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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Travling to Mexico

We have been traveling to Mexico since 1973 and the destinations and activities have changed priorty for us as we aged.  I thought it might be good to get some of the experiences listed on a blog for others when they ask about a place to go.

Note:  At this stage of our life the perfect vacation includes reading on a great beach with a breeze.  The most difficult decision each day is where to go for dinner....  We did do a bunch of exploration when younger and that was GREAT!  Have fun and I hope these notes assist you.

NOTE: This site is under construction.... NOT even close to finished.

Pros and Cons

Cons:
The water:  One hears about and I have experienced 'la touristas' or uncontrolled diarrhea.
Bottled water is for all people, including the locals down here.  Somehow washed  salads and dishes and shower water etc.. is not potable.  Don't drink tap water but water at restaurants is always (in my experience) out of the big 5 gallon jugs and ice with the holes in it is a sign that it was purified water being used or for a price you get a bottle of yhe stuff.

Just be careful.

There are drugs available at the pharmacy if you get a dose and it will stop you up and allow the fun to on again.  Lomotil is one of the ones that worked for me but there are other options.

Packing luggage:  I am now in the Rick Steeve's, the travel guru, camp.  Less is more.  Bring underwear and tee shirts and anything you can that will dry out over night.  Just wash it in the shower with you at night.  No need for more socks than two pairs.  One to travel down in and one to jog in if that is your thing.  Flip flops are my choice of footwear to any event for the entire stay.  We travel with carry on luggage only.  It is all you really need.  We get entertained by those tourists with stacks of luggage!  On the down side, if you lose your luggage in an airline snafu it is tough to get things to fit a 6'4" frame down here.  Been there done that!

Bugs:  I found that Fly Out ( or Off?) was a good local product (says "Natural" on the label and in a pump bottle)  found at pharmacy down there.  We had bugs (no see'ums) at sunset and a dose of this on the legs and arms was very good.  I have experienced bugs on the beach too but not in Zihua.   Mostly bugs are not a problem but I do recommend you have a place to sleep with bug screens. Cockroaches are all over down here.  Most good hotels spray for them.  Don't have a hissy fit when you see them.  They want to hide from you.

Condo sales tours :  We did about 5 of these and it was never worth the trouble.  We got, as I recall, a dinner, a car for the day, and other silly things for spending way too much time with nice people showing us the deluxe facility and then too much time with the closers who want your money.  Just say no.

Pros:
Money conversion:  The peso is rising against the dollar at the moment (xmas of 2016) and is 20:1 while the prices here are the same as last year (xmas 2015) when it was 14:1.  Non bank money changers are about and in airports for a quick and easy exchange but the best deal is the ATM which gives you the exchange at the moment.  A good phone app is called XE and is free as a currency exchange.

It is a bargain to eat down here but most of the rooms are booked in dollars so you don't really gain there.

Sun is one of the best things MX has going for those of us from the NW.  One must be careful to use good SPF block.  The umbrellas will not block it all. I have been sunburned through the canvas!  We did sunbed tanning but that is just silly.  Just put on 45 block and be careful and all is good.  In a week you can maybe forget the block for an hour or so.

The locals:  These are the nicest folks you will meet.  Whether on the street , bus stops or beach or restaurants or at a party.  VERY friendly.  Always trying to assist with language.  Make an effort to talk Spanish and you will have a friend.

Getting around:  We have rented a car (pay for the insurance) and found the insurance is more than the car rental but the usual USA insurance policy will not extend to foreign countries.  This does allow a bit of freedom and the driving in Mx. is pretty easy to do.  The streets in PV are bit confusing to make a left turn out of but other than parking it is easy if a bit spendy.

Taxis are great as they know where that night club or restaurant you heard about is.  The airport taxi is a different breed.  You have no choice but to take them or a bus or get picked up by a friend.  The local taxis are allowed to bring you to the airport but there is a lock on the ones taking you to town.  Pay it or split with someone might work but usually they just charge each party going..  Local taxis can be negotiated ahead of time but I just feed them a $50 note and  don't  worry about it here on my usual route to town from our usual place in Zihua.  You can also get one for a day charter if you find a good English speaking driver.  It might be less than renting a car.

