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2 Cool Things You Can’t Miss in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

With ony 12 hours in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I'm hooked. My favorites are the beauty of the city, food tour, and Rhythms of the Night show.

(UPDATED DEC 2021) During my Western Mexico cruise with Holland America, I heard about an exciting food tour that I knew I must take. After planning the food tour for the afternoon portion of my day, I also signed up for the fantastic Rhythms of the Night performance with Holland America. As if that were not enough, I then hired a private taxi to show my friend (Kim) and I around town before embarking on the walking food tour. Here is more info on two cool things you can’t miss in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!

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First, A Private Taxi Tour

When Holland America’s Oosterdam cruise ship docked in Puerto Vallarta, my friend and I hailed a cab to drive us about 20 minutes into the city. Since we had time to spare, we added on an hour-long guided tour of Puerto Vallarta through our cab driver, stopping along the way for great photo ops. That added another $20 to the tab, making it $35 total.

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Our driver insisted that we visit Casa Isabel, a 14-room boutique hotel perfectly perched on a hill that reminded me of the Amalfi Coast. It was stunning! Kim and I were given a guided through the resort as we gaped at the scenic views from the rooftop decks.

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Our next stop brought us to Playa Conchas Chinas, a Colonial Mexican style hotel with a beautiful beachfront setting. Along the way, we came upon the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, one of Puerto Vallarta’s most gorgeous churches. The city’s architecture is remarkable.

We concluded our private tour and were dropped off in the center of town to meet with the Vallarta Food Tours guide, Manu.

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Savoring Puerto Vallarta Through a Food Tour

For the next three hours, Manu walked us around town as we sampled terrific local foods and learned much about the history of the area.

The food tour contained just the right amount of stops to keep our interest. It was the best way to get acquainted with Puerto Vallarta and afforded us excellent photo opportunities.

Our walking food tour (one of the seven offered by Vallarta Food Tours) began at the gazebo in Lazaro Park. Manu passed out bottles of water, and we set out to our first stop, a taco stand. The taco stands are a really huge deal in Mexico, serving fresh local tastes and ingredients for a nominal fee. Once the taco stand builds up a large following, they may then move into a traditional restaurant setting.

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Taco Stands

The stands we visited were Robles Birria and El Cuñado, where we had Carne Asada (beef), my favorite kind of tacos. Each was stuffed inside by a fresh corn tortilla and had juicy, succulent meat, yet both taco stands had differently flavored seasoning. Best of all, tacos only cost about $1 each. Locals order their tacos by the threes. Condiments are available to doctor up your tacos such as salsa, chopped onions, and peppers.

Next, we visited our first full-service restaurant. We filed around a table at Moriscos Cisneros to try their famous Stuffed Pepper Taco. OMG, this little slice of heaven was a tortilla stuffed with shrimp, deep-fried, then sliced for easier eating. This also allowed the beautiful ingredients to poke through.

Vegetarians or those with a shellfish allergy shouldn’t worry, as there were non-meat versions available as well. A variety of salsas were on the tables to doctor them up. We enjoyed this unusual and zesty dish.

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The Food Tour Sweets and Drinks

Moving on to satisfy our sweet tooth, the Vallarta Food Tour popped into Dulcería con Orgullo Azteca. The store is well-known for flavored nuts as well as locally-made candies. The nuts were heavenly, and most of our group ended up purchasing at this stop.

We then headed over to Vallarta Factory, a tasty organic gourmet coffee and chocolate shop featuring specialty truffles and chocolate barks. I sampled an excellent lavender truffle — other items, such as hand-rolled chocolate and nut clusters, tempted our willpower.

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The only drink stop on the Vallarta Food Tour was in the downtown part of the city. A sharp-dressed man named Concepcion served us a concoction known as “Tuba.” Though several varieties of Tuba can be found in Mexico, Concepcion’s is award-winning.

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The drink was exotic, yet refreshing, and super healthy: made from honey, pecans, apples, fermented palm tree sap, and strawberries. I wish I could have brought some home with me.

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Favorite Stops on the Tour

At Mariscos El Güero, I had the best ceviche of my life. Their method is to finely dice the fish and season it well for the flavors to blend. The ceviche is served on a tostada with diced onions and avocado piled on top. Trust me on this; it was nothing short of sensational! No fishy smell, either. We also had the fresh Smoked Mackeral Dip, which was another crowd-pleaser.

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The last stop on our food tour was to Gaby’s Restaurant, where we sat on the rooftop deck. Our views were sensational! Gaby’s served us both green and dark brown award-winning moles, perfectly scented with chocolate and spices, highly rich in flavor. We also had a tequila shot/tasting complete with fresh lime juice and a sangrita to chase away the tequila taste at the end of the shot. Everyone enjoyed this stylish restaurant and can see why it is a recommended hot spot in Puerto Vallarta.

Vallarta Food Tours did an exceptional job of introducing us to the tastes and flavors of Mexico. I highly recommend it.

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Rhythms of the Night

Our evening excursion was Rhythms of the Night. It garnered lots of talk and approvals of previous cruise passengers as the pinnacle of romance, so I couldn’t wait to see it for myself. Our group boarded a boat beside the cruise ship and started across the Banderas Bay to the secluded beach that welcomed us for the show, 45-minutes away.

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Along the way, the staff provided music, entertainment, and lots of laughs as we sipped rum drinks, wine, and beer, all included in the $99 excursion fee. Our jaws nearly dropped when we saw the secluded cove of Las Caletas on the horizon, beckoning us for a night of adventure and memories.

As we disembarked the boat, a cast of festive characters greeted us with a picturesque welcome walk through the tropical rainforest. We were shown “the ropes” for the evening and led to our respective dinner seats.

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The setting was that of several seating areas, each with its own dinner buffet area. Candles and pretty table settings adorned the tabletops at this lavish beachside dinner.

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Servers provided soda, beer, and wine as we helped ourselves to the tasty looking buffet. Steak, chicken, and fresh fish were on the menu with sides of roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, soup, and assorted salads. Tantalizing desserts included cookies, tiramisu, fried dough, cake, and Kahlua coffee. We enjoyed the dinner fare as the sun slowly set, gracing us with a spectrum of color and beauty.

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The Cultural Performance

After dinner, we were led to the amphitheater for the main event. The Rhythms of the Night performance was a show-stopper, to put it lightly.

For over an hour, we were spellbound with ancient rituals and stories told by talented drummers and musicians (sometimes high in the sky), contortionists,  acrobats, dancers, and a plethora of talent in gorgeous costumes. It reminded me of Cirque du Soleil, with a Spanish flair.

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Advertised with the cruise line as “a show you’ll remember long after you’ve returned home” and “it will leave you breathless,” the descriptions did the show justice. It was magical!

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At the end of the show, we all headed back to the boat, where the party was just beginning. The staff put our boat ride back to the ship into overdrive with an all-out dance party, including a fun staff-led event that had the crew and passengers laughing and smiling the whole way. Those not wanting to party could opt to go upstairs for a more relaxing ride.

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A Perfect Day in Puerto Vallarta

I will have these fond Puerto Vallarta memories for a lifetime, my favorite Mexico cruise port to date. I’m so fortunate that Holland America introduced me to this beautiful port city on the Mexican Riviera. I had 12 hours of fun in Puerto Vallarta and  I am already a huge fan!

A special thanks to Vallarta Food Tours for hosting me on the tasty part of this trip and to Holland America for inviting me to cruise with them. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.

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