On our first free day, we decided to explore the beach triangle north of Puerto Vallarta in the Nayarit state (PVR is in Jalisco state). This area is at the northern point of the Bahia de Banderas. Adam, at the Gecko car rental, suggested the route to us. [On a side note, we highly recommend Gecko car rental. The cars are in good conditions. The service is very professional, and they have wonderful tips to travel like locals. They also prepared us well with the local traffic rules, including a trip up and down the Sierra Madre mountain range.]
This is a beautiful beach with very few visitors. The visitors we met are either locals or foreigners who have relocated to the area. The waves are calm. The sand is white and soft. The water is not clear blue like in Cancun/Yucatan, but it is still pleasing to the senses. If you are looking to disconnect and chill without being bothered by vendors, this is THE place.
Punta de Mita
Punta de Mita is a sleepy town that is getting quite fancy shops, including “Biasa” from Bali, due to its proximity to St. Regis and the Four Seasons resorts. We had lunch at Original Anclote by the beach. We love the smoked merlin guisado and the ajillo sauce that came with the Seafood Platter for two. The food is very affordable. The only downside was that we had too many vendors bothering us with their merchandise. I found a cute shop called Pueblo which sells handmade local artesanal products from different parts of Mexico, such as Michoacan, Oaxaca, and San Sebastian del Oeste. I had to buy, of course!
Sayulita is said to resemble Playa del Carmen in Yucatan Peninsula. You do see more tourists here. Many learn to surf on Sayulita’s beach. The town also offers more hotels and restaurants of various cuisines, compared to San Pancho and Punta Mita.
We found a cute cafe selling “paletas” (ice cream popsicle) called La Reinita on the way to the beach. I tried one with Mezcal, cactus fruit, and elderflower. Yummy! Especially on a hot and humid day.
San Pancho (San Francisco)
San Pancho, how San Francisco is commonly called, is a sleepy town with amazing beach. It is a tad commercial, but not as much as Sayulita. We sat on the beach to watch the sunset over a glass of lemonade. My buddy and I are not the type to stay still too long, so once the sun disappears over the horizon we were ready to move on.
We finished the day with dinner at the Puerto Vallarta old town. We walked on the malecon (“boardwalk”) by the beach. I personally never associate boardwalks with beautiful things (Atlantic City, Boracay, etc). I am not too impressed with the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk, which is located in the old part of the city. I do not hate it either. It was a nice evening stroll and we were searching nourishment in a from of fresh seafood.
We went to a restaurant called The Blue Shrimp. The taste of the food was not amazing, but we got to try the blue shrimps which are in season. Seafood price is definitely affordable and of great value in Puerto Vallarta. We spent USD50 for two people (a plate of five blue shrimps and a kilo of whole red snapper).
We were full but not satisfied. We were tempted to buy tacos from the street vendors (USD3 for five pieces!).
My overall take on Puerto Vallarta is positive. It is more interesting than Cancun. We bumped into more local tourists and locals. It has more neighborhood we can visit, unlike Cancun’s Zona Hotelera. It had more local options to eat. We bumped into only one loud, drunken tourist (which after my Cancun experience can be considered a good, tame night!). Foodwise, nothing has beaten Tacun and Chaya Mama though.