Ever since the-pandemic-that-won’t-leave-us-alone hit, beautiful tropical vacations seemed as unrealistic as a ride in Elon Musk’s spaceship. Enter: me slowly going insane in my apartment 24/7/365.
Some months after vaccines became a part of our lives, the opportunity to stay at a couple of resorts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, popped into my inbox—and I maybe cried tears of joy. Yes, of course, there’s a risk to travel, but I am/was fully vaxxed and desperate to explore the state of vacationing in 2021. So I said, “Yes, please.”
Turns out, it was a dream-turned-reality success! Not only were my COVID-19-related worries squashed with the resorts’ appropriately strict safety measures in place and cocktails securely in hand, but I was also able to fully relax in the Mexican sun.
Allow me to explain where I stayed, what I did, and why bopping from one resort to the next is my new favorite way to travel.
Resort #1: The Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta
First, we should address that this beauty is only 10 minutes away from le airport, which is great for one’s mental health. I think we can all agree on that. As such, it was the perfect place to kick off my trip.
The vibe: The moment I entered my room, I immediately dropped my bags and ran to the balcony, which had a jaw-dropping view of palm trees, mountains, and the ocean. Literally the only thing that could have made the moment better was a cocktail—and that was waiting for me at dinner.
What I did: The next day, after some glorious morning yoga by the beach, I headed to the pool.
Surrounded by palm trees and immersed in a wellness-retreat-like atmosphere (well, if your idea of a wellness retreat includes a swim-up bar), the pool was serene and probably my favorite spot in the whole place. A thing I loved: The pool bar offers the perfect amount of shade throughout the day! So there’s no reason you couldn’t sit there all day.
When I wasn’t swimming/drinking, I splurged on a massage and facial at the spa. My previously sore (and tight) muscles definitely thanked me for the rest of the trip.
What I ate: Please just order the ceviche. I ate this dish at probably every meal and still dream about it. Oh, and the grilled salmon salad will fill your salad-loving heart with joy. You’ll find ’em on the room service menu and at the resort’s restaurant El Palmar.
To be fair, there is WAY more on the menu than my faves: From fajitas to poke bowls to matcha pancakes (yes…I did say matcha pancakes!), I was never bored or hungry.
When I felt like dressing up and adventuring outside the confines of my room (and bathrobe), I ate at Arrecifes Seafood and Steakhouse, also located in the hotel, and ordered both the mahi-mahi and a six-ounce steak. What? It’s surf and turf? While those were freaking delicious, my favorite dish was the dessert: a classic crème brûlée. It was a bowl of heaven and absolutely did not disappoint.
Even though I was unable to partake due to rain, I highly suggest making arrangements for a sunset picnic. Food + ocean views and a sunset = 🔥!
Resort #2: Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
Just down the street was our second resort of the trip, a trendy and modern property with an open layout and beachfront access. Plus it has alcohol-filled coconuts when you arrive! *SWOON*
The vibe: Even before I got my room key, I was impressed by the resort lobby, which opened up to a sunshine-filled paradise. To say the view of the beach and ocean took my breath away is an understatement.
What I did: After reaching peak rejuvenation, I was ready for more activities. That included (surprise!) more pool time. But not just any pool. This resort has Puerto Vallarta’s largest infinity pool, and I’ll never be over it. At night, the hotel arranged for a baby turtle release (my heart exploded) to help those little guys get safely into the ocean. Although I didn’t actually paddleboard or kayak, you totally could in the resort’s oceanfront. Personally, my fave activity at the Marriott was the tequila tasting.
Yes, that’s right! TEQUILA. TASTING. (Cool fact: Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is one of only a few resorts that makes its own tequila, Tequila CasaMagna.) Sipping pinkies
required are encouraged.
What I ate: Let’s be honest. One of the best parts of visiting Mexico is eating Mexican food or drinking margaritas. Since I’m basic, I opted for the hotel bar’s skinny margaritas for a majority of the trip…and let me just say, those babies were FRESH. 10/10 would recommend!
When it comes to food, tostadas at the hotel restaurant Nosh were a hit. I ordered three tostadas in one sitting and almost ordered another…specifically the one with yellowfin tuna. As a lover of guacamole and a believer that it should be its own food group, the Maya guac at this restaurant was *chef’s kiss emoji*. It combined the usual ingredients with grilled pineapple, habanero chili, and mint, and I have decided that this is the only way to make guacamole ever again. Honorable mention goes to the chilaquiles and flan at Las Casitas as well as the sushi and teppanyaki at Mikado. I was (once again) never left hungry or bored by the food options.
My insider tips
When you travel to Puerto Vallarta, I highly recommend booking a weeklong trip and staying at two resorts that have different feels and activities. In this case, two are better than one. Trust!
If humidity ruins everything for you, I suggest traveling between November and April. You’ll miss the rainy season (read: less humidity) and the weather will be more temperate. Bonus: You might spot whales out in the water without even leaving your resort.
Lastly, drink lots of bottled water! With fancy cocktails, pool bars, and alcohol-filled coconuts, it’s easy to become dehydrated. So drink that water like it’s your first vodka soda after abstaining from alcohol for a week.
The bottom line: Dear Puerto Vallarta, you were the diamond in this rough mess of a year, and I can’t wait to come back! (P.S. You also might have made me
fall in love with tolerate humidity.)
XOXO, Travel John
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