In 2007, Robin Noelle left the corporate world to move to Mexico and write full-time. From the comfort of her home on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, Noelle has written for a number of publications and websites. As co-author of Moon Puerto Vallarta, Robin spent two years extensively traveling throughout Pacific Mexico—from the sleepy seaside town of Barra de Navidad to the faded glory of San Blas, and all of the jungle in between. We asked her to share some of her best Puerto Vallarta travel tips, and she was happy to help.
Exploring Puerto Vallarta with Robin Noelle
1. Describe your ideal day in Puerto Vallarta.
Starting early and heading south to an out of the way beach like Mayto and having huevos Mexicanos under a palapa on the beach. I love spending the day on deserted beaches, reading and swimming the day away.
2. What sort of aquatic activity should adrenaline junkies seek out in PV?
The scuba diving can be awesome in the Bay of Banderas. Just make sure you go with a good, small company and not a cattle boat. Scuba diving in the summer is nice because you don’t have to wear a wetsuit.
3. There are lots of annual festivals celebrated in Puerto Vallarta. Which is your favorite?
In early December there is the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration with nightly processions to the cathedral. Businesses create floats depicting the virgin and Juan Diego and people follow along wearing white and holding candles. It’s a beautiful event and there’s lots of great music and street food.
4. What are your top three hotels in the Puerto Vallarta area?
For an over the top luxury experience, I’d go with El Tamarindo to the south. For a rustic and unique experience, Tailwind Outdoors in San Pancho is great with their platform and canvas tent accommodations that are right in the jungle. Playa Escondida in Sayulita is my favorite for affordable luxury with their private beach, funky bungalows and great food.
5. You’re down to your last five dollars in Puerto Vallarta—where can you find a great meal?
Depending on the exchange rate, you can get the awesome smoked marlin burrito at Tacon de Marlin in El Centro that is big enough to share ($70 pesos), or I’d grab three tacos al pastor and a coke at Pepe’s next door. You can also try one of the taco stands in Zona Romantica (about $40 pesos).
6. A great deal of effort goes into the preservation of sea turtles in this region. How can a visitor see a sea turtle without disturbing them?
Volunteer for a night with the local conservation group. You can see the turtles firsthand and help save their nests. Plus you get to see the baby turtles as they make their way into the water and out to sea.
7. What is your favorite beach along the Nayarit Coast?
The local beach at El Monteon is my favorite for beach combing and walking the dogs— but it’s terrible for swimming. It’s also great for bird-watching and wildlife viewing (watch out for crocodiles). Chacala is great for swimming and dining if you don’t mind the crowds from the daily tour buses. Platinitos, located just north on the way to San Blas, is also great with a nice beach, good food and lots of parking minus the tour groups.
8. What’s the best way to get a feel for the history of Puerto Vallarta and its surrounding areas?
Get out of the tourist areas. Take a day trip to the mountains and visit San Sebastian, Mascota and Talpa. It’s worth the trip even if you go with a tour, but it’s much better discovering it on your own. Rent a car or go with some local friends if you can. Those little towns are still relatively untouched and can give you a great sense of history. Look for little museums and historical information off of the main squares.
9. What’s the ultimate souvenir to pick up in Puerto Vallarta?
I don’t know about the ultimate souvenir (for me it’s my collection of urchin skeletons that I’ve collected from the bottom of the ocean) but the most practical is a bottle of tequila or Kailua. The hammocks are nice too, for a little bit of the tropics in your backyard at home.
10. What’s Puerto Vallarta’s best kept secret?
That there’s a whole world outside of the Romantic and Hotel zones that doesn’t include perfectly manicured lawns and swimming pools. There are areas where people live without the basics that we take for granted, some without even basic sanitation or electricity. It doesn’t hurt to give a little back when you are vacation, so treat the people with respect and tip frequently and generously. A few pesos doesn’t mean much to your average tourist but it makes a big difference to the people who live and work there. Oh, and the zoo. Make sure you visit the zoo and hold the baby tigers. It’s a must.