I’m back from Thanksgiving weekend in Puerto Vallarta! Anna, Sarah and I booked this trip since we each couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving (we’re all from the east coast and flights were $$$), but we miraculously found cheap flights to Mexico, and so we packed our bags and I met them straight from my Guatemala trip.
Overall, Mexico was filled with lots of relaxing on the beach, hikes, adventure, AMAZING food (the best I’ve had in Latin America), and a whole new outlook on Mexico that I’ll share below. I’ve done a lot of solo traveling this year and so it was nice to change things up and share travel experiences with close friends for the first time in a while. ❤
Day 1: Beach morning + ziplining + tequila tasting
We all flew in the evening before and settled into our Airbnb, which was nestled in Puerto Vallarta’s old town, where the locals live. One awesome thing about Airbnbs is that you get to experience living among the locals, which was a nice change from bouncing around hostels which are usually centered in touristy areas.
For breakfast the first day, we ate at Freddy’s Tucan. We stuffed our faces with a few traditional Mexican dishes, perfect for getting beach-body ready. 😛 The three of us had so much to catch up on since we hadn’t seen each other in weeks, and I had an entire Guatemala trip to share with them.
Then we hit the beach. We had a few hours to kill before our afternoon activity and so we went straight to enjoying the sand and sunshine. The beaches in Puerto Vallarta were absolutely gorgeous. The water was so warm and perfect for swimming, and despite vendors approaching you left and right, I thought it was one of the nicest beaches I’d ever been on.
After beach-time, we lightly walked around town. Puerto Vallarta is a popular resort destination, but there are tons of scenic, local gems in the less-touristy neighborhoods, and the three of us were all on-board to immerse ourselves in that.
We had something super fun on the itinerary for the afternoon…ziplining!! We drove 40 minutes to Los Veranos Canopy Tours – they gave us a quick orientation and it was clear that we had a super fun, energetic crew of guides for these 12 ziplines (yes…12!). Anna, Sarah and I had each done ziplining before but never so many at once. I loved this tour because it was very much go-go-go with the zip lines. We zipped one after another and I loved the nonstop adrenaline. The lines also ran through GORGEOUS scenery through the forest; we flew high above the trees and over some pretty rivers too…so fun!
Our tour also came with a tequila tasting. We drank with the same guys that helped us on the zip-lines and they were such a ball of fun. I think they were just happy to hang out with three pretty girls 😉
Another part of the tour was walking through the animal sanctuary. We interacted with monkeys, birds, iguanas…you can see through these photos how I felt about them 😛
The crew dropped us off in town in an open safari-van. We just loved driving through the streets with the wind flying through our hair, with gorgeous views of the coast at sunset ❤
Some last moments of the sunset on the beach…perfection.
After some downtime in our Airbnb, we went back to town for dinner. We found an amazing local restaurant known for their octopus, and the three of us each ordered some. Look at those servings! I think the entire meal came out to $8 each.
Day 2: Los Colomitos hike with locals + night out
For day 2, we had another fun activity planned…Anna booked for us an “Airbnb experience,” basically tours on Airbnb offered by locals. I had never done one before but was really intrigued. We thought it was a good idea to have some locals guide us through the Los Colomitos hike. We met up with our hosts Alejandro and Moises, and they were off-the-bat so warm, enthusiastic and filled with knowledge of the area.
We boarded a bus and drove 30 minutes to another nearby town. When we got there, we walked around town a bit and it was SO gorgeous: cute boats, colorful houses, all along the incredible blue water #lifestylegoals
Then we made it to the trailhead. The hike was a short 1-hour and pretty easy. Alejandro and Moises also made sure we took plenty of breaks to admire the views and take pictures (brownie points for that!).
The end-point of the trail was Los Colomitos beach. It was quite exciting approaching this since you could see the beautiful beach start peeking through the trees, and step by step, we finally made it.
The beach itself was breathtaking. It was a pretty little cove with large rock-formations surrounding it, with water so perfectly crystal-blue that it all was an amazing site. I’m so glad we went with Alejandro and Moises since they made sure we arrived at the beach before the tourist traffic picked up, so we had it all to ourselves for an hour.
Some fresh coconut as we enjoyed the beach…YES.
After some swimming and chillaxing, we packed up and resumed our hike a little further. This part of the tour was optional but we had some energy and wanted to spot some waterfalls. Alejandro and Moises packed some delicious homemade ceviche for us to enjoy…fresh fish at the bottom of a waterfall = heaven.
Getting to the waterfall was quite the task. It required climbing on these rocks…which were almost entirely vertical. It was pretty difficult and dangerous too, but we all made it!
Sarah, Anna and I agreed that this Airbnb experience was one of the most special parts of the entire trip. 🙂 Afterwards, we took the water taxi back to town and got to enjoy the ocean views along the way.
Then we said our goodbyes to Alejandro and Moises. But first, they took us to a Mexican candy shop and the three of us went ham.
