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After Almost 100 Years, Puerto Vallarta Still Has It

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Sunset at Garza Blanca Resort Puerto Vallarta
Credit: Robert Nelson

Felice and I spent last week in PV visiting old friends, revisiting favorite places and eating our way across town. I’m happy to report that after almost 100 years, Puerto Vallarta still has it.

The city officially known as Puerto Vallarta (it was Las Peñas before the name change) hits the 100-year-old mark on May 31 of this year, and my has the settlement at the mouth of the Cuale River changed.

A major international resort destination for the past six decades, Vallarta now has acquired the trappings of a major city, complete with traffic congestion, paucity of parking, ubiquitous construction cranes for new condos poking the sky and an ever-growing flood of new arrivals, to live and to vacation.

On the plus side, no city in Mexico outside of Mexico City has the diversity and quality of restaurants as PV. Take your pick: German, Italian, Chinese, Argentine, French and, of course, alta cocina Mexicana and lip-smacking-good street food.

Looking for things to do? You won’t have the time or the energy to do everything offered to vacationers in PV. If you live there, you still won’t get around to everything in a lifetime.

We hideout at Garza Blanca, a picture perfect resort about five miles south of Zona Romantica on the bay’s south shore. Its setting between one of the best white sand beaches on the Bay of Banderas and the verdant jungle hills is incomparable. Our deck was the perfect spot to watch tiny boats deliver armies of snorkelers to Los Arcos every morning.

This trip, we enlisted our friend Carlos Rosas and his daughter Rosario to take us to San Sebastián del Oeste, the 400-year-old silver mining town high in the Sierra Madre Occidental, about an hour-and-a-half from downtown Vallarta. Frankly, not a lot to see, but the pueblo is well preserved and the setting is magnificent. It’ a great place to escape the heat during the summer, along with the much more interesting town of Mascota, just another half hour down the road.

I was slowed down for a few days by a nasty infection, but we were able to dine with EIM bloggers Maria and Fernando Garibay at Daquiri Dick’s (a shadow of its former self) and Maria O’Connor at La Palapa, as a great as ever. We missed an evening with our friend and real estate blogger Harriet Murray at Trio, always one of my favorites, and had to settle for room service and a hotel doctor.

Of course, the weather was perfect, as it always is in January. Blue sky, low 80s during the day and low 60s at night and gorgeous sunsets from whatever vantage point you have.

Do I miss PV? You bet. It’s grown up and looks more like a big city now, with both pluses and minuses. But after 100 years what did we expect? It still makes my heart skip a beat when the plane drops into the Ameca River valley and Vallarta is revealed, snaking along the Bay of Banderas between those soaring mountains and the deep blue sea. Home at last.

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