A December 2004 trip
to Puerto Vallarta by Taurusgal
Quote: Even the most cynical of hearts would find it impossible to attend an enchanting sunset wedding ceremony in Puerto Vallarta and not come away from the experience feeling giddy and in love with the world.
Apart from their magical wedding, the weather was perfect: hot and dry, the margaritas were strong, and the New Year's Eve fireworks display went on for what seemed like hours.
If you are a woman traveling alone in Puerto Vallarta, you are going to have to get used to the cat-calls and curious looks from men. I wouldn’t recommend wandering off on side streets alone at night. Just take the same precautions as you would in any other city.
If you have time, consider embarking on a day trip to one of the many pristine beaches outside of the resort district. Yelapa is a two-hour sail from Puerto Vallarta and features a 150-foot waterfall, white sand beaches, and excellent opportunities to snorkel, parasail and purchase unique handicrafts in the quaint, Polynesian-style village.
You can also rent a Jeep for about US a day, which is not a bad option if you want to explore the neighboring mountains or jungle on your own.
Taxicabs are everywhere and are very inexpensive.
Hotel | "Villa Molino de Agua"
Located south of the Cuale River in an area aptly named Zona Romantica, Molino de Agua resembles a high-class commune of intimate bungalows, each of which are quietly situated amongst mango trees, tall palms, and manicured grounds. The popular Playa los Muertos beach is your playground here—but don’t expect it to be your own private discovery. It seems like all of Mexico has chosen to congregate on these sands. Set your alarm early if you want to score a patch of sand.
The beach is not the cleanest, and the ocean floor is littered with broken shells and rocks. You will have to walk farther down the shore in order to have a proper swim that doesn’t require a first-aid kit. Still, several components make this hotel a perfect choice for a low-maintenance, truly relaxing stay.
Hotel facilities include: two restaurants and bars, two pools, an open-air Jacuzzi, and an amazing outdoor spa where, for incredible costs, you can get a massage or pedicure in their tropical garden.
Guests have the option of staying in one of 24 small cabins with their own private terraces, 19 double rooms with bay views, 4 suites with their own personal lounges, or 12 junior suites with ocean-view balconies. Bottom line: This is not the Marriot. Bring your own hairdryer and clothes steamer. Get used to trekking a few blocks to grab a newspaper because most of the rooms are not equipped with TV sets. And if you’re the type that needs your dose of caffeine before you face the world, ease up on your requirements; throw on some shorts and head up the road to The Pie in the Sky pastry shop. You won’t be sorry. You might be surprised at how amazingly therapeutic it is to exist without all of these easy luxuries.
Towards the end of my stay, I was ten times less the basket case that I usually am. Of course, it couldn’t last. On our last day, as I was heating up the water in our shower, I spotted a curious male face peeking through our little bathroom window. The young man wasn’t at all subtle about it, either—his face was nudged so far through the window that I could count the number of post-pubescent hairs on his pointy little chin. I screamed some obscenities and he ran away. About 15 minutes later, I attempted my shower again—and, as if on cue, the little head poked through the window again.
I reported the incident to the hotel manager, who was very apologetic and vowed to capture the culprit. My stay ended on a somewhat sour note, but I don’t blame the hotel establishment for one poor employment decision. Ladies: Seal your bathroom door tightly and learn a few cuss words in Spanish.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 20, 2005
Hotel Molino de Agua
Ignacio L. Vallarta 130 | Colonia Emiliana Zapata
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 48380
This café and bakery appeared in the Banderas Bay area 17 years ago and has become famous for its hot and cold coffees, fine pastries, cheesecakes and pies, and its signature "Beso"—an incredibly decadent chocolate brownie. They offer a couple of lunch items—a tuna sandwich and gourmet chicken pie, but expect to wait 45 minutes for the pies to be prepared.
After sampling a creamy latte with just the perfect amount of espresso and foam (I’m telling you—there’s a science behind all of this), I was tempted to quiz the manager on his coffee bean secrets. After only a 1-day stay at the nearby Molino de Agua hotel, the secret was out amongst our friends. By day 2, the small sit-down shop was packed with familiar faces. Fortunately, this café deserves all the attention and then some. With advance notice, they even create special order wedding cakes for any number of guests—great to keep in mind if you are planning a destination wedding.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 20, 2005
The Pie in the Sky
Hero de Narcozari #202
+52 329 298-0838
This is a great restaurant to visit if you have become jaded with enchiladas and tacos. They do serve Mexican fare, but their real specialty is seafood.
