Rediscovering Puerto Vallarta

At the beginning of each year my husband and I start a conversation on what part of the world we will explore for our anniversary.  There is always a negotiation between us where we should visit and in the past, it is somewhere in the world we have never been.  This year we mixed it up and both agreed to rediscover Puerto Vallarta, a place we first visited in the late 80’s.

We selected the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta as a home for our stay. The property is located north of the Malecón boardwalk and within walking distance of the beautiful Marina Vallarta.  We fell in love with the resort from the day we arrived.  It has a comfortable vibe, with excellent amenities.  When traveling, we rarely utilize the hotel for anything other than to lay our head down at the end of the day. On this trip, we decided to immerse ourselves in the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta experience.  It was easy to do!

It’s clear this resort invests in hiring, training and motivating its staff, as everyone we encountered was personable, friendly, and happy.  According to Marriott’s Area General Manager, David Gauna, “Our employees have a genuine desire to serve our guests and our orientation and continuous training efforts reinforce the commitment to an exceptional guest experience at the resort.”

The service effort has paid off.  In our five day stay, we have a flawless service experience.  Besides the amazing people who work at this property, the resort location, well-appointed rooms, dining options, water sports, pool, and gorgeous grounds collectively create an environment we did not want to leave!

The resort offers seven restaurants throughout the property. Creative menus, culinary presentation, and exceptional service is a hallmark of each food outlet.  A noteworthy mention is Mikado, the resort’s Asian- influenced dinner house. Options include a sushi bar, teppanyaki-style table presentation, and a eclectic dinner menu. The restaurant designed with Asian-inspired furnishings overlooks a large pond, where we watched turtles occasionally surface in the water.

Another dining choice at the resort is Las Casitas offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a comfortable open-air beachside experience. We were able to breathe in the fresh ocean air, feel the warm wind on our skin, watch and listen to the waves break on the shore from our table.

The menu includes fresh fish, salads, sandwiches and traditional Mexican fare offered throughout the day. If you are a guacamole fan, try the table-side preparation for a unique experience.

We also explored a few culinary experiences outside of the resort.  Cafe Des Artistes, located a few short blocks from the Malecón, is a long-standing Puerto Vallarta icon offered by acclaimed French chef Thierry Blouet. The Chef has merged old world, (the restaurant is located in a century-old renovated house) with a ultra-contemporary restaurant design.  The menu compliments both Chef’s French roots and his years in the Mexican culinary world.

Cafe des Artiste is absolutely gorgeous with its elegant decor and ambiance. We were welcomed with an apéritif as we walked into the lobby and shown to our window view table overlooking the activity on the street below.  The staff,  clearly well-trained in high-end standards, were approachable, engaging and attentive.

The innovative menu selections change based on the availability of locally sourced fresh items. Plates come off the line looking like works of art.  The attention to detail in this restaurant is exceptional. Special occasions are recognized with the restaurant’s signature dessert presentation; a memorable dining experience worth a visit.

pc: TripAdvisor

Closer to the resort and within walking distance is the Marina Vallarta offering various restaurant choices, including the trendy Tintoque, Porto Bello, and the Sonora Grill Prime. We decide to visit the Sonora Grill Prime and got seated before the Puerto Vallarta sky opened up with a deluge of rain. A remarkable hour-long thunder and lightning storm entertained us throughout dinner.

The restaurant has an upscale contemporary vibe, yet employs a DJ who plays loud 70’s and 80’s techno-pop tracks; an interesting juxtaposition for this modern restaurant!  The menu offers premium cuts of meat, locally-caught fish, pasta, salad, and various regional specialties. The service was genuinely friendly, a trait we found in all the restaurants we visited in Puerto Vallarta.

Given how much we were enjoying the resort, it was hard to pull away to visit some of the locations on our must-see list, including the funky surf town of Sayulita. Located about 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta along the Pacific Riviera Nayarit coast, the town is easily reached by either bus or taxi. The bus runs about $2.00 per person from the Walmart in Puerto Vallarta and a negotiated taxi will cost around $30.00.

We chose a taxi as we heard the bus ride doubles the time to get to the town due to stops along the way. What we didn’t consider was the difficulty in getting a taxi back from Sayulita. The fare to return was double the cost of getting to Sayulita. The driver indicated it was due to supply and demand. I had read before arriving in Puerto Vallarta to always negotiate and agree upon the taxi fare before getting into the car. We tried at least three drivers and all stated the same rate to return. There is no negotiation with taxis leaving from Sayulita!

Colorful Sayulita offers a beautiful bay perfect for surfing and swimming.  Surfboard, paddle board, kayak, beach loungers, and palapas are rented on the beach.  Several barefoot beachside dining and contemporary restaurants and bars are found on the beach and on the main roads throughout the town.  Boutique hotels are available near the bay.

Regional Huichol art is displayed by friendly street vendors and in the retail art galleries lining the streets in Sayulita.

A few other must-see locations to put on your itinerary include a visit to the Malecón, a mile-long boardwalk where retail shops, bars, restaurants, local artwork, and unique oversized statues abound. Consider visiting as the sun sets into the horizon as the boardwalk offers unobstructed views of the Bahia de Banderas and sea walls to sit and people watch, absorb the local culture and enjoy one of Puerto Vallarta’s amazing sunsets.

If getting in the warm tropical water is on your list, grab a taxi to the unique Los Muertos Pier where local boat companies and private boat operators are willing to take you to any of the beautiful bays along the 65 mile Bahia de Banderas coastline.

A private boat captain took us to Las Peñas (Los Arcos) Marine Park, where both sea bird and underwater fish species are plentiful.  Donning my snorkel gear, I was able to see octopus, sea turtles and colorful marine life.

Three small granite islands make up the marine preserve and what is special about these small islands is the ability to swim through the long caves that tunnel from end to end in two of the islands.

We spend our last day in Puerto Vallarta relaxing at the resort, enjoying the pool and luxuries the property has to offer.  Heavy clouds loom in the distance and we get in one more adventure on the water with the resort kayaks.  We see a large sea turtle that plays cat and mouse with us until it gets bored and disappears in the sea.
A lot has changed since our first visit to this captivating city and in no way will we let too much time go by before our next visit to Puerto Vallarta!
If You Go:
Visit Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
Av Paseo de la Marina Nte 435, Marina Vallarta, 48354 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
CasaMgna Marriott Puerto Vallarta
Av Paseo de la Marina Nte 435, Marina Vallarta, 48354 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Calle Guadalupe Sánchez 740, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, JAL, Mexico
+52 322 226 7200
Av Paseo de la Marina 126, Marina Vallarta, 48335 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico