Airline: Thomson Airlines
Hotel: Iberostar Playa Mita
Situated at the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta is a true taste of Mexico. Historically a small fishing village, it’s become the must-see tourist location for not only the rich and famous such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton but also for you and me. This destination is not only the go to place for the two-legged species, Puerto Vallarta is also frequented by whales that visit Bahia de Banderas (the Bay of Banderas) every winter because of it’s birthing area. Even the mammals know a good place when they see it.
With it’s blue waters, palm trees and white sands, Puerto Vallarta offers a great fun filled or relaxing break for all.
Mexico was one of our first and probably the most exhilarating holidays we could have ever experienced. We did not ‘ease’ ourselves in and as it was my birthday celebration, I’m glad we didn’t.
We travelled as part of an All-Inclusive package deal with First Choice Holidays. Our flights within the package were with Thomson airlines (Now Tui airlines) and we received a last-minute upgrade to premium class. The flight was 12-hours long, so the unlimited food and drink really made the time melt away.
From bag drop at London Gatwick to getting on the plane it was all a very simple and streamline experience. We were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine when seated and then we were off. Being 5’2″ it was a bonus to have reclining seats with leg-rests, an added touch that I fully took advantage off. The staff were friendly and professional and there’s not a bad word I could say about them.
On arrival we made our way through the airport to passport control and the baggage hall and were greeted outside by our coach. It was a shared coach as expected, stopping at a few hotels on the way. What wasn’t expected was the 2.5hr transfer time!!! I can confess that this was my rookie mistake, who knew you are meant to read this on the booking page! When we finally arrived we quickly realised that the wait had been totally worth it.
The hotel experiences
The Iberostar was a newly build 5* hotel that was breathtakingly stunning. From its marbled floors to its extravagant lobby we were blown away. We were welcomed with cocktails and checked-in before being taken to our room.
The room was a good size for 2 people and had amazing views of the hills and forestry around us. We had a balcony and mini-bar that was stocked daily. The hotel had a theatre, pool room, games room, indoor and outdoor pools, complimentary spa and some much land you could walk for hours.
The beach was beautiful, however owing to the newness of the resort the lower level beach where the water sports were operated was poor. Compared to the freshness and clean, crisp nature of the rest of the resort this area let it down.
There was more than enough space to sit by the pool and take in the rays. The staff were very attentive. They even worked out that it was my birthday and sent a bottle of bubbly to the room. When mum became unwell the housekeepers contacted the floor concierge to ensure someone checked in on us. She was so unwell that we also had to use the medical centre. A strange and quiet little room with a Doctor who prescribed tranquilliser strength antibiotics, that did the job. We give God thanks.
At the hotel – Being all-inclusive there was literally everything you can ever think of wanting. From cheeses to breads, pasta and burgers you name it they had it. Mum particularly liked the dessert section and had my share too.
There were 3 al-carte restaurants, however being a vegetarian, the main buffet was always my favourite option.
Street food – As part of our excursions we were fortunate enough to experience local foods and drinks. The street side bakery has to this day, be my favourite. It looked like the type of place you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole in the UK, but for some reason travelling always makes you more adventurous.
They specialised in fresh breads with various fillings. There were savoury options such as cheese or cheese and ham, but the sweet ones were mouth-watering. From apple, strawberry, chocolate and plum they had it all and we were happy to buy it all! For such a risk-obverse mother I had never seen her try and enjoy anything like this before. When mumma likes, you know it’s good!
We went to a dairy factory where they made fresh mozzarella. Before then I had never really enjoyed cheese other than cheddar. It was so fresh and creamy, and they coupled it with freshly made corn-tortillas and a tomato salsa (onions, tomato, basil and olive oil). To this day it is still so memorable.
We also visited a small town where when hearing the history, everyone seemed to be related to each other! It was home to a quaint little restaurant where we would enjoy lunch one day. Now my friends say I mention that I’m a vegetarian all the time, but the only reason I mention it again is because, bless them, there was NOTHING for me to eat. Everything had chicken in it and it always makes me smile when I am offered chicken as the vegetarian option. However, they quickly made a meat-free option of quesadillas, which I was most grateful for as I was starving.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!! We cannot speak about the food and drink in Mexico without speaking about TEQUILA! We visited a distillery that taught us, the tequila in the UK that gives us that horrid after burn is just poor-quality tequila. With my heritage being from the Caribbean we are grown on rum. This tequila was as smooth as rum. I have never tasted a tequila like it since. I was a travelling rookie at this time so hadn’t thought to buy it on the spot. I WILL RETURN!
The weather was incredibly hot over 34 degrees Celsius each day, however with the heat brings the storm. Each night in typical tropical style the heavens would open and the storms would rip through the resort. Thankfully we seemed to always sleep through them, but on one occasion we experienced it first-hand.
Now I’ve learnt, if a Mexican tells you to bring an umbrella because its going to rain at 2pm – PICK UP THE UMBRELLA! It rained for around 2 hours flooding out the poor little town of San Sebastian and causing us to literally have to walk through streams of water. I have never seen anything like it, but whilst it made me unwell (black girls and cold/wet weather don’t go together) I’m happy I experienced it.
We experienced 3 excursions throughout our week-long trip. Looking back, I was exhausted by the end, but it was all worth it. The excursions were a part of a first choice 3 for 2 deal and whilst the names have been changed since they are roughly made up of the same experiences and I can recommend them all.
The only negative with this hotel was no excursion would pick us up or drop us off, so I cost a bit getting around, but hey it’s the price we pay for the finer things in life.
Rhythm of the night – Starting with a catamaran journey across the water we just made it in time before the storm began. We were welcomed with a performance as we stepped off the boat and straight away you could tell it would be a magical experience. We had a delicious meal whilst being serenaded by a band of musicians and obviously the rain. The food was delicious and buffet style, so it just kept coming.
The island of Las Caletas has no running electricity and therefore there were tea lights for as far as the eye could see. Even the toilets were dark due to the lack of lighting.
The whole reason for visiting this island was for the show, an open air traditional performance that reminded me of The Lion King at the theatre which I’ve seen 6 times so you can imagine how much I enjoyed this. Unfortunately due to the storm they couldn’t perform it all for the safety of the performers, but even with the abridged version it was perfect.
Pueblos Magicos – Jalisco’s Heritage – This is not what it was called many years ago and seems to have a few bits added, but it was fascinating learning about the town of San Sebastian and its history. This is when you bring the umbrella and watch out for the floods of rain.
This is when you’ll enjoy the tequila. All I ask is that you pick me up a bottle if you go before I get back please?
Off road adventure – Starting with anti-sickness medication we jumped into a speedboat to cross the waters again. Mum rather reluctantly if I remember rightly and cursing through every moment of it. I particularly remember her being close to tears with the rest of the boat laughing at her, but that’s our little secret mum.
Jumping out of the boat we met Rosie, our fearless guide for the day. She had so much knowledge, knew how to have fun and most importantly, when a deadly insect landed on my shoulder, raced into action so that I could live to tell the tale.
This is where we experienced the bakery and diary factory, the wood carver and a BBQ to die for! Beware of the mosquitoes on this excursion – they will eat you alive.