From the modern beat of the Hotel Zone, the Malecon’s discotheques and the symphony that is Zona Romantica, we have discovered the rhythms of Puerto Vallarta.
My morning Tucker walk begins at the south end of Los Muertos beach, 135 steps down from our condo at Las Brisas del Mar. While I dip my feet in the ocean Tucker hunts for smells among the lounge chairs, dodging waves as they wash up on shore. At this hour the beach is just opening for business. Chairs are being set up, umbrellas are unfurled and a few diehards have wandered out for their first cocktail of the day. “Buenos dias,” we morning walkers greet each other.
There must be no better place to be a gay man than the Zona Romantica district of Puerto Vallarta. This morning all is calm, but by afternoon the pool at Blue Chairs will be disturbing the peace and hard bodies with matching swimsuits will dominate the beach. The cacophony of the discotheques begins after dark. Blondie’s will be mixing their fabulous cocktails, and Apaches old time crowd will gather on the street. Loud music and strobe lights spill out from the “spas” here at 10 AM.You don’t need to be gay to love it here. This is an inclusive neighbourhood.
At the Rio Cuale we are forced off the beach to cross over the river on the bridge. Just under the bridge look for the oyster guys. A couple of fresh oysters might be exactly what the palette needs by this point in the walk.
The Malecon is a walkers dream. The art, statues and street performers entertain as you pass one of the most stunning coast lines in Mexico. Shops and restaurants line the boardwalk.
Every morning we walked as far north as Restaurant El Malecon. The chilaquiles here are only 85 pesos. We’ve walked long enough to have earned the first cerveza of the day. With our feet in the sand, but tucked just a little bit away from the main beach we watch the pelicans fish while we eat. From this vantage point you can see the flying bird-men of Papantla climb high into the air and then swing down a pole, all day every day.
The Hotel Zone
Most days we turn back here, but we have a friend staying in the hotel zone. We can almost get there along the beach. The hotel zone is yet another PV rhythm, this one more familiar to North American travelers. The modern high-rise hotels offer spectacular views, modern amenities and even elevators!
Ray, I and the ragged dog, shoeless and maskless clearly do not belong. We were escorted off the property while sneaking our way through private pools and private beaches.
Shopping in the Hotel Zone is also more familiar, Walmart, Costco, Home Depot and the fabulous Galarias Shopping mall. We only saw these less exotic places from the bus window, or from the street as we walked by to visit our friend.
With over 500 restaurants, Puerto Vallarta is a foodies dream. I relied on friends and Facebook for recommendations, but sometimes it was just the irresistible sand and sunset that dictated the stop. One thing is certain, there are too many places to visit just one a day. Head out for cocktails, then dinner and finally a night cap – at least.Our first place and our regular place became Cuetes y Cuates on the beach right beside the pier in Zona Romantica. The music, the beef tacos and the relatively cheap cerveza (for a beach bar) is the draw. As January ran on this place got too crowded so save it for your night cap if you’re here during busy season.
Not too far down the beach, and a fair bit pricier is iK Mixology Bar. As we watched the sunset from the elevated deck one evening, one couples life changed forever as he proposed to her in the sunset beside the lit up LOVE sign.
Consensus on Facebook was that the best burger in town can be found at Derby’s. It’s a place you need to be looking for, as its kind of hidden in a little courtyard. Hard to know if it was the best, but it was pretty darn good.
If you’re hankering for a taste of the south, Whisky Kitchen on highway 200 delivers fried chicken, mac and cheese and live music every night from 7 PM on. For Mexican standards the bill comes in a little high, but if it’s southern food you’re craving this is the place.
Deep in the heart of old town is Frida’s Kitchen. “Just order the special”, we were told. We had the last two racks of ribs and they were phenomenal! Along the way you can appie up at one of several taco stands on the street.
The humble looking Ill Pesce in the heart of Zona Romantica made a truffle pasta that is worth writing about. The house wine was a fine merlot that came in large glasses. Our friends Ken and Louise brought us here. They’d been here many years before and took us along on a walk down memory lane.
Los Muerto’s Brewing Company offer a large 200 peso pizza and beer flights to sample all of their home made cervezas. The pizza is fabulous, the cerveza not bad but we come from Victoria so we’re beer snobs.
Probably the best thing about dining in Puerto Vallarta was that Tucker was always curled up under the table with us.
There are so many restaurants, a month is not long enough to do them all justice. We’ve already started working on next years booking. There’s a lot of exploring left in this beautiful Mexican city.