YOU know how it is. You wait years to see a whale then three come along at once . . . and each of them puts on a spectacular show.
Watching these giants leap from the water and splash down just yards away is one of those bucket-list moments.
We weren’t even ON a whale-watching trip. We spotted the majestic creatures on our way to a deserted beach via catamaran.
With mating season January to April, our excited skipper said: “You guys are very, very lucky to see a show like that.’’
Mexico’s Pacific coastline is more restrained and authentic than the vast resorts of Cancun and the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean side.
We were here to discover Puerto Vallarta and the sandy beaches of the Riviera Nayarit.
Our hotel Casa Velas — an all-inclusive, adult-only boutique — is just minutes from the airport but you would never know.
Iguanas cling to swaying palms in the lush tropical gardens, while peacocks strut and nose at our dinner. It is a short stroll from the beach and 15 minutes from the town centre.
With temperatures nearing 30C, the swim-up pool bar was a welcome relief.
After ploughing our way through mounds of creamy guacamole and fresh fish ceviche, there was always the gym to relieve the guilt.
Or invigorate mind and body with a massage at the spa — probably the only tequila-free part of the hotel.
In downtown Puerto Vallarta, tuck into street food from the various stalls or splash the cash at The Iguana — a restaurant that was once part of the home of Hollywood legends Richard Burton and Liz Taylor.
The lobster taco is amazing, the steak out of this world. A Mariachi bands play beneath the inky-black sky before we promenade down the lively, cobbled Malecon.
Take to the sparkling ocean with a catamaran trip with Vallarta Adventures – who gave us our impromptu whale show – but be warned the onboard booze starts flowing the moment you leave the harbour and ends with an obligatory tequila.
And it was the ship’s captain who had a handy tip on how to knock back your shots – inhale, drink then exhale – to prevent that burning sensation.
And while it’s the norm here, Mexican’s are not keen on the lime and salt.
Vallarta Adventures offers snorkelling trips and visits to remote deserted islands in the Bay of Banderas, which Puerto Vallarta looks out on, and which is one of the biggest bays in the world.
Further along the Riviera Nayarit, the atmosphere is more laid-back. There are still luxury resorts but many visitors opt for something more casual.
The beachside Hotel Maraica is a peaceful heaven with hammocks inside and on the balcony. Let the crashing waves lull you to sleep — with the help of a margarita if need be.
Along the beach, at the hamlet of San Pacho, the Las Palmas restaurant does amazing butterfly shrimp with a mango sauce so tasty I asked for a bottle to take with me.
Don’t miss a trip to the hidden beach at the Marietas Islands, reached by a safe if nervy guided swim through a tunnel carved into the rock. The sight is well worth it — and can’t be glimpsed from the sea.
Back on dry land and just a few minutes drive from San Pacho is the surfers paradise of Sayulita which seems to be trapped in a Sixties timewarp, with all the VW camper vans and Beetles.
GETTING THERE: TUI Airways has flights from Gatwick or Manchester direct to Puerto Vallarta with prices from £409pp return. See tui.co.uk
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the Casa Velas from £225per person, per night. See hotelcasavelas.com Rooms at the Hotel Maraica from £95per person, per night. See maraica.mx
OUT & ABOUT: Whale watching: wildlifeconnection.com; luxury yacht and snorkle, vallarta-adventures.com; La Patrona Polo & Equestrian club, tierratropical.com.mx; surf lesson with lunazulsurfing.com
MORE INFO: See visitpuertovallarta and rivieranayarit.com
After a lesson with Lunazul Surfing, I even manage to stay upright for a few seconds . . . and have a picture to prove it. That earned me a high five and a beer on the shallow bay’s shore.
It made me even more set on coming back to try again. Add in the fantastic food, tequila, amazing beaches and wildlife, it’s a no brainer. Hasta la vista.
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