We started off sharing a plate of stuffed peppers that were fantastic—filled with cheese and just spicy enough to be interesting. I ordered the salmon entrée, and it was grilled to perfection. My boyfriend and the couple that we were with ordered some version of grilled fish and pasta. The wine list was imbalanced. Your options are: pay less and get a noticeably inferior-tasting wine, or be prepared to pay more than necessary for a very good bottle from France.
Overall, El Set combines a romantic atmosphere with great food. This is an ideal dining experience for those who are tempted to try the Mexican interpretation of international cuisine.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 20, 2005
KM.2.5 Carretera Barra de Navidad, Conchas Chinas
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
221 5341 - 221 534
Restaurant | "Grilled Fish Stands on the Beach"
I was apprehensive about eating fish cooked right on the sand. My brave friend thought nothing of it and forked over just 5 pesos ($0.50) for an enormous portion of grilled halibut that was plucked straight off the grill, plopped on a stick, and served with a few lime wedges on the side. After bugging him to let me sample two bites, I was hooked. If you’re in the mood for a healthy beach snack, these sticks are surprisingly filling and a good alternative to street-side tacos.
A local family runs the stand and offers only freshly caught fish like shrimp, salmon, and halibut. Each piece of fish is stored in a tightly sealed cooler on the beach and takes about 20 minutes to grill. If you are not in a rush, have a sit-down meal on the beach and enjoy the full treatment: fish and spicy Mexican rice. This is a totally satisfying meal and a true bang for your buck.
Grilled Fish Stands
Playa los Muertos
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Sterling silver is a great find in Mexico, but you have to be very cautious. To make sure that silver is authentic, always look for the .925 engraving that should be present on every piece. As soon as you’re secure that you have found a winner, prepare to bargain with the salesperson. Stores in Puerto Vallarta are more than happy to accept both American dollars and Mexican pesos. Very few jewelry pieces are ever priced correctly, and the Mexicans are very savvy negotiators. Even if you manage to persuade your salesperson to agree on a significantly lower price, you are probably still paying above the item’s actual value. Still, with the good exchange rate and quality of the stones and silver in Mexico, you are not on the losing side of the battle.
The shop Evolucion caught my eye because it was one of the largest in the area and had hundreds of particular bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, brooches, and even cigarette lighters. Aztec designs range from simple and sweet to dramatic and regal and are encrusted with stones like yellow and green amber, garnet, and opal.
Although it might not be a good thing to walk through the town center and have the salesgirl spot you and actually know your name, I was able to talk wise Julisa down a few more dollars after stocking up on silver for friends. Who knows? Maybe I actually got a discount.
Evolucion Silver Jewelry
Morelos 265 Centro
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Mums the word on which brave lady got up onstage. Needless to say, the energy of Club Roxy’s live performances, their potent margaritas, and the abundance of space they provide to cut a rug could well have been an inspiration for her impromptu leap into Puerto Vallarta stardom.
The club’s live R&B and Blues Rock music acts perform from 9pm till 1am. Club Roxy provides an early happy hour, where beers are incredibly cheap, but the room seems to really heat up later into the night.
If you find your tummy growling from too much exertion on the dance floor, the nearby taco shop serves tasty and cheap fare and is open until the wee hours.
Ignacio L. Vallarta 217
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 48380
+52 322 22 32404
We were all slightly concerned when the priest that the couple had hired appeared 1 hour late to the ceremony. Upon reflection, I think this was just one of the elements that made their ceremony so distinctive. The lack of pretense, planning, and stress created a feeling that these two were in it with the purest of intentions. Despite any setbacks, the couple continued to beam throughout the ceremony.
A traditional Mexican wedding combines the richness of ancient Aztec rituals with Roman Catholic beliefs. For their ceremony, the couple chose to combine old customs with modern beach bum bohemia. All of the guests were handed long firecracker Sparklers and were instructed to stand in two rows and create an arch that the bride and her father could pass through. At the hill of a blackening ocean, beneath the scarlet smear of the setting sun, the effect was nothing short of mystical.
