Puerto Vallarta bills itself as the “friendliest place in the world,” and, for once, the marketing spin might be right.
From restaurant chefs to drivers of rickety, seven-peso-a-ticket buses, expect to hear “Hola!” everywhere you turn. Cruising with your kid? Here, they’ll be warmly received almost everywhere you go.
Strolling through Old Town
Puerto Vallarta is a popular cruise destination but it’s managed to keep its charm and personality especially around Old Town, also called the Zona Romantica. Start your day at port in this neighborhood by picking up some tasty empanadas while wandering the colorful, hilly streets. A cheese empanada and a juice were perfect for tiding over our daughter (and my husband and me) while we took in the sights and did some people watching. There are also tons of quaint cafes lining many of the streets, perfect for tired little feet needing a break.
Walking the Malecon
The Malecon, a mile-long boardwalk that wraps around the Bay of Banderas is another fun stop. There are tons of art galleries, souvenir stands and street artists who keep kids entertained. The colorful walkway also has an impressive collection of sculptures by well-known Mexican artists ideal for kids to climb on. Look out for roving Mariachi bands hunting for their next customer (it set us back about 200 pesos for a song; around $15) and tour guides who will pitch whale-watching expeditions directly at your children. Cafes and restaurants line the boardwalk if you and your brood are looking for a quick snack or a something more substantial.
When you’re ready for a “sit-down” meal, you’re spoiled for choice with a range of eateries right on Los Muertos beach. Even better, let the kids build sand castles while you, barefoot, stare off into the horizon while waiting for your order. My usually shy daughter quickly made friends with local kids on the beach who all played together while the adults ate dinner. Local specialties are seafood-focused: grilled red snapper, ceviche and fish tacos.
Hit the Market
Saturday mornings there is a colorful market in the Old Town perfect for families. Make a beeline for the Huichol folk-art table, where you can find handmade, intricately beaded objects such as masks and toy cars the kids will love. Something tasty for you? Visit Miriam Flores, formerly of Portland, Oregon, for a jar of her delicious chili caramel. Try not to eat it all before you get home.