Beyond the Resort Gates of Puerto Vallarta
We arrived at the massive and expansive Mayan Palace resort ready for a week of good times. Jennifer, a friend of ours, was kind enough to let us stay in her parents time share property which got us cheap accommodations for the week. When Jenn checked in the day before us she was given a run around and had to agree to a sales pitch in order to get us upgraded to a room that would accommodate our party. Half our group sat through a painful presentation which involved greasy salesmen and varying levels of “no” before being allowed to leave. It was to our benefit as we were given access to all the pools, a water slide, and a lazy river ride that was amazing. All of this for around $100 each for the week. Still, the resort does their best to keep you (and your money) within the properties gates. There are bars, shops, and a handful of restaurants that range from Japanese to Greek. Odd as who goes to Mexico for sushi or souvlaki? We discussed the merits and oddities of time share ownership and were baffled at how they keep going (expanding and building) as it seems to be a thing of our parents generation. This was evident with the beautiful selection of blue haired beauties at the swim up bar. The resort was relaxing and a great place to stay but we were all eager to see Mexico beyond the resort gates.
Beyond the Resort Gates – Bucerías Break
We took a short trip north to Bucerías, a small beach town with much to offer. Shopping, bars, restaurants, and some of the best street tacos are available to those looking for less of the touristy traps found in Purto Vallarta. Still, this small village is not without its pushiness – as is expected with the amount of tourists that pass through. We strolled the outdoor market taking note of all the same knock off junk in each store and listening to the same lines form each shop keep as they tried to lure us in. A luchador mask did catch my eye and was my only purchase of the whole trip – only to be left behind in the cab ride home. Sad face.
After exiting the market area we settled on a little taco stand setup in the town square next to the church and enjoyed some of the best fish tacos I have ever had. The tortillas were made fresh and pressed right in front of us and the marlin and mahi mahi was battered and fried fresh before of our eyes. When asked if they had cervezas the owner said “of course” then went to the shop across the street and purchased a bag of beer for us. This was the Mexico I was excited to return to.
Full up on delicious street meat we lazily strolled around the square then wandered our way to the beach and enjoyed a few buckets of beer a shots (goblets) of tequila while watching the waves crash.
Beyond the Resort Gates – Sleepy Sayulita
This was by far my favorite spot on our trip. This picturesque village is a perfect escape from the resorts of Puerto Vallarta and is no secret to those looking for more than over priced pool side drinks. Sayulita is quickly becoming a beach bums ideal getaway. With a laid back vibe, plenty of surf, and cheap drinks, it is easy to see why. Our group of 8 set out to see first hand how charming this town truly is. We arrived in the town square and within minutes were setup on the beach with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and endless buckets of ice cold cervezas. We spent the afternoon watching the locals and holiday visitors, playing in the surf, and enjoying the warmth. There are plenty of activities in Sayulita to keep visitors busy. Excellent fishing, snorkeling and diving are a short boat ride away and the surf offers hours of fun. We rented surf and body boards for the afternoon and took turns attempting to catch some waves. This would be my first time trying surfing and after a few lessons from more experienced friends I was able to get up…for at least 3 seconds – which is about as best as I had hopped for. I was surprised by how much effort surfing is. Really, this should be no shock as we spent the morning watching chiseled surfers effortlessly ride waves. I spent the majority of my time lying on my board gassed from paddling out and failed attempts at standing up. Turns out belly flops and face plants are exhausting. Still, I did way better than I expected and was able to get up 3 or 4 times…so I’m pretty much a pro. Turns out Erin is a pro at body boarding. As I waited for the perfect wave (or regaining energy) I would look up and Erin was ripping towards shore. Show off.
Yup surfing was a success in my mind. 4 waves caught and only 3 jellyfish stings. As I was getting a lesson from my Kiwi friend Glenn he yelped in pain which was shortly followed by me being stung. Fearing we were amongst a school of stingers Erin shot out of the water as if someone just saw Jaws. I have never seen a faster flash of white in my life. Ironically in her panic she managed to step on a sea urchin that was washed up on shore requiring some assistance from a life guard and a pair of sharp tweezers. Noting a shot of tequila can’t fix. Robyn, another friend in our group, also stepped on an urchin so not so uncommon. Still, jellyfish stings and sea urchin needles were not enough to keep us from the warm waters of Sayulita. After a few more Pacificos we were back at it…only to be stung again but was worth it. And no, no one had to pee on anyone.
After settling our ridiculously cheap tab we cleaned up and strolled the quaint town. There are endless cute and colorful buildings and stands selling fresh fruit, local art, and street eats. After a couple laps around the block we decided on El Itacate which had a que waiting to be seated. Sold. This little street side eatery is exactly what we were looking for – cheap and delicious tacos with plentiful toppings, cold beer, and stray dogs fighting over dropped bits and handouts.
The Happiest of Happy Hours
Post eats we made our way back to the town square where we were talked into 2 for 1 margaritas at a bar. Now normally I am hesitant with offers like this as I, like many tourists, have been burned in the past by settling on a tourist trap. This spot however has opened me up to taking chances on places like such. Our server was completely genuine and offered up many stories about the little town he lived in. We sat and watched the square come to life as the evening went on. Family and friends would gather for a drink or to socialize, children played, and elders watched on. A line of nuns and church goers passed by singing on their way to service. Awesome. A cat scurried by caring a bird in its mouth, entered the bar and headed upstairs to share its prize catch with its owner. A little while later a lady came by riding a quad with what looked like a 3 hour old baby. Our server went to chat with her and when later asked we found out it was his wife and child. Amazing. All of these experiences thanks to saying yes to someone I would typically shrug off. I am thankful that we did not pass on the 2 for 1 margaritas to say the least.
Yes the best experiences of our time share stay happened when we left our massive and overly sterile resort. Something to think about on your next all-inclusive or resort stay in that tropical location. There is much more to see, do, and experience beyond the resort walls.
Cover photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons – Frank DiBona