There are some trips I invest great gobs of time researching well in advance and then there are other escapes that I try to avoid doing anything and a recent holiday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico falls into the latter category and will admit my plan to do nothing worked out exactly as planned.
Having the rare good fortune to win a seven night all-inclusive stay for two in a one bedroom suite at the four star Velas Vallarta I opted for a late May departure to coincide with some WestJet seat sales, booking well in advance of course. A long-time friend who has travelled with me before agreed to risk her sanity and travel with me again to the edge – or at least the edge of the continent. It was much like past all-inclusive resort stays where I inflict my abominable Spanish phrases upon the staff who they in turn smile and nod politely as they’ve no doubt become accustomed to doing however one memorable difference was the view front the big balcony looking out over the beach to the Bay of Banderas.
This four star all-inclusive is built in a U shape and sprawling in the centre is a series of pools starting just off the beach and connected by a lazy river to what turned out to be my preferred hideaway, the quiet pool. Curled up in a comfortable lounge chair under a vine covered pergola reading and watching the day, iguanas and peacocks all pass by was the sum total of activity I felt inclined to muster.
Despite a rainy forecast the weather the whole week in Puerto Vallarta was humid and hot, so hot in fact that by noon the clay bricks used in the walkways around the resort grew to a blistering temperature as the bottoms of my feet soon found out. Later the next day my pasty white chest & shoulders also burned the more conventional way after what I thought to be a very short spell laying in the sun. It was quite a dubious record as I hadn’t blistered the bottoms of my feet and sunburned in the same tropical vacation.
Normally I would’ve been encamped on the sand in and out of the surf for much of the day every day but from arrival for the first half of the week high waves and strong current kept me beached. I was able however to spend a chunk of one day in the ocean when the swells fell much to my delight and the bodysurfers chagrin.
While not a brand new resort the Velas Vallarta is immaculately maintained by a small army of staff and the lush, natural beauty
is augmented by some feathered local residents who never missed a chance to strut their stuff.
The lobby with its graceful stacked arches are as visually appealing as the grounds night or day and a staffer who noticed me admiring the space mentioned the owners were an engineer and an architect which seemed to make more sense as the whole resort has a continuity in its traditional Mexican design.
There was one day of travel consultant work visiting two other resorts within the Velas group, the cozy and adult only Casa Velas and the larger Grand Velas with its outstanding multi-level infinity pool that leads down to the beach. These two hotels are a little more upscale and newer than Velas Vallarta which is 25 years old although it hides its age well as hardware improvements have been made in recent years with items like flat screen TV’s and larger digital room safes.
Having not been to Puerto Vallarta for too many years I wanted to spend a half day sightseeing in the downtown and walk the Malecón, a wide pedestrian boulevard running alongside the ocean. This area has undergone a major reconstruction over the past few years and is much more walkable than on my last visit so it was pleasant to amble along admiring the view.
Steps from the Malecón through the Plaza de Armas with its bandstand is the city’s famous landmark, the steeple of the Our Lady of Guadalupe church that’s worth a short visit to both escape the heat of the midday sun and admire its white interior from a back pew. Services are conducted in both Spanish and English on Sundays should you wish to attend a mass.
Should the shopkeepers along the Malecón not been persuasive enough to entice you inside the Isla del Rio Cuale handicraft market is nearby with local leather goods, jewelry and decorative souvenirs of all kinds in small shops sheltered in the shade of some seemingly ancient trees. The good natured exchanges with the local shop owners was a bit of fun and I managed to barter with one on a small “Mexico” sign made out of one letter each from different state licence plates nailed to a wood frame but I try not to make an offer on an item unless it’s something I really want as some merchants don’t take too kindly to insincere shoppers.
We began our market walk on the east side of the island by crossing on one of a handful of hanging pedestrian bridges that swayed with every step. Starting at this end of the island made not only for a mostly downhill stroll but deposited us where the island ends and the Cuale River flows into the ocean metres from the Malecón bringing us right back to where we’d started an hour or two earlier.
When hailing a taxi back to the resort it’s always wise to ask the flat price before stepping in as we found there can be a difference from cabbie to cabbie. The cool waters of the pool at the Velas Vallarta we welcome after our day visit to downtown Puerto Vallarta but I very much enjoyed this resort escape and would encourage others to spend some time exploring on their own as the city has much to offer.
The sun’s slow descent into the Pacific draws a small crowd nightly as the sunsets always seem a little more magical in the tropics.
As if it were planned our last night at the resort was capped off with a small fireworks show just before midnight making for a memorable send off to what really was a relaxing vacation with a friend.