Written by Koala_D on 26 Aug, 2008
It's not really so terrible.... but I always breathe a sigh of relief when I finally step into my hotel room !! My favorite airline to Puerto Vallarta is definitely Alaska Airlines. They are usually on…Read More
It's not really so terrible.... but I always breathe a sigh of relief when I finally step into my hotel room !! My favorite airline to Puerto Vallarta is definitely Alaska Airlines. They are usually on time, and have many direct flights that arrive at a convenient hour. Also, Alaska seems to have frequent sales.... and my airfare has ranged from $202 to $588 for a round-trip flight in coach. I usually book several months in advance if I know what dates I will be travelling. Yes, a cheaper airfare COULD come up, but the price could go higher just as easily. When we arrive in Puerto Vallarta at the Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, the plane does not normally taxi up to the building. Instead, it stops a little way out and a bus is sent to transport passengers from the plane to the terminal. (It may... or may not..... be air-conditioned.) After passports are checked, it is a long walk to the baggage claim area. Then you must proceed through customs. Ahead of you is something that looks like a small traffic light..... if you press the button and it turns green (this happens most of the time) you walk through customs and out the door. If it turns red your baggage will be inspected and you will have a short delay. As soon as you clear customs you will be besieged by many people all talking at once. Do your best to ignore them !! They are condo salesmen. If you have arranged transportation to your hotel on the Internet, they will even lie to you about being your driver. Proceed to the main area of the terminal and you should see your transportation person holding a sign up with your name on it. If you did not arrange transportation there are taxis and vans outside, and you may buy a ticket inside at a booth near the exit door. They are regulated as to the lowest fare they can charge. They charge per person for these taxis, unlike the taxis in town. Be prepared to pay quite a bit to get to your hotel, but this is the only transportation that is priced so high. Once you have unpacked at your hotel, you may wish to venture outside... or to the grocery store if you have a condo. You may take a taxi for less than $5, or you may walk, or take the local bus for about 60c (as of Jan-2013). I usually take the bus or walk to the store, and hire a taxi for the ride back if I have several bags. Many drivers speak English. IMPORTANT: BE SURE to settle on the price BEFORE you get into any taxi !! Taxis are very reasonable in town, but will charge more at night when the buses stop running around 10:00 pm. In early 2008 I paid $4 US for a fairly long taxi ride. ($6 US in 2013) You are not expected to tip taxi drivers.... the local people don't... but you may if you wish. It is easy to get around by bus in Puerto Vallarta. They write destinations on the windshield in big white letters.... for example: Hoteles. Buses do not stop on the Malecon, but will stop near the 2 bridges in Old Town at the south end of the Malecon. If you are travelling north, Woolworth's is a good place to catch the bus. It is 2 blocks east of the northern end of the Malecon.... turn up at MacDonald's. If you would like to visit Guadalajara or Mexico City from here, I strongly urge you to choose the ETN Line. These are luxury buses with only 24 roomy, reclining seats per bus. I think it is the only line to serve you a welcome lunch. The 2 bathrooms are very roomy, and tea and coffee is available at the back of the bus during the trip. The bus is air-conditioned, has plasma TV screens, foot rests, and a controlled speed limit (governor). I rode this bus to Guadalajara-- the trip took about 4 hours, and was very relaxing ! I paid about $40 US. We arrived at an enormous bus terminal in Guadalajara, and one of the many waiting taxis took us to our hotel with no problems (about $10 for a 30 minute ride). Another option would be to fly to Guadalajara from the U.S., and then take this bus to Puerto Vallarta. The bus system in Mexico is excellent.... DON'T be afraid to ride the buses !! Note: As of Jan 2013 Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are considered 2 of the 3 safest cities for tourists in Mexico.... and Cancun is the third. I believe they are referring mainly to violent crimes. I feel Puerto Vallarta is VERY safe at this time, and would travel there alone! I think the other 2 cities have more petty crime and muggings. Close
Written by scottyhouston on 02 Jul, 2008
Continental Airlines has really great last minute trips (as do most airlines) if you are flexible enough to take advantage of them. Typically you have to depart on a Saturday and return on a Monday or Tuesday. Last week I noticed a…Read More
Continental Airlines has really great last minute trips (as do most airlines) if you are flexible enough to take advantage of them. Typically you have to depart on a Saturday and return on a Monday or Tuesday. Last week I noticed a destination I was not familiar with...Morelia, Mexico. After some quick research I decided it would be an interesting place to travel so I cashed in 15,000 frequent flyer miles and paid $36 for the round trip ticket.Morelia is the capital city of the Mexican state of Michoacan. It's located in Central Mexico about 150 miles West of Mexico City and is about 3,000 feet above sea level. Currently, from what I read in some local documents, the population is more than 800,000 and is growing rapidly. The city center is about 150 city blocks of businesses, restaurants, markets and other attractions. The city is sometimes referred too as, "The Pink City" because of the reddish sandstone that was used to build many of the structures in the city.After I booked my flight, I did some research on some of the nicer