Our final stop in our cross-country Mexico trip was Puerto Vallarta (PV), on the West Coast. We took a bus for the 5-hour trip from Guadalajara, and then a 30-minute Uber to get to our hotel right in town. We chose to stay downtown near the Zona Romantica so we could walk to almost everything we wanted to see.
We also planned to visit a few of the smaller villages north and south of PV, but our visit to this town ended up being a quiet end to our trip. I had come down with what I described as a manageable cold in Guadalajara, but it became quite unmanageable on the bus trip to PV. The drop in elevation from 5,000 feet above sea level to sea level was a painful experience for my poor ears. Being the sharing person that I am, Ken succumbed toward the end of our week in PV, so we were both happy to take things a little easier than we would normally when visiting a new place.
Similar to every other Mexican city we have visited, Puerto Vallarta was in the middle of a celebration. This time it was the festival of the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe) and we arrived in time for the final four days. Since the church was only a few blocks away from our hotel, it was easy to participate in the goings-on like food festivals, markets, and parades. Though there weren’t too many fireworks for this festival, the church’s bells rang with incredible frequency and length.
Our location also put us close to the malecón (boardwalk), Rio Cuale (the river dividing downtown and Zona Romantica, Isla Cuale (a market and restaurant-filled island on the river) and Zona Romantica, loaded with restaurants, nightlife, and some pretty swanky residences.
We were delighted by the Parque Estacionamiento Lazaro Cardenas, a plaza in Zona Romantica, where we came across structures covered in beautiful, brightly coloured mosaics. Sixty-six often-contiguous benches surrounded the plaza and were in various states of completion, from bare concrete to a few scattered sponsorship tiles to finished works of art. We spoke to a volunteer who was working on one piece, and he introduced us to Natasha, the leader of this two-year-old beautification project. Sponsorships for all 66 benches have been sold, but other pieces keep getting added providing more surfaces for artistic expression. Owners attend a workshop to learn the process and design their bench, or they can leave it to the crew to complete their bench for them. Volunteer crew have to participate in a three-day workshop, and then they can schedule themselves as crew whenever they like. This is a real community effort. It would be fun to see it again in a year or two and check out the new pieces, but there is plenty of colour and sparkle already.
Along the malecón, there are many shops and restaurants, all with employees urging you to come in and try their wares. We stopped at Cheeky Monkey (for $18 MXN, $1.24 CAD, margaritas), a second-floor establishment that protected us from the roving sellers, and enjoyed the views. The sculpture out in front (one of many by Sergio Bustamente, the same sculptor who created a series of pieces we saw in Guadalajara) provided all sorts of entertainment as tourists climbed the ladder to join the other figures looking out to sea. I don’t know what the hashtag is on Instagram for these photos, but I’m sure there are loads of them (sculpture: In Search of Reason).
We ran across another colourful art project in the downtown area. Walk among Worlds was an installation of thousands of plastic, inflatable globes of various sizes spilling over rooftops and up the fronts of several buildings surrounding an intersection.
On our penultimate day in PV, we took a bus south to Playa Mismaloya, almost the last possible stop on the southbound bus route. There are several rustic restaurants at this little beach area where you can stop for a drink or some food and use their chairs and loungers to enjoy some beach time. This day, though, the restaurants were all fighting with an extremely high tide. They weren’t able to place lounges out from under their lean-tos since the waves were too aggressive. Staff members wrestled sandbags about, trying to create platforms for tables and chairs, but the waves often destroyed their work before they could settle anyone down. We hung out at a high water table for a bit, and then braved a couple of quickly placed lounge chairs. We were celebrating our luck until we were soaked from underneath by another wave. It was all good fun, and a great way to soothe our miserable, cold-ridden bodies.
Wandering along the malecón provided wonderful views and sunsets and was about all the activity we could handle. There are lookouts that you can hike up to (and Ken did go up to one as part of a less-than-satisfactory walking tour he joined). We wanted, but never managed to, get up enough energy to climb up to the top of the hill where there is a several-story high platform that promises awesome views.
And with that, we said goodbye to Mexico and flew to Vancouver, BC, Canada, to spend the Christmas season with family. We’ll follow that with a too-cold and too-short visit to Calgary, Alberta, to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. And then the next international tour begins….
- Bus from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta: $1,170 MXN ($80.74 CAD) for both of us for the 5 1/2 hour trip
- Uber from bus terminal to hotel (downtown): $120 MXN ($8.24 CAD)