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Driving to Puerto Vallarta

Adventures with the Cruise Director Without a Ship

Focus Alumna Staey Hewitt By Stacey Hewitt  

Editor’s Note: Stacey Hewitt is a Focus on Mexico alumni who came on a Focus program in January 2009, and moved to the Lake Chapala area in January 2010. We hope to have her as a regular columnist.  

Each time I venture out from my beloved Lakeside, I am reminded how much beauty there is to behold in this glorious country, and this past week was no exception.

My friend and I started off on Tuesday morning with a "cameo visit" to the Tuesday mercado at La Huerta in West Ajijic for lunch fixings and last-time shopping for her before heading back to her property on the Pacific coast in Nayarit after four months of house/pet sitting Lakeside. I have to admit, I absolutely love road trips so when she asked if I might be available to caravan with her newly purchased car, I jumped at the chance. One of the unforeseen surprises was that the countryside was still very green and flourishing with a multitude of wildflowers. Truly a photographer's delight and a feast for the eyes. 
 Ajijic to Puerto Vallarta  

I really enjoy the drive to Puerto Vallarta as it consists of six different types of driving so you don't ever get bored. Five hours usually from the northside of the Lake to Puerto Vallarta going through Guadalajara to Zapopan and out to the Highway 15 cuota (toll road) (little over an hour), then on the straight away cuota heading west (total of $301 pesos for all the tolls). Next comes the twisting part up the mountains to the dense jungle (reminds me of Costa Rica), curving through the verdant green jungle, down to the drive along the coast (with a stop for the most fabulous coffee at La Penita de Occidente Cafe in La Penita de Jaltemba, Nayarit - 1 kilo for $120 pesos), and then onto the Super Highway 200 headed south towards the resort town of Puerto Vallarta through Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta and onto PV.

Last year was my first visit to Vallarta in 20 years and, yes, it has changed immensely, but there still is a charm about this vibrant coastal town. Especially in the Old Town (Romantic Zone) where the renovated malecon and fantastic sculptures await you. Old Town offers many restaurants, art galleries, shops, hotels, and, of course, beaches with cafes with free chaise lounges (with a small purchase -- I popped for a $20 peso Coca Light with a $10 peso propina) for sunbathing and hanging out -- two of my favorite restaurants/bars are La Palapa* (Púlpito 103) and El Dorado** (Púlpito 102) both on the well known Playa de Los Muertos.

As for restaurants, I like Joe Jack's Fish Shack (Basilio Badillo 212), Diaquiri Dick's (Olas Altas 314 on Los Muertos Beach) and The River Cafe (Isla Río Cuale #4, Colonia Centro). Vallarta has changed with the times and has many upscale coffee shops, sidewalk cafes, chocolate shops (check out Xocodiva "Food of the Gods" for designer chocolates, next to the San Marino Hotel at Rodolfo Gomez 111 in the Romantic Zone).Botanical Gardens in Puerto Vallarta  

I always enjoy my visits to Puerto Vallarta and the highpoint this trip was my day visit to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens (located at the Km. 24 marker of Highway 200, Carretera Puerto Vallarta a Barra de Navidad, the only road that goes south from Puerto Vallarta). I took the city bus marked "Botanical Gardens" from the corner of Aquacate and Carranza, which runs every 1/2 hour and costs a whopping $20 pesos each way -- about a 45-minute bus ride, depending on the road construction. The gardens are nothing short of "magnifico" with a stellar restaurante perched high on the property overlooking the river and totally engulfed by the jungle. Enthralled by this heavenly setting, I wound up staying there for over two hours just soaking in nature and the restful ambiance. For all you bird lovers, the 2013 Puerto Vallarta Bird Festival is March 7–10 and includes speakers and guides.

My return to Lakeside was sans vehicle on one of Mexico's terrific luxury buses. I chose ETN for this trip and with my INAPAM discount card, the one-way ticket was only $233 pesos (less than $20 US). I make it a practice to buy my reduced fare ticket ahead of time at our local WalMart so I have an actual ticket in hand, which, by the way, can be changed at the local main bus station.

My next trip to Puerto Vallarta is in just three weeks when I return on one of the many all-inclusive resort Thanksgiving vacations offered by a number of our local travel agents. After all, one can only take so many 5:00 a.m. cohetes during the Ajijic Fiesta Patronales. I know, I know, they scare off the bad spirits and are a cultural tradition, but I am just sayin'.

Please checkout my next "Adventure" installment, which will be a recap of the recent Women's Health and Beauty Fair at the Real de Chapala.

*La Palapa: 

Púlpito 103, Col. Emiliano Zapata, Playa de los Muertos (from their website)

$60 to $350 pesos for breakfast, lunch, dinner menu

Popular among locals for breakfast -- sample entree:

Eggs La Palapa -- au gratin over corn tortilla, red sauce, monterey jack cheese, beans, chives

and turkey ham for $125 pesos

** El Dorado: 

Pulpito 102, Playa de los Muertos (from their website)

$70 to $300 pesos for breakfast, lunch, dinner menu

Beautiful spot for watching the unbelievable sunsets - sample dinner entree:  Adobo Shrimp, Grilled with Our Famous House Adobo, Grilled Pineapple, Sticky Rice and Chimichurri Sauce for $231 pesos

Stacey Hewitt is an entrepreneur and creative visionary who has worked for years in public relations/marketing, producing events, catering parties, networking within multiple areas, owner/operator of three businesses (word processing