Need a Break from Winter? Go to Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta - the name alone conjures up dreamy, romanticized images of this Pacific Beach side town. Despite how many visitors descend on this beloved resort town each year, Puerto Vallarta has retained its charm and throwback beachy vibe.
Flying direct from Calgary on WestJet's very comfortable Dreamliner took just over four hours. Not a long flight at all! This makes Puerto Vallarta an even more attractive option for whatever time constraints you're working with.
We decided to get away over the Christmas holidays. Normally, the holidays are spent balancing time between family in Toronto and Calgary. There are great things about splitting time over the holidays but it can also be stressful as we find ourselves praying for no weather interruptions to our flights. I bring in the New Year grateful the holidays are just about over.
After nearly two years of uncertainty, we changed it up. Spending a week in the sunshine with family was absolute bliss. The first time we went to PV was in January 2020 and I was completely blown away that we had never gone before. Being back felt right. Pre pandemic, we travelled a lot. The landscape of travel has obviously changed a lot. I don't think I will ever take travelling for granted again. I think back to how easy it was to just get up and go without having to take tests and triple check entry requirements because of how quickly regulations can change.
We decided that the most important thing to do would be to actually relax and enjoy the gorgeous resort we were staying at. More about that later. This trip would not be packed with excursions. The plan was:
Enjoy the resort amenities, food and beach
Have a wander along the Malecon and into the Old Town
Charter a boat for a half day visit to Playa Las Animas beach and snorkelling at Los Arcos
That's it. As a rule of thumb, I don't think that it's necessary to plan every moment when travelling. Leaving time open for relaxing, recharging and if it feels right; spontaneous adventure has always worked really well on our many trips.
Here are some ideas for you, should you decide to head over to Puerto Vallarta. We were there for a week and only spent half days away from our resort. There was a total of five family members travelling, so after a long and uncertain 2021, what was most important was hanging out together!
Puerto Vallarta Old Town and the Malecon
First up was a visit the town of Puerto Vallarta. touring the city on foot, taking our time walking through the winding market and along narrow streets. There is always something to see - from beautiful buildings with decorated windows, to rows of small colourful flags criss crossed overhead back and forth across the street. We took a cab to the start of the Malecon which is the boardwalk that runs alongside the Pacific Ocean. The walk is fun, restaurants and shops on one side with the beach and beyond the sand, the glittering waters of the Pacific Ocean in Vallarta Bay on the other. We made our way through the town one way and for the way back after visiting the market, we wove our way through the streets of the town until we found a taxi stop for a ride back to the hotel.
Los Arcos and Playa Las Animas
We chartered a boat so we could get out to Los Arcos for some snorkelling and views from the water before heading to lunch over at Playa Las Animas, a lively looking beach that I heard about. The ride to Los Arcos was smooth and it was amazing to see the impressive and protected rock formations at Los Arcos up close. The warm but still refreshing turquoise water was teeming with fish and we loved feeling the gentle rocking waves of the pacific.
Playa Las Animas (full name: Playa Las Animas Quimixto) is south of Puerto Vallarta is one of those high energy, fun spots. The easiest way to get here is by boat and I had memories of Formentera Island as we pulled up to the beach amongst all of the other watercraft in the sea.
We had the best time eating lunch together on the beach before heading back to Puerto Vallarta. And the best part is because we chartered our own boat, we didn't have to go the Marina to get picked up. We left right from our beach. Perfect.
I have had some people ask about where we stayed, so here are the details: We stayed at Dreams Vallarta Bay, the adjoining adults only property is Secrets.
Check out the 14 second room tour below!
The Location - Located conveniently 15 minutes from the airport, but clearly away from the flying zone so there weren't airplanes disturbing the tranquility as they torpedo across the sky. The last time that we travelled to a sunny destination was pre-pandemic in January 2020 - also to Puerto Vallarta but this was our first time at the Dreams resort and it did not disappoint. Read on!
The Rooms - Have you ever experienced room envy? When you check into a hotel and your (standard) room doesn't have the same features as other standard rooms. You KNOW those other features exist, but you don't have them. For me it is bathtubs because part of my evening routine is reading in the bath before bed.
I've got great some news for you; you don't have to worry about that here. The standard rooms are absolutely incredible. Every room faces west towards the ocean, so you not only have gorgeous ocean views, you can also enjoy the colourful sunsets from your private balcony.
Every standard room also has a jetted bathtub and a huge shower with a bench and sliding wooden walls that can be left open for an open concept feel or slid closed for privacy.
The Grounds - the grounds were lovely. Lush, dark greenery and palm trees everywhere. Everything is well maintained. There are tennis courts, a nice gym, so many swimming pools. The resort itself isn't massive, but it is designed in a way that you don't feel as though you're tripping over other people. I felt that there was ample room for everyone.
I also enjoyed the lobby area for playing games and relaxing. The area is warm, inviting and overlooks the grounds. I want to fully describe it, but in the interest of keeping my word count low, I'm just going to show it to you.
Food and (Alcohol free) Drink - There are no reservations at the a la carte restaurants, it is first come, first serve and we never had to wait too long. You have the standard Italian fine dining, Mexican, Japanese, Seafood and then the main buffet. The main buffet was where we enjoyed amazing breakfasts over long conversations. Often, we were one of the last to leave, savouring the tea and coffee al fresco amongst the lush green foliage long after we had finished eating.
The Italian restaurant was so good that we ate there twice. Between the service, food and ambiance, I still think about this place!
And finally, there is 24 hour room service for those times that you just want to stay in our room. I had an afternoon snack while enjoying my customary mid-afternoon alone time in my room with a book when the sun feels too hot.
Being an all-inclusive means that the alcohol flows freely - but for us alcohol free folks, sadly, they do not offer alcohol free beer or wine. Thankfully I brought my own alcohol free wine and champagne. The variety of fresh juice and water loaded with lemon and lime was enough to keep this thirsty girl hydrated and happy.
The Beach - waking up to views of the grounds and glittering sea every morning was the best part of being in Puerto Vallarta. The beach area wasn't huge, but again, somehow it felt like there was more than enough room and loungers for everyone who wanted to spend time there. We also bought ourselves a blanket and opted to lay closer to the water under the hot, beautiful sun and away from everyone else.
Travelling internationally after the start of the pandemic was an incredible feeling. with all of the measures being taken before you even get on the plane and while away, I felt completely safe. Travelling was something that I had begun to take for granted and something that I'm going to try to never again. This getaway reignited my love of visiting other countries and showed me that with the proper measures in place, I needn't fear travelling.
feeling the sun's warmth on my skin and living with gratitude in the present was the real vacation. the best part is that I got to bring that feeling home and can access it every day.
It was the perfect way to start 2022.
I hope you received some value from this post about Puerto Vallarta. For more winter break PV photos and video, please head over to Instagram to view Stories and Reels. If you have any questions about travel outside of Canada during the pandemic, please feel free to reach out!