Location: Puerto Vallarta + day trip to Sayulita
Time of year: Early - mid-January
Weather: 30°C and lots of sun
Hi guys! I hope you read this while curled up on the couch with a cup of tea or hot cocoa because it’s really cold out and you deserve to be warm!
Two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon driving back from snowshoeing, I got a call asking if I could go on a super-duper last-minute trip to Puerto Vallarta with Air Transat - THE NEXT MORNING. I was so caught off guard but very grateful for the opportunity because it came at a perfect time in my life. For basically all of December, I had been feeling very down and uninspired/lacking creativity. This trip re-sparked that creativity and inspiration and reminded me why I love doing what I do. I’ve come to terms with the fact that as a creative, I will always have my ups and downs and that’s okay! Now, let me get into this amazing trip!
The first thing you need to know when flying with Air Transat Club Class are the perks:
the area + seats are more spacious and seats recline further (I love having all that extra leg room!)
you’re allowed TWO pieces of checked luggage and one carry-on
priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage handling (this makes a huge difference)
welcome cocktail and hot towel
Comfort Kit: blanket, inflatable neck pillow, sleep mask and slippers (my fave perk)
variety of gourmet meals by chef Daniel Vézina on flights longer than three hours
Air Transat flies to so many great destinations, but I really love their selection of luxury resorts for a quick getaway in the south. They offer about 40 hotels in 10 sun destinations, there’s free access to VIP airport lounges as well as Option Plus upgrades and, in 2018, they became the first major international tour operator to be Travelife Certified for all its activities in recognition of its commitment to sustainable tourism. How awesome is that!
Just a little overview before getting into it: we (myself and a few other girls) stayed at two resorts, visited two others, took a day trip into Sayulita and San Pancho, went on a taco tour (SUCH a highlight) and explored a bit of the actual city of Puerto Vallarta.
Also, I just have to say that this was only my second time on the west coast of Mexico and I fell in love with it. No, the water isn’t always turquoise like in Riviera Maya, the sand isn’t white powder, but the water was warmer on this side, it felt less humid, the mountains line the horizon and there was so much culture and good energy that I KNOW I will definitely be coming back to this pat of Mexico on my next trip!
We stayed at the Marival Residences for the first three nights and it was hard to say goodbye for many reasons, but mostly because we stayed in epic penthouse suites with our own rooftop infinity pools! Honestly, it was pretty wild and the residences are a really great idea if you have a family and want to stay for a couple of weeks. I highly recommend!
Why Marival Resort is great:
perfect in size - a.k.a. no need to ride a golf cart for 10 minutes to get to the beach - hate that!
the food was SO good - I highly recommend Insu Sky Lounge for drinks/dinner. Mozza Mare was delicious as well
very attentive and friendly staff
all-inclusive - including 24-hr room service + beach club service
beachfront on a beautiful beach that stretches for miles and is perfect for taking walks, which I did daily
cute bicycles are available on-site to get around the grounds
I honestly really enjoyed my first three days here. It set the tone perfectly for the rest of the week, I had time to properly relax and enjoy the facilities and I got some of the most incredible sunsets from my rooftop! Oh and brb, let me wipe the drool from my chin because I’m still thinking about that grilled cheese from Insu.
P.S. You can click on the images to make them larger
Unfortunately we didn’t actually stay at this resort (just spent the day), but BOY do I wish we had. The Grand Velas was absolutely stunning in every way. I loved their attention to detail (even the towels were cute!) and how spotless the place was. The rooms were to die for, the views were just gorgeous and they had pink and purple flowers cascading over every balcony. It totally made me feel like I was back in the south of France! We had a really fun and muy delicioso Thai cooking class at Senlin and after that I had one of the best massages of my life. Genuinely. It was so amazing I walked out giggling because I didn’t understand what I had just experienced. It was complete and utter euphoria!
We spent our last four nights at Secrets Vallarta Bay in beautiful, spacious rooms with views overlooking the ocean, giving us some of the craziest sunsets I’ve seen in a long time! WE ALSO SAW A WHALE IT WAS SO COOL!
