Photo credit: Erin Poetschke Image by: Photo credit: Erin Poetschke
Located at the northernmost tip of the Banderas Bay on the west coast of Mexico, Punta Mita is a lovely place to unwind for a vacation. It's a 2.7 square mile, laid-back private enclave, home to wealthy Mexicans and North Americans, two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, tennis club and luxury resorts.
Things to do in Punta Mita:
1. Take a day trip to the Marietta Island, a national park featuring unspoiled scenery, great snorkelling, and a large population of the blue-footed booby bird, found here and in the Galapagos Islands.
2. Hit up El Faro beach to try surfing in one of the best locales.
3. Explore nearby Sayulita, a former sleepy fishing town that now bustles with activity - a perfect little beach community.
Free from beach vendors and high-pressure sales tactics, a few days at the St. Regis resort in Punta Mita is a welcome respite from the densely populated world outside the gates. With private butler service, spa and an extensive children's program, it's well worth the splurge before heading back home to Canada.
Things to do at the St. Regis resort:
1. Get a massage, facial, or other special treatment, such as the "sun relief therapy" to relieve dry and sunburned skin, at the gorgeous 10,000-square foot Remède Spa.
2. Float around in one of the three pools that overlook the beach - there's the two-level Family Pool, the adult-only saltwater infinity pool, and the Beach Club pool, right next to the Sea Breeze restaurant.
3. Take a scuba diving lesson in the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
4. Try your game by playing a round of 18 at one of the two Jack Nicklaus courses.
5. Awaken your taste buds at the Signature Restaurant Carolina, a AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant overlooking the ocean, which features Mediterranean cuisine spiced up with Punta Mita flavors, and describes its setting as "Luxurious, Sophisticated, Seductive."
Page 1 of 3 -- From its beautiful beaches to its high-energy nightlife, find out what Puerto Vallarta has to offer on page 2
If you are bound for Punta Mita, chances are you will arrive first in Puerto Vallarta - the high-energy beach town is located at southernmost point of Banderas Bay. Shop in the markets, explore the cobblestone streets, have lunch at one of the restaurants on the Malecon or take advantage of the animated nightlife.
Things to do in Puerto Vallarta:
1. Check out the Teatro Vallarta, a 912-seat theatre that opened in spring 2010 and has since hosted shows including the Russian State Ballet, Filippa Giordano, a pop opera singer, the Vagina Monologues and the Fandango extravaganza. See if there's a show on when you're there.
2. If there's not a show on at the Teatro Vallarta while you're there, go anyways and have a look at the modern art gallery housed inside the theatre!
3. Enjoy the nightlife in this lively town: chill out at the El Faro Lighthouse Bar, a circular cocktail lounge at the top of the Marina lighthouse featuring live guitar and spectacular ocean views.
4. Hit up J & B Salsa Club and bust out your best cumbia, merengue, and bachata - hey, when in Mexico, right?
5. Spend a few hours getting lost in the Mercado Municipal (city market), also known as the flea market of Puerto Vallarta. A tourist's haven, you can find any souvenir you could ever imagine, and haggle it down to a great price. A must-see just for the atmosphere even if you don't want to buy any trinkets or jewelry!
Page 2 of 3 -- Familiarize yourself with Nuevo Vallarta's golden sandy beaches and Bucerias's jewelry and leather markets on page 3
Nuevo Vallarta is a popular spot for Canadians seeking refuge from the wintery months. Dominated by the condos, hotels and all-inclusive resorts, Nuevo Vallarta boasts miles of beautiful golden sandy beach.
Things to do in Nuevo Vallarta:
1. Take the kids and head out to swim with dolphins! Children will be delighted as they get to pet, kiss, and splash around with the friendly mammals - and adults get a kick out of it, too!
2. For a special opportunity, try the "dolphin trainer for a day" program and see what it's really like to work and communicate with these animals.
3. The Paradise Village resort boasts a great beach, spa, restaurants, and golf, but it also has a wildlife reserve! Calling itself a heaven for its "exotic menagerie of creatures," birds and animals such as ostriches, monkeys, tigers, and alligators roam amid the gorgeous resort (with trainers, of course). For a small fee you can get a day pass to the resort and explore its facilities and unique reserve.
4. Head out to the marina across from the Paradise Village to Por Que No? ("Why not?"), an airy bistro featuring International, Mexican, and Pacific Rim food - and delicious Sangria, to boot.
Mexico has some fantastic markets but if you're looking for handmade silver jewelery or leather items, the market in Bucerias is the place to go. Just a 10-minute cab ride north of Nuevo, the market spans about three square blocks starting from the town centre.
Be prepared to pay cash, pesos are best (if you don't want to lose on exchange), and most importantly, you have got to haggle. The rule of thumb: whatever the price, don't pay more than half. When you get tired of shopping, grab an avocado/octopus salad from the food truck and head to the beach for a picnic.
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