In my previous posting on “Puerto Vallarta”, I focused on how the city’s vibrant cultural and historical identity and natural beauty, combined with the talented and devoted locals, provide the ultimate authentic Mexican beach vacation. When you are ready to leave the beach and the relaxing comfort of your hotel, here are some of the enriching Puerto Vallarta experiences I highly recommend !
Mex-Ology: Tequila, Tacos and Mexican Cocktails Tour
This artfully designed late afternoon or Happy Hour tour in Old Puerto Vallarta is the second Food Tour we took from the creative folks at Vallarta Food Tours. Every one of the 6 spots we stopped at had its own colorful appeal and the first 5 of them definitely brought us closer to appreciating and understanding the food and cocktails the Mexicans love to consume! Our two favorite stops in Mex-Ology for authentic Mexican food were Jo Jack’s Fish Shack and Maia’s (see “Restaurants” below). But we were also excited by the 6th and final stop at one of PV’s landmark restaurants, La Palapa, where spiked Mexican coffee was served with a delicious mini chocolate dessert. Sitting smack on the beach with million dollar views of the Bahia de Banderas, La Palapa is definitely a “must” for our next return visit to Puerto Vallarta.
Cooking Lesson with Superb Lunch at Barcelona Tapas
The top drawer restaurant Barcelona Tapas is owned by a very talented restaurateur, chef/owner William Carballo, an American expat with a passion for cooking and an equal passion for Puerto Vallarta. Thanks to William’s professional perfectionism and the expertise of his equally talented chef, Pablo, he has made Barcelona Tapas into one of Puerto Vallarta’s most successful and respected restaurants. Artfully created and divinely delicious food is offered at every stage of the meal … starting with an impressive wine cellar and including fresh local produce for salads, light and airy freshly baked breads, supremely fresh seafood, aromatic stocks which provide the essential base for a sophisticated cuisine, home-made ice creams and desserts, and fabulous coffee followed by the requisite digestif. Plus Barcelona Tapas sits on some prime city real estate with a truly gorgeous view of the Pacific from many tables.
For those of you who want to have a sinfully good meal at the middle of the day combined with an awesome cooking lesson, I wholeheartedly recommend the midday Paella Cooking Class offered by Barcelona Tapas. During the class, William tells tales of his travels in Spain where he perfected the art of “paella” and believe me – he did! The Paella was indisputably the best I’ve ever had, but since William truly aims to please — his cooking lesson luncheon also comes with delicious appetizers including a marvelous ceviche that tantalizes the taste buds, a beautifully fresh salad, freshly baked bread, and a magnificent profiterole for dessert, all accompanied by fine wines. So if you go, do remember to have a very light breakfast.
P.S. We met 3 women at the cooking lesson who had loved the lesson & lunch so much last year that they were back again this year for an encore performance!
Enjoying a Meal at Restaurants Made Famous by Locals or Devoted Expats!
Gaby’s … We were first introduced to this Puerto Vallarta landmark restaurant specializing in perpetuating the tradition of authentic Mexican home-cooking last spring. When we returned to Puerto Vallarta again this year, Gaby’s Restaurant was on our “must visit” list. Founded by Gaby in 1989 to support herself and her children and to capitalize on the growing interest in “fast” home-cooked meals, the restaurant has recently been turned over to the younger generation. Chef Julio Cesar Castilón Pérez has now set a new standard for this favorite among locals ( as well as tourists ) – to be the local spokesperson for Mexican gastronomy in Puerto Vallarta. If this means perfecting the art of serving up traditional authentic recipes, then he’s already ahead of the game. Located in a classic old home with a view of El Malecón and the Pacific Ocean, Gaby’s serves up a superlative Sopa de Tortilla as well as offering a long list of the Mexican “classics”, including Chiles en Nogada, Mole Poblano, Tamales and Enchiladas of all sorts. Plus you can expect very generous portions and some of the friendliest service in town.
Maia’s … Think passion for innovating and modernizing Mexican cuisine, taking it beyond the classics and using only the freshest, organic, locally-sourced ingredients. Add a hearty dollop of love of local art. And finally be a hands on “local” Chef, born just north of Puerto Vallarta – with virtually every item coming out of your kitchen having your personal signature on it. Now you would be at Maia’s Restaurant in old Puerto Vallarta where owner and award-winning Chef, Hugo Ahumado, loves to share his dual passions of creative food and creative art with his customers. Opened in 2013, making it the newest of the restaurants featured here, it is perhaps the most innovative. The reference that Hugo makes on his website to his style of cooking – “poetic cuisine” – suits him perfectly, as he is the kind of chef who loves to come out and talk to his clients about his food and give you a tour with detailed descriptions of the local art hanging on the walls of his restaurant, which by the way is just barely a 1-minute walk down the cobblestone street to the beach. I arrived at Maia’s having had a big lunch, but Hugo’s six-course dinner was so incredible that I managed to savor and enjoy every last bite. Imagine a rich, colorful and deliciously divine Coconut and Shrimp Soup, served inside a huge carved-out coconut, or Hugo’s take on a Mexican Pozolillo for which he uses red snapper in lieu of the traditional chicken, and how about the most appetizing and delicious Fried Taco I ever had … stuffed with duck, sitting over caramelized onions and under thick slices of avocado, with fresh cream and passion fruit sauce… truly layers of flavor! Hugo’s “poetic cuisine” creates memories.