hotels. I was in the mood to splurge and since my partner couldn't go with me on this particular trip, I spent a little extra on myself. It didn't take me long to figure out that "The Villa Montana" was the place I'd be staying. All the reviews I read on several websites gave it very high marks. They offered a "Stay Two Night, Get The Third Free" package. I decided to really do it up and booked a 1 bedroom suite for $590.00 a night with the third night free. This package included two spa treatments, an escorted city tour, breakfasts, fruit basket in the suite, drinks upon arrival, and several other really nice things to enhance the experience at the villa. I booked the package with the hotel because I had a few questions, but, you can actually book it online with several of the leading travel websites. Before I even left home, the hotel had called me back to discuss the times for my spa treatments and the city tour. Additionally, I had them book a car to pick me up at the airport upon my arrival which would take me directly to the villa.The flight from Houston Intercontinental Airport to Morelia was right about 2 hours nonstop. Upon my arrival everyone goes through customs as you would in any foreign country. It was quick and easy with no issues. I grabbed my suitcase and immediately went out to the receiving area where I noticed a small, Mexican man with a sign that had my name on it. He introduced himself as Pepe' and spoke very good English. He escorted me to his large SUV and we were off for the hour drive across town to the villa. Pepe' was fantastic and we had a really nice chat. He pointed out several places of interest and passed on some interesting information about the city. Once we arrived the villa, I paid him the 35 Peso's as arranged by the hotel. 35 Peso's is about $3.50 USD. In fact, Pepe' told me that no taxi in town should be charging anymore than 35 Peso's for a trip in town.Check-in at The Villa Montana was excellent. My breath had already been taken away when we pulled up because the villa was absolutely beautiful from the outside. The bellman took my bag to my suite for me and as we approached, I couldn't BELIEVE my eyes. My suite was actually an apartment. It was huge and practically the size of my own house at home. It was AMAZING!! The back views off the huge, open patio looked down on the city (the villa is located high on a hill). My apartment was impeccably cleaned and smelled really fresh. I can't even convey how nice it was.I immediately unpacked from my trip and took a quick shower, changed and had the concierge call me a taxi for a trip to the center for a night out. Being gay, I had been looking for a nice place to checkout the local gay life. Unfortunately, it's very difficult finding information about gay hangouts in Morelia. It's still very covert and while there are gay people around, you will NOT walk down the street and visually see a lot of gay people walking around. No gay neighborhoods, gay coffeehouses, etc.The one club that I had read about was called, "Con la Rojas" which is located at Clle. Aldama No 343. It was an easy cab ride (enough time for me to eat a fresh pear left in my fruit basket). Once I got to the club you could see it was getting busy which was pretty exciting. It was 150 peso's which is about $15 USD. It was a REALLY nice place! I met a couple English-speaking guys who were a lot of fun so I decided to hangout with them. Before long, I realized I had a bit too much to drink. The drink prices are dirt cheap. I drink Bacardi and Coke which ran about $3.00 USD! After several hours I poured myself into a cab waiting outside and went back for a really nice sleep.On Sunday I woke up with a bit of a hangover (which is unusual for me). However, the previous day I had arranged my spa treatments for Sunday so at 11AM I was scheduled for a full body massage and at Noon, a facial. The spa was in the back of the villa and well below ground. It was REALLY beautiful down there and spotless! The massage therapist was really great as was the woman who did my facial. I walked away feeling even more tired than when I arrived so I decided that a nice nap was in order since it had started raining.Later in the day I took advantage of the wireless internet connectivity in my apartment. It was a really great signal and I didn't have any problems getting hooked up for my entire stay.By the time I looked at the clock it was nearly dinner so I decided to order room service and had a beautiful dinner sent up. The food was more than adequate and well cooked. Food prices were less than what you'd pay in the U.S. which meant you could order more! I had all courses.I spent the rest of Sunday evening watching some really fun shows on TV, relaxing, and really just enjoying the breeze blowing into my apartment from the stormy weather outside. I rested better that night than I had in quite sometime.On Monday morning I woke up for my schedule city tour at 10AM. Originally I thought the tour would be a group tour but when I showed up in the lobby, I learned it was a personal tour with my personal driver named, "Octavio". We spent nearly 3 hours driving around town. He took me to the highest point of Morelia to capture the breathtaking views, ran me into the center to visit several cathedrals and universities, and dropped me by the public library (which was fantastic). He left me in the center by my request so I could shop for some shoes and a couple other items. I sat by the main cathedral and had a nice coffee while watching the locals scurry to and from their places of business. I ended up tipping Octavio about 300 peso's ($30 USD) for such a great time. After a bit of time shopping, I caught a cab back to the villa for the night.Incidentally, cab rides around the city should never cost more than 30 peco's ($3 USD). If you are paying more, something is up. I ran this by several cab drivers to verify as well as my personal driver.My