Willy recently surprised me with a birthday trip to Puerto Vallarta. Shockingly, this was my first time in Mexico! I couldn't have asked for a better city than PV. It was perfectly cultured, had beautiful weather, and was a sight to take in. When I travel, I want to feel like I'm actually experiencing a different culture. I want to have to try to speak the local language. I want to eat the local street food. 

Here were my favorite things we did in Puerto Vallarta.

1. Cruise Marietas Islands via Bahia Alegre


The Marietas Islands are located a 1.5 hour boat ride away from Puerto Vallarta. You can select from various tour companies. We ended up with Bahia Alegre which appears to be what the Mexican natives take vs the popular Vallarta Adventures which definitely caters more to tourists. I liked ours because again, I like to feel immersed in culture. The tour was dual language and popular Mexican music blasted the entire 8 hours. The tour included breakfast, lunch, & open bar as well as the nicest, hardest working staff. The tour included snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, and a speedboat ride to the beach. 

The Marietas are a protected reserve so there are only specific areas you can actually visit. Either way, it is still a full 8 hour excursion so plan accordingly!

2. Eat at Pipi's "The Original"

We were introduced to Pipi's "The Original" by some locals. Coming from LA, I'm pretty picky about my Mexican food. We're pretty spoiled out here. That being said, Pipi's lived up to it's name. I think through the years, it's become a tourist hot spot but the food remains authentic. All the servers are super friendly and attentive. 

Prices comparative to the street food are higher but comparative to LA prices, they are a steal. We got the Shrimp Fajita Burrito and the Seafood Enchiladas. Their margaritas are a definite MUST. Willy and I shared a large (rather only size they have) mango margarita, blended - per our waiter's recommendation. 

I was really craving some tableside guacamole and sure enough, they delivered. Although I will say, I don't remember being asked. The guy just came over and starting mashing away. I wasn't complaining but keep that in mind if you don't want tableside guac. 

3. Lounge at Hotel Mousai

Two words. Infinity pool. In all honestly, this property is stunning and state of the art but nothing in the hotel impressed me more than their gorgeous infinity pool. You literally take the elevators up and when the doors open, it looks like the water is infinite. The pool has a view of the Pacific Ocean and you can get poolside massages. What. Say no more. 

We also enjoyed breakfast - also with a view. Per my previous comment, the entire country is a sight to be taken in. 

4. Stroll El Malecon Boardwalk

I described this to Willy as the Mexican version of LA's Venice Boardwalk. The Malecon Boardwalk features shops, eats, and some clubs. There are also tons of street artists! I purchased a beautiful original oil painting of Frida Kahlo for my sister. It is very family friendly. You will see lots of families walking together, snapping photos, enjoying helados. The best part is the Cathedral is right off the boardwalk and has TONS of street food. We literally ate there every single night. After all, it's not a legit taco until it comes off the streets of Mexico. 

Pretty much everything was under $3USD. This is literally my heaven. Eating 100% authentic Mexican food on the streets with locals, being forced to use my rustic Spanish, and strolling the boardwalk food coma in tow. 

5. Stay at Velas Vallarta

We stayed at Velas Vallarta which is located in the Marina of Puerto Vallarta. Just an 8-10 minute ride away from Downtown and a 5 minute drive from the airport. To say the property was breathtaking might be an understatement. We booked through AirBnB and got a great deal on an owner condo. The resort is all inclusive but since we booked through AirBnB, we didn't get those privileges. You can choose to add them on if you wish. 

6. Dine at Emiliano, Casa Velas

Sister to Velas Vallarta, Casa Velas is an adult only, all inclusive resort. It houses Emiliano, a delicious gourmet Mexican restaurant that features outdoor patio seating. We had the pleasure of dining here after our Marietas Island excursion. We were running late and showed up in our cruise garb. They were kind enough to still take us even though they observe a pretty strict dress code. Thanks for understanding!

We dined on fried tuna, sea bass, onion soup, confetti shrimp, and crab balls. Willy enjoyed a glass of wine while I opted for a refreshing mint mojito. If you're lucky, one of the 3 male peacocks will join you for dinner. They're beautiful and super friendly. 

I can't wait for my next trip to Puerto Vallarta. Thankfully it's only a short 2.5 hour flight away from LA. 

xo, Jenny