Local Buses:  The bus lines here in MX get high marks for fun and cheapness.  A caveat is the busses are full at closing time going home and probably full in the AM coming into the tourist areas where the jobs are.  The mini bus (Combi) here in Zihua stops running to Playa La Ropa at 7:00 PM and is effectively non useful after 5:30 PM as they are full of commuters.

In PV the buses go in two directions... Up the coast and down the coast, Just get on with some change and there you go.  The worst experience I have had were two kids singing badly for money.... It would have been worth it to pay them to be quiet..

Dining:  OMG, the choices and the food are literally soup to nuts.  Expensive or cheap doesn't matter unless you insist on linen napkins.  We like street food and don't usually drink alcohol a lot at meals  Maybe a whole bottle of wine if splurging.  Eating down here opens new vistas in food prep.  The salads we have had lately were the BEST.  Shrimp, pork, thin carne asada all good!  Splitting salads and entrees is very common so don't be shy about doing that.  If you should get a bad meal and don't eat it they will usually take it off your bill. That happened once!

Accommodations:  These are very much different depending on budget.  Surfing the web will get you a good look.  Any beach front place will cost at least $100 US a night in most cases. Some can go to the moon with prices and private pools.  Private houses are OK too but make sure you have a local contact to assist you if needed.  Most are priced in US dollars but you can get some less expensive places downtown in most places if you are willing to walk about with your luggage.  Just don't expect a pool and maybe not AC.

We like BnBs best.  Less noise.  Pools are not needed for us as they usually attract children and we don't care for kids being near.

Destinations: These are listed from the north to south.

La Paz: On the Baja

Very Mexican with less tourists.  2xs or so visits.  Maybe 1984 we drove up from Cabo and again in 2005 we sailed in from PV to put the boat on a freighter to take it back to Seattle.

Went to a Mexican rock festival with Ranchero musica.   Good fun with 5,000 people there.

Cabo San Lucas: On the Baja

A favorite from 1979-85?  Got a bit crowded for us after that. We always stayed in Cabo San Jose  which is closer to the airport than San Lucas and it is north of San Lucas on the inside of the peninsula.  Our first experience spoiled us as we got the Presidente hotel for $35 US a night!  VERY posh and fine if you can afford this chain of hotels.

Lots of condos and golf courses now.  Diving is great here.  Downtown  activities will be a younger crowd most likely....

The marina is crazy expensive, in 2005 it would be $1200 US a month for a 40' boat.

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Mazatlan:

Just say no.  I have been 3 xs and gotten sick each time.  We did have a good drive into the silver mine mountains to visit a town with a church built in 1500!  Good fun and good banana cream pie.

The mayor of this town was an Ex pat. who proposed to one of the girls I was with.  He had had 4 or more wives down there.   He was a hoot at 80!  It does pay to get out and get personal with the locals.

Puerto Vallarta Airport:

(from north to south along the coast, using the PV airport)

Tip for leaving the airport:  One can just walk across the bridge outside and to the left of the airport building and it takes you to the correct side of the highway to catch a bus to the north.  Cheap... $10 pesos or so each.

Also, most airports have taxis that serve the airport only.  These are exclusive and cost more than normal taxis.  One can take a normal taxi back to the airport and that is OK but leaving they got you.  Just be advised.

Guayubitos (sp):
We stayed at a BnB in this town right across the road from the sea.  It was very nice!  The pool had an island in it!  Not so many gringos in this town back then, say 1995? We had rented a car and took it north to find some ruins up in the hills fairly close.  That was good stuff and hard to find but worth it.

We also found a refuge which we took a tour in on a boat to see the crocs or gators.  Pretty cool.  We drove as far north as San Blas too.

Sayulita:

2004 and again in 2009 (?).  We stayed at the Hotel Amor and then rented a house a bit north up the coast.  The Hotel was worthy, the house was OK but remote.  We didn't have a car for either trip, taking the bus from PV in and out.  Great surfing here, maybe the best on the West Coast in Mx.  Lots of fit tan bodies in town.

