See This, Skip That: Puerto Vallarta

Skip the all inclusive and dine out instead.

ByABC News
November 21, 2015, 12:12 AM
A view of Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is seen in this undated file photo.
A view of Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is seen in this undated file photo.
Getty Images

— -- Puerto Vallarta has long been a haven for travelers seeking an authentic taste of Mexico. This is a rustic fishing village at its core. But this coastal gem also draws crowds year-round with its many miles of glistening beaches, its eco-adventures and its margarita-friendly vibe.

When Travelzoo put together its 2016 Wow Deal Destinations -– an annual list of places that we predict will be value hot spots in the new year for American travelers –- Puerto Vallarta was a perfect fit. Consider the strength of the U.S. dollar for one; its 10-year highs against the Mexican peso are putting greater pressure on Puerto Vallarta to compete against popular alternatives like Cabo and Cancun. And then there’s the extra inventory; with 5 new hotels having opened in 2015, and two more slated to launch in 2016, more rooms will mean more bargains.

So, while you’re finalizing plans to go, here are a few unique things to do when you arrive.

Flex the Dollar, But Don’t Skip the Peso

You’ll find that the U.S. dollar, especially with the muscle it’s flexing these days, is readily accepted here. American cash, along with your favorite travel credit card, may well be all the currency you need, especially if you like staying put at your resort. But frequent visitors will tell you – it’s not unusual to be charged more if you’re paying with dollars. It’s also a good idea to have a few Mexican pesos on hand for incidentals, like tipping. And yes, you’ll need a passport to fly in, though you won’t need a visa for stays less than 180 days.

Come to the Malecon for the Vibe, Stay for the Art

Even if you want to avoid doing something touristy, it would be a shame not to stroll the Malecon. “You go past such cool places, and you can easily take a whole day to walk the whole thing,” says my colleague Linda Rohrer, a San Diego-based senior sales manager for Travelzoo who’s been traveling to Puerto Vallarta for 20 years. “You feel very safe, and it’s just lovely.” The Malecon is a waterfront boardwalk that stretches some 15 blocks along downtown PV, with numerous popular restaurants, boutiques and galleries along the way.

Look for live entertainment at the Los Arcos Amphitheater, near the south end, and the open fishermen’s market to the north. But to gain a real appreciation for the beautiful original artwork you’ll pass along the way, check out the Malecon Sculpture Tour offered by the Galeria Pacifico. Led by some of the artists behind several of these works, this walking tour tells the stories behind pieces like the dramatic “Millennium,” the landmark “La Nostalgia” and several pieces by the late master, Ramiz Barquet. The tour is free and takes place Tuesday mornings from mid-November through mid-April.

Skip the Beachfront Resort, Join the ClubSome of the best properties here are not right on the water; many upscale but wallet-friendly resorts, in fact, like the Matlali Hotel, are tucked into the lush hillsides nearby and are known, instead, for their sweeping views. Staying here doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the water with ease, though. “Almost any hotel – if it doesn’t have its own beach – will contract out for a beach club and get you free service to it,” says Rohrer. VIP beach clubs are actually open to anyone, and at affordable rates. A day pass for pampering on the sand at the Mantamar Beach Club, for example, will cost you about $20 and comes with credits toward food and drinks.

Skip the All-Inclusive, Eat Out