flight back to Houston was to depart at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning. This meant my driver would be picking me up at 4:15AM. When I got up and went to the lobby to checkout, there was an American couple there who wanted to follow my driver back to the airport. Once my driver arrived I realized it was Octavio again!! It was really fun to see him again and he agreed to allow the other couple to follow us. So, we immediately left for the airport with the other couple behind us. About three quarters of the way to the airport (which is an hour drive), Octavio's van died right in the middle of a very dark and wet road (it was pouring rain again). Thank goodness the other couple was behind us or I would not have made my flight. He threw my bags in their car and directed us the rest of the way to the airport.Overall, a fantastic trip and mix of tourist attractions, history and relaxation! Close
Written by Cantin2 on 07 Mar, 2008
Valentin is set on a long cove of beach in Playa Secreto between Mayan Palace and El Dorado Royale. They own alot of beachfront property and have plans to build five phases to the hotel. The sand is soft and the water clear with shades…Read More
Valentin is set on a long cove of beach in Playa Secreto between Mayan Palace and El Dorado Royale. They own alot of beachfront property and have plans to build five phases to the hotel. The sand is soft and the water clear with shades of blue or green depending on the day. There is some surf and at times large waves - again ...more or less depending on weather and storms. This not calm Playa del Carmen-like water.....Don't wear your hat or sunglasses in......the ocean may claim them.It's not possible to swim directly in front of the oceanfront suites or the restaurant - too much coral, but if you walk a few hundred yards north toward El Dorado, there is a fine stretch of easy to enter beach. There are about 100 palapas strung along the beach at this time (February 2008) and more being constructed. The most popular ones are in front of the beachside restaurant, accessible via walking from the pool. There are more palapas beyond the water sports shop where access to the water is sandy. If you want more peace and quiet or privacy, the section near building #9 oceanfront is usually sparsely occupied, but there is no access to the water again because of the coral. The bar servers also do not come to this area, but we did see some guests with a champagne cooler with wine and others with soda and beer from their minibar.The beachbars are not yet fully operational, but waiters do take order and serve drinks and limimted food. Around 12:30PM they come around with trays of finger foods, fruit, small wraps, poppers, onion rings, skewers of beef and chicken and fried Calamari - A nice touch. Hopefully there will be some left by the time they reach your lounges if you got up a bit late and your spot is away from the main center. Towels are plentiful and you don't have to sign for them. There are lots of lounges, but if you want a shady spot, you must be an early riser. By 8AM on most days all were taken. Guests placed books and shoes on them before breakfast, especially on days of high occupancy. After lunch, again you had a chance of getting shade - Most people made their way to the pool for the afternoon.One problem that I found, was that all orders took about 45 minutes or so - they do come along with trays of pre-made pina coladas, beer and daiquris for the taking. One day we order a pizza and after an hour, we decided to go to the restaurant. Unfortunately, there is nowhere - at least yet - to grab a quick burger, hot dog or salsa and chips for a quick bite in your bathing suit. You must cover up and go to the ala carte restaurant beachside or take a long walk to the buffet restaurant - which has better offerings. They grill steaks, chicken and fish to order and have at least three pasta choices, pizza and a carvery.Activities on the beach......walking - you can walk probably over a mile in each direction. Best to carry along something to drink - the resorts along this beach are either all inclusive or cashless. You cannot purchase any refreshments. A couple of times a day a group forms to play volleyball and the watersports center has complimentary Hobies and kayaks. Wave runner and parasailing incur a fee. A little difficult to get out past the surf because of the coral and wave action, but the staff is helpful. Close
Written by Cantin2 on 05 Mar, 2008
Upon check in, we were upgraded from a Junior Deluxe Suite overlooking the pool to a Golden Suite in the "Swim up" area, overlooking the lagoon. the rooms are large and beautifullly decorated and all have balconies with outdoor wicker-like chairs and a table.The…Read More
Upon check in, we were upgraded from a Junior Deluxe Suite overlooking the pool to a Golden Suite in the "Swim up" area, overlooking the lagoon. the rooms are large and beautifullly decorated and all have balconies with outdoor wicker-like chairs and a table.The Golden Suites are 682 sq. ft. The living room has a small table and 2 chairs - convenient for room service. The sofa is rather stiff and hard and faces a large armoire conceling a TV and a CD/DVD player. Only one remote for two TV's - the other is in the sleeping area - a bit inconvenient. We hardly used the living area although it had a view of the pool and lagoon - It was a bit uncomfortable. The bedroom area is separated from this area with a dark wood and frosted glass divider, giving it an Asian feel - very lovely. The king bed is comfortable with lots of pillows, triple sheets with fair quality linens and it's covered with a white quilted pique coverlet. The dark brown runner at the foot of the bed pulls together the dark wood decor of the room. a desk with two lamps, free internet access and a large safe sized to fit a laptop is a nice touch.The minibar is refilled daily with juices, beer