Why Secrets is great:
all-inclusive - including beach service and 24-hr room service
beachfront with beautiful views of the mountains and city in the far-off distance
very friendly and attentive staff
they provide lots of entertainment
family-friendly - there is a family side to this resort and they provide a ton of entertainment and activities for children
only 1 km away from the actual city of Puerto Vallarta
a very zen spa - bring a book or throw some cucumber slices onto those eyes - you’ll be there for a while!
drinks at the lobby at sunset will not disappoint and it’s very romantic
I found that Secrets had a great breakfast buffet and there were a few specialties every morning which I loved. The fact that they had almond milk scored big points in my books and they had a really nice selection of restaurants, like Capers, where I devoured a v. delicious lobster risotto. I KNOW.
I also really loved the views. From my room I could see the beach and catch incredible sunsets and, from the other side of my hotel room door, I was welcomed with sweeping views of the mountains and city below. I had the best of both worlds!
Hotel Mousai was the second resort we visited and spent the day at. This place was just unbelievable. The next time I visit Puerto Vallarta, I’m DEFINITELY, without a doubt, staying here. The hotel has a very sleek, modern and minimalist vibe and felt like the ultimate form of luxury. I can’t say enough good things about this place!
Why Hotel Mousai is great:
all-inclusive + adults-only
5-minute walk from the beach
perched on a hilltop so it’s more secluded
stunning, modern rooms
only 73 suites
staff was excellent and catered to our every need
the rooftop pool is to die for
I so, so wish we could have had more time here to properly experience the resort, but having the day there was the perfect amuse-bouche I needed to know that I will definitely be back. We just couldn’t get over the views, the rooftop infinity pool or the laid-back ambience. It was such a fantastic day and felt like a dream!
Our first excursion was to the beautiful, vibrant and laid-back village of Sayulita! This town is perfect for those who want to stay away from resorts, surf the whole week (they have awesome waves) and live like a local. Every street is an explosion of colour, lined with restaurants, bars and local boutiques and it is BUZZING with energy! We spent half the day aimlessly roaming the streets, popping into boutiques, befriending all the local pooches and ate a nice lunch right in front of the beach. Instead of going straight back to the hotel, we made a pit stop in a neighbouring town called San Pancho (10-minute drive from Sayulita), another beach/surf destination similar to Sayulita but a bit more secluded with fewer tourists. Both were wonderful!
Just a 10-15 minute drive from Secrets Vallarta Bay and you are in the ever so colourful and exciting town of Puerto Vallarta! I didn’t really have any expectations, not that I had low ones, I just didn’t really know what to expect and I was very pleasantly surprised! The town is brimming with culture and history and is extremely gay-friendly - it’s actually the gay beach capital of Mexico. Woo!
We walked around and explored the markets, a church and one of the main squares and, then on a different night, we came back to have dinner at Casa Isabel. The food was so-so, but the view and location were beautiful. If you do come to visit the town of Puerto Vallarta, I strongly recommend exploring the Romantic District (a.k.a. Old Vallarta) because it’s just so dang charming! There are many more boutiques to shop at, restaurants and cafés to try, art galleries to visit and the happy vibe is contagious!
Our third and final excursion of the week was a taco tour with Juan More Taco Tour. Yup, that’s right! A FREAKING TACO TOUR. This was one of the highlights of my week and for good reason! We were taken around Puerto Vallarta to spots only the locals know about (my fave thing) and had a truly authentic taco experience. We ate at five different taquerías, sampled some local beer, had an indeterminate amount of guac and bought some fresh brioche-style bread out of the back of a vintage 70s VW van. It was an awesome activity which I highly recommend doing and super affordable (only $69 USD pp). I did two food tours when I was in Vietnam and Cambodia and those were some of the best food experiences I had as well. Food tours are AMAZING.
I would obviously do this again in a heartbeat. All the spots we went to were amazing; however, our first two spots were my favourite. The first stop was at this outdoor taco stand with bar stools circling the whole stand and a local woman in the middle making our tacos super-duper fresh for us. The second stop, a small restaurant called Abulón Antojería Del Mar, was where I had the best shrimp taco of my life. Currently still thinking about it, by the way.
I only took photos of the first two places because I was just too excited about all the tacos and ate them all before remembering to take photos. Oops!
Well, that was my week! Hope you guys enjoyed it and that this gives you some inspiration for your next trip!