just brought it for snapping quick pics, the time...and snapchat stories to upload when I was back in the room. But this night I went without using it. And about 5 minutes after we got up from the dinner table it wasn't on me! I thought I maybe left it at the restaurant. We went back, but nothing. Then I worried that it fell and someone picked it up. Really I just felt like an idiot. I'm always careful about my things, especially in public and here I go losing my phone in a foreign country...AND I COULDN'T EVEN USE IT OUTSIDE THE RESORT. Who am I? Anyways, we ended up going back to the resort and the "door men" of the resort looked over their cab list for the night and found the phone. I was so happy and grateful. I definitely have kept way too close of an eye on my phone ever since.

  • Grab a nice cab! When you're at the resort, almost every cab you'll grab is nice and clean. However, when you are out on the town that's not always the case. So, when looking for a cab you know will be clean, probably have AC, and most likely end up with a driver that speaks  a little english (which you wouldn't need if you weren't a big old dumbie like me)...you want to look for a newer car. Yup, that's my hint! Everytime we were about to hail a cab, I just looked for a clean, new car. And more often than not, we were pleased with the cab. Now, sometimes a restaurant or people on the street are trying to be nice and grab you a cab, which is fine and I'm sure a lot of people aren't as picky as me. However, we ended up in a cab one night infested with bugs. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. I really don't think that's common in Puerto Vallarta, but definitely something we looked out for. All cabs have one rate, so don't worry about the fare being different. Just be sure to tip, tip, tip!