and plenty of water - sic to eight bottles dailly. the double closet has an iron and irooning board, umbrella, wooden and padded hangers, extra pillows and blankets, a built in three drawer dresser and a few shelves and enough room to stowe your luggage.The bathroom is special - Two wooden doors with frosted glass panels open to a very spacious, marble and granite area with double sinks, two person jacuzzi tub,lighted make-up mirror, large size shampoo, bath gel and lotion, a powerful hairdryer and robes and slippers. Two other beautiful etched frosted doors close off a toilet and bidet and the other encloses a huge tiled shower.We had no prolems with A/C, water pressure or temperature, jacuzzi tub or TV reception as I'd read on forums prior to this vacation. Buildings 3 and 5 continue to be the source of most complaints. The A/C is set at 67 degrees - you have no control over it, but along with the overhead fan, we felt comfortable. Room towels however were an issue. Upon check in, everything was perfect - we had 4 towels of each type and 2 bath mats. From then on it varied - sometimes no washcloths, no bathmats and one day only on bath towel. We knew where the supply was so we went to the room at the end of the hall to get them......Not what you expect from a upscale resort.The ice machine is not yet installed in Building 8 - yes, you can call for ice, but it is inconvenient and the wait is about 45 minutes. A concierge is assigned to each building, but during our stay one concierge serviced four buildings. Are they understaffed????Turn down service is available each evening - done properly it is great!!! the spread turned down and loosely tied with the decorative runner - a cold bottle of water with a glass on each nightstand, fresh towels in th bathroom, candies on your pillow and dimmed lights for mood......Problem is......Although we called to request each evening it was done properly only twice. Not done at all on four evenings and another time clean towels were "strewn" on the tub - dirty ones let on the floor and no service in the bedroom. We even complained to the concierge and he assured us that we were on the list for turn down each evening.....Lots of walking to be done in this resort - It's huge - long walks along curved landscaped walkways with piped in music along the way - very romantic. Motorized cart that carry 7 guests are scheduled to circle the resort every 15 minutes - doesn't work - do the math - there are only 4 carts for over 700 guests. It usually fills at the first stop. Another day there was only one driver available and he was delivering luggage. One evening at dinnertime all four batteries needed re-charging so......bring along comfy walking shoes.Hopefully...in time...and sooner than later....these problems will be resolved. Valentin is a solid 4* mass market resort....not yet the 5* luxury that is claims to be. The good memories outweigh the bad......Enjoy at the right price. Close
Written by kiminhalifax on 23 Dec, 2007
Saturday, February 24thTime to pack up and hit the road. Steph grabs a cab out to the dive shop to pick up the video of yesterday’s dives while I load all the luggage into a cab and go to the ferry terminal. The…Read More
Saturday, February 24thTime to pack up and hit the road. Steph grabs a cab out to the dive shop to pick up the video of yesterday’s dives while I load all the luggage into a cab and go to the ferry terminal. The taxi driver hails a porter who loads all the luggage onto his cart and takes it to the luggage check for the ferry. This is much smoother than our trip to Cozumel– figures that we are just beginning to understand the system when it’s time to leave!!!We travel into Cancun for Saturday afternoon and evening and decide to hit the beach again. The public beaches are not very nice compared to those at the resorts as they are not raked or cleaned on a regular basis and are covered with seaweed and screaming children. After 20 minutes a child has landed on top of me. Luckily (?) I feel my skin burning already and decide to make a run for it. Back to the hotel to shower and web-check-in for tomorrow’s flight. Ooops…. Cancun is not one of the “selected international cities” which can use web-check-in.Off to a local market for some last minute shopping. Stephanie and I both agree that we spent very little money for the first 5 days of the trip and now feel it flowing away from us quite quickly. Souvenirs of the trip for ourselves, friends, and family are ringing up – but still at much lower prices that what we expected.We had decided to have supper at a restaurant recommended to us by someone from the hotel. However, the menu doesn’t look too great, so we wander into a little place just down the road for $3 margaritas, shrimp tacos, chiles rellenos, and fish fingers – YUM!!! I also had a salad with an excellent citrus dressing on it – all for the incredible price of $8!!!Sunday, February 25thThe time has come to head to the airport – luckily we’re flying Executive class so we don’t have to wait in the HUGE lineup to check in. We are able to spend our time in the Executive lounge for Star Alliance airlines and wander through Duty Free for that last minute tequila to take home.The flight is uneventful – 20 minutes early in fact!! The weather in Halifax is -1°C – desperately chilly to our tropically-acclimated bodies, but still much warmer than what we left only one week earlier. After we pick up luggage and make our way through customs, I go to pick up the Jeep, which has a dead battery!! I flag down a Fly Jazz employee who is willing to be a few minutes late for work in order to give me a boost.I dropped Stephanie off at her house and continued on to Moncton, arriving at 8:45pm. Close
Wednesday, February 21st Today we are to dive in the morning, and finally have the afternoon free to explore the island. When we arrive at the dive shop, they inform us that we are going to dive on the mainland (Playa del Carmen) today.…Read More
