Hi Everyone! Here is part I.
We ended up staying in 3 distinctively different areas so it was like 3 little mini vacations in 1. First we stayed at the Westin in the Marina. We did a 4 star resort bid on priceline and let me tell you it was a steal. Other than the spotty maid service the resort itself was perfect. It wasn't super busy and saw several local families staying at the resort as well. The grounds are immaculate and at least 10-15 different species of birds enjoy the grounds as well. We were situated on the 7th floor and had beautiful views of downtown. We chose PV because of its mountainous setting and the views of the Sierra Madres did not disappoint.
Weather – the weather was extremely hot and humid, more so than what I was expecting. I ended up getting used to it but my son and husband struggled with it throughout the trip. Due to the extreme heat we did a lot less activities than what I originally had planned.
Marina – The marina is beautiful, the restaurants bountiful, and the boats luxurious. It would be a perfect setting if it weren’t for the timeshare and business people trying to get your attention. Maybe it was because it was the slow season but it was pretty crazy. I know they only want business but I said “no gracias” a million times during our stay at the Marina. Although they were exceptionally nice, to me it kind of ruins the ambiance. I was aware of the timeshare people prior to arriving, but it was much more hassle than expected (10 out of 10). Other than that, the marina was a great place to see fish, crabs, Iguana’s and yes…crocodiles! (they hide under the restaurant that juts out over the water). You may want to avoid the Marina in the slow season if this bothers you.
Marina Restaurants – Because we spent so much time at our pool we ended up frequenting many restaurants in the Marina. We went to Victors (best fish tacos), Mr. Creams (best breakfast burrito), Angelo’s Bistro (best pizza), Fajita Banana (most typical), Porto Bello’s (A/C and nice ambiance), and Ocho Tostado (cheapest, best local hangout), and a place across the street from the Westin for breakfast. The owner does not speak an ounce of English so it was fun to try and communicate. The breakfast was exceptional and when my husband tried to order a screwdriver (they have cocktails on the menu) she brought out a fresh cut fruit cocktail. We had a laugh. Overall the food and service was fantastic everywhere we went. I really enjoyed Ocho Tostado because it was filled with locals. If it weren’t so far from the Westin we would have frequented it more often because the food was good and it was so cheap! The other honorable mention would be Victors. We went there a couple of time but be prepared..there drinks are beyond strong and it doesn’t matter if it 8 in the morning…you are getting a shot of tequila on the house. I can hold my own but one night after two margaritas it was nighty night for me. Seriously….stick to just one!!
Activities – I had several activities planned but due to the heat and logistics we ended up only doing El Eden and the Zoo. We rented a taxi for the day for only 700 pesos. He first took us from the Marina to our best breakfast ever at La Palapa where we had breakfast and mimosas. The service, food and ambiance was incredible. After that we took the long drive up to El Eden passing the zoo along the way. El Eden was a blast and it was nice to cool off in the river. My son and husband enjoyed the rope swing and natural waterslide. It is significantly cooler up at El Eden and a perfect little day-time family outing.
After El Eden our driver took us to the Zoo. Really, there is no reason to do one without the other since they are minutes from each other. Be warned though, the zoo is definitely not up to US standards so if you do not want to endorse these conditions you may want to skip it. The cages were small, the animals were being feed human leftovers (fried chicken, dessert, etc) and many did not have water. Despite this it was still a very interesting experience and photo opportunity. Unlike in the US, you can get much closer to the animals. You can pet a giraffe, hold a hand of a monkey and touch a jaguar. We also decided to visit the baby tigers/lions which were around one month old and probably 20-30lbs. The tigers had changes around their necks except for the one lion which we ended up petting. My son loved it and it was a very unique experience.
Downtown/Melecon – Downtown was much busier than I expected and I was extremely surprised at the amount of traffic on the streets. We went both at night and during the day. It was fun to see the sand and metal sculptures along with the performers. I enjoyed being there during the night with the sculptures lit and the pirate ship blasting fireworks into the sky. Tons of fun but didn’t get a chance to explore this area as much as I wanted to. When I saw the latter sculpture I looked to my left and there it was..cheeky monkey. Can’t beat a $1 margarita…
Downtown Restaurants –
Other than La Palapa we also went to Agave Grill, Aye Carumba (which is what you will say when you see the prices) and El Barracuda. Agave Grill had a wonderful ambience and my shrimp & margarita were fantastic. My husband had chicken fajitas and he thought they were so-so. Prices were cheaper than expected. Our taxi driver recommended Aye Carumba (I’m pretty sure he received a commission) because El Barracuda was closed (Monday). Aye Carumba is situated at the top of the hill in which I believe is Old Town? It was the most expensive place we ate at but the food was good and the portions were huge. They had live music (for tips) and it was the best place we went to take pictures of the sunset. The last place we went was El Barracuda…a little more rustic than what I was expecting after reading the reviews but the food was good. The menu states “white fish” and upon inquiring was Tilapia. We requested Red Snapper and it didn’t seem to be a problem…just seemed odd because Red Snapper wasn’t anywhere on their menu. I had surf and turf tacos and they were great.
We used ATM’s almost exclusively and they were readily available. Taxi drivers were extremely friendly and accommodating. Restaurants were great and about 25% less than what I was expecting. Driving in PV is crazy due to the amount of traffic and the weird lane situations. Two lane roads turn into one-way roads without any signs that I could find. The drivers have a method to their madness and it works for them but I would not attempt it. Parking also didn’t seem very easy to come by either. Busses and Taxi’s seemed plentiful and a much safer way of traveling in my opinion.
Dreams Resort and surrounding Area –
We ended up spending two nights at dreams just for the fun of it. Dreams is much different than the Westin. No local families and 99% American. The feel of the main pool is completely different than the Westin. Instead of quiet and laid back it is more of a party atmosphere with pool volleyball and table tennis along with a huge speaker pumping out music all day. Also unlike the Westin the waves were HUGE while we were there and unswimmable for young children. They were however great to listen to and I loved seeing the pelicans on the rocky cove. I recommend Dreams if you want all inclusive (the food was great) but if you want a true Mexican experience this may not be the place. Also, due to the atmosphere I would not recommend this hotel for older travelers.
Part 2, Sayulita - coming soon!