Puerto Vallarta, Without Me

We didn't plan the Grand Lodge trip to Puerto Vallarta in such a way that we would be notified as to people's plans. It's a much more informal, 'see you there' kind of thing. We thought in that way, people would have a good deal more ability to make their plans fit our activities. For example, if they needed to arrive later, or leave earlier.

I say this as a way of explanation as to why I am posting trip details on this platform. I've got to do it publicly, because I don't know for certain who I would need to send them to privately.

What I do know, since he told me, is that we have a Brother and his wife arriving a few days early. So, I thought that I'd better post a little something for folks who might be doing the same. A virtual tour guide if you will, since I won't be there yet to serve as an actual tour guide.

Airport: On the plane, you'll be given a piece of paper to fill out. Short and sweet, name and such. This will become your Visa, and you'll need it to leave the Country, so don't lose it.

After you get off the plane you'll go to baggage claim, then through Customs and Immigration, just as you would in the US. It will be faster than the US because it is a small airport that doesn't have to process too awfully many folks.

Where it gets interesting is what comes next.

You will leave Customs. It will be very obvious that you are leaving the Customs area as you walk out the doorway. In front of you will be a long, wide hallway, filled with people. At the end of the hallway, you will see the public area of the airport. While you are in this hallway, every single other person in it is a time share salesman. If you don't engage with them, and just keep on walking, you'll be through the hallway and free of them in 30 seconds or less. If you feel badly about ignoring them, and do talk to them, you will end up buying a time share in Mexico. Not, in my opinion, what you want to do.

Just ignore them, and make your way to the door. It's easy.

The interesting thing though, is hearing the claims they make trying to get people to stop and talk. Maybe they will say that they are the Taxi service. Once I had one tell me that he was from Mexican Customs and they had a question that I had to answer. They get creative. Just ignore it and keep on walking.

Taxi: At the airport, just walk outside. Taxis will be everywhere. Jump in the first one you see and off you go.

Tell the driver you are headed to San Marino Hotel, in Zona Romantica.

Taxis in Vallarta don't use meters. They will charge you for the ride based on a set formula. Taxis are extremely cheap. Don't worry about it. The most expensive Taxi ride you will take while there will be the ride in from the Airport. This is because there is a tax that the driver must pay each time he takes someone out of the Airport. You'll notice him stop at a toll booth thing as you get underway, that is what he is doing.

I have heard, for 40 years now, that before you ever get into a Taxi you need to negotiate the price, for if you do not, you'll be hammered when you get to your destination. Such advice is posted all over Facebook and everywhere else even to this day.

I don't care if you do it or not, but I do want you to know that it is nonsense. As I say, I've been hearing that crap about Taxi drivers taking advantage for 40 years. I never pre-negotiate or even ask, and I've never been taken advantage of. It is best to ignore such 'advice.'

Here is a true story: A few years back we were in Vallarta with some good friends of ours. They took a Taxi somewhere or another. He didn't notice it, but his wallet fell out of his pocket with all of his cash and credit cards in it while they were in the Taxi. He discovered what happened when the Taxi Driver showed up at our Hotel room, with his wallet in hand, including all of his cash. Which was a large amount.

The Tunnel: When traveling to your hotel from the Airport it is nice to go through the City, along the bay, so that you can see the sights.

Sometimes your Taxi driver will take you a different route.

You'll head out of the dense urban area, up on the hill a bit, and through some neighborhoods and a tunnel.

Don't worry about it.

If he is taking you that way he is doing so because the streets along the water are clogged to the point of not moving. This will very likely be the case if you are arriving before us because there is a massive parade through the downtown, ending at the Church, every day from December 1 to 12.

So, you'll probably end up going through the tunnel. As I say, don't worry, it's just a bypass road, and soon enough you'll be back in the heart of the City, on the water.

The taxi will drop you at the San Marino and you'll be all set. If you prefer Uber, that works great in Vallarta too, but Taxis are everywhere, so it isn't really needed. Taxi or Uber, you'll pay for your ride in cash, not through the app.

Money: Don't worry much about it. Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere. (Call your bank before you go so they don't turn it off.) I don't generally use them though, preferring to use Cash in Mexico. US dollars spend just fine. There is no need to convert them into Pesos. (This is not the case in all parts of the country, but it is in Vallarta.) Everyone will take dollars.

The only thing is, small bills only. Everything we will purchase or use in Mexico is extremely inexpensive compared to the US. You would have an extremely difficult time trying to use a $100 or even $50 bill anywhere but an extremely fancy restaurant or the like. $1, $5, $10 are best, and most places can break a $20. Expect to get your change back in Pesos.

There are cash machines in Vallarta, if you need one. I have never used one, so have no idea as to fees or whatever. Just take enough cash is the easiest way to travel.

Food: If you stand at the front lobby door of the San Marino (not the pool deck, but where the Taxi let you off.) you'll be on Rodolfo Gomez street. Turn right, you'll see that you can head to the beach. At the beach, hang a left and you'll very quickly find La Palapa Restaurant. You can't go wrong here.

Take a left instead on Rodolfo Gomez and walk the half a block to the cross street, Olas Altas. This street is filled with wonderful restaurants. Pick one, you will have a very hard time going wrong. Either direction on Olas Altas from the corner will be just fine.

If you turn left at the corner of Rodolfo Gomez and walk three blocks to Bassilio Badillo, that is considered 'restaurant row.' Again, just pick one, you will not go wrong. Loads of truly amazing restaurants run the entire length of Bassilio Badillo.

Shopping, Walking, Exploring: One block beyond the corner of Bassilio Badillo and Olas Altas, the road ends, turning into a 'boardwalk' type thing. Just continue down Olas Altas. The 'boardwalk,' Malecon begins here. Along it you can wander the rest of the way through the Romantic District, and there are good beach restaurants. If you continue walking for awhile, you'll cross over the river. You'll see an island down there, it too has some great restaurants and shopping, the River Cafe is a standout.

Once across the river, you are now in downtown. This part of town has a much different feel than the romantic district. Excellent shopping abounds, as do massive nightclubs. Explore till your hearts content.

If you hit the Hotel Rosita, turn around and head back, there is little to see or do beyond the Rosita. The Malecon is closed to cars, but taxis back right up against it, so don't worry about going too far, they will always drive you back. Melinda and I generally walk the entire distance of the Malecon, through both the romantic district and downtown at least a few times each trip.

There you go. That should keep you plenty busy, and well fed before I arrive to show you more.

All of the areas mentioned in this missive are safe. You can be out on foot at any hour of the day or night and be safe.

One tiny thing: On Olas Altas, you'll see a very nice looking restaurant called Kaiser Maximilian. The food might be good, I don't know, I've never eaten there. Please don't eat there. Calling a restaurant Kaiser Maximilian in Mexico is unbelievably tacky. Maximilian was a dictator, installed and maintained by european force, only removed through revolution.

One other tiny thing: Please tip everyone, and tip well. Mexico is a very poor country compared to the US, and in Vallarta your tips are seriously relied upon. This includes the hotel maids who should be tipped generously. Plus, once you are known to tip well, you'll find it really pays off in the level of service and care received.



Cameron M. Bailey Past Grand Master The MW Grand Lodge F&AM of Washington

Subscribe to receive posts via email.