Wednesday, February 21st Today we are to dive in the morning, and finally have the afternoon free to explore the island. When we arrive at the dive shop, they inform us that we are going to dive on the mainland (Playa del Carmen) today. I inform them that I wish to dive Cozumel and Playa is not an option. They reshuffle everything and put us on a boat with 3 absolute newbie divers and a diver that was certified 25 years ago. They are all over 60 years of age.Despite this setback, we do get to dive one of the “must do” locations – Santa Rosa Wall, which is a let-down in my eyes. Hurricanes must have ripped through there as there is a lot of damage and dead coral. The 2nd dive is La Francesca Reef, which is shallow but has lots to see, including grouper and a southern sting ray. Yippee!!!Steph and I decide we will rent a car for a couple of days and head out to a local business to do so. We ride away in a VW bug convertible, which is very cute but does not drive too smoothly. Stephanie is driving as the car is a standard transmission so I get to see the sites.We circle the island, first heading south and then coming back into the main town of St. Miguel. We have a free lunch at Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club, so we take advantage of that as well as the free horseback riding at the same place. Stephanie is on Yuri and I am given Sandoonie to ride. We ride for about 30 minutes – not long enough to hurt, but long enough that we were ready to get off the horses. On our ride, our guide points out a papaya tree and agave – the plant tequila is made from.We continue our drive around the coast of Cozumel and see signs for a Turtle Egg Laying beach (not in season). A little further along the coast is a great stretch of beach that was obviously coral reef at one point. There are pieces of almost-fossilized brain coral laying on the ground, as the surf beats against the shore.We finish off the drive finding where the ruins are so that we can head there tomorrow.Thursday, February 22nd Diving in the morning again and this time it’s the dive of the entire trip – Punta Sur!!! A challenging dive as it is deep and the currents can sometimes be very strong. We lucked out and there was very little current at this location. The coral formations were beautiful and we ran into a sea turtle who was under the impression that a photo shoot was going on – good thing, because there were 3 photographers on the dive!!!The second dive of the day took us back to Paradise Reef for the THIRD time!! Good god, enough is enough!!! Two seahorses were seen this time (the main reason for diving this reef) as well as grouper, a moray eel and a school of Horse-Eyed Jacks.After diving was over, we got in the VW convertible and headed off to the ruins. After the gate attendant explained that it was a $10 entry fee, a 15 minute drive to the parking lot and then a 1 hour hike into the ruins, I wimped out. It was 30°C, very humid, and I just wasn’t going to be walking 2 hours in the burning sun. So then we sidetracked to the Tequila Museum – good choice!!!For the same $10 we each got 2 margaritas and a sample of each type of tequila the company made, as well as a talk on the history of tequila, how it is made and what actually makes tequila “legal” as not all tequila-type drinks are legally tequila!!After that tasty trip, we spent a couple of hours at Playa Morenas, a beach on the eastern shore – where there is a lot of surf. There were people with boogie boards trying to surf the waves with not much success, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves anyway.Friday, February 23rdOne last day of diving – and this time it’s with others who are also leaving tomorrow. The divemaster is playing videographeras well and we do two great dives on Colombia Deep and Colombia Shallow. We realize at the end of these dives that we have been blessed with seeing at least one turtle each day, 2 nurse sharks, 3 sea horses, and general excellent reefs.Steph decides to head to the beach for a little while after diving, and I take a taxi back to the hotel to clean up, catch up on email, and do some shopping. Steph and I meet in time for supper and head to a well-mentioned seafood restaurant outside of the downtown area. We order the seafood platter for two. The food is OK, but I find that one of the two shrimp items is a bit rubbery and I’m not crazy about the tomato sauces on 2 of the 3 fish filet options. But the pina colada was AWESOME!!! Close
Sunday, February 18thI don’t have to get up until 4am, but I wake at 3am – GREAT, even less sleep!!!Off to the airport. The -10C temps feel almost balmy compared to the -30C we’ve been experiencing all week.Land in Cancun just before 10am local time…Read More
Sunday, February 18thI don’t have to get up until 4am, but I wake at 3am – GREAT, even less sleep!!!Off to the airport. The -10C temps feel almost balmy compared to the -30C we’ve been experiencing all week.Land in Cancun just before 10am local time – there are 2 hours difference between Moncton and eastern Mexico, not the 1 hour I had thought. We make our way to the bus/shuttle counter and Stephanie decides we should take the bus to save $10 in transportation costs. The bus won’t be leaving for another hour and the shuttle leaves in 15 minutes, but hey, it’s a whole $10!!So we walk across the airport property to the bus depot and wait. The bus also drives at 50km, not the 100km limit, so it is a one hour trip to Playa del Carmen. We arrive with little time to spare to catch the 1pm ferry to Cozumel. In taking the bus (and saving a whopping $10) I have spent $9 for locals to carry pieces of my luggage, whereas the shuttle would have picked us up at the airport door and dropped us at the Cozumel ferry – GREAT!!!! Needless to say, I will not be willingly choosing the bus for transportation on the return into Cancun.On the ferry, I meet two women from