Packed full of character and charm, this Mexican resort offers pristine beaches, kaleidoscopic sunsets and a vibrant social scene
To the shore
Explore the beach at the seafront park north of the Rio Cuale and walk over the bridge along the seashore andador (walkway) to Playa los Muertos, where there’s a charming new pier. Stroll lazily along the Malecon and sample the many delights on offer at the food stands. Check out the Plaza de Armas and watch the live shows at the adjacent shoreline Los Arcos amphitheatre.
Time to eat
Immerse yourself in a Mexican cooking class (Cookin’ Vallarta offers several), where it’s possible to not only learn about the history of the local cuisine, but to acquire family recipes and techniques to impress friends back home. Spend an afternoon shopping at the Mercado Municipal, where goods for sale include wonderful Mexican vanilla and bags of aromatic organic coffee, as well as an array of charming souvenirs and local glassware. Come sunset, take the Night Taco Tour, and learn to eat tacos like a local on this three-hour walk, incorporating several fascinating stops. The fish varieties are especially popular.
At the corner of Aguacate and Carranza, look for the ‘El Tuito’ bus. It’s a 40-minute ride to the beautiful Vallarta Botanical Gardens, with walking trails that smell of coffee beans and vanilla pods. Feel refreshed after a hike with lunch and a glass of sweet tea at the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant. They serve a mean plate of steak quesadillas and some exotic speciality pizzas.
Playa los Muertos has some great nightlife, though many of the clubs are aimed at a younger crowd. For more conversation-friendly options, try the pubs in the Ola Atlas district, or Club Roxy for some live music. The Conchas Chinas neighbourhood is one of the more high-end spots. There are plenty of restaurants for dinner that offer whale watching opportunities out over the Bay of Banderas. Cuban music may seem an unlikely recommendation, but the talent on show at La Bodeguita del Medio is world class — as are the mojitos on offer in this quirky bar.