3 Perfect Days in Old Town Vallarta
After clearing immigration and customs grab an UBER and you are out! Follow this link for info on how to get an Uber at the airport. Old town is filled with many authentic older buildings that have been renovated or brought up to date, but there has also been a mini building boom of small to mid-size new construction with the emphasis on luxury and style. All of these new buildings feature amazing rooftop decks with stunning views, swimming pools and Al Fresco dining areas. Almost all of these are available via private "Homeshare" (Airbnb or VRBO) If you are travelling as a couple my recommendation is Casa MOMO, a sublime retreat filled with original art and luxurious furnishings. Located in the newest building on indisputably the BEST corner in all of Puerto Vallarta. The space was professionally decorated based on the painting "Jaguar Stack"" by famous, beloved, local artist, Brewster Brockmann, which hangs in the Living Room.
If you are with friends or a group, your best deal is to opt for a villa. Our choice: Villa Lucero. It is a Hacienda-style Mexican Villa perched on a hilltop overlooking Puerto Vallarta’s Banderas Bay and Old Town/Zona Romántica. 5 luxurious suites, with a full chef’s kitchen and large indoor and outdoor living rooms next to a relaxing pool terrace. The layout is ideal for arranging for a personal chef during your stay and enjoying Mexican haute cuisine prepared in your own villa. This spacious hacienda is perfect for up to 5 couples or 10 friends.
Pool deck, Villa Lucero
Part of the charm of Old Town is the lack of large chain hotels, there are several excellent boutique hotels to choose from, our recommendation: Garlands del Rio. This tiny edifice, located on the Rio Cuale is reminiscent of a rustic yet magical time in Puerto Vallarta’s history when Liz Taylor owned a home a few blocks away. Each room has a character and personality of its own and no two are alike. The collection of 17 true Vallartan style eclectic rooms surround the Hacienda’s central open-air courtyard with sapphire blue pool and dining area.
Courtyard, Garlands del Rio
You can arrange for champagne & snacks to be waiting for you chilled at any of the mentioned accommodations. It’s a perfect time to unpack, savour that champagne, and enjoy the pool before heading out for the evening.
After a refreshing late afternoon dip and cocktails, it’s time to sample some of Puerto Vallarta’s food and fun. Almost all of PV’s dining spots are casual or elegant casual.
Each of these locations are walking distance to all the restaurants as well as the beach. Start with martinis and some live music at Incanto's piano bar or one of it's two riverside terraces to get the night started.
The sunsets in PV are EPIC and there are plenty of amazing places to enjoy them. Some planning is necessary depending on the time of year, in August sunset is at 8:30, in December it is at 6:30. Either season, make your way down to La Palapa Restaurant, it’s an enjoyable 4-5 block walk down Badillo street to the beach where the restaurant is situated. You can reserve a table right on the sand if you like. Dining is by moonlight and torchlight.
Live contemporary jazz music is every night. Tropical Mexican Cuisine combines Mexican with Asian and French elements to bring you a fresh, local culinary experience.
Lobster taquitos – La Palapa Restaurant. Photo: Caitlin Valcic
After dinner, a walk down Olas Altas street will give all of your senses a treat. Italian restaurants, an Asian restaurant, taco stands, seafood restaurants, sports bars, a cigar shop (El Gato Gordo – if an after dinner smoke tickles your fancy) all combine with the music and laughter. Your walk will inevitably lead you past, and hopefully into, Andale Bar. It’s hard to describe this place, a throwback to the 80’s, 90’s and yet contemporary. It’s loud, brash and silly at the same time. It’s open to the street so you can enjoy a drink or two (and the crazy folks dancing on the bar) and still feel free to leave at any moment.
A great option for after dinner is to head over to the Act II Theater complex it’s a short walk down Badillo street from Olas Altas. They have a variety of venues to choose from, our favourite is the Cabaret theater – “The Red Room”. We loved seeing Diana Villamonte this year and she is scheduled to be back later this year.
It’s really quite amazing what Danny Mininni, Óscar Cisneros, and Alfonso López, the three owners of this venue have created. It’s quite easy to forget where you are, sipping on Cosmo’s in the theater, and enjoying some incredible talent, you half expect to walk out onto 24th and 5th Ave in Chelsea after the show.
One block from the Act II on the corner of Aguacate and Badillo you will find the street taco vendor called Tacos Memo. Like many taco stands in PV, this one is operated by a local couple and they do some amazing work: carne asada with beans, tons of cilantro, cabbage, and their incredible avocado sauce, or one of their most popular: The Burrito Bin Ladin, a must do!
If you still want to party, head over to the Malecon and you have numerous choices of dance clubs that rage until daylight.
A leisurely breakfast by the pool either at the villa or at the hotel de rigueur. For those that are interested in a more active morning, hike the hill to La Cruz, it’s a climb of almost 300 stairs that rewards you with an amazing view of the city.