Los Angeles. It is their first time out of the US and they are quite inexperienced travelers in general. They don’t realize that they are heading into Cozumel during Carnaval, the busiest tourist season for the island. They don’t have hotel reservations and they don’t have diving booked. We see them later in the day standing at the side of the road, looking puzzled, with their luggage in tow. Another man with a cart attached to a bike transports out dive gear and luggage to the hotel, a few short blocks from the ferry terminal in Cozumel. He even brings it upstairs in the hotel, which has no elevator. When we arrive at the hotel, our room is not ready, so we dump our luggage into the housekeeping suite and we’re off to the dive shop to confirm dive times for the week.The weather has been bad on Cozumel since Friday, so the dive shop is booked up with divers who have to get their dives in before leaving the island, so we are delegated to afternoon dives for most of the week. The weather is windy and cold (sweatshirt weather) and very overcast. We hope that it clears up quickly.Sunday evening we watch the Carnaval parade from our hotel balcony. We have a great view of the parade, cruise ships, and seafront in general – an A+ view!!! The hotel is fine – not a 5-star location, but for the price we paid, we’re quite happy with the accommodations.We decide to have supper at a restaurant listed in the guide book that I had picked up – Los Tres Gattos (The 3 Cats) which advertises that you can fill your tummy for under $3US. 75pesos later, we are full and have had our first authentic Mexican dinner, complete with Sandwich Especiale!!!Monday, February 19th We decide to take in the local shopping and visit a market so that we can stock the fridge in our room. Fresh fruit and fish are aplenty, as are extremely fresh chickens – we watch the butcher make the kill!!! We head back to the hotel with pineapple, mango, papaya and a few other tasty treats.Diving is at noon, so we take a cab to the pier. We are on a boat with a friendly couple from Illinois, Tom from Toronto and a guy from San Francisco, who doesn’t speak to anyone. Two dives later we are all happy with the day having seen a seahorse, a turtle and a splendid toadfish.Back to the hotel for showers and a view of the Carnaval parade once again. However, exhaustion takes over and we decide to “take a quick nap” before heading out for dinner. At 11pm, I wake and change into pyjamas before calling it a night. Oooops!!!Tuesday, February 20th Breakfast on Fat Tuesday – we walk to another restaurant listed in the guidebook to learn that it is closed mornings this week, so we choose another one and walk there. Thankfully it is open and has a free table.I choose something that translates to “divorced eggs” that consists of 2 fried eggs and ham, each with its own sauce on it, with beans on the side. Tasty, and a bit spicy as well. The fresh-squeezed orange juice is just as tasty.In the restaurant, I am able to pick up a wireless internet signal and start uploading photos and checking email – the hotel website clearly states that there is internet access in the hotel, yet mysteriously no one knows anything about it at the hotel. Later in the day, I go to an internet café that has laptop stations and finish the job.Diving is at noon again today. The same couple from Illinois and the same silent guy from San Francisco. Add 2 cruise ship employees – a girl from Scotland and a guy from Romania – and another American from Missouri. The dives are great again, although the currents are extremely strong in points – we are unable to stop or swim against them if necessary. Another turtle is seen, a porcupine fish calmly swims by, and a school of ocean triggerfish say hello. It’s a great place to dive. We visit the spot that I dove 7 years ago when I first visited Cozumel and I see what damage the hurricanes have done – the color that was once there is muted – covered in white sand and dead coral to turn a lot of the vista to grey.A quick trip to Ernesto’s Fajita Factory for supper after the first 2 dives of the day and then we’re back in the water for a night dive with 2 couples from British Columbia. It’s nice to dive with others who usually don drysuitsfor local dives as all other divers we have encountered are the “only warm water” variety. The night dive is back to a spot visited yesterday, but now we get to see the night critters come out. Too many crabs to count, a few lobster and an octopus were seen by me, and there were reports of a second lobster and a splendid toadfish (damn!!!) seen by others.Back to the hotel to once again view the Carnaval parade – this is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) so the parade is the largest yet and actually laps itself as it winds down one side of the main thoroughfare and back in the other direction. The music is very loud and the participants are very drunk, but tomorrow is the start of Lent, so they need to get it all out today. Close
Written by El Gallo on 18 Dec, 2007
There are lots more expensive hotels on Isla. Like Na Balam across the street, for instance, where you can shell out $300 a night. Or spas in the South End that swaddle you in serenity and ectasy. But if price was…Read More
