Puerto Vallarta makes you dizzy with its vibrant colorful display. Once you’ve visited this Pacific Coast destination in Mexico, color as you knew it will forever be a distant memory. It is here where the lush Sierra Madre Mountains seemingly tumble into the dark-blue Banderas Bay, and where bougainvillea—in shades from white to hot pink—bloom as if shouting to the heavens that they, not those darn roses, are the most beautiful of flowery creations. In Puerto Vallarta, every experience—from culinary to exploring a colonial Mexican village—surpasses one’s expectations. If your clients think they know Mexico, tell them to “fasten their seatbelts,” because Puerto Vallarta offers one hell of a ride.
Puerto Vallarta is located in the heart of the Mexican Pacific Coast on Banderas Bay, one of the world’s largest and deepest bays, and what this stunning location means are mesmerizing landscapes—both lush mountainous scenery and sun-draped hidden coves—complemented by delightful weather year-round. Divided into five zones—the upscale Marina Vallarta; the Hotel Zone; the vibrant Downtown area; Viejo Vallarta (more commonly known as the Romantic Zone), with its cobblestone streets and Old Vallarta-style architecture; and the South Zone, offering an intimate getaway feel—Puerto Vallarta is one of those destinations that truly has something for everyone, whether your clients are looking for a sun and splash vacation, a bit of colonial history, or are yearning to zipline through the jungle canopy.
Did You Know?
Travel agents specializing in the LGBT market will want to know that Puerto Vallarta is very LGBT-friendly, with Blue Chairs Resort by the Sea and Casa Cupula, among others, offering gay-friendly accommodations.
Explore. Explore. Explore. And tell your clients to put on their creative hats and discover the destination by mountain bike, horseback or jeep. This is a destination made for the active traveler who wants to delve into outdoor adventures—both on land and at sea. One of the best outfitters to do that with is Vallarta Adventures, which has been around for almost two decades and offers a plethora of tours, including the one Recommend hopped on during our visit back in April: Hidden Mexico. We were lucky to have Armando as our guide, and as he describes this itinerary, “it’s a journey through history—as we explore the forest as it once was, petroglyphs, see how breadmaking came to be in the region, visit the colonial town of El Tuito, and partake in some tequila tasting….” This 8-hour tour on board open-air Mercedes Benz Unimog 4×4 trucks starts out in Puerto Vallarta’s gorgeous botanical gardens, where the bougainvillea are in abundance and where Armando paints a picture of what life was like in bygone times and sneaks in flora and fauna facts, all interwoven into the historical landscape. Then it’s a stop to view petroglyphs that are over 1,200 years old (recommend clients bring their sunscreen and mosquito repellent) before detouring to visit 16th century El Tuito, with less than 5,000 residents, a shaded zocalo and a picturesque, albeit quaint, church. The most captivating sight in El Tuito, however, has go to be its cemetery—with its above-ground white tombs that are sprinkled in color from relatives’ flowers and gifts. The silence and stillness that envelopes the cemetery is a welcome reprieve during this activity-laden tour. After the visit to El Tuito, participants stop at Villa Azalea for an incomparable, “feet-in-the-river,” organic lunch—to say this is a highlight of the tour is an understatement. There are also stops along the way for a tequila tasting (where your clients will be able to buy a bottle from the distillery) and a sampling of fruit-filled bread baked within the hillside. Is the tour exhausting? You bet! But it’s also exhilarating.
What We Wish We Had Done (But Didn’t Have the Nerve)
Vallarta Adventures’ 6.5-hour Outdoor Adventure, in which participants zip across the bay on a high-speed inflatable boat and 4×4 into the Sierra Madre, then head up the mountain on the back of a mule, to then zipline, rappel and waterslide their way back down the canyon, crossing a river and waterfalls along the way.
Where To Stay
The adults-only Casa Velas, located in Marina Vallarta, is delightful, and talk about bougainvillea…there’s a profusion of these flowers around every corner in this sprawling resort. There are several room categories, although we loved ours with its private immersion pool on the terrace. If clients want intimacy with a bit of pampering, recommend the 614-sq.-ft. Grand Class Suites, although for pure indulgence, the 807-sq.-ft. Governor Suite overlooks the golf course and the pool. The decor is pure Mexican hacienda and the service is top of the line, but what had us captivated was the hotel’s culinary feast. Puerto Vallarta might have quite a few restaurants that your clients are going to want to try out, but recommend they stay in one night to dine at the four-diamond Emiliano (the shrimp burrito and the fountain of seafood are scrumptious). Although the hotel is not located beachside, clients can take the shuttle to the Ocean Club, where they can hang out by the pool, jacuzzi or on the beach (cabanas are available). Of course, there are also golf privileges at Marina Vallarta Golf Club and an onsite spa. Recommend the Cultural Tour package; rates through Dec. 22 are $305 pp per night dbl. Included in the package are breakfast, lunch and dinner (a la carte at Emiliano; lunch and dinner at the Ocean Club restaurant); tour to San Sebastian, nestled in the mountains and one of the gold and silver mining centers of Mexico; one 50-minute massage pp per stay with unlimited use of the spa’s hydrotherapy areas; taxes and gratuities; one bottle of sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries in suite upon arrival; and guaranteed upgrade to Grand Class Plus Suite.
Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa is embraced by the mountains and the Pacific Ocean so the views it offers left us swooning. It’s a family-friendly property (we saw lots of families during our site inspection, in fact), and since it has a preserve it’s an ideal resort for clients who enjoy nature and hiking along trails to see birds and wildlife. In fact, there’s an array of activities for all matter of clients, including watersports, cultural (interactive Spanish lessons anyone?), and culinary focus. Jr. suite rates start at $180 per night (kids under 4 stay free). The sister property, Hotel Mousai, overlooking the Garza Blanca resort, will open in November and offer an adults-only, chic ambiance. Rates on average will start at $350 per night.
Holiday Inn Express Puerto Vallarta. Yes, it’s a Holiday Inn, but unlike any we’ve ever seen. Just opened in January, this well-situated, 115-room property features hip decor, expansive room layouts, shuttles to the beach and to the downtown area, a pool, and nearby shopping. There are eight suites, and breakfast is included in the rate (call for rates).
Maia is a funky new restaurant in the Romantic Zone that is a must-try. Everything, and we are talking everything, including the coasters, is recycled. The food is divine and truly creative. (You can find them on Facebook.) ●
Puerto Vallarta is in an Upswing
Puerto Vallarta is reporting an 8 percent increase in overall hotel occupancy the first four months of 2014 with 72 percent hotel occupancy. Additionally, Puerto Vallarta’s International Airport (PVR) received 126,000 international passengers from January to April 2014.
Casa Velas: (877) 418-3011; hotelcasavelas.com or velasexperts.com
Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa: (855) 348-9033; garzablancaresort.com
Holiday Inn Express Puerto Vallarta: hiexpress.com or ihgagent.com
Hotel Mousai: (877) 929-7977; hotelmousai.com
Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board: visitpuertovallarta.com
Vallarta Adventures: (888) 526-2238; vallarta-adventures.com
Villa Azalea: villaazalea.com.mx