We decided to take public transportation from our resort to downtown Puerto Vallarta today. Not because we’re cheap or had something to prove, but simply because we were tired of waiting for a taxi to show up on what must be their busiest hour of the week.
The first bus from our resort (in Nuevo Vallarta) to the edge of Puerto Vallarta turned out to be a decommissioned tour bus. It was still a bumpy ride (Whit, in true 5-year-old fashion, insisted on occupying the back row of the long bus) but it was virtually empty and very comfortable. I was surprised and pleased, having expected more of the “Chicken Bus”-style I’ve used through Central America.
On that note, the connecting bus to the center of town did not disappoint! It was a shoulder-to-shoulder, bumpy, smelly tin can of pure local-ness; complete with an enthusiastic passenger halfheartedly dressed as a clown yelling down the aisle what I chose to believe were hilarious jokes en espanol.
To be honest, I sort of loved it. The bus took an indirect route that led us through interesting neighborhoods we would never have seen otherwise. The local passengers were kind; giving up their seats and trying to help us with broken English. (Who knew you could accomplish so much with three words?) Most of all, our international experiences are always heightened when we take the slightly more mentally-disarming path of doing what locals do, and there’s nothing more local than taking an old school bus with chipping spray paint and trusting it to get you to a predetermined destination you can hardly pronounce. (I would never have taken the public bus in North Carolina, mind you.)
The two different buses became a good metaphor for our experiences in downtown Puerto Vallarta today: almost 50/50 touristy and local.
Yes, we first visited the Plaza Principal de las Armas (a touristy town square featuring food vendors, Mexican knick-nacks, and a gazebo) then stood with other tourists in the back of the gorgeous Parroquia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe listening to and debating taking pictures of a Spanish Catholic sermon (decided against it), and walked down the statue-and-vendor-lined Malecon on our way to Mercado Rio Cuale (a small island in the middle of a downtown river featuring souvenir vendors). I admittedly fell for the strands of green, white, and red banners hung between the buildings. I took pictures of Whit paying street artists. We even bought a bottle of vanilla and a fedora. Quite happily, I might add.
But we also insisted on walking everywhere, even through some ghetto barrios to get to certain destinations (and I still faintly smell urine to prove it). We brought Mexican snacks we’d bought from a local grocery store the night before. We ate fruit slices (with lime, salt, and pepper flakes- yum!), coconut water, and fresh churros from street vendors throughout the city, but also spent 20 minutes looking for a seafood restaurant we’d read about on Yelp.com in the heart of the very European gay district. We later regretted not just getting the 5 tacos for 25 pesos we’d seen on the street, for the record.
Looking for adventurous things to do in Puerto Vallarta for families? Check out our top 8 activities!
Overall, the city is exciting, easy to navigate, and remarkably beautiful. In just a 1-mile radius we both literally and figuratively passed through completely different territories, seeing and doing so much along the way. Yes, we had to avoid sewer puddles on the cobblestone streets, but we were also almost constantly accompanied by overflowing flower baskets and bright colors. Even the ghetto streets were pretty.
Like us, Puerto Vallarta is a juxtaposition of refinement and coarseness.
I am beyond grateful and relieved that we chose to spend our first full day here out of the confines of our resort and in downtown Puerto Vallarta! We now have a much better frame of reference for the rest of our trip, and a deeper love and appreciate for all hope to see and do here. Viva Mexico!
Downtown Puerto Vallarta Walking Tour Details:
A: Parroquia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe: Hidalgo 370, Proyecto escola, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
B: Plaza Principal de las Armas: Independencia 123, Proyecto escola, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
C: Malecon: Paseo Díaz Ordaz, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, JAL
D: Rio Cuale Flea Market: Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
E: Various Beautiful Photo Ops: End of Rio Cuale Island
F: Joe Jack’s Fish Shack: Basilio Badillo 212, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
G: Colored Tile and Mirror Photo Op Wall: Corner of Pino Suarez & Basilio Badillo
H: Churro Stand: Corner of Calle Jacarandas & Lazaro Cardenas
If you’re heading to Puerto Vallarta you have to check out my favorite activity from our trip: a zip lining canopy tour! Seriously. Some of the most beautiful fun my family has ever had!