While I was living in Santa Barbara during grad school, Aron and I spent a few weekends taking sailing classes in the harbor. One day when walking around the docks, we came across a statue of a little boy gallantly riding a seahorse. A plaque at the bottom of the statue declared it was a gift to the city of Santa Barbara from its sister city, Puerto Vallarta, “The Pearl of the Pacific”. Upon arriving in Puerto Vallarta, we found the same statue of the little cowboy while strolling the boardwalk (or malecon) along the ocean in the center of the city.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta on the afternoon of Sunday, February 10 and found our friend Govinda “Benny” hard at work outside of Murphy’s Irish Pub on the malecon, enticing passerby’s to stop in for a drink or a pot pie. I have never seen two friends so happy to see each other. I just couldn’t stop smiling as Aron and Benny hugged and laughed and just couldn’t contain their excitement to be in this beautiful city together.
We walked up to Benny and his girlfriend Crystal’s adorable studio apartment where we would be staying for the next week to shower and unpack. It is located right in the center of town, three blocks up the hill from the malecon and is surrounded by plants with a gorgeous view of the ocean.
We joined Benny for a few drinks and some dinner at Murphy’s and then walked over to Viejo Vallarta, the oldest part of town filled with vibrant bars, restaurants, and shops to pick up Crystal from her work. We toured a few fun bars in the area including The Roxy and Bolero where we met an awesome couple of Canadians, Steve and Kathy, otherwise known by their band name Butterflywingtip. They are some of the coolest people we have ever met and they make cool, creative music together that you can check out on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/butterflywingtip. We ended up walking over to their treehouse apartment which was a second story open air studio surrounded by trees alongside the river Rio Cuale that ran through town, it was gorgeous. On the way back to Benny and Crystal’s we stopped for some late night street tacos and quesadillas.
The next day was Benny and Crystal’s only day off of the week so we planned a fun trip to Yelapa, a beautiful little town in a cove only accessible by boat. Steve, Kathy, and their husky Skully joined us as well so the seven of us loaded up the van and drove half an hour to Boca de Tomatlan, the last little coastal town south of Vallarta that can be reached by car and also the town where some of Benny’s family lives. The sky was surprisingly gray and the ocean was extremely rough but nonetheless we boarded a water taxi along with ten or so other people and headed out for the 45 minute ride to Yelapa. We had to hold on for our lives as the little panga was lifted into the air by the swell and would smack back down onto the ocean. It was pretty exhilarating and we made a good time out of it but it was a little scary. We made it to Yelapa safely and found a perfect little three bedroom casa directly on the beach for 800 pesos ($65 or so) for the night.
We wandered the cobblestone streets of the little hilly town and bought some fresh caught fish from some local boys and found a market with produce.
We cooked a lovely dinner of fried plantains, guacamole, fish in garlic sauce, grilled peppers, and a salad and had a wonderful night with great friends.
The next morning we woke up to a gorgeous blue sky. We strolled through the town and bought some fresh tortillas from a tortilleria and made another lovely meal at the casa.
We enjoyed the day on the beach and Aron and Steve snorkeled in the clear waters. I couldn’t stop taking pictures and saying how beautiful everything was, it was just amazing.
Our friend Justin from San Diego who currently lives in Yelapa and works at a swanky resort on the cove had the day off and met up with us on the beach. When we all gathered at a palapa restaurant on the beach for some drinks, Justin introduced us to raicilla, a type of moonshine made from agaves like tequila and mezcal. It was a little smoky like mezcal and really livened up the already fabulously fun day.
To make things even better, the Pie Lady of Yelapa stopped by. The Pie Lady of Yelapa is known throughout Vallarta and beyond for her delicious home made pies and has been selling slices of her freshly baked pies to the lucky visitors on the beach of Yelapa for more than fifteen years. We had a slice of the chocolate coconut pie and it was one of the most amazingly delicious things I have ever eaten in my life. She had made it fresh that morning and I just wish I had the words to describe how good it was. The only picture I have does not do it justice either.
The time we spent in Yelapa with our friends new and old were some of the most memorable days of our lives. It was pure bliss, we all had such a wonderful time in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
During the week in Vallarta we would spend the days strolling along the malecon or wandering the cobblestone streets of the town before going out for dinner and drinks in the evenings.
We spent a lot of time enjoying some of the delicious food the city had to offer. Our favorite was Tacon Marlin, known for it’s fresh seafood burritos. I had one with red snapper and shrimp and Aron had their famous burrito with marlin, shrimp, and octopus. They were absolutely amazing and I have been dreaming about them ever since. We also ate fresh oysters on the beach, some of the freshest and most delicious we have ever had.
For Valentine’s Day we drove back up north to Sayulita (about an hour drive from Vallarta) to explore it some more since we had only stopped there for a moment on the way down the coast. We found a nice little camping spot near the beach at Sayulita RV Park and Bungalows for 300 pesos and spent the evening and the next morning at the beach.
Aron surfed some little fun waves and then we strolled the weekly farmer’s market which sold everything from clothing, jewelry, and trinkets to fresh produce and cooked foods.
We wanted to stay in Puerto Vallarta longer but after a little over a week we knew it was time to move on. There is still so much to see on the road ahead of us. It’s difficult to keep moving when we want to stay in each beautiful place that we stop in but we are grateful for the beautiful places we have seen so far and the wonderful people we have met along the way. Thank you Benny and Crystal for showing us such an awesome time in Vallarta!