Café des Artistes Bistro Gourmet … Chef and owner Thierry Blouet, educated in France and Mexico and a member of the Académie Culinaire de France, has long been considered one of the top chefs in Puerto Vallarta. Like William of Barcelona Tapas, Thierry is a devoted expat. He began his career in the 1980’s with the Camino Real group whose Mexico City hotel is where we first encountered Thierry’s culinary talents. While Thierry owns several restaurants in Puerto Vallarta and is expanding his horizons beyond the city, we recently had the extraordinary pleasure of dining at his traditional Café des Artists Bistro Gourmet where we were invited into a lush tropical garden to enjoy his gastronomic elegance while dining al fresco. It was an awesome experience that almost made me feel as if we were in a tropical jungle! Plus the meal was an interesting mélange of both French and Mexican ingredients and techniques. I especially enjoyed the Marinated Broiled Octopus and the Gorgonzola Cheese Soufflé au Port. If you are more inclined to dine with a view of sunset over the Pacific, you may want to try Thierry’s new Café des Artistes del Mar. Whichever of Thierry Blouet’s restaurants you try, I have no doubt that you will be impressed by his creative and innovative skills and that you too will enjoy a superb culinary experience.
Barcelona Tapas … please see “Cooking Lesson …” above
Art Gallery Tour & Burgeoning Art Scene
Puerto Vallarta offers a vibrant and exciting art scene that rivals any city in Mexico. “ArtWalk” tours showcase exceptional national and international talent in the nine participating galleries, all of which are located within a short distance of one another in the city’s famous Centro Histórico. Featuring a wide range of art from paintings and sculptures to jewelry, fine ceramics, blown glass, and other objets d’art, these galleries all have their own unique charm. While I enjoyed visiting each and every one of them, my favorites were Galería Caballito de Mar for art that reflects Mexico’s cultural past, Galería de Ollas for the finest handcrafted pottery from the village of Mata Ortiz, and Galería Colectika for its focus on the evolution of Mexican Art.
For more information on dates and location, please visit vallartaartwalk.com
Complementing the vibrant art gallery scene is the recently formed Oficina de Proyectos Culturales (Office for Cultural Projects – OPC) whose mission as an independent non-profit arts organization is to support the burgeoning art scene in Puerto Vallarta by “fostering dialogue through exhibitions, round table discussions, public art and arts education programs”. Working with artists, architects, academics, curators and as well as writers, the OPC operates to develop an art scene that is rooted in Puerto Vallarta but internationally-oriented as well. We visited the OPC’s new gallery space and over a glass of wine discussed their current work and future goals for Puerto Vallarta. I think the arrival of OPC speaks volumes for the quality of growth we can expect for Puerto Vallarta’s artistic and cultural future. For more information please visit:
Strolling down El Malecón
When I walk along Puerto Vallarta’s two mile-long seawall boardwalk promenade, I feel the city’s passion for art and beauty as I stroll from one magnificent bronze (or oxidized steel) sculpture to another. Breathing the fresh ocean air, listening to the sounds of the waves upon the shore, and admiring these larger-than-life and highly original sculptures is a treat for the senses. Of course, enjoying the shops filled with artesania and the restaurants along the Malecón is always part of the joy of the stroll.
While I find all 14 of the sculptures very appealing and original in concept, I am most taken with Ramiz Barquet’s La Nostalgia which portrays a great romance that almost never was.
Free tours are offered by Galeria Pacifica every Tuesday morning from mid-November through mid-April. For more information on the Malecón or the tours, please visit:
Luxury Day Sailing on Banderas Bay
This sailing activity comes highly recommended but is still on our “To Do” list (right at the top of the list) as our boating adventures so far have been on power boats. So I cannot yet recommend the luxury sailing day from personal experience. There are various companies offering this experience. Here are but a few:
This is by no means a comprehensive list of my Puerto Vallarta favorite experiences. Puerto Vallarta is also replete with adventure experiences, a vibrant night-life, and much more. I hope that you are getting a taste of why we love Puerto Vallarta so much. If you go … Buen Viaje!
For information on where to stay in Puerto Vallarta please go to Velas Vallarta – The Best of Puerto Vallarta at http://www.bonvoyageurs.com/2015/05/13/velas-vallarta-resort/ and http://visitpuertovallarta.com/
To read more about Puerto Vallarta, please go to Puerto Vallarta … an Authentic Mexican Paradise at http://www.bonvoyageurs.com/2016/05/22/puerto-vallarta
Many thanks to Puerto Vallarta tourism for a truly delightful visit:
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for our writings about other Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris France, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence in Italy, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!