As I’ve already stated elsewhere on my blog, one of the main reasons that I am teaching English is that it gives me the chance to earn money while I’m travelling. Obviously, my travelling is restricted to the holiday periods, because of the fact that I’m a teacher.
So for my first actual travelling trip during the Christmas holidays, I went with a friend by coach to Puerto Vallarta. It was far too expensive to travel by airplane, because there are only few domestic airlines, which then means that they can charge an arm and a leg for the ‘privilege’ of you using their services. And for some reason, even though there used to be more passenger trains, this is no longer the case. Passenger trains are restricted to certain areas in Mexico; only freight trains run up and down the country. So the most economical way that most people travel around Mexico is by coach.
Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco, which according to Google Maps is approximately 734 miles from where I live. This was my first epic coach journey and it lasted around 21 hours. It was only when I was planning my trip that I realised how humongous Mexico actually is, because Puerto Vallarta is only kind of situated in the middle of Mexico; I would hate to travel by bus to Cancun. But my first bus journey (yes, I annoyingly am succumbing to using the American word for coach – curses) was very luxurious and comfortable. But this special TAP coach service set the bar far too high, and all my other coach journeys since have paled in comparison. As we travelled to Puerto Vallarta, I got to see the different kinds of landscapes that Mexico had to offer, and it was awesome to see greener surroundings in comparison to where I had been living.
Once we arrived and had checked-in to our accommodation, my friend and I tried to do as much as we possibly could in Puerto Vallarta (P.V). We covered a lot of ground in a short space of time and we had a lot of fun. P.V. is a coastal town and a lot of activities focus on, but are not restricted to, beach life. We were there for about a week, and I think that’s more than enough time to see what the place has to offer. That is unless you are one of the Americans or Canadians, who like to ‘winter’ here for months on end, taking everything in at a laid-back pace.
P.V. is a pretty, coastal town and it really doesn’t take a long time for you to feel relaxed. And in comparison to Cancun, it’s pretty cheap, and that’s why many Americans, Canadians and Mexicans choose P.V. as a holiday destination.
The beaches are a pretty awesome sight as well. Just be aware that there is a beach with ‘pebbles’/big arse rocks on it, and then there are the sandy beaches as well. Also the waves can get pretty huge unexpectedly as well, as I’ve personally experienced. I just remember one minute that I was standing up in the water, I turned my back to the sea to say something to my friend (school-boy error), and then the next minute I was knocked over, surrounded by water, looking at the light so that I could get out of the water. As a new swimmer who doesn’t feel comfortable in the sea, that was a pretty traumatic experience for me, but I like to think that I played it cool.
There are many different types of excursions that you can go one to suit your taste. There are many stalls and many people walking up and down the beach who will try and sell you the best offer. Your waiter may even hustle in on the action, and claim to know someone who can give you the best deal. My advice would be to shop around different sources, and then haggle. But don’t expect a luxury service if that’s not what you have paid for. For me, the highlight of the trip was what we ended up seeing. Also If your excursion involves travelling from the Port then be prepared to pay a little bit extra to enter the port.
On our first excursion, while half of the people on board went to Las Animas, a beautiful beach that hardly had any people on it, we ventured on to a place called Quimixto to go horse riding to see a waterfall.
Our next excursion on Christmas Day was to see the Marietas Islands, in particular Playa del Amor, also known as the Hidden Beach. We had a little detour on the way as there were some dolphins and whales that were swimming by, so we stopped to watch them. Once they swam away, we then continued on our journey to Playa del Amor. The beach is a beautiful place, and it was truly awesome to see it. But there were a few downsides though, which you should be aware of.
First of all, despite what photos show you, you will not be the only person on the beach. In fact, you will share the small beach with many, many people, which makes for a very crowded experience. What’s more, you’ll only have 15 minutes to enjoy the beach, as there are so many tour companies that have allotted times to visit the beach. Taking into consideration that you have to swim about 150m to get there, because it’s a protected area, so boats aren’t allowed past a certain point. This is fine, if not long and arduous, if you’re an ok swimmer like myself with a life vest. But it’s a bit more challenging if you don’t swim at all, like my friend and a few other people on the tour. But the tour guides were always there to help you if you got into trouble so that was fine.
The real challenging part of the experience was swimming through the cave. Whenever you tried to swim inside, the current would push you back. There were so many people there, so be prepared to get limbs hitting you left, right and centre. It was particularly dangerous because the water rose every so often, so you risked hitting your head at the top of the cave or you getting pushed under. Therefore you had to time your swim through the cave perfectly. For all I tried, I just couldn’t do it by myself, so a guy encouraged me to grab hold of his lifesaver with a couple of other people. “Fuerte, fuerte,” I remember him shouting. He was telling us to kick harder against the current. It was a huge relief to just be able to lie on the beach after having gone through all of that trauma. Little did I realise that I was walking around half-naked for a good few minutes until someone alerted me to that fact – how embarrassing. Regardless of all the negatives, it really was worth seeing Playa del Amor.
The cave of doom
After our tour here, we went near one of the other islands to snorkel, kayak or body board. If your tour operator is anything like my one, then they don’t have enough equipment for everyone to kayak or body board at once, so you’ll have to wait until it’s your turn. I went snorkelling, but it wasn’t the best experience I’ve ever had. Even though the facilities and the resources weren’t great, the entertainment on the boat was excellent. I have videos, but I’m not allowed to make them publicly available.
We stayed in a place called Hotel Ana Liz. Even though it was a budget hotel, with our room costing around $390 pesos per night, the location was great. We were only a ten minute walk from the beach and we had everything we needed close by, including a launderette.
There a many restaurants that you can eat at, and a few food stalls that can whet your appetite as well, and although many of them are really good, some of them are only ok. There’s one place in particular that had awesome food and superb service, and that was Bravos. Every time we went in there, we felt like celebrities. This, along with another restaurant that was a few doors away from it, if I remember correctly, quickly became our favourite place to eat.
There is a lot of entertainment in the area, from groups recreating ancient rituals by the sea, to outdoor plays and comedy acts that you typically see in the evenings in a Mexican town.
There are also a myriad of bars and clubs along the beach, particularly close to the malecon. I particularly loved La Bodeguita del Medio, because of its melodious Cuban vibes, which I love.
Overall, my friend and I had a great time in P.V. and my experience there is something that I would treasure forever.
*Aside from the map and the pictures of Playa del Amor, the rest of the photos are mine.