It's amazing how much travel can open up your mind to new experiences and understandings in life. When my roommate Derrick asked me if I wanted to join him and his friends on a vacation, I jumped at the chance to visit the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta. Within an instant, I fell in love with the sultry scenery, spicy cuisine and hospitable people of Mexico.
We stayed in the presidential suite of the Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas, which we reserved through AirBnb. The three-bedroom suite included our own private pool overlooking the ocean as well as expansive living and dining spaces that the six of us called home for several days. It was so comforting to fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves every night, with the beach being a mere stone's throw away.
Puerto Vallarta is an incredibly vibrant city with color radiating from every street corner. From the bountiful flea markets to the cafes on the coastline, there were so many hues to take in with every step we took downtown. I wanted my wardrobe to complement the atypically vivid atmosphere so I chose pieces with daring prints, sheer fabrics and casual constructions. Going bold with my sartorial selections felt completely natural as we went bar and beach hopping.
One thing I admired about Mexico was the untethered kindness of the people that live there, including the wait staff at all the restaurants we dined at and the locals lounging alongside us at the beach club we partied at. We made fast friends with a working mother who operated a taco stand outside one of the clubs we frequented during our stay. Even though she didn't speak much English, that didn't stop her from complimenting our crew, taking pictures of us and giving us some of the best street tacos I've ever tasted. She even ended up adding my friends and I on Facebook.
The most unexpectedly enjoyable moments of the trip were had when we took a boat to the remote town of Yelapa. The hundred-year old village lacked many of the modern conveniences that I've become accustomed to and it was eye-opening to see how the townspeople lived happy lives despite not having much beyond standard electricity and plumbing. I saw people riding donkeys on the manmade dirt and stone roads, shopkeepers selling their handmade wares and children playing with animals in the water to pass the time. We made a short hike to see the area's waterfall and were rewarded with ice cold Pacifico beer. Being unplugged allowed me to truly appreciate the tropical terrain.
The food was authentically amazing in every way and made me realize just how much I was missing back home in terms of Mexican cuisine. We enjoyed ceviche, enchiladas mole, fajitas, tacos de pescado and plenty of guacamole fresco. My favorite restaurant was El Barracuda for its stunning sunset views, craft cocktails and expertly executed seafood dishes. I'm still daydreaming of the octopus entree I had.
Now that I've literally dipped my toe in the ocean of international travel, I'm confident and excited to explore more of the warmth and vivacity that Mexico has to offer. Would I recommend vacationing in Puerto Vallarta? My short answer is simply: "Sí!"