Things To Do In Nuevo Vallarta Mexico

Last month we were in Nuevo Vallarta Mexico and participated in some of the excursions available there. What we found on the excursions we took, is that in this part of Mexico, service is pretty top-notch. Even though we didn’t get to do absolutely everything, I’d think it’s safe to say that you will have an incredible experience on pretty much any of them. I was also impressed by the prices which were incredibly reasonable.

Rhythms of the Night–this was hands-down my favorite. You cruise on a huge catamaran over Banderas Bay, enjoying the sunset, to Las Caletas. The island is lit only by candle light.

You enjoy a romantic outdoor dinner next to the beach. The buffet-style dinner was of unbelievable quality and offered shrimp, fish, chicken and beef along with many accompaniments and desserts. After dining, you may have time to go relax in a beachside hammock or you may proceed up to the amphitheater for the “Cirque de Soleil” style native show. (The performances were pretty impressive!)

After the show, you are entertained by your crew and dance under the stars on your catamaran ride back to Puerto Vallarta. It was worth every penny for the 4+ hours of entertainment, but maybe not worth the extra cost to upgrade the tour.

Pegaso Whale Watchingthis was an incredible, all-day excursion. You depart early in the morning on a sailboat going the opposite direction across Banderas Bay. On the ride to Las Marietas, you watch for whales and you may be lucky enough to witness them breach or see a Momma and baby.

You then arrive at Marietas Islands marine preserve for some snorkeling. When you re-board the sailboat, you are served a delicious “brown bag” lunch, and begin the sail home with cocktails. The crew does a great job of accommodating everyone’s tastes for lunch and keeping a cocktail in your hand.

This is a very relaxing trip, but is an all day affair that packs a lot into your day. It is, however, a great way to take in all the scenery of Banderas Bay.

Puerto Vallarta City Tour–this was another fun, full-day excursion that allows you the chance to experience the local culture by bus and on foot. You begin the day by visiting local landmarks and monuments such as City Hall, the Guadalupe church, and the Malecon boardwalk.

Sightseeing is interspersed with shopping opportunities until you re-board the bus and head south into the rain forest where you will enjoy a delicious lunch and beverages of your choice.

After lunch, you will walk around the corner to a small tequileria, where you will learn the history of the family business and process for making the tequila.

The process is pretty interesting and it’s nice that you are allowed to taste the different flavors and grades of tequila. Even if you don’t typically like this liquor, you will likely find one you do like.

The tour ends with one last shopping opportunity and that includes buying bottles of tequila before your ride back to your resort. We also learned that tequila is good for marinating and cooking with so we brought home a bottle of almond tequila and use it to marinate shrimp.

We found that every excursion we embarked on was somewhat educational, a lot of fun, and provided quite a bit of culture. Service on each of them was exceptional, which I believe to be consistent for most excursions in the area. There were other activities that we would have liked to have done as well, but we ran out of time. But on our next trip to Nuevo Vallarta, we will be checking those out.

Advertisements

Travel Music Tuesday

Johnny Cash–I’ve Been Everywhere

I see I have to add more places to my list of “to visits”.

Get I’ve Been Everywhere on iTunes:

https://tools.applemusic.com/embed/v1/song/83833753?country=us&at=1000lJE9&ct=1000IJE9

Nuevo Vallarta–Pevonia Spa

For those of you who know me or read most of my blog posts, you probably know that I love going to the spa–massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, etc.–I love all of it. I especially love heading to the spa when I’m on vacation and a lot of the resorts we visit have one. During our trip to Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico, we were lucky to have a Pevonia spa. Pevonia spas have many locations both stateside and in most of the destinations that we visit, and since I’ve used their services before, I couldn’t wait to check them out at Dreams.

Hubby and I decided that’s how we would spend our Valentine’s Day, since we didn’t have any excursions lined up for that day. When we went to the spa to set up our appointment, we were impressed to hear that they also had a hydrotherapy circuit we would have the use of. We are BIG FANS of hydrotherapy. If you’ve never used a hydrotherapy circuit you should try it out.

Hydrotherapy is the use of water to relieve physical discomfort and promote well-being. The circuit usually has multiple hot, warm, and cold water treatments that when alternated can help reduce inflammation and heal injuries, relax the body, and just make you feel a whole lot better. I know when I finish a circuit, I’m usually more than ready to go relax for the rest of the day.IMG_1778We arrived at the spa more than an hour early so that we could use the hydrotherapy circuit before the massages we had scheduled. We started off by showering in a warm shower and then moved into the sauna. After 10 minutes in the sauna, we took a cold shower and then headed for the steam room for another 10 minutes. Once we emerged from the steam room, we were ready for the Jacuzzi, but it hadn’t yet been filled all the way for the day.

So, we took a dip in the immersion pool instead. The pool had a few stations of pressure jets that you could turn on to run for 2-minutes at a time. The foot bath was next and was actually more like a small pool itself. It was my favorite because it was just the right degree of warm for me and had strong jets that were focused on your legs and feet. I could have stayed in that pool all day.

Finally, the Jacuzzi finished filling and we were able to soak in it. A nice touch added by the spa staff was that they brought out a few ice-cold cucumber slices and placed them over our eyes while we relaxed. Afterwards, it was recommended that we relax in the lounge chairs and consume a lot of fluids until it was time for our massages.

IMG_1774Right next to the circuit was a nice little snack bar that had fruits, nuts, flavored waters –chlorophyllo (water infused with mint) was my favorite–hot teas and small cookies. Because it was Valentine’s Day, spa staff also brought us a small plates of sweets to nosh on while we waited. From there, we were taken to the massage suite. Our massages were incredible! We had signed up for the 80-minute, wine-infused oil massage and it was worth all 80 minutes.

While our entire time at the spa was pure, relaxing bliss, I couldn’t get over the fact that there were no other clients there. WE HAD THE ENTIRE PLACE TO OURSELVES. Granted, the price, even with the promotional Valentine’s rate we got,  was a little high I still never figured out why no one was there. It was Valentine’s Day for crying out loud! I thought it was a perfect way to spend the day, I just wonder why no one else thought the same.

Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Last month we finally got to head to Nuevo Vallarta, in Riviera Nayarit Mexico for a little fun and relaxation in the sun! I was kind of concerned that I may have pulled the trigger too quickly when booking this one, because I hadn’t done much research prior. When I checked Trip Advisor after the fact, it seemed like there were quite a few, not glowing, reviews. Here’s my feedback of our winter getaway:

Nuevo Vallarta–LOVE THIS PLACE! IMG_1716I think this is my new favorite destination in Mexico. Nuevo Vallarta is a small town just up the road from Puerto Vallarta and down the road from Bucerias. One thing I love about the whole area around Banderas Bay, is that it’s a conglomerate of numerous other small towns.  Nearby is Sayulita, which is known for it’s restaurants and souvenir shopping, the town of Yelapa is a small fishing village at the foot of the mountains and can only reached by boat, and the town I was dying to see, but ran out of time for, San Sebastian, which is a small, UNESCO World Heritage town frozen in the days of silver mining. Most of the towns were so beautifully colorful.IMG_1932Nuevo Vallarta was a part of Mexico that felt very safe. In the early morning hours, while on our balcony watching the sun rise over the Sierra Madre mountains, I would see people getting their walks or runs in on the street and sidewalks below. IMG_1727Our resort, which shared some of it’s amenities with a condo complex, was within walking distance to a farmer’s market, casino, and numerous restaurants. A lot of the snowbirds staying in the condos said they were able to walk or take a taxi to most places they needed to go.IMG_1736The local people were so friendly and accommodating. It seemed like everywhere we went, we had no trouble finding English speaking locals, which only meant my Spanish practice was again put on hold! Service, whether it be at the resort or in town or on an excursion, was top notch every where we turned. Everyone was just so nice, even those who wanted to step into the political discussions of President Trump’s policies.

We also befriended a couple of Canadian expatriates who were very elated to now be living there. They said that all they had to do to for temporary residency was prove that they had access to income the equivalent of 300 days worth of living at minimum wage (US$1400). For permanent residency, you would need to have an income the equivalent of 500 days worth of living (US$2,325). They had established a temporary residency and were living very comfortably in a 2 bedroom bungalow with all their monthly bills covered, along with the “typical” Mexican home conveniences of a cook, housekeeper, and a gardener. They were also in the process of establishing their own business of a fleet of sailboats for whale watching tourist excursions. IMG_1933They estimated that within 3 years their business would be thriving in the Mexican economy, especially with the good exchange rate of $19MXN to the $US1.

The only drawbacks on this trip, is that I wouldn’t consider the restaurants to be the caliber of the “unlimited luxury” that the resort boasts. The buffet restaurant was comparable to any other all inclusive resort and accurate to the Trip Advisor reviews–lukewarm and redundant food choices. The a la carte restaurants were pretty good–but, for instance, the steakhouse did not serve prime grade steaks–which is what I would consider unlimited luxury.