To get there walk to Calle Constitucion and head north. (map link) Constitucion street runs through the center of Old Town and intersects Badillo street. On your way, you will pass what many consider to be the best street juice stand in PV; Juiceland. It’s on the corner of Constitucion and Carranza. Everything is fresh, try their fruit and granola yogurt – you can customize it any way you like and watch them peel the fresh fruit in front of you.
As you walk north on Constitucion street it becomes a set of pedestrian suspension bridges over the river Cuale and through Isla Cuale. The little island in the middle of the Rio Cuale was formed by a huge flood caused by a tornado in October of 1926 and it’s been shrinking since then – these days it measures a little more than 2 acres. It’s quite lush compared to the city that surrounds it, there are plenty of palms, mangos, and other tropical trees that offer refreshing shade and you will find colourful pedestrian streets surrounded by authentic artisan shops and beautiful restaurants with a magnificent view of the river, don’t worry – there is also plenty of junk for sale as well. Once across the second suspension bridge and back onto the city streets, you will land on Calle Matemoros. Continue north on Matamoros, this street goes through the center of the nieghbourhood called 'Gringo Gulch" and has some beautiful architecture and homes, this was Liz Taylor's and Richard Burton's stomping grounds. Richard loved it here so much he bought Liz a house. Once on Matamoros use this map to get you the rest of the way. It’s about 6 blocks to the bottom of the stairs.
For those of you that are not interested in hoisting yourselves up 300+ stairs, this morning is a great time to check out three amazing shops in Old Town. The World of Glass, The world of Tile and the World of Pewter. They are all on the same block on Carranza between Aguacate and Insurgentes. These stores carry authentic handmade Mexican work, and the selection is quite impressive. All three of these stores will pack and ship your purchases for you. The Mundo de Azuelos (the world of tile) can also make custom tiles and signs for you. It takes about a week to get it done, but it’s all done in-house so you may be able to speed that up with a few extra pesos.
Now that you are done with your hike and or shopping, it’s time for a little Beach Club time. Grab an UBER to Sapphire Beach Club, it’s about a 6 min ride, $40 pesos. This is a little gem of a beach club, it costs $10 USD to enjoy their facilities. You get towels, a poolside lounge chair and sunbrella, use of the pool and a beachside lounge chair. They have a full bar and restaurant. Wait staff are attentive and will serve you either on the beach, by the pool or in the pool! Food is Mediterranean, sitting on the dining deck, you might think you were in Capri. The baguettes are flown in from France and the other breads are made in-house.
After leaving Sapphire, head over to Sky Bar for their famous happy hour cocktails. This bar boasts the best views in town and their mixologists are talented, try the cucumber margarita and of course, the Martini’s are faahbulos dahlink!
Head back to your B&B or Hacienda and get dressed for dinner! Grab an UBER over to the Marina, about a 15 min ride and meet up with your yacht the Costa Azul. There are a variety of packages to choose from, but I recommend the 4-hour sunset/dinner cruise. This is not a party boat or a tourist excursion boat, this is your own personal yacht for the next 4 hours for just the two of you – or you can invite the friends you met at the pool at Sapphire, the bar at SkyBar or at Andales!
The yacht Costa Azul is 67 feet in length and in immaculate condition. You have the option of an all-included package with hors-d’oeuvres and drinks, or you can take a look at the dinner menu and the chef will prepare it on board as you cruise for the next 4 hours and watch the sun sink below the horizon. NB, you must make reservations in advance for both cruise and food.
There are fireworks in the Bay of Banderas every night year-round, enjoying them from the back deck of the Costa Azul, will be marvellous.
Flybridge of yacht Costa Azul
Fredy’s Toucan is a must for a late breakfast/brunch on day 3. The menu is huge and filled with astonishing crepes and waffle creations along with all the traditional brunch goodies and some excellent Mexican favourites. It’s extremely popular, people come all the way from the hotel zone and Nuevo Vallarta to eat here so expect a line, but don’t let it put you off, it moves fairly quickly and it is definitely worth the wait.
After brunch, stroll across the street to Cassandra Shaw jewelry. She has remarkable displays of jewelry all made in Mexico, most of the designs for both men and women are her own but she does accentuate her designs with 12 other popular designers who live and work in Mexico. Don’t forget to say hello to the two top employees; M.J. Bean and Leonardo (Chihuahua’s).
Puerto Vallarta has a world-famous art and art gallery scene, a couple of excellent galleries can be found right on Badillo street. Galeria Contempo and Galleria Dante. Dante is now the largest and most eclectic fine art gallery in Puerto Vallarta, exhibiting the works of more than 50 artists –from emerging to well-established museum artists (both painters and sculptors). Of these artists 90% are Mexican-born. The countless pieces are arranged in the European “salon” style
throughout the massive gallery’s eight rooms, including a beautiful open-air courtyard. Take your time “being with” all the works, they have a cappuccino bar right inside the gallery.
Unfortunately, it’s probably time to head toward the airport at this point in time. If you have followed some or all of the suggestions in this post, you will have discovered just a tiny slice of what Puerto Vallarta has to offer and you’ll be planning your next visit. For more info visit PVTourist.com - Hasta luego amigos!