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Puerto Vallarta is safe and fun for tourists

Don’t let Puerto Vallarta perceptions and rumors stop you from visiting

If you’re wondering about a trip to Puerto Vallarta, do it! You won’t be disappointed. You will find that the city is safer than Chicago and most large American cities. More on that in my last paragraphs.

For my first trip, I wanted to experience the town itself without lengthy and expensive taxi rides from neighboring resort towns. I also wanted direct access to the beach, preferably one with without an all-inclusive rate. We’re not much for gorging ourselves with food and drink plus we wanted to experience food at various restaurants and eating establishments.

We settled on the Marriott Casa Magna Hotel. It was the perfect choice. Tip number one. Tell the taxi driver that you want the Casa Magna Hotel. Most know it as such. My wife and I had a beautiful ocean view and enjoyed the private beach with a beautiful and serene view of Banderas Bay. It is so convenient to walk out the back door of the hotel and have a private beach complete with loungers, umbrellas, food and cocktail service, along with a beautiful view of the water.

Puerto Vallarta sunsets are breathtakingly beautiful, with stunning colors painting the sky over the ocean.
Puerto Vallarta sunsets are breathtakingly beautiful, with stunning colors painting the sky over the ocean.

Landing at the airport, skip the taxi stand inside the airport and the taxis right outside. They will want a flat fee of 220 pesos or roughly USD 12 for a trip to the Marriott Casa Magna Hotel.

Instead, as you walk outside, turn left and walk 100 meters or so to the end of the airport building, then turn left again and you will see a walkway in front of you – no more than 50 meters or so. Take the walkway over the freeway to the other side. You can catch one of the cabs there for 100 pesos or roughly USD 5. You will be at the hotel in five minutes.

The Marina Vallarta

Besides the beach at your footsteps, the Marina is a short five-minute walk from the hotel. The marina has a lovely promenade, many impressive yachts, sailboats, and charter boats along with condos that sell for around USD 250,000. The marina’s extended well-paved boardwalk area is a great place to take a morning or afternoon stroll.

You will find numerous restaurants and shops along with the famous El Faro Lighthouse that has a nice bar/lounge at the top with incredible panoramic views that are particularly stunning at sunset. And if you’re lucky, you can spot one of the many known crocodiles. But for us, we enjoyed the beautiful iguanas that came out for the sun.

I would recommend that you try the restaurants. We were able to eat lunch or dinner for under USD 10 per person and breakfast for under USD 5, thus the reason for avoiding an all-inclusive hotel. Note, Marina Vallarta is not to be confused with the Maritime Terminal where the cruise ships dock.

The Malecón

Every visit to Puerto Vallarta should include both a daytime and evening walk on the Malecón, a 12-block, mile-long esplanade located on the edge of a historical section of Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta's Malecon is a vibrant promenade that offers stunning ocean views and cultural experiences.
Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon is a vibrant promenade that offers stunning ocean views and cultural experiences.

First, let me tell you how to get to the Malecón from the Marriott. Go to the street right in front of the hotel and look for the old run-down Mercedes Benz city busses. While there are bus stops, the bus drivers will stop for you if you hail them down. Since the route starts nearby, there are not many people onboard yet, and you can have your choice of seats.

Experience Puerto Vallarta’s bus system just once

The busses may be run down, but they are clean. We witnessed a bus being washed by hand before it embarked on its Marina to the Malecón route. The cost is seven and a half pesos – less than fifty US cents. My travel tip for you – the bus fills up fast and by that, I mean standing room only and packed like sardines. As a result, if you have an aisle seat, you may end up with a man’s “junk” staring you in the face. Nothing intentional or sinister. It’s just that when you hold the rail on top, you end up facing the person in the aisle seat. Since they are standing and you are sitting, well, guess what is in front of you. That’s why you should get a window seat if possible.

We took the bus all the way to the Malecón. It is quite an experience to have a rickety old bus traveling over cobblestone streets. But once there, the atmosphere is relaxing and serene. At night, it is vibrant and lively. If you look up, you will see the iconic Church of Our Lady Guadalupe. The church tower is topped with a wrought-iron crown hoisted by angels designed to resemble one worn by Empress Carlota of Mexico.