It was the little details that the resort was missing the target on. In contrast, I loved the soups served at the restaurants and you can read that post here.

The other disappointment in our resort was how the staff–almost all of them–kept pushing the “Unlimited Vacation Club” meeting. You can read more about that here. If the staff had spent half their time paying attention to the little details of the resort, instead of the time they spent trying to convince us to attend the meeting (we had already attended an AMResorts meeting last year in Huatulco). I may have been able to consider this a top of the line vacation. Who wants to be cooped up in a 2 hour meeting while on vacation? I don’t. And once I said no thanks, I really didn’t need to be asked again.

Would I return to Nuevo Vallarta again? Most certainly! In the future, I would like to spend about a month in the area, so I would have the time to see what I didn’t get to on this trip and get more familiar with the area. Would I stay in the same resort again? Uhhh, probably not. But I would consider renting one of the condos on the other side.

Let’s Talk Soup–Nuevo Vallarta

I’ll bet you thought this would be a recipe posting.  Ha! It’s not. However, it is a food posting of sorts. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d go to Mexico and enjoy eating soup so much. I had it for lunch, and frequently had it at the a la carte restaurants for dinner while we were in Nuevo Vallarta.

We arrived to Dreams Villamagna in the late afternoon close to the end of the lunch time for some of the restaurants and we were waiting for our room to become available, so we headed to the buffet which would be quick and keep us close to the lobby so we could get our room key after eating. Now, I’m not usually the biggest fan of buffets in an all-inclusive resort, but it made sense logistically since it was the closest restaurant to the reception area.

Trying to keep it light, since we were getting closer to dinner time, I opted for a bowl of soup and a salad. The soup was a Cream of Chicken and Vegetable and man, it was incredible! You’d think in Mexico that a spicier option would have been more appropriate, but the cream soup was spot on.IMG_1785As the week proceeded, I sampled a lot of soup. Despite the warm weather, that first bowl had won me over and started a quest for my favorite.  First up, was lunch the next day, which was a Chicken and Vegetable. This was a basic take on Chicken Noodle soup without any noodles.  I was amazed at how flavorful the broth was.IMG_1786Later that evening, which was Valentine’s Day, we went to Portofino, the Italian restaurant. Just when I thought I had been eating some pretty tasty soups, they really impressed me with a Cream of Asparagus soup. It was off the chain and even came with a small, crunchy breadstick as garnish.

The next night we had dinner at the Seaside Grill, which would lead you to think we were dining at a seafood place. It was not. It was what I would consider to be the Steakhouse, since the majority of options on the menu were grilled beef selections. Considering I’m not a fan of creamed corn back home, I had low expectations for liking this one. To my surprise, I had a Corn Cream soup that would have knocked my socks off had I been wearing any. This stuff was delish! I hope someday to go back to Dreams and get a hold of this recipe!IMG_1913Oddly enough, the next night’s dinner was a Mexican BBQ in the courtyard of the pool area. This was also the location of my least favorite soup selection, which was a Chicken Tortilla soup. Granted, I didn’t add the tortilla garnish or cheese to the soup, which may have been what was needed, but this soup just wasn’t hitting the mark for me. It was ok, but not “knock my socks off” good.IMG_2003Basically, I was completely taken off guard by the quality of the soups at Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta. I had no idea I would end up sampling a bunch of soup at an “unlimited luxury” All Inclusive resort. But now that I have, I tip my hat to whoever they have on their kitchen staff that is making these soups. They have a real gem right there!

Do You Know How To Use Your Passport?

Read your US passport. Did you read it? Now, read through it again. This little booklet is full of a lot of information beyond serving as your ID when you travel outside of the US.

IMG_1685

First of all, it contains a page for your emergency contact information. Let’s say you and your spouse were both in a bus accident while on vacation and both left unconscious. Your passport would contain the contact information on who to contact–and hopefully you listed someone other than your spouse. It’s also a good idea to update your contact information in pencil so that you can easily update it when changes necessitate. You may also want to leave a few copies of your passport home with your emergency contact.

Your passport also contains information on where to find health and vaccination recommendations, healthcare coverage, and travel warnings.  Let’s say you are headed to Mexico for a 2 week stay. Do you know what vaccinations and medicines are recommended due to risk of diseases in that country? The CDC website or Travelers Info Line can help with that. (Which, by the way, the vaccines for Hepatitis A, and Typhoid are recommended for Mexico.)