There are lots more expensive hotels on Isla. Like Na Balam across the street, for instance, where you can shell out $300 a night. Or spas in the South End that swaddle you in serenity and ectasy. But if price was no object for me, I'd stay at the Villa Kin. If I had little kids, I'd be that much more inclined.The big reason: location, location, location. Let me explain the layout a little. Right off the north beach of Isla is a tiny sub-island connected by a bridge and sporting a high rise hotel complex. This creates a small lagoon, about the size of a football field. A coral reef that keeps big waves out of the lagoon, but allows fresh water to flow through. This little lagoon is so shallow you can usually just walk actross it. No motorboats enter. To the north, you can wade or walk on the sand to North Beach...or swim out to the reef. To the east you can see the Caribbean waves. It's about a quarter mile to the center of town. Out by the reef are tidepools and rocks that offer fun snorkeling or exploration. On the other side is a gentle white sand beach that drops off very slowly. And that beach is where Villa Kin is located.The Villa has been there a long time, by Mayan Riviera standards, and it's not very modern or fancy or the height of luxury. It doesn't need to be. What it is, it's the perfect blend of Isla's laid back beachcomber atmosphere and contemporary conveniences like good plumbing, electricity and service. It's not "funky" or "rustic"...it's what you might think of when you hear the words "beach cottage". Rooms are nice, with tables and chairs on verandas looking out at the lagoon and Caribe. Or you can wander down to the hammocks hanging between the palms, or hang out in any number of public patios and nooks. Or step through the gate and be on the beach. No lobby, no elevator...just barefoot access.The beach has been described as one of the world's greatest waterholes for kids, and it lives up to it. The gentle shallows are safe and welcoming enough for babes in arms, hazard free for toddlers and frolicking grade-schoolers. Older kids can swim across to do some real snorkeling, never in more than five feet of water. Past the bridge is a sand shelf that extends the azure shallows a hundred yards out into open sea. This is no protected tourist preserve, though. It's a favorite with locals: attracting family groups, not young hotdogs and boozers. On Sundays, the beach is full of Mexican families and their cute little kiddos. Some expatriates pack folding chairs down and pass the day there. It's a spot that appeals to young Japanese tourists. It's lowkey and serene, but also an international community. If you want to experience what Isla life is like, this is the place and no doubt about it.But how about your lifestyle while there? To give an idea of the Villa Kin concept or a relaxing personal hotel, they have no restaurant or bar. Not a problem to find either close by, but you see the point. And how it fits with having two kitchens so you can do some light cooking if you want. They serve a free light breakfast of breads, yoghurt, fruit and coffee/tea each morning, as well. In the "Diego Rivera Room", which is an eclecticly decorated space full of Mexican art and books about local and regional subjects.And hey, NO phones and NO TV.And there's no need to part with $300 a day to hang out here, either. In fact, it's one of the major bargains on the island. The rooms are all different, and in several categories. Rates range from $49 USD for rooms with 2 double beds in low season to $180 in high season for ocean view rooms with king sized beds.It's a few blocks to the market, around the corner to snorkle gear rental (in case you were dumb enough to come here without a mask and snorkle) three blocks to the restaurant row downtown...and a few sandy steps to the water.Information and location atTHEIR WEBSITE Close
Your bopping around the tropics, you need some ice cream. QED. But it doesn't have to be just a matter of need, like that. Let's discuss it like connoisseurs. Boulevardiers. Appreciators of the finer things life offers. And a great…Read More
Your bopping around the tropics, you need some ice cream. QED. But it doesn't have to be just a matter of need, like that. Let's discuss it like connoisseurs. Boulevardiers. Appreciators of the finer things life offers. And a great dish of home-made ice cream is a good place to start. Seven years ago a buddy of mine had the only quality icecream place on Isla. Now there are three. This is the upside of the "getting built up and touristy" thing that people (especially tourists) always bitch about all over the world: the appearance of Quality and Options.The whole thing about Location, Location, Location has a fatal flaw: a good location is good for the businessman, but that might not be in the best interests of the customer. The best locations in the United States are all 7-11's and Starbucks, if you take my point. Which is: don't go thundering into the gellato place on the main drag. Sure, there it is, and they have flavors, and there are seats. But they are also flakes with no idea of customer service--and their icecream is far from the best on the island. In fact, there are two much better places within a block. Go to either of the next corners of Hidalgo, turn west and in the middle of the block on your leftt will be a great hand-crafted ice cream place with cool owners and some handy sidelines. That's right, there are two of them. Try them both. Compare and contrast in 500 words or less. Pig out. You're on vacation, why the hell wouldn't you pamper yourself to mush?On one of those cross streets, right across from the EVIL ISLA CONDO office, is a fairly quaint little building housing Gelateria Monte Biancho. All three of these places make Italian ice cream and variations, but the sweet people who work here are actually Italian. Cute accents and all. (They speak Italian and Spanish, little English, but what little they have is all about flavors.) And they have some flavors, by cracky. Baccio is hazelnut chocolate and the also have weird words for their raspberry and strawberry and vanilla and chocolate. But why concern yourself with crash Italogelato acquisition when the hot set-ups are clearly the tiramisu (which has no English translation other than "yum") and the coffee, which is pretty obvious from the chocolate covered espresso beans on top of it. And the CHERRY. God, this stuff is great. A white cream supporting whole black cherries in a special Italian sauce. Incredismo! Prices range from 20 pesos for a small cup to fifty for a sort of lovers's cup for two. AND they have