Full disclosure: my mom is a docent on the guided walks, but she gives the same quality experience to all visitors to the gardens.
Come equipped with bug spray, or buy some at the entrance gate, but whatever you do — don’t skip it. We opted for lunch at the on-site restaurant, which was delicious. I particularly liked the piece of sugar cane and bamboo straw in my limonada.
The gardens are a non-profit, charitable organization focused on conservation and education. Besides the beautiful and densely populated grounds, they are fundraising to purchase more land in the surrounding area, keeping it safe from would-be real estate developers — some of whom are not above operating illegally, despite the endangered species known to inhabit the region. Your visit to the gardens helps fund their efforts. And consider a limonada and breakfast or lunch at the restaurant before stocking up on vanilla pods at the gift shop.
We’ve been to Puerto Vallarta plenty of times. Inspired by the Taco Chronicles, we wanted to discover the food we love in the place we love, but not in the restaurants we already know.
AirBnB to the rescue again! We found Memo’s tours there, but if you’re interested, you should consider booking through his website vallarta101.com. He does more than just food tours: history and culture walks are also on offer (and he gave us an inside tip that they’re expanding that area, too).
We were a mixed bag: an omnivore, a fish (and raw onion!) abstainer, and a mostlytarian. Therefore the vegetarian Taco Walk 103 made the most sense for us. Two other people joined up who were much stricter vegetarians. Our tour covered taco offerings at not-strictly-vegetarian restaurants, even though all the food we ate was.
I’m not going to blow up Memo’s spot by revealing all the neat places hiding out in the open. Suffice it to say, these restaurants — none of which we’d tried before — were all in well-known places downtown where we thought we were pretty well-versed.
But we got more than just good food out of it. Memo covered cultural, local, and regional aspects of the food and the restaurants as well. Some of the stops on the walk were high-concept fancy-pants places, and some were holes-in-the-wall we’d never have given a second look…but should have.
Three big tips for you, taco enthusiast:
Arrive hungry at the meeting point.
Prepare to share with someone else in your party, particularly after the first stop on the walk.
Save room! Drinks and desserts are part of the package. If you fill up, you miss out.
We are fully aware of our coffee dependency — never moreso than while hopping time zones. So we decided to Learn the Process of Coffee Roasting via this AirBnB Experience, which popped up while searching for things to do in the area. We were looking to AirBnB for inspiration after our good buddy Kristin’s recommendation to take the Pasteis de Nata baking class during our trip to Porto.
Daniel’s coffee shop, La Cabra y La Mata, is not in Puerto Vallarta. It’s not even in Jalisco. But it’s less than an hour away by bus in Bucerías, a sleepy resort town north of Nuevo Vallarta with long stretches of beach.
We started our journey with a walk to the airport — about 20 minutes from our home base in PV — and caught a bus going towards Bucerías, or maybe La Cruz de Huanacaxtle or Sayulita. Bus fare was $20 MXN per person each way, payable in cash to the driver upon boarding and stating our destination. That works out to around a dollar or euro, depending on the exchange rate. We monitored our progress on the bus via GPS and just got out at a stop that seemed close enough.
… along with some drinks (espresso, natch, but also an iced espresso over Licor 43, which was lovely) to accompany his explanations, and then it was time to get roasting. We took careful notes about the temperature, fuel, ventilation, and time at each stage of the roasting process and came home in the end with a couple 250 gram bags each of two different coffees we roasted. We were wide awake for the bus ride back to Puerto Vallarta.
The Malecón is a seawall in downtown Puerto Vallarta where you can stroll along the coast and log some excellent people-watching. On this year’s trip (versus December or January in years past) there seemed to be fewer tourists from the USA or Canada visiting the region (including the smaller towns we visited to the North of Puerto Vallarta). Consequently, this trip had a much more authentic Mexican vibe to it than previous ones.
We relied on their expertise for the whale-watching expedition, which I’m sure was the second highlight of the trip. They knew all the stuff necessary to guarantee an excellent whale-watching day: where to take the bus, how to pick a boat captain, and especially how to get those whales to jump out of the water as we approached them.
But after they headed home to crappy weather, we stuck around down here for another week,
soaking up the sun at the pool,
strolling up and down the beach,
observing the pelicans,
scouting around downtown and the local supermarket for good eats,
playing with camera gadgets (thanks Susie!),
and as is tradtional for a visit down here, OOHing and AHHing at the sunsets.
Here are some of our favorite shots of those activities:
Here are the rest of our favorite shots from this trip:
Stuff we (still) want(ed) to do (again) but which will have to wait until next time:
head over to Bucerias for Wednesday Night Tacos or just in general
check out the Botanical Gardens
watch baby turtles run down the beach after hatching
try various recommended resturants
Rent Segways® for zooming around the marina area
charter a sailboat and crew for a day sail around the bay
Some of these things are more fun or cost effective when you can split the cost more ways, or when someone who’s done it before can show you the ropes.
This has been an excellent trip, but we are dreading the return to reality. Planning our return always keeps us hopeful.
Two slideshows up in this post. I hope you enjoy them.
My sister and brother-in-law departed today, headed back home to cold parts of the world (though apparently not quite cold enough for winter sports, he lamented). It was great seeing them; we attended their wedding in December 2007 (after a previous visit to Puerto Valllarta) and hadn’t seen them since. We only overlapped with them for two full days (odd that we didn’t notice that at the time of ticket purchase), but we’re thankful for the time we had and their recommendations in the whale watching adventure.
Here are just a few shots of them, with me trying to get my candid artsiness on:
And here are the shots from our whale watching adventure. There are about 30 of them…Sarah and I tried to cut it down, but although these shots are not technically perfect, we’re already reliving the thrill by viewing them. We were lucky to get not only a glimpse of a whale, but a mother-calf combo at play.