The Church of Our Lady Guadalupe
The Church of Our Lady Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta is a stunning landmark with intricate architecture.

The Church of Our Lady Guadalupe

Make sure that you visit the area around the Church of Our Lady Guadalupe both at night and during the day. At night time, there are various food booths on the way to the church. And at night, there are also numerous food booths lining the Malecón. Forget about the warnings and enjoy yourself. Live it up. The food is delicious and cheap. From the Malecón, you can see the big pirate ship, from which fireworks are launch at night. Don’t ask what time. It’s unpredictable.

Fireworks over Banderas Bay
The pirate ship in Puerto Vallarta offers a unique fireworks experience each night, combining entertainment, music, and stunning pyrotechnic displays.

During the day, you can get a good view of the all of the statues lining the Malecón. Just like many a boardwalk, there are also those looking to make money with their shtick.

As you can get to the south end of the Malecón, there is a bridge that takes you to Old Vallarta or what is also called the Romantic Zone. Personally, we did not care for it much. The area is loud, it has more hotels, and less beach, giving it a sardine feel. But I would imagine if we were young, this is the place to hang out.
Heading back to the north end of the Malecón, we found a taxi back to the hotel for 130 and 150 pesos, roughly USD 7 for a 20-minute trip. Well worth it. So is the street food in that part of town. We enjoyed the taco stands (regulated) and the little hole in the walls. The vendor stands are regulated by the city and have regular inspections while going through the same scrutiny as a restaurant. We never got sick nor was that concern. Five tacos and a drink for about USD 2. What a deal!

Tips when visiting Puerto Vallarta

Here’s a bottled water tip. Buy your water as you need it from these little markets called OXXO. They are to Mexico and Latin American what 7/11 is to us in the United States. OXXO is a chain of 14,000 convenience stores. Trust me; you will never be far from one. We were buying liters of water for less than one USD.

What else is there to do in Puerto Vallarta? Whale watching is a must, and you really can’t get much better humpback whale watching than in Puerto Vallarta. You can also take day tours to old Mexican villages or into the mountains. There is a lot to do if you don’t want to just sit on the beach.

Whale Watching in Banderas Bay
Puerto Vallarta offers exciting whale watching opportunities, with humpback whales being a common sight during the winter months.

Let me conclude by telling you that Puerto Vallarta felt completely safe. While at the taco stand, I struck a conversation with a young local girl on her work break. She laughed when I told about the perceptions that Americans hold. She assured us that the town is safe. I would concur but add, like most large cities, there are bad neighborhoods to avoid. A little common sense and vigilance apply here and in any large city.

I also spoke to several of our taxi drivers. The reason they say that tourists should not be afraid is that Puerto Vallarta does not have a cartel problem. Let me explain. Since there is one cartel in control, unlike Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, and Acapulco, one need not fear rival cartel gangs shooting it up and putting tourists in harm’s way. As the State Department states,” there’s no evidence that criminal groups in Mexico have targeted Americans based on their nationality,” but as our taxi drivers stated, “tourists in some areas (not Puerto Vallarta) can be collateral damage when they are in caught in the middle of a gun battle.”

One interesting note, Mexicans see us Americans as the source of their gun violence. Mexico does not manufacture guns and buying guns legally in Mexico is very difficult. Thus, the cartels are getting their powerful automatic weapons from the United States. This LA Times article confirms that most of the weapons used by criminal groups in Mexico originate in the United States. Each year, an average of 253,000 firearms cross the border.

Just do it. Visit Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta has twice the national average of policemen required by the Mexican Federal Government. The homicide rate in Puerto Vallarta is about 6 per 100,000 residents, which is ten times lower than St. Louis and Baltimore. And much less than major US cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Newark, and Washington DC. Bottom line, Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful area. It’s a mixture of new and old, locals and expats, good food, endless beaches, and most of all, a city worth visiting.

Malecon statues and sculptures
Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon is dotted with impressive statues and sculptures, showcasing the city’s rich history and culture.
The Travel Tipster
The Travel Tipsterhttp://inspiringtravelexperiences.com
Discover travel experiences. Learn new travel tips. Add to your bucket list. Travel the world with points and miles. Follow The Travel Tipster on social media for travel news and information from his team of global travelers.

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