coffee. All the usual fancy Italian coffee stuff, don't worry. But what I like is that they've also got a plain old cup of Americano coffee for ten pesos: cheapest on the island and tastes fine without all the steam and cream and extream. Furthermore, the signora is an excellent baker, so if you hurry you might get some of her flaky pastries or apple pie. Then you can sit at a little table, or the bench out front and sip and deliciate. OR you can take your cuppa over to the internet machines. A different owner, but right there handy for ya. You can also hook up for diving excursions, but you probably can't have coffee while you're diving.Up at the other place, with the appropriate name of Cool Ice Cream, there are also extras. The owner, a cute and charming Peruvian woman, is also an artist and they feature her custom jewelry and oils and prints by several Isla painters. No coffee or internet, but you can get both right across the street. And long distance telephone calls on either side. But WHO CARES? This place has the greatest ice cream on this or any given island! She's an artist in cream, also, is what I'm saying. She makes it at home from all natural ingredients (and rolls her own sugar cones) and isn't afraid to experiment. They have, for instance, cinnamon ice cream. Also mango, banana, coconut, blackberry, as well as the usual Big Three. Forget them: they have two flavors you won't find elsewhere and they will kick your butt. They don't just make coffee kahlua icecream. They make kahlua icecream, then sift a thin layer of ground espresso beans over the entire surface. When it's spooned out, the pure coffee marbles through it for a tickle, bite and buzz. Yow! But my fave, and nominee for top cream on the Mayan Riviera and most of the rest of the world, is the nutella, a flavor probably found only here. Again,they make a creamy vanilla, then cut slabs of the Australian hazelnut/chocolate syrup right into it like a caramel marble. Where it hardens into a chewy strata of inexpressible goodness, well-being and light. I'm totally gone on this stuff. Same prices as the other place: 20 pesos and up, depending on size and whether you want a cone. (You do.)COOL Website and map to the goodiesCOOL has a NEW LOCATION this year. Or rather an additional location: perfect, right on Hidalgo (restaurant row) between Bambu and Sancochos. Sidewalk tables and live music next door... and BANANA SPLITS!!!!!! YOW!So Cool wins out as best ice cream on Isla, edging out Monte Biancho by a nutella-smeared nose. If you sample only a single ice cream here, that's the hot spot to which to trot. But come on? ONE lousy ice cream? Don't you think you should try at least two, come to your own verdict on a vital subject like this one? I do, and I think you do, too. Close
Written by Koala_D on 27 May, 2007
My favorite day-trip from Puerto Vallarta! I have taken this bus tour four times, and I have always seen something new and different each time. I recommend it for singles, families, young, and old! It always begins with a pick-up at your hotel early in the morning, but…Read More
My favorite day-trip from Puerto Vallarta! I have taken this bus tour four times, and I have always seen something new and different each time. I recommend it for singles, families, young, and old! It always begins with a pick-up at your hotel early in the morning, but it's acceptable to snooze on the bus. They are comfortable motorcoaches with air-conditioning. The guides are very good at providing information and history of the area during the trip.
Soon after leaving Puerto Vallarta you cross into the state of Nayarit to the north. Bucerias is the next town... they have a great beach, and even nicer beaches a little farther at Destilladeras and Punta Mita. You may take local buses for about $2.50 each way from Puerto Vallarta if you'd like to enjoy those beaches. We eventually turn north to Sayulita on Highway 200, and then pass San Francisco, a sleepy little place that I instantly fell in love with. We stopped here for breakfast (included in tour), and it was great. We had time to visit the beach, which was very nice and uncrowded.
Later, you turn off the main highway and head west toward the ocean. You see long rolling fields of corn, tobacco, and watermelons. Also, John Deere tractors... (quite a few of them), and occasionally the horse/mule and plow! As you get nearer to the coast the road climbs and you wind along through beautiful scenery until you round a corner-- and there's the ocean down below!
As you get nearer San Blas, your driver may stop quickly to buy a "Jack Fruit" to share. One will feed all of you! Be sure to try it if you get a chance.
Our first tour stop is at the La Tovarra River. Here you board boats with outboard motors, and head upriver at a leisurely pace. The tall mangrove roots at this end of the river are really something! Eventually they give way to very tall grasses on either side, and lots of sunshine.
Most likely, the first wildlife you see will be birds. It could be an egret, white crane , cormorant drying its wings, hawk, or many other birds. On every trip we've also spotted crocodiles on the bank and tortoises sunning on logs. You eventually reach a crocodile facility where you can get out of the boats and stretch. I enjoyed seeing the tiny baby crocs! After a while you head back down the river, and reboard the bus to San Blas.
There isn't a lot in town, but it's fun to look around and shop quickly. Then you visit a fort on a hill overlooking the town and surrounding areas. The view is breath-taking up there! Old cannons, an old church, and gardens are great for picture-taking. It's time for lunch (included) at a beach restaurant. It's usually fresh fish or fajitas... very tasty. Then, you may take a leisurely stroll on the wide sandy beach before you head home. The bus is usually quiet, and you'll probably have a beautiful sunset waiting for you in Puerto Vallarta!