City Guide: Puerto Vallarta
Upon arriving in Puerto Vallarta, you're whisked away onto a taxi to your hotel. We were fortunate enough to be staying at the beautiful Garza Blanca Preserve, which you get to by driving through the charming city of Puerto Vallarta. Up a winding mountain road with one lane each way, you're flanked by gorgeous nature on each side. On one are the verdant jungle hillsides, dense with lush palm trees and tropical flowers. On the other is a sparkling ocean with gradient blue hues that lap the rock formations in foamy white waves.
Aside from the stunning views, you are accompanied by a warm, "amable" taxi driver, who will chatter away with you about the best restaurants in the city, the mansions that top the hills, and the best seasons for visiting (almost always minus the more humid tropical months). With the windows down, and a perfect 75 degree breeze on the coastal drive, entry into Puerto Vallarta becomes just a positive precursor to the even more breathtaking views ahead.
The marble entryway of Garza Blanca is reminiscent of a castle on the water in Game of Thrones. Once you enter, you are immediately handed flutes of iced sparkling wine. Through the marble columns, a view of the ocean featuring Los Arcos, a stone formation in the distance, will look surreal and you'll be wondering how you can find a way to permanently and immediately move here.
The infinity pool and jacuzzis overlook both this view and the lush Jurassic Park-esque mountains. And as you float along the edge of the pool, colorful butterflies, tropical birds, and the resident iguanas will greet you. (Not to mention the nonstop flow of guacamole, mojitos, and ceviche you can indulge in poolside.)
We were fortunate enough to have gotten a panoramic suite, which feels like a helicopter view of the area, nestled high in the mountains amongst tall palm trees and over the infinite blue of the sea. A crocheted Pinterest worthy hammock is strategically placed on the private balcony facing the ocean, perfect for "I just woke up like this" from afternoon nap moments. The freestanding tub sitting atop a bed of gray stones is shares the floor to ceiling glass windows of the suite, making a private bubble bath between you and the ocean not just #goals but IRL.
The city itself is also heart-wrenchingly charming. Looking up, you'll find colorful paper cut streamers over head, acting as delicate, vibrant bridges between floral balconies of buildings. All the streets are a bumpy, romantic cobblestone reminiscent of earlier days when the streets were filled with horses instead of taxis. (Note: These beautiful streets also make heels impossible so pack some sandals and sneaks.)
The flea market is filled with typical tourist tchotchkes, but the store owners "duenos" are so lovely you'll want to chat with them even if you save yourself from accumulating more unnecessary souvenirs.
Food is one of my absolute favorite parts of traveling. I always make it a goal to discover both hole in the walls and more contemporary trendy spots. Bumping along the cobblestone streets with another taxi driver, we asked for recommendations on favorite spots and got directed to a charming family restaurant called Casa Tradicional. Birds chirped at the entrance and we walked into a colorful room filled with character, from small painted dolls to festive blown glasses. We were greeted with warmth and immediately had just out of the pot cooked tomatoes ground into a fresh salsa in a giant stone mortar next to our table. The carnitas were the best, and each dish came with its set of rice, beans, and guac in mini tostada shells. Since it was my birthday, they surprised me with some fried bananas and ice cream. I'll take it!
We also discovered a lounge that seemed to be the creative inspiration behind Anthropologie's new lines, with crocheted details, uneven steps, and exposed wooden beams set to bossa nova tunes and vintage Jacquard patterned couches.
The next day, we tried a restaurant that came highly recommended by a few different friends -- Cafe de Les Artistes. Set alongside several art galleries a few blocks in from the Malecon (a block of open oceanfront neon lit clubs), the area feels like a small taste of the cobblestone streets of art districts in Spain. The galleries have the same rustic and country charm with uneven stone floors, surprising loft spaces, and ruggedly painted walls. The colorful eye catching face paintings of artist Diego Luz dominated the space with its vibrance.
Entering Cafe de Les Artistes, you're greeted by bejeweled bottles of alcohol that put your 90s jeans to shame. A pianist and violinist dueling in the lobby will help you pass some waiting time as they prepare the in-demand tables of the well known garden patio seating. Walking up the lit staircase, you'll feel like you're entering the an Avatar-like world where lush green vines and palm fronts meet to form a ceiling and lights float amongst the leaves. Tables are set on ascending stone steps making the entire area feel like a cross between a performance arena and jungle cave. The food is delicious, but it's the ambiance that is truly memorable (well ok...and the cream filled warm croissant ball of heaven that came in the bread basket #notglutenfree).
On our last day, we basked in the perfect 75 degree sunny day in the infinity pool, enjoying a breeze so perfect you had to sideye it with an incredulous just stop. I also slipped down onto the white sandy beach to get some namaste moments in by alternating between downward-dogging and shavamssaning by the shore. Leaving Puerto Vallarta's perfection was heartbreaking for obvious reasons (can't I float around in infinity pools everyday?) but satisfying because it had so quickly established itself as a place I knew I would revisit again soon. Hasta luego, un lugar de mi favorito.