December 1st, 2021, I boarded WestJet, leaving Manitoba behind in a flurry of snow, sleet and ice for the next four months. This was probably my twentieth trip to PV, but never have I prepared to stay anywhere for four months, much less Puerto Vallarta. The thought that I would be seeing very little of the Manitoba winter season and a lot of sunshine, ocean, beaches, mountains and rivers was both sustaining and exhilarating. I couldn’t believe I was going to actually live out of two average size suitcases for the next four months.
Pearl of the Mexican Pacific
Puerto Vallarta is known as the pearl of the Mexican Pacific as it radiates with a rare intensity. Not only does it have the ocean and all that accompanies ocean life, but it also has the lush green jungles of the rolling foothills of the Sierra Madres. Puerto Vallarta is spread along the Bay of Banderas – one of the largest, deepest bays in the world. The town itself is nestled in a valley with rich farmlands, tropical fruit orchards and Blue Agave fields. There is the lively Malecon (seafront walkway) that runs along the shoreline and there is the endless entertainment on the Malecon – sand sculptures, living statues, rock sculptures, art displays, clowns and magicians. You name it, it’s on the Malecon. The Malecon becomes alive at night as people gather to watch the spectacular sunset and later enjoy the food and product vendors, the markets and the live entertainment.
Home away from home
I lived a half block off the Malecon in this wonderful seaside town of approximately 350,000 people. My neighbourhood was known as Old Town or Zona Romantica (as it’s called), a lively area of Puerto Vallarta right off of the Malecon. Old Town has managed to retain its rustic charm despite the encroachment of the quickly growing modern city with the more contemporary changes (posh nightclubs and discos, upscale designer boutiques, casinos, large shopping malls, Costco, Walmart, movie theatres etc.). Old Town is home to the many visitors, like myself, who want to stay in the heart of the town and within walking distance of the many amazing restaurants, bars and nightclubs with the live bands and, of course, the beach.
There are numerous beaches along the Bay of Banderas but the Playa los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) is the hands-down favourite. It is a long enough beach to spread out but still has all of the amenities you could want, including beach clubs, restaurants and bars (almost always with live music).
Puerto Vallarta isn’t however just about bars and restaurants. It has become an excellent shopping ground for handicrafts, fine arts, clothing, and even home furnishings. There is the Municipal Crafts Market by the Rio Cuale bridge and very Saturday there is the large pop up farmer’s market in the Old Town Square. There are categories of art available for purchase or simply your viewing pleasure. Artistic examples include; Mexican glass art, Huichol art, jewelry, leather, metalwork, paintings, Cartonería (or papier-mâché), tile and ceramics, wood carvings and masks, wool weavings, and it goes on and on.
No sitting on ones hands
Adventures, such as water sports, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving and biking etc., abound in and around Puerto Vallarta. There are also adventures through companies such as Vallarta Adventures (inspired by nature) that are dedicated to providing the ultimate adventures ensuring you enjoy all that nature has to offer and yet, at the same time, preserving local wildlife and vegetation. There are signature dolphin and sea lion adventure connections, cultural adventures exploring communities like San Sebastian (UNESCO World Heritage Site), adrenaline adventures including 4X4 all terrain safaris, unique speed boat thrills known as Thrillers, zip lining, high wire side steps, jungle canopy tours and moderate to extreme hiking.
There’s entertainment venues which include the many theatres in Puerto Vallarta such as The Palm, Incanto, PVAct11 and night time entertainment including adult bars such as Pour Favor, Club Roxy, Winston’s, Salty Caesars etc. Other entertainment events are available such as Rhythms of the Night, a must see outdoor dinner and Cirque-du-Soleil-like discover show, set on the picturesque isolated Las Caletas beach.
My days were typically spent walking (pretty much 20,000 steps daily), beaching, hiking the many trails (both urban and rural), following the many talented local bands.
But I would so be remiss, if I didn’t add volunteering to my daily activities. The local food bank serves over 800 meals a day and my job this past winter was to raise money for the food bank. Next year I plan to work directly at the food bank – serving and clean up. The animal rescue shelter is alive and well and always needs support for their many fundraising activities. There are numerous fund raising events for the support of inner city educational opportunities, including dance and music, for children and youth and many charitable organizations exist, such as Children of the Dump, dedicated to providing a better more sustainable life for the local families.
The contrasts include: abject poverty amongst many of the locals with the emphasis on children and youth; corrupt local governments (particularly on a municipal level) and, in some instances, corrupt local law enforcement. There is also the unseen and, in some cases, the seen Mexican Cartel and, of course, an aging and inept city infrastructure. Despite the mentioned contrasts, Puerto Vallarta is as safe, if not safer, than any of the large North American cities, unless, of course, you choose to look for at risk situations or participate in at risk illegal activities. The Mexican people want and respect us Gringos and will do all they can to make our stay as pleasurable and safe as is possible in a community their size.
Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other
I am planning on living in this wonderful city of contrasts for six months out of the year for the future years ahead of me – pending of course on my health. However, even then, Puerto Vallarta has up to date modern medical hospitals, clinics and emergency facilities. Within two weeks of my stay, I had the very situation where I needed to take advantage of one of their medical hospitals due to an emergency health situation and I received excellent timely care based on my medical background and my ability to pay for this care. I was also contacted by a specialist, an amazing medical practitioner, who will continue to be my specialist during my future stays.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed my attempt at introducing my most favourite place to stay, play, relax or work as a volunteer. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Puerto Vallarta. I do make an excellent tour guide as I so love this wonderfully unique town.
This is Gail’s second contribution to our “Celebration of (Retired) Life“ series and her first post since Radon Gas in South Central Manitoba in 2021. Nice to have you back, Gail. We welcome any uplifting, funny, inspiring, or otherwise simply interesting story, profile, or bit of whimsy. To share with our other retirees, simply email your 300- to 2,400-word piece to HG-Editor@RRC.CA.