Puerto Vallarta with Kids: Swimming, the Malecon, & Dance of the Flyers

We crept along the winding mountain road, traffic was heavy. It was also going slow and there was a double yellow line, so no passing. How much further to Puerto Vallarta? I wondered.

“Next time, we’ll fly,” my husband muttered from the driver’s seat, as we watched yet another crazy person pass the slower traffic on a double yellow lined blind mountain curve.

I hope Puerto Vallarta is worth it!

Our Adventure in Puerto Vallarta Wih Kids

Many of my readers will fly directly into Puerto Vallarta from their home airports. We are close enough to drive, woo! If you’re planning to hop around Mexico and you decide to drive there from a great city like Guadalajara, a new highway opened between the two cities in 2018 and it does shave off an hour or two from the drive.

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Heading to Puerto Vallarta With Kids

We drove to Puerto Vallarta from our home in central Mexico. On the way over, we stopped in Guadalajara. I’m thankful because that broke up the drive over two days and gave us a quick introduction to Mexico’s third largest city. I was even more thankful when it took us (a long) six hours to get from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta instead of the four hours we had anticipated.

A statue of an octopus raised up on an artistic pole of sorts, with white clouds high in the sky, blue sky that meets a deep blue ocean.

The artwork is wonderful and plentiful along the Malecon. This is one of my favorites.

Next time, we want to fly. Or break up the drive over two days on both legs. Much of the road between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta is over mountainous terrain. Add in crazy drivers. slow drivers, and accidents, it’s really wearing. And I wasn’t even driving!

A balcony with a view of the ocean and a ship on the horizon, during the day

The view from our condo. It was relaxing!

 

The Pacific on a cloudy day, with a storm rolling in.

Our Airbnb Experience

We stayed at our first ever Airbnb and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. The condo had an ocean view and the complex had not three,  not four, but FIVE pools for guests/owners. Three were infinity pools and two of those had basically zero entry areas that my kids really enjoyed. I worried about the Airbnb  for no reason (isn’t that often how it is?)

A wave from the Pacific Ocean is rolling in during the sunset in Puerto Vallarta.

I snuck down to the beach to take some sunset pictures.

Things to do In Puerto Vallarta With Kids

While there are many activities to do in Puerto Vallarta, we mainly went swimming in the pools in our complex. The waves were just rough enough that we didn’t really want to swim in the ocean. And due to not being able to find reasonably close parking to Los Muertos Beach, we didn’t get to go there, either. Yes, we could’ve taken a taxi, but it would have been a challenge to walk around with carseats (if the taxi even has seatbelts). However, the area of the pacific around the  Old Town, called the Malecon, is a tourist paradise.

The Malecón

The Malecón is 1.6 km boardwalk. Yes, it’s touristy. However, it’s also beautiful, exciting, and shouldn’t be skipped. Plus, it’s free (except for taxi or parking, if you aren’t staying close). There are shops of all varieties along one side and the Pacific is on the other. Even if you don’t want to see the shops or get a picture with the Puerto Vallarta sign, go to see the sculptures that line the walkway.

Pictured: a bowl of ice cream one scoop is light blue and the other is dark pink. A hand holds the paper bowl and a green spoon sticks out. Puerto Vallarta fun.

Algae (blue) and berry gelato.

Another hightlight was getting gelato. It’s so satisfying on a hot day. I finally got to try a “mermaid” flavor called spirulina algae. The funny thing is that prior to eating it in ice cream, I’ve never particularly cared for the flavor of spirulina. I ate the algae ice cream along with berry flavored. Oh my stars, the berry flavor was wonderful.

Pictured an infinity pool where it looks like the pool continues into the beach and ocean.

One of the infinity pools located in our condo’s complex. Having a pool available is a must for a visit to Puerto Vallarta. The surf is a little rough for young children.

Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers)

What to do in Puerto Vallerta?  See the Voladores!

We walked along the Malecon twice. The second time, we were lucky enough to stumble into a performance of Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers). Four participants (all men) climbed a very tall pole (though we missed this part and our first sight of the performers was seeing them all sitting far above us on top of the pole).  One performer started playing music and just like that, they all “flew” off their seats and gracefully glided to the ground as the ropes they used slowly untwisted.

While this is being done to entertain and awe the tourists, the Danza de los Voladores has a rich cultural history. The Ritual Ceremy of the Voladores of Papantla was recognized in 2009 by UNESCO as Intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Read the wikipedia article here.

Palm trees and above, the pole with men sitting upon it, giving perspective of how high up the flying pole dancers start their performance.

This picture gives perspective of how high up these men are!

I was so thankful to be able to see this incredible ceremony, especially with the pacific ocean as the backdrop to their performance. I hope to be able to see another performance (or two) while we live here because it is so incredible!There are also different versions in different areas.

Things NOT to do in Puerto Vallarta

The Puerto Vallarta Zoo has some mixed reviews online. Many people mention that you get a bag of food at the entrance and you can get pretty close to to the animals as you feed them. Of course, I have to ask, should the public be feeding the zoo animals and be close enough to touch them? Next, the cages are small, but the animals do appear to be well fed. But finally, they do have an area where you can get your pictures with baby animals like tigers. After finding this out, it is unlikely that I will be able to ethically support this activity.

Should I Go to Puerto Vallarta with Kids?

Absolutely!

Puerto Vallarta is a wonderful, if touristy destination. I’m glad we experienced it. I would love to return and spend more time so that we could see more of it, such as Estero El Salado, Los Muertos Beach, and spend more time relaxing.

The specifics – What We Did

If you aren’t planning to go to an all-inclusive resort, here were our highlights.

Where we ate: Since we stayed in an Airbnb with a kitchen, we cooked breakfast and lunch. For dinner, our favorite Puerto Vallarta restaurant was Republica Taco (the website I found is a  link to their Facebook page). It is located across the street from La Isla mall. It’s more reasonably priced than the mall food, too.

Where we stayed: We booked a condo through Airbnb at the Grand Venetian complex. There are 5 pools available and beach access. If you book through Airbnb and a pool is important to you, ask if the pool will be available during your stay. I heard a rumor that a lot of pool maintenance is done during the summer. In fact, my first reservation through Airbnb had to be cancelled because the pool was closed for maintenance for several months.

Have you been to Puerto Vallarta? Did you love it or not? What was your favorite activity?


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