Bucerious:

We stayed here twice at a good little hotel (name will come to me hopefully, Los Picos?)  Cheap and clean.  2006 and another time.  Just north of PV.  Not so much of a beach.  Lots of shopping for Lori.  Bus from PV is easy and cheap.  I think we had a car tone time and drove out to a tequila factory on the way to a hill town call San Francisco which is pretty remote above PV somewhere.

Access to shopping night life in PV is easy from here.


Neuvo Vallarta:

Most will not want to stay here but I did as I was taking a survey of my boat at the time, being purchased in Feb of 2005.  It does have some nice hotels but I was staying at a less expensive place near the marina.  It was fine.  There is a private zoo at the big hotel with cats and loose ostriches walking about.  Very weird.  Also there is a nice little mall there too.  The marina is much nicer than the one downtown but spendy to keep your boat in.  Back in 2005 it was $650 US a month.

The location is a longish bus ride to PV for night life and shopping.

Puerto Vallarta: (maybe 5-6 visits?)

Near airport:  We stayed just south of the cruise ship docks with a 2 minute walk to a beach.  Economy pricing and was good just to be in Mx.

Hotel D'Arco:  A favorite right down in Old Town. Aged property but with a great location.  Just up the beach from the 'blue chairs' a good gay area apparently.  There is a great martini bar and many great restaurants and romantic walks on the river here.  We took a boat south to the Arches and to a remote colony called Yalapa with boat access only for a day trip.  We have also stayed in a condo in this area too.  I think the hotel was more fun as there was oddness here and there instead of perfect condo living.

The Malacon is a great way to spend time, just walking about as is the River walk.  Too many bars to speak about and the names change each year.  The central Mercado is fun to visit as is the beach south of town where Elizabeth Taylor shot the Night of the Iguana.  Mismaloya is the name of the beach and is a good destination in itself.   There is a road into the hills at that beach that goes to a waterfall area with a wrecked helicopter.  This is where Arnold Schwartzanager shot Predator.  The waterfall restaurant is a great place to spend the day.

PV is a great place for a first look at Mexico but staying in the large American hotels is pretty sheltering and not for us.  Nice places with nice pools and good service though.

We like eating the street food over fancy restaurants but it is all good.  Tacos al pastor are hard to beat on the street!

Bara de Navidad:  We first went here in 1973 and then 25 years later.  The first time we got a room on the beach for $10 US a night.  No roof on the bathroom and the bed fell off some 2x4s at night and there were a bunch of cockroaches... We were young!  It was fun.

25 year later it is still nice but hard to get to. We took a 1st class express bus south from PV and it took 4 hours.  Might have been better to fly to Manzanillo (never been there) and bus the hour north.

Zihuatenjo:  (same airport as Ixtapa, just say no to this area)  (we don't care for all inclusive resorts or golf so this is off our radar.)

Zihua is our favorite city  in Mexico now. We have been down here maybe 10 times and for the last 5 years have stayed in the same room at the same BnB for the same dates.  12 days of reading and walking on the most perfect beach you can imagine.  I am referring to Playa La Ropa.  80+F water and beautifully clean!

Many ex-pats move down here for the winter.  Some own, RV, or condo rent or stay downtown.  The downtown hotels are very inexpensive, around $30 a night I think.

Hotels:

Villa Mexicana, on Playa La Ropa.  On the water with a 3/4 mile sandy beach.  Very good choice on location.
Hotel Irma:  Edge of cliff near downtown.  On the water but up. Great infinity pool with amazing view  and budget friendly
Las Brisas Del Mar:  Very nice with pool and 5 star $$$$ restaurant.  Located near downtown on Playa Maderia (on the water with a sandy beach.
Casa Iguana:  BnB about 1/4 mile off the beach.  No pool or views out.
Here  are some links to my other blog articles for Casa Iguana
click here for 2014 and 2011

click here for  2014, 2012 and 2011

click here for 2011 with maps


Too many blog articles by me may contain uninteresting details to read here but maybe one can get some sense of it by looking at the photos in the articles.  These articles are mostly for me to see what I did when I am locked away in assisted living...

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