My girlfriend and I were wanting to get away for a week at the end of February and literally go south for the winter. We put our heads together and discussed some different options. Being a lesbian couple, our options are limited to where we can go and feel safe. Many countries in the Caribbean can be unsafe for LGBT travellers, such as Jamaica, Belize, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominca, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Cayman Islands. Consensual same-sex sexual activity remains illegal for one or both sexes in these countries (except for Belize) and although these laws might not be enforced, the culture of these countries can make it quite challenging for LGBT travellers.
So since our list of countries for a winter vacation was unfortunately shortened, it did make it easier for us to discuss our remaining options. First we were thinking of travelling to Costa Rica or Puerto Rico, but both the high cost and flight duration made us contemplate other choices. We then thought Mexico might be a great option as our local airport offers direct flights and the price was right. It then came down to deciding on going to Cancun and the Caribbean side or Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific coast. Wanting to do more inland exploring, we decided to go with Puerto Vallarta.
I’ll start by saying that we are by no means an “all-inclusive” couple. We’re the kind of people who prefer to visit a local grocery store and make our own means, walk everywhere in order to save a buck, and take photographs as our souvenirs. To be honest the last all-inclusive vacation I went on was when I was 13. But boy, was the price ever right in order for us to mix things up. Our direct flights, all-inclusive hotel, and transfers for 8 days in Puerto Vallarta was about $1000 each through Sunwing. That being said a flight from our local airport to the next larger city goes for $400 – so for $1000, getting all that was a great steal. There were also some cheaper options as well, but we utilized TripAdvisor and went with a place that we thought would suit our needs.
Anyway, enough about that and on with our adventure!
- Puerto Vallarta served as a critical port to safely load silver for export from the abundant silver mines in the Sierra Madre mountains.
- There is a number of beautiful sculptures along the Malecon (boardwalk) and there are even free walking tours to learn more about these cool art features in town.
- Being located within the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is a place where you can find the very vibrant and colourful Huichol art. The Huichol people are Indigenous to the area and have a very distinct artistic style.
When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta we were met with warm gorgeous weather.
Each day consisted of us waking up, going for breakfast and loading our plates with mounds of fresh pico de gallo and guacamole, having a tasty agua fresca in the sun, then heading off the resort for a daily adventure. On the second day we took a walk around town ourselves, visiting the famous Malecon or boardwalk in the downtown area. The followings days were filled with some exciting adventures that allowed us to become more familiar with the area, its history, and most importantly, its cuisine.
Before we left we signed up for a walking food tour by Vallarta Food Tours. I always wanted to do something like this and now seemed like a good time. My girlfriend is vegan and although I eat a mostly vegan diet, I also have a wheat allergy. These restrictions makes things pretty tough in Europe, Canada, and the US and made us hesitant that we would have a lot of choices on the tour, but we were pleasantly surprised.
When we arrived at the meeting point for the Downtown Vallarta Food Tour we were shocked to see that we were the only two people participating in the tour. We introduced ourselves to the guide Ana Maria and set off on our tasty adventure. Each stop was very different and we got to try a large variety of dishes, such as coconut meat ceviche, regional tacos, enchiladas, and fresh tortillas. We also learned about how the food is made, the history of each location that we stopped at, and were introduced to numerous locals on the street. Before the tour we thought we were really familiar with the downtown and old town areas, but this tour opened our eyes to areas we some how missed on our own adventures. This tour was without a doubt the most memorable day we had in Puerto Vallarta. Ana Maria made us feel like locals by introducing us to the food, culture, history, and people of the city. The food was absolutely fabulous and by far the best food we ate on our trip.
The next day we decided to get out of town and visit the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. We hopped on a city bus that was old, bumpy, incredibly loud, but incredibly awesome. The trip cost a mere 20 pesos one way, or about $2, and offered a scenic trip through the mountains. The gardens themselves are very beautiful and having the time to really get a good look at the variety of vegetation was really worthwhile. Although they highly recommend bug spray, we may have been lucky but we just saw two mosquitoes the entire time we were there.
A few days before we returned home we took a trip to San Sebastian del Oeste, a former silver mining village in the Sierra Madre mountains. The village is located just a short drive out of Puerto Vallarta (about 90 min). You travel on windy roads, over incredible bridges, and see some stunning sights along the way. The town is beautiful, with old cobble stone streets, stark white buildings, and a gorgeous 18th century church. The vegetation was very different from that down in Puerto Vallarta and the people seemed to be a lot more laid back. On this trip we also visited a small organic coffee bean plantation just on the edge of town and a mezcal/tequila distillery on the way back.
Our days in Puerto Vallarta were definitely more rewarding than we expected. The positive atmosphere that the city exudes really revives ones soul and spirit. My girlfriend and I wanted to enjoy our days to the fullest, so each evening we sat on the sandy shores of Banderas Bay and watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The sunsets themselves were consistently stunning and they helped to create a romantic vibe that ran through the night.
- Even if all-inclusives aren’t your thing, they may serve as a decent base point for you and you won’t have to worry about eating out or getting groceries for all your meals.
- Having our resort within walking distance to the downtown core was great. The ability to get off the resort and connect with the real Puerto Vallarta makes a huge difference.
- I like how our resort had a large Mexican clientele, it was less rowdy and felt more authentic.
- The city offers an eclectic variety of public transportation, but these buses are cheap! If you’re wanting to feel more like a local you should definitely hop on one of the loud and packed buses.