After cleaning up at the Airbnb, the three of us separate for a bit. I got a cheap message in town while the other two went shopping, and then we met up for dinner at an amazing locals spot. I’m so grateful for Anna’s and Sarah’s research and recommendations for food in Puerto Vallarta. Not gonna lie, food is usually the least of my priorities when I travel…I usually spend my energy and money on activities/adventure and then end up eating the bare minimum to fuel myself and miss experiencing the local cuisine…but it was such a treat to actually seek out GOOD (and cheap!) food for once. I think the three of us really balanced each other out in this respect.
After dinner, Anna and I went out for a few drinks. We also checked out some of the clubs in town – there was one club that had this swing which I hopped on :P. We didn’t go too crazy since we didn’t want to be hungover the next morning, and luckily got to bed around midnight.
Day 3: Beach day + cute sunset moment
Despite our early-ish night, Anna and I still woke up on the slow side the next morning. We decided we wanted to relax and have a chill beach day, and so we bought day-passes to a nearby resort and that’s exactly what we did.
Most of our day looked like this. Sipping pina coladas, lounging in our chairs, listening to music, reading, walking on the beach…just what we needed after two active days.
In the evening, Sarah and Anna went to get massages, and I ventured off on my own for a bit. I walked around and found these gorgeous mosaic tiles covering walls and sculptures throughout a local park. I spent some time chilling at this park and grabbed a donut too. So relaxing.
Then, I continued my exploration through our old town neighborhood. I just loved the network of houses filled with lots of plants and greenery; it all felt like a multiple-story maze as you could get from one house to another from their rooftops and decks…I felt like a little kid exploring and jumping around from spot to spot.
As sunset approached, I wanted to find a good spot to enjoy it. I climbed up a hill in old town and then saw some stairs leading to the roof of a local’s house, and decided to discreetly go up to their roof…of course, the owner caught me. He was a sweet old man named Nacho, and instead of kicking me out, he invited me to stay! I think Nacho was just pleased to have a visitor. His house was very modest but had a breathtaking view of all of Puerto Vallarta. He gave me a mini-tour of the surroundings and we enjoyed the sunset together. My heart was so happy to meet Nacho. These random, genuine, positive moments are exactly why I love to travel. ❤
I met up with the girls again for dinner. We took a break from restaurants and grabbed some street tacos near our Airbnb. Our neighborhood was filled with amazing street food left and right and I swear they were the best tacos I ever had. The rest of the night we took it easy, watched some comedy specials on my iPad, and hit the hay early.
Day 4: Yelapa day trip + fun drag show
Our last full day in Puerto Vallarta! Anna, Sarah and I decided to hop on a water taxi to a nearby fishing village, Yelapa, for a day trip. The views along the ride were speculated: seeing the smaller villages surrounded by tall palm trees and green forestry, all along the ocean side…can I move to Mexico please?!
Then we made it to Yelapa. We planted our belongings down on the beach and went paddle-boarding for the morning.
For the rest of the afternoon, we took it easy on the beach. We ordered some food + drinks, I took a much-needed nap, read some of my book, and enjoyed the secluded vibes of Yelapa.
Then back to town. The three of us walked around a little more, did some last minute shopping and grabbed some ice cream. For our last dinner, we went to Tuna Azul, which is one of the best seafood spots in town. I ordered seafood pasta…yum!
Somewhat randomly, we saw a flyer for a drag show and spontaneously decided to go. A show seemed like the perfect, relaxing activity for our last night in Mexico. Also, we happened to pick an Airbnb in the a neighborhood with a huge LBGT tourist population, so this seemed appropriate.
The show was SO. MUCH. FUN. Way more fun than I thought it would be. The star of the show was such a talented singer and even shared some stories of her childhood performing drag in Idaho – so thoughtful and entertaining. We couldn’t stop laughing the entire time. 🙂 What a perfect end to our trip.
Day 5: Relaxing morning + reflection
We had an entire morning before our flight, and so I took one last walk around town. I enjoyed a donut + coffee while people watching the streets, got my nails done, did a little more shopping…
And just like that, our Mexico trip was over!
Overall, I am SO glad I got to experience Mexico with Anna and Sarah. The three of us traveled really well together, and I was surprised how well we balanced each other out in how we contributed to the trip as well as how we all had the same level of planning versus spontaneity. We were also open to each spending time alone here and there, which helped create balance. As much as I love solo travel, I do find that I tend stay on the typical backpacker’s trail in order to meet other people, so it was really nice to have a quieter, more “locals” experiences this time. I do want to incorporate this aspect into my solo traveling in the future: booking Airbnb experiences, living in more locals neighborhoods in addition to hostels…etc.
But what I’m most grateful for about Puerto Vallarta is how it completely changed my perspective on Mexico. My first time in Mexico was in May when I visited Tulum and Cancun, and I hate to say that it didn’t leave the best impression in my mind. We were constantly scammed and taken advantage of, and I felt like we didn’t experience anything authentic given the bougy, touristy crowd.
PV was a complete 180 in every way. Everyone was so nice to us and we were never once scammed (at least not to my knowledge :P). I truly felt immersed into authentic Mexico, and it definitely opened my heart to wanting to explore more of the amazing country. I’m really grateful for Anna and Sarah booking our local casa, picking amazing authentic food spots, and most importantly, bringing lots of openness and positive vibes to the trip. ❤