Review of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Hi, my name is Lisa Pease. I have been working in the travel industry for almost 25 years mexicoat Fox World Travel’s Sheboygan office. My areas of expertise include honeymoons, destination weddings, mulit-generational group travel and family vacations.  I would love to help you plan your next vacation!

This Spring I took my 14th trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

It is important to note that when you refer to Puerto Vallarta and Riviera that you are the including Riviera Nayarit/Nuevo Vallarta regions.  These areas are not actually Puerto Vallarta and can be over an hour away from the downtown area.  The experience in Riviera Nayarit is completely different than that of Puerto Vallarta.  RN is a newer upscale gated community complete with Mega Condominiums, Upscale homes and golf courses as well as all-inclusive resorts.  The beaches are nicer than PV and you can walk a great distance.  However when staying in this area and not venturing into town you may miss out on the best part of Puerto Vallarta.  The culture, authenticity and the amazing people are really what draw visitors back for repeat visits.

You will find world class restaurants as well as street vendors with some of the best food in Mexico.  You can also experience unique shopping for clothing, jewelry, art and local wares.

For the first 3 nights of our trip we stayed at the Hilton Puerto Vallarta All Inclusive Resort. The hotel is located 10 minutes from the airport in the Hotel Zone. It is accessed by the side road that takes you to the ICON Condominiums. The Hilton purchased a piece of the Krystal property and refurbished the rooms on the West side and built new rooms on mexico4the East side in a contemporary style. I absolutely loved this small hotel.  The food was fresh, the grounds were beautiful and the staff went above and beyond!  The location in the hotel zone is absolutely perfect if you want to be near downtown Puerto Vallarta. We stayed in a refurbished room. The junior suites in the East Wing are much nicer.  This hotel attracts families as well as couples. Reservations are required for dinner at the Ala’ Carte restaurants, but, it was never a problem. I would definitely recommend this hotel.

We drove to Mayto located in Cabo Corrientes, Mexico, about 90 minutes south of the town of Puerto Vallarta. The drive is about 45 minutes of unpaved dirt road, but, it’s well worth the drive. Mayto is a small fishing village consisting of a grocery store, a gas station (a boy with a container of gas purchased from the nearest town 30 minutes away), an amazing outdoor restaurant (the biggest oysters I’ve ever had) and local homes. We stayed one night at Hotel Mayto…A simple Mexico Hotel with only 12 rooms.
Weekends are almost always booked.  We were there on a weekday and only one other room was rented. Tours such as fishing can be purchased from the hotel and the rates are incredibly reasonable. If you want to stay in this remote hotel, transfers can be arranged by the hotel. Other than the town on the other side of the hotel, there is literally NOTHING else here! On the way back from Mayto we passed thru El Tuito, a lovely, authentic Mexican Village.  In the square we usually stop for coffee and local coffee beans to take home.

For the remaining three nights we stayed at RIU Palace Pacifico located in Riviera Nayarit/Nuevo Vallarta (New Vallarta).  This resort is located 30-60 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta.  Traffic can be very heavy, particularly during high season, during rush hours and evening hours. The RIU Palace Pacifico remains in the original mexico1styling and has not changed (yet) to the new modern contemporary design.  The public areas of the RIU Palace resorts are very ornate and “old world” complete with chandeliers, antique style furniture, mahogany wood and soaring ceilings.  Adjoining rooms can be requested.  Rooms are all junior suites.  The resort is U shaped and the superior rooms (1 step upgrade) will give you a pool/courtyard/ocean-view. The standard junior suites may face towards the outside of the building overlooking another hotel.  You have unlimited use of the ala carte restaurants.  You need only make a reservation for the restaurant(s) you are interested in.  The buffet at the RIU properties is amazing offering Mexican, International & European cuisine. Like most other all-inclusive resorts, daily activities and entertainment are abundant.

