Mexico vacations are the best. Period. This last week in Puerto Vallarta was truly incredible! The sights, the sounds, the smells… it was amazing.
We spent the first part of the week on a little ranch near Punta Mita, outside of Sayulita in Nayarit. Mexico vacations for the win! It absolutely incredible. Dogs, cats, turkeys, chickens, donkeys, iguanas, and some seriously huge bugs that I hope never to see again. (There was also, for a very few minutes, a gorgeous green snake hanging out directly over our shower through the thatched palm roof over our room.) Our noses filled with the smells of diesel and overripe fruit, and our refrigerator packed with beer, we were totally set for a fantastic week.
On the very first night, after a fun evening of more than a dozen perfectly light Mexican beers including Indio and Dos Equis, the incredibly friendly cat who lived on the property gave birth in the bedroom our friends were sleeping in, which meant that we had tiny little kittens for the duration of our stay. They were so perfect! One all white and one with grey spots, both too young to walk, explore, or even open their eyes. We must have seemed like decent people, since we were left to watch the kittens during the short periods while Mom would run out for a few minutes to catch the occasional lizard snack.
As far as Mexico vacations go, ours was pretty perfect. The house where we stayed had a gorgeous deep and blue pool, where I spent most of my waking hours. Two hammocks swayed gently in the breeze right near the pool for those who wanted to stay dry, and from any spot in or near the pool, you could look out over the tops of the palm trees into the jungle.
We were a quick ten minute walk to an amazing beach, which would be perfect for surfing if you are the sort of person who is coordinated enough for that type of activity. If you’re planning Mexico vacations that involve surfing, this ranch is absolutely unbeatable. Tall waves, pale sand, and great breezes made this practically private beach amazing. If you go just a little bit the wrong way through the jungle on your way to the beach, you wind up at this incredible abandoned resort, with moss snaking its way into the abandoned tile pool and the bones of coconuts scattered across the cobblestones. I’ve never been anywhere that feels more like the set of Jurassic Park! Empty and alone, with the breeze rattling through the giant drying palm fronds, the quiet little skittering of lizard feet echoes as you stand in the ruins of what could have been an incredible beach-side resort. It was almost impossible not to imagine what led to the abandonment of such a huge project.
This could easily have been the set of just about any movie where a group of unsuspecting tourists wander into an area where years earlier something had gone terribly, terribly awry…
It was warm and sticky every day as so many Mexico vacations can be, so our meals were perfectly simple and fresh. We had an amazing woman who came in every morning, cleaned, and provided a simple breakfast of fruit, sourced primarily from the property, as well as granola, breakfast sandwiches, or chilaquiles. She left us bananas, papayas, and agua frescas with mango, papaya, and guanbana, or soursop, (which unfortunately tasted and had a mouthfeel that was kind of a lot like wet banana). We usually kept lunch to snacks like chips, salsa, and guacamole (or, in Blye’s case, packages of Oreos), and dinner was either something awesome that we found in town, like octopus and shrimp tostadas with freshly sliced avocado and bright citrus juice, freshly grilled split whole chicken from what looked like a table outside of somebody’s house, or tacos, beans, and rice we made ourselves.
As the nights cooled and the really interesting bugs and bats took over the area outside, we had a lot of fun moving inside and checking out the movie collection of the people who owned the house. We found some great new releases with Spanish subtitles, which we watched until late at night. It seemed that, just as we were about to fall asleep nearly every night, the dogs would find a reason to start their chorus, which seemed to last almost until the turkeys, roosters, and donkeys were ready to greet the dawn. If you’re looking for silence, this wouldn’t be the place for you, but we had an amazing time!
We went into the town of Sayulita one afternoon, which was so much fun. Busy and packed with people, we had a great time looking at the souvenirs, buying fantastic tequila at amazing prices, and having lunch at this awesome little spot where we sat right on the street. Watching the world passing by, eating phenomenal tacos and quesadillas filled with raw vegetables, creamy avocado, fresh sliced strawberries, and crispy coconut shrimp…we were in heaven. That is definitely a flavor combination I’ll be playing with in the future!
We were drawn in to the little shack simply because the cook was using a half an onion to clean his grill between batches of coconut shrimp and sesame fish, filling the street with an unbeatable aroma. Pure genius!
After our first five days together, our friends went home and it was just the awesome dude and myself, so we headed back into Puerto Vallarta to spend our last day and a half together exploring the romantic zone. We found a wonderful AirBnB managed by this awesome woman who had converted her apartment in a non-touristy neighborhood into a perfect spot for us to stay and enjoy the area. She has a multi-level space, where you climb a tight (short, for giants like us) white spiral staircase from the entry level up to the kitchen and bathroom, and then up again to our bedroom. Above our bedroom were her quarters, and above that was her rooftop terrace with a truly spectacular view of the area.
The climb to the top on that little spiral staircase was dangerous enough that her one rule was that no one drinks up on the roof simply because it’s too dangerous to drink and navigate those stairs! Each stair was about half the width of one of my feet at its widest end, which was difficult enough to navigate without the additional challenge of trying not to hit my head on the stairs above. That plus the fact that the staircase was wide open and several stories above the cobblestones below pretty much made her request unnecessary. Fortunately, each level had its own open balcony, perfect for enjoying the breeze and watching the traffic below.
We were able to walk from her place to the beach, which was great, but every inch was crowded since it was not only spring break, but Easter weekend as well. We had an amazing time, but it might be fun to go back someday on a non-holiday weekend. That being said, late one evening my awesome dude went out to the balcony to check out what sounded like a single drum out on the street below, only to discover a procession of quiet churchgoers following a drum beat along the cobblestone street, barefoot and carrying candles in honor of Good Friday. It was an absolutely magical moment that we would have missed any other time of the year.
We ate incredibly well in Puerto Vallarta, following our hosts recommendations, but I was really surprised to find so much food that combined seafood (everywhere, abundant, and perfect) with cream and cheese. That’s a classic combination, but one I was surprised to find in such a hot environment. There was a ton of garlic butter and melted cheese on every menu, and I’m still not sure if that’s only because the tourists gravitate towards those flavors, or if the locals do too. Our first night, I had a mix of seafood tossed with peppers and garlic butter, and the second night, we had mushroom enmoladas with radishes, cucumbers, and a dark mole followed by a perfectly grilled tender piece of cobia served generously drizzled with chipotle cream and topped with freshly sliced, perfectly ripe avocado at a nice little restaurant right near the beach.
Of course, that completely leaves out our first Puerto Vallarta beachside meal, which could not have been more perfect for me. Octopus tostadas right next to the water while I sipped a bathtub-sized pina colada while fending off vendor after vendor, offering everything from clothing to jewelry, hats, masks, sunglasses, shoes, and even tattoos. We had so much fun!
Though the meals in Puerto Vallarta were phenomenal, it will be our first meals of simple citrusy pieces of fish and octopus, charred chicken, and fresh and raw fruit in the little kitchen at our ranch near Punta Mita that will stand out in my memory and find their way into my menus.
Why mess with absolute perfection?
Looking for some Mexico-inspired recipes? Check out the Black Bean and Avocado Quesadillas, the Quick and Healthy Vegetarian Tamales, and the super popular Enchiladas with Homemade Red Sauce and Lime Sour Cream!