Sunsets, Street Tacos, Street Dogs and Hidden Streets: Strolling through Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

First things first: five days in Puerto Vallarta wasn’t enough.

We flew down there for a Monday through Friday Thanksgiving trip, and would have loved to stay longer (work called me back, as did super cheap plane tickets, which dictated the timing).

We left blustery Chicago and landed in sultry Mexico in late November, and from the moment we stepped outside of the airport, it was like a long, deep exhalation, lasting the entire visit. The slow pace, kind, friendly people, cheap tacos, ubiquitous margaritas and transfixing sunsets were exactly what we needed for a quick recharge. Add to that the fact that our apartment, with a view of the ocean and private pool, cost all of $83 a night, and I have a feeling we’ll be coming back to this land of sand, ocean, jungles, waterfalls and endless enchantment.

Here’s the view from our deck:

Apartment pool

The art in the apartment was a wee bit wacky, but that only added to the charm. Check it out and let me know what you think:

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Mornings and evenings we spent as much time roaming around town as possible, and afternoons retreated to the apartment for a dip in the pool and a little vacation siesta. We wanted to make sure we were energized and ready for the sunsets, which are, hands down, the most incredible, luminous, technicolor solar extravaganzas I’ve ever seen. The sky changed dramatically by the minute, and I’m sad to say that my camera didn’t do it justice.

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Food, of course, is always a highlight of our travels. And, while we had a number of oh-so-good meals on the beach and in restaurants, the true culinary winners were the street food vendors. Al Pastor tacos won, hands down, followed by a quesadilla where the tortilla was pressed right in front of us and then filled and grilled.

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Of all that we did and saw (snorkeling, boat ride, beach time, eating, drinking, exploring, shopping, relaxing), the hands-down best part of the trip was the Hidden Streets of Puerto Vallarta tour, which I actually learned about through a former Las Vegas colleague, who now lives in PV (thanks for the tip, Pat!).

The tour is led by Sylvie, who has been living in PV for the last 17 years. She took us through the back streets (and backyards) of the city, and, along the way, pointed out street art, local lore, unique architecture, history and more. The places we went we never, ever, ever would have found on our own. We’re talking up steep, steep narrow hidden roads to see a cross atop a hill and look out at one of the best views of the city; strolling down steep alleys that turn into rivers during the rainy season; walking through backyards; introductions to new fruits (jack fruit–ginormous!) and old–bananas, growing in the tree in someone’s backyard (we just looked, no tasting). We took off our shoes and walked across the Rio Cuale, and then had a delicious burrito lunch, before ending up at a fabulous chocolate shop, Xodiva, for a truffle. The tour was the best kind–it felt like we were being led around by a friend, taking in her favorite sites and understanding, without question, her love for this romantic, wacky little town.

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The true highlight of a tour by Sylvie? Meeting the dogs of PV–whom she knows by name and feeds homemade dog treats made from dehydrated beef liver. Pups are everywhere in Puerto Vallarta (it’s a wonder the chickens and roosters and iguanas are, too), so it was nice to have an introduction to at least a dozen of them. Can’t wait to meet more our next trip down.

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