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Sarah from Seattle asked

What are the best spots for a non-tourist trap experience in PV?

My husband, daughter (will be just 2yo), and our new baby (will be 4months) are probably going to PV for about 10 days in January 2015 at the end of my maternity leave. We're thinking PV because it's a relatively short nonstop flight from Seattle, which seems manageable with 2 babies, and because we want warm weather in January. We also want to experience the less touristy side of PV and/or surrounding towns. As context, the last trip we took to Mexico was to Mexico City, which we LOVED (pre-kids). We enjoy visiting cities, wandering around by foot or subway/bus, going to outdoor markets, eating local food, meeting people, and relaxing outdoors (but not so much tanning on the beach).

We'd like to stay in PV proper for a chunk of the trip, then maybe stay somewhere nearby for a few days. I hear a lot about PV's huge hotels and throngs of cruise ship visitors. I say this with full awareness that we will be tourists there ourselves, but we'd like to stay away from the most touristy parts of the city. Where should we stay in PV? Which neighborhoods should we visit to see the real city, not just the touristy parts? Are there any great markets? Favorite food stalls? Should we rent an apartment or a hotel with kitchenette?

We'd also like recommendations about nearby towns that are slower paced, pretty, interesting, etc. I'd rather go somewhere less overrun by tourists than Sayulita (based on only on what I've heard from random people about it). It would be nice to find another town that's smaller but still has enough going on that it would keep us occupied (walking around, trying different food, etc.) for a few days.


Puerto Vallarta (Mexico)

2 Answers
top answer by
John from Mexico

If you're in Puerto Vallarta you guys should visit the Riviera Nayarit.
About 25 miles north from PV you'll find the seaside surfer town of Sayulita a calm and peaceful spot full of art galleries, restaurants, surf teachers, a couple of bars and lots of friendly people. Nearby is San Pancho a rapidly growing in popularity destination that still keeps his "small town" appeal.

Hope you guys have a great trip and enjoy PV!

Comments (1)

Thanks for the advice!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Puerto Vallarta (city)
  2. Riviera Nayarit (attraction)
  3. Sayulita (attraction)
  4. San Pancho (hotel)
comments (1)
likes (7) thanks
answered by
Renata from New York City

I agree with John above about San Pancho -- much quieter than Sayulita, but with some great, simple places by the beach to sit and enjoy a michelada and seafood cocteles! It is *very* small, though, even smaller than Sayulita, so you would probably explore most of it in a couple of days. Potentially you could base yourself in either place & venture off to the other for a day if you are tired of the drinks/seafood-on-the-beach scene in one or the other. There are also jungle paths to walk/hike if you get tired of the beach. Sayulita, though touristy, does have a nice, relaxed surfer vibe and sweet, friendly local business owners like the couple who run Orangy smoothies. If you stop in there, I'm sure they could direct you to even more places to explore! (I met them when I spent several weeks in Sayulita in 2012). Enjoy!

Comments (2)

Thanks, Renata! Would you avoid PV altogether given what we're looking for?

As far as urban experiences in Mexico go, PV was not the greatest to me. Most of the city is very much geared towards the retired cruise ship crowd, and the main highway/drag starts to feel like one very long American strip mall. It's also geared towards people who are into nightlife/clubbing/etc. That said, I didn't explore every inch of the city; I'm sure there are local markets & great street food the further you get from the beach. The public beach Playa de los Muertos in PV & the area near there was interesting to me, but I much preferred the areas immediately south of the city (like Mismaloya, where they filmed "Night of the Iguana") or north, like Bucerias, which definitely has interesting local food stalls to explore. Then beyond Bucerias is of course Sayulita, San Pancho, and Guayabitos, which is a very Mexican resort town popular with locals (from the beach there you can take a boat to a really cute little island just off the coast)! If you're interested in hiking, bird watching, the jungle -- there are roads off the eastern side of the main highway that you can take into the hills, but it would be a good idea to talk to someone in any of those towns I mentioned above to help direct you towards that. (Though, not sure how much I'd recommend those types of hikes with babies!) Hope this helps! On a totally different note...for what it sounds like you're interested in, I think you'd LOVE Oaxaca, but I'm not sure what the flight situation is from Seattle.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Pancho (hotel)
  2. Sayulita (attraction)
  3. Orangy (restaurant)
comments (2)
likes (6) thanks

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