In the last six months, the value of the Mexican peso against the U.S. dollar has decreased about 15%, making Mexico vacations more affordable than ever. New direct flights from Southwest have added to the airlift, which means airfares are lower, too. We’ll use Puerto Vallarta, a beach town we know well, as an example of all the reasons to travel this fall with fewer vacation dollars in your wallet.
My first reason to return to a Mexican beach town like Puerto Vallarta is that this town has charm and culture to spare – at no added cost.
Old Vallarta (also called Zona Romantica) is Puerto Vallarta’s 1930’s town center, which includes a cobblestone square that adjoins the seafront promenade, el Malecon. The breezy, 12-block-long walkway overlooking the Bay of Banderas is lined with public artworks. Beautiful little churches clothed in murals and tiles celebrate local saints’ days. Art galleries featuring traditional and contemporary Mexican art are easily seen on the free guided ArtWalk tour which operates daily from October to May.
We find being in Puerto Vallarta is a vacation from the daily grind.
No need to harness little ones against honking traffic, no worries about swimming in a rough and cold sea. Day and night there’s something fun going on around town, like the Papantla flying dancers who twirl off a maypole, like birdmen in colorful costumes. The Old Town’s air of wellbeing – and yes, there’s trouble anywhere if you look hard enough – is another reason to visit now.
Vallartans have always loved their fresh seafood from the bay and bountiful produce from the Sierra Madre mountains, socializing after sundown, eating out and enjoying the nightlife.
What’s changed is the availability of international restaurants, specialty items for allergen-free and vegan diets, and being able to call home-distilled tequila (the state of Jalisco is the birthplace of tequila) “artisanal.”
With the exchange rate where it stands, you can afford a babysitter and new sandals to take a partner to La Palapa, the beachfront eatery made popular by lovers Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton during the filming of “Night of the Iguana.” Or take the kids out with you – it’s a very kid-welcoming culture. Fine dining at more than 300 restaurants – not to mention the 500 streetside taco stands my family loves – will set you back far less than you imagine. Ever changing nightclubs, winebars and after hours hangouts are close by. After decades of welcoming international tourists, PV as it’s known, is also very inclusive, another reason we recommend this destination.
Mouth-watering street food may not appeal to every family, but we enjoy it as part of our cultural education.
After a “Tequila, Tacos & Mexican Cocktails Tour” (think innovative margaritas and $1 tacos) with Puerto Vallarta Food Tours, we knew enough to hit food stalls on our own. Some street food tips: Watch for the most popular stalls and wait there; check if the paper plates are covered in fresh plastic wrap; look out for gloved hands and general cleanliness before digging in. Another local taste treat to challenge kids with braces is elote – grilled corn on the cob with a dollop of cream or mayonnaise, sprinkled with chili, for less than $1 USD per ear.
Traveling with teens and extended family has its own demands, of course, and the variety of activities is another good reason to pick Puerto Vallarta.
Sulky teens won’t miss friends if they can post selfies reclining on white canvas daybeds at Mantamar beachclub, where day passes go for $18 including a food and drink credit. Young adults will like the college town vibe -– in addition to international universities and private schools, students come to Puerto Vallarta to study Spanish because two week sessions cost less than $140USD per week. Water taxis can deliver loners to the region’s secluded beaches at Las Animas or Majahuitas, with its romantic thatch cottage hotels, or take them out snorkeling or deep sea fishing. For a multigenerational day away at a typical 17th century silver mining town, take a daylong taxi tour to San Sebastian del Oeste – less than $100 for a car and driver.
One reason fall may not be the best time to visit is that crowds follow the town’s many free festivals.
In late October, there’s the three-day Day of the Dead Festival (Dia de los Muertos), when locals honor their ancestors with extraordinary masks, costumes, flowers and offerings at grave sites. The Gourmet Festival draws thousands in mid-November to hear notable chefs lead seminars and tastings. Yet, good values abound and the free festivities add to the fun.
A last word on the subject of value and another good reason to book your visit.
The local convention and visitors bureau has begun partnering with airport transfer companies, local transport, hotels, restaurants and adventure tour companies to offer exclusive deals and packages on their website at www.visitpuertovallarta.com. According to the Visit Puerto Vallarta tourism office, visitors who book directly with them can save up to 50% on certain packages, another one of the many reasons to vacation in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit now.
This blog post has been sponsored by the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board and all opinions and travel tips are my own.
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