Additionally, does your medical insurance cover you overseas? Most do not. See my previous post Why You MUST Buy Travel Insurance or consult http://travel.state.gov for more information on maintaining coverage while overseas that will actually provide you with coverage.

https://tlcpostcards.com/2017/07/20/why-you-must-buy-travel-insurance/
Why You MUST Buy Travel Insurance

Finally, do you know if the country you will be visiting is safe? You can check by accessing the US Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements on the US Bureau of Counsular Affairs page before your trip and evaluate your decision to travel to that locale. You can even set alerts on their website so you know when their safety has changed.

Your passport also contains information on what to do in the event of a disaster or catastrophic event, how to register with the appropriate US Embassy for a prolonged stay, and offers advice on things I would consider pretty “common sense” such as safety, violating foreign laws, illegal drugs, etc.

It’s also a good idea to take a couple of spare photocopies of your passport along on your trip. Typically, when I travel out of the US, the first thing I do upon arrival is lock up my passport so it doesn’t get lost or stolen–I DO want to be able to go home at the end of my trip. However, since most countries do not observe my Missouri Driver’s License as a valid ID, I will carry a photocopy of my passport to identify myself.

Overall, your passport is MORE than a multi-page form of ID. It also contains valuable information for travelers traveling outside US borders and is an excellent place to keep your updated emergency contact information. You may have to read a few pages of it to locate the info you need, but isn’t a few minutes of your time worth it?

Our Apple Vacation—Nuevo Vallarta

I’m on our flight home from Nuevo Vallarta and am reflecting on our trip through Apple Vacations. We stayed the previous week at Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta.

Here are what I consider to be the pros and cons of using Apple Vacations:

PROS

  • It’s relatively easy to put together your own trip on their website and prices are transparent. (You do have to pay for the entire trip to reserve.)

-check under flights to see when/if your airport has non-stop flights

-plug in the dates and location of where you want to go

  • Choose flight type and room upgrades.

-I only upgrade our room for special occasions or if they go on sale. For the amount of time we are in our room, a garden view is usually just fine

  • Add travel insurance if desired.

-I usually skip this as I get trip insurance elsewhere–see Why You MUST Buy Travel Insurance

  • You can add on desired excursions if you wish.

-I usually skip this as well, finding the prices on resort to be lower or negotiable

  • Apple always includes transportation in their packages.
  • I watch their sales and more often that not, they are priced better than the same trip on other travel sites.

CONS

  • While Apple does not have a loyalty program, they also own Amstar or AMResorts which offers a loyalty program for a certain group of resorts.

-the loyalty program gets presented as a way to get discounts on spa services and excursions–you just sit through a 90 minute meeting

-BEWARE–the meetings tend to last way more than 90 minutes and are pretty high pressure to sell you

-since AMResorts/AppleVacations own the loyalty program, it seems their resorts may be priced slightly better or given a higher rating. Comment below or check their link if you question which resorts are part of the group

  • AppleVacations tends to use different charters for their flights.

-bear in mind that these planes have more limited space and luggage limits (you may only have a 45lb suitcase limit instead of 50lb–do your research)

-the air upgrades may be worth it for the first on/first off perk, but for this trip (with Swift Air) it wasn’t worth it for the snacks and beverages. Even though we paid a little more for the Preferred Perks they were out of “snack packages” both legs of the trip and the cocktail selections seemed to be off brands. Additionally, there were no selections that were coffee mixable, similar to Bailey’s, Kahlua, etc

-if you’d like to see my more detailed opinion of Frontier Air, click here

Overall, I believe AppleVacations offers a good deal online as long as you know what you’re getting. You can easily price out their trips before you buy and it’s easy to find frequent sales. You may even be able to choose luxurious accommodations, but you likely won’t be air traveling in style. Additionally, beware of their group of resorts in the loyalty program. If you are lucky enough to sit through one of these meetings (regularly longer than 90 minutes) be prepared to give up some of your vacation time and either buy a plan, or end up saying no, A LOT, repeatedly, and then again. But if you’re fine with that, enjoy the freebies! You will have earned them!

Travel Music Tuesday

David Bowie–Space Oddity

It’s kind of a song about travel, especially once space travel is made available to the average Joe in a few years. But beyond that, it’s one of my favorite Bowie songs ever.

https://tools.applemusic.com/embed/v1/song/697651126?country=us&itscg=30200&itsct=afftoolset_1&at=1000lJE9&ct=1000IJE9“>Get Space Oddity on iTunes.