When generations of a family come together for a vacation, the right destination can set the stage for a host of bonding opportunities and wonderful memories. Puerto Vallarta, one of Mexico’s most authentic destinations, offers vacationers and their families the opportunity to enjoy time together but also experience the destination in their own way. Ranging from kid-friendly water sports and a wide range of eco-adventures in the Sierra Madre Mountains to pre-Hispanic spa treatments there are plenty of activities that can be fine-tuned to the needs of each member of the group or for the entire family to enjoy.
Puerto Vallarta encompasses all of Banderas Bay on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Located in the state of Jalisco, it features 40 miles of coastline and a diverse topography, including tropical jungles, rocky river beds, steep mountain sides and arid flatlands. _Rich in culture and steeped in tradition that conserves all of the charm and character of a small Mexican village, Puerto Vallarta greatly reflects the best of what authentic Mexican family life has to offer.
Vacations can offer grandparents and grandchildren the opportunity to bond. Taking a stroll down the Malecon to enjoy the arts and crafts markets and free outdoor entertainment, that include concerts, mimes, and the flying dancers of Papantla, can be a fun and educational experience. Visit the newly opened Vallarta Theatre, and see a performance of Fandango, a dance presentation of Mexico’s many cultures, or visit the Naval Museum, the Pre-Hispanic Museum or the Botanical Gardens to explore more of Mexico’s history.
Kids get a chance to dance with grandma and grandpa on Thursday and Sunday nights at the main town square, right across from the Malecon, when the Municipal Band plays live and local families congregate for an open air, old-fashioned town hall dance.
As a world class destination, Puerto Vallarta has more than 10 international airlines arriving on a daily basis, allowing family members to reunite, no matter where they are coming from_. Families can practice their Spanish as they immerse themselves into local customs and traditions. Depending on the season, visitors can schedule a cooking class at El Arrayan Restaurant (www.elarrayan.com.mx) to learn how to make their favorite tacos after shopping at the numerous specialty shops along the malecon. Families can also take a day trip to Las Caletas, a secluded beach hideaway that’s only accessible by sea, where they can go snorkeling with sea lions, scuba diving or kayaking and explore the area on a guided nature walk.
Kids and adults alike can also enjoy a visit to the “El Quelele” lagoon, a wildlife preserve where a special facility was created to protect the American Crocodile and its habitat. Families can take a canal tour through the lagoon’s mangroves and get close to the birds, crocodiles, and other native species. At the University of Guadalajara’s Crocodile and Reptile Research Center visitors have the opportunity to hold crocodile hatchlings as well as learn more about the American crocodile species from expert biologists.
Kids and adults alike can enjoy swimming with Pacific Bottlenose dolphins at Vallarta Adventures’ saltwater lagoon. Often ranked as one of the highlights of a family trip to Puerto Vallarta, there are numerous programs available for non-swimmers as well and for those who’d like to spend half a day alongside with professional trainers to learn about training marine mammals.
From December to April is the time of year to take a boat ride in the Bay of Banderas to watch the Humpback whales play in the calm waters of the bay as they migrate to the area to find a mate and breed. As many as 300 whales have been sighted during one season. The humpback is the species that breaches most frequently, up to once every 40 seconds for several minutes making them easy to spot.
For those boys and girls, and moms and dads, who are looking for an outdoor adventure, exploring the back roads of Puerto Vallarta on an ATV (all terrain vehicle) will prove a fun-filled experience. The tour takes riders to the rural countryside and along dirt roads and through rivers. It is recommended to bring old clothes and sneakers for this excursion as drivers end up covered in dust and mud, which is part of the fun. The tours are only open to children over 6 years old who have to ride with an adult holding a valid driver’s license.
Families can also enjoy adventure activities without going far from their hotel. Ridley sea turtles make their way back to the shores of Puerto Vallarta every year, from July to December, in their ancient annual cycle of reproduction. This is a unique educational opportunity where children are sure to have fun while learning about this protected species. Numerous hotels in Puerto Vallarta run a marine turtle conservation and protection program with the help of a professional marine biologist where the eggs are incubated in their nests to best preserve natural conditions. Once the hatchlings are born and ready to be set free into their natural habitat, the various hotels invite their guests to aid in the release of the newborn hatchlings on the beaches so they find their way into the water.
Traveling with multiple family members can provide couples the opportunity to leave the kids with older relatives, and go on a romantic escape. Take an afternoon stroll along the beautiful white sand beaches and enjoy the view from El Faro Lighthouse Bar in Marina Vallarta. Rekindle the romance over a sumptuous _dinner at one of Puerto Vallarta’s fine internationally acclaimed restaurants and dance the night away at one of the many nightclubs along the Malecon. Numerous spas offer romantic couples spa treatments.
All-inclusive resorts such as the Meliá Puerto Vallarta, Dreams, or Velas Vallarta provide the entire family with ways to enjoy all their amenities without grownups having to be around all the time. Groups of younger kids can enjoy the kid pools, get a drink or let their imagination go as there are able to be more independent in a safe environment.
Puerto Vallarta’s double facet, as both a small town and an international destination, provides teenagers with the perfect opportunity to explore the area on their own. Rent a bike and ride through the streets of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Take a moment out at one of the many restaurants on the beach, which are perfect for a refreshing drink in coconut shells, people watching and getting Henna tattoos. More adventurous teens may enjoy mountain biking, tropical rainforest hikes, canopy tours, and several other adrenaline-filled ways _to see and learn about the varied tropical flora and fauna of the Sierra Madre Mountains as they zip from tree to tree.
Teens staying for a longer period of time can also take advantage of volunteer tourism opportunities in surrounding villages or taking Spanish classes in one of the many schools.