Before they exchanged vows, the priest tied the bride and groom together at the waist with a large ribbon, a symbol of eternal unity and love. This tie is called a lazo. Traditionally, the material used to create a lazo depended on the wealth of the couples’ families. A lazo could consist of a wreath of flowers, a gold ring, or a rosary. After the ceremony, the priest removes the lazo and presents it to the couple as a wedding memento.
Another tradition that the couple adopted was the special exchange of gold coins. The priest handed several coins to each member of the bridal party, including the bride and groom’s parents, and asked that they then present them to the bride and groom as a token of good luck. This custom was very appropriate given the interactive nature of the entire trip.
The beauty of a destination wedding is that all of the guests feel like active participants in the celebration. Everyone has the chance to be charmed and walk away from the experience feeling that they have discovered something new about the world and its wealth of cultures. If you’re fortunate enough to attend the wedding of two people who have such deep love and commitment in their hearts, you may even learn a bit about yourself.
Our hotel, Agua de Molino, did a fantastic job of decorating the main dining garden in anticipation of a New Year’s Eve celebration. Earlier that day, a hotel employee visited each guest cabin and personally delivered a lovely invitation to the night’s feast. We all gathered for a full sit-down meal, but I have to say, we were slightly disappointed with our food. The band they had hired was loud and the atmosphere was a bit impersonal, so after a few bottles of wine, we decided to blow that scene and walk across the beach bridge to the Malecon to see how the Mexicans really party.
And believe me, they party! The streets were teeming with people—young and old—dressed to the nines and in amazing spirits. I found an uplifting joy in the Mexican character that left an impression on me. It seems that they value laughter and pleasure, an inkling that was further enhanced by the sight of people dancing in the streets. If you find yourself in Puerto Vallarta during New Year’s, you’d be wise to make plans in advance to drop anchor at one of the many bars in Malecon. If you wait a few hours like we did, you will find yourself dealing with a massive crowd and high entrance fees. You can still have a hell of a time just walking the streets of Malecon and getting high off the buzz of the energetic partygoers. At midnight, the city hosts a truly spectacular fireworks display that easily rivals any I’ve witnessed in larger wealthy American cities.
We compromised. I agreed to go parasailing on the beach, and he agreed to stand on the beach with the camera and capture every moment of sheer fright on my face.
Earlier in the week, when the holiday tourists were still buzzing around the beach, the cost of one parasailing trip was US$40. It actually paid to be lazy all of that time and take my trip a few days after New Years, as they lowered the price to US$20. Which got me worried. Would I be $20 less safe? Would the parachute host be $20 less motivated to strap me in correctly? If this ridiculous thinking is not the product of a capitalist upbringing, I’m not sure what is. Anyway, I forked over my money, signed my life away, and waited for my turn. I was feeling pretty brave, teasing my boyfriend and his friend about what a legend I was. Then the next-available parachute landed, and out jumped a bored-looking 12-year-old girl. I was going to have to go through with it after all.
I’ve heard that Mexican culture is rooted in superstition, but I was not prepared for the look of horror I received when I begged the parachute operator to assure me that there was zero chance I could crash and die. "No, mamacita, no die, no!" I climbed into a steel panty-like harness and monitored his every move carefully as he strapped thick suspenders over my shoulders and attached them to the steel parachute hooks. It looked solid enough.
As it turned out, the only frightening part of the 5-minute trip around the shores of the Malecon was take-off. I actually screamed as the boat gained speed and swiftly lifted me into the air. Faster and faster, it propelled me into the sky until, all at once, I found myself miles away from the shore and cruising at a slow and relaxing speed. My knees were still buckled, and there was no way that I was letting go of the parachute strap, but I did have a good look around while I was up there and savored the chance to sing at the top of my lungs and relish the thought that no one else on the planet could possibly hear me at that point. It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of Playa los Muertos.
Keep in mind: you should only pull on your harness string to land if you hear the instructor blow his whistle. If you insist on pulling it anyway, even though you were landing just perfectly on your own, you may just wind up on the rooftop of a hotel. Thank goodness for kind and forgiving instructors that come running after your parachute to help you land safely on the sand. Gracias, Carlos.
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