We thought long and hard about Christmas and where to spend it. We wanted sun, sea, sand and dog friendly. So we looked at the three main resorts of Cancun, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. All had roughly similar flights times and costs from Mexico City. Cancun seemed to be the most popular with tourists but had more chance of rainfall. Acapulco was said to be quite run down with the emergence of Cancun. And both were said to be not very dog friendly. So we decided on the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta, popular with American and Canadian tourists along with an ex-Pat community, supposedly fifty thousand strong, meaning English would be widely spoken. Great for us with little or no Spanish. It was also said to be very dog friendly, both in restaurants and on the beaches.
Formerly a silver mining town and fishing village, the town now boasts a population of 255,000 and sits on forty miles of coastline. It’s main industry is tourism employing roughly fifty percent of the workforce and the port regularly hosts cruise ships from around the world. Famous films shot here on location include Herbie goes Bananas and Predator (in the jungle close by).
Our flight was about ninety minutes long and we arrived a good two hours before departure to check in with Hamish. To get to the airport we chose Uber rather than a taxi and were charged $100 Pesos, a saving of a third compared to our outward journey by official taxi.
As it was a domestic flight there was no need to visit a veterinary clinic with Hamish to obtain a Fit for Flying certificate. His vaccinations still in date, we were just required to book his flight and show his record card. Much simpler and vastly less expensive at around £30 GBP.
Our arrival was quick and easy, though we were slightly annoyed that Hamish was placed on the baggage carousel with the rest of the luggage. No harm done, we whisked him off and grabbed the nearest taxi for the five minute ride to our first of three apartments/hotels we’d use whilst here.
Marina Vallarta Crocodiles
No.1. We rented a three storey villa for seven nights through Airbnb. Situated on the Marina inside a gated community less than five minutes from the airport. The property enjoyed two balconies and a front porch looking onto the water – perfect sun traps. It was also a great viewpoint looking down at crocodiles basking in the sun; we’d have to watch Hamish closely whilst walking there. Most locals didn’t seen too concerned though, and were just walking on by. Best kept beyond arms length though. The Marina itself had an abundance of restaurants and cafés and a few shops, all keeping you from going into town. We also enjoyed a drink at the rooftop bar in the converted lighthouse. Great for seeing the sun setting.
For Hamish there was new animals to be amused by. Iguanas, Possums and of course the Crocodiles which kept him hyper and wanting out constantly. Thirty yards from the villa there was a large fenced dog run. Here he met a new pal called Van Gogh, a rescue Pit Bull Terrier with only one ear and they happily tired each other out.
New friends, Van Gogh and Limbo
No.2. Our second place was a hotel B&B in the old town. Three blocks from the beach gave good walking for Hamish to run along the sand in the morning before the tourists started clogging up every inch with deck chairs etc. It also had a resident dog (Dachshund) called Limbo who happily welcomed Hamish into the fold. The hotel just opened in October and consisted of only seven rooms of varying sizes. It also had a rooftop terrace and was a great place to relax during the heat of the day. The staff here were excellent and treated us to wine upon our arrival. A truly five star welcome.
Hotel Rivera del Rio
No.3. Number three would see us through Christmas so we decided to treat ourselves to four nights at a boutique hotel just four blocks from the beach. Unusually decorated throughout, the hotel boasted a swimming pool and jacuzzi for us to relax. Situated in a residential area along the banks of the Rio Cuale on the edge of the jungle, this hotel gave us a birds eye view of how the locals lived and celebrated Christmas.
Jacuzzi and Hotel room
A mix of well maintained homes next to houses that could be described as shanty proved to be an eye opener. Some residents used the river to wash themselves and their clothing whilst many would cook supper on makeshift grills from food caught locally. As we passed by and stopped for a chat, we’d often be invited to join them to eat; many happily posed for photographs.
Neighbourhood by the river
Despite seeing some obvious poverty here, a tremendous community spirit saw kids play in the street til the small hours whilst the adults mingled with neighbours and extended family filled tiny homes to celebrate the festivities.
For Hamish it was a stressful time due the the amount of fireworks throughout Christmas eve and into the morning, coupled with a trip to the the groomers for a haircut earlier in the day. To compensate and to focus on something other than the noise he gazed long and hard at the imitation ducks floating in the hotel’s water feature situated in the lobby.
For us, the weather was good, the food was good (Christmas dinner at the vegetarian buffet) but more importantly we found time to relax and with our next move already planned to the outskirts of the small town of Valle de Banderas roughly thirty minutes away, we didn’t have to scour the internet for flights and/or somewhere to stay.Next stop.