RIU Resorts are very similar from one to another.  You will see the same décor, shows and restaurants in most destinations.  They do a consistently good job (better than most) at their resorts. While children and families are welcome, you will see more children at the RIU and Club RIU Resorts. We walked to both the RIU Vallarta and the RIU Jalisco where you can use the facilities/restaurants. (Excluding Dinner).  The RIU Vallarta is my favorite of the three.  It’s much lighter in its atmosphere and decorating and it feels much less formal.  The RIU Jalisco pool was absolutely PACKED with families/children.

If you are visiting Bucerias, La Paz, Punta Mita, Salyulita, etc. north of the Riviera Nayarit, note there is a time zone change, so be sure to adjust your watches. Check in for your return flight in Puerto Vallarta will go a bit slower than the U.S.  Therefore, be sure to arrive about three hours prior to departure.  Allow a bit more time if you are returning a mexico3car as rentals are outside of the airport and they do a thorough inspection for any damage. You will be required to provide your Customs forms and Passport at check in.

If you are on a connecting flight on the return, your first stop into the U.S. will be your point of entry and you will be required to Clear US Immigrations, collect your luggage, clear US Customs and re-check your luggage.  You will then go through security and proceed to your gate for your flight home.

Overall, this was a wonderful trip. For more information on Puerto Vallarta contact one of our Mexico travel agents!


#1 Tourist MUST SEE:  The Malecon. In 2011, the Puerto Vallarta Government invested 600 million pesos to refurbish the Malecon.  It is gorgeous!  I love staying in the Romantic Zone (just south of the Malecon) so I can walk the Malecon and Pedestrian Bridge (also somewhat new) every day.

In the middle of Puerto Vallarta, between downtown Puerto Vallarta (Malecon) and the Romantic Zone you’ll find the CualeRiver/Isla Rio Cuale.   Iguanas and vendors share the space where you will find silver, small shops with Mexican souvenirs, clothes, authentic handcrafts and more. On the island you’ll find quite a few good restaurants and cafés, like mexico2the River Café which is perfect for Happy Hour Cocktails and the staff is wonderful.  Le Bistro not only has one of the best Sunday brunches in Puerto Vallarta, but one of the best spots to enjoy the scenery.

Puerto Vallarta is home to many expatriates.  In addition, there is an established gay community.  In fact, Puerto Vallarta held their first gay parade last month.

If you dine out just one evening, my recommendation for an excellent meal and extraordinary service would be NO WAY JOSE.  Ask for Julie or Alfredo (Jose) tell them I sent you…you will be treated like Royalty!  On most weekends you can hear Alfredo sing along with the band.

Mismaloya beach is the place that started it all for Puerto Vallarta as a tourist destination. In the early 60’s Mismaloya was a small fishing village with access only by sea.  Not only mexico6 do you have the gorgeous coastal views, but behind you the jungles of the Sierra Madre Mountains dip into the ocean.

In 1963 John Huston filmed “The Night of the Iguana” on a set installed at Mismaloya, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and the director later bought houses in the city and the area, which made Puerto Vallarta suddenly an attractive place to visit.  You can no longer visit the set, but, you can still see their bridged home.

Los Arcos, the 5 small natural granite islets south of Downtown Vallarta, were classified as a National Marine Park. The ocean around them is very deep, up to 1600 feet, which makes the waters among the deepest in Banderas Bay.

The small islands are breeding areas for a number of important sea bird species and some land species too, such as parrots. The sea around the islands is a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving trips, plus bay cruises arrive here all day long.

Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens (south of Misamaloya) are very beautiful and a great place to hike and enjoy the lush scenery.

People watching on the Malecon is fun (and cheap!) when you visit the “Cheeky Monkey: (

Contact Vallarta Adventures for your tours/excursions.  (

We zip-lined at El Eden…the set for “Predator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger…movie). It’s a long, sometimes painful ride if you venture up after rainy season to the top. But, it’s well mexico5worth it.  There is zip-lining, a river with natural slides for swimming and a great restaurant.

Whale Watching is excellent December –March.  For a unique whale watching opportunity with a marine life expert in a smaller vessel, contact This is eco-friendly tour is less expensive than your standard whale watching tour.

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