My mom and I had a week to spend with my daughter again for her school break, so a call to the travel agent got us a great all-inclusive vacation to Nuevo Vallarta, (just a scoot north of Puerto Vallarta), on the west coast of Mexico.
I’d only been to the Caribbean side of the country before, so this was going to be a new adventure for me – though Hurricane Patricia just about pulled the plug on the whole holiday!
Our flight took us slowly eastward and right over the Grand Canyon, then miles over the dry mountains and valleys of southern Arizona and northern/mid-Mexico until it gradually became lush and green towards the south.
We touched down on the equatorial equivalent of Hawaii, so a blast of tropical 80-plus degree humid heat and sun hit us when we stepped off the plane, and a quick glance around showed that hills and mountains surrounded the area. Our shuttle bus took us through busy streets lined with typical shops made from cinder block construction, over a still muddy and swollen river from the torrential rains that wreaked some havoc in the higher areas and then to the hotel strip, where we were welcomed by the friendly staff at the Grand Marival Resort. The room was lovely, our balcony overlooked one of the three big pools framed by tall palms and pretty garden beds as well as a view of the beautiful, blue Pacific Ocean that breezed in the scent of salt air. We had a beach that seemed to have sprouted palapas, which looked like palm-frond toadstools. Clearly we had arrived in paradise, so we wasted no time scouting it out.
Early November is the end of the rainy season and just before the busy high season, so it was a great time to be there. It was too early to see the humpback whales, unfortunately, who come close by in the winter months for birthing and breeding. We were located in the centre of the sandy and protected Bay of Banderas, which is approximately 100-kilometres long from point to point, and regarded by most geologists as the original attachment point for the southern cape of the Baja California Peninsula before it was rifted off the North American Plate millions of years ago, forming the Gulf of California. The economy in the area is based on tourism, fishing, and agriculture – the main crops being corn, beans, sorghum, tobacco, rice, watermelon and mango, as well as exotic fruits such as papaya, litchi, and guanábana.
The air was not perfumed like Hawaii with those heavenly-scented plumeria, but any gardener could get a pleasing eye-full around there with those grounds filled with yellow, red and orange hibiscus hedges, purple bougainvillea vines that trailed along the white-washed walls, palms of all shapes and sizes and beautiful garden beds filled with ferns, foliage and flowers. The bay is alive with all kinds of life such as whales and dolphins in winter, more than 600 species of fish, marine turtles, manta rays and a multitude of birds. We watched pelicans cruising the crests of waves, saw king fishers, egrets and other shore birds diving for food offshore, funny-shaped little crabs that came out before sunset and one morning I helped a lone leatherback baby turtle get past the surf and out to sea. There were hardly any bugs, save for little flies that came out in the evening and some small bees that buzzed about (which I’m not sure was a good sign or not), but at least we didn’t have to worry about malaria-carrying mosquitoes or scorpions.
A wristband was our pig-out or pass-out pass (should you be so inclined), which allowed us to eat and drink anything we wanted almost 24 hours a day at the big indoor/outdoor buffet room that satisfied any taste.
Every sunny day began and ended with cappuccinos on the beach while watching the sunrise and 6:30 sunset, snack plates were piled with delicious papayas, limes and pineapple and breakfast for me was a healthy helping of heuvos with beans on a tortilla shell, heaped with fresh salsa, feta cheese and a shot of hot sauce, and all washed down with strong Mexican coffee. Yum!
The hombres under the thatched-roofed pool bars dispensed delicious juices or drinks with tempting names like Mango Vice, Pink Flamingo, Banana Mama and Pantera Rosa.
For a little extra fun, an excursion to the north allowed us to see more of the coastline and communities, especially the colourful and funky surfing town of Sayulita, which was our destination for the day.
So it was a beautiful, no-brainer of a holiday we three had for sure -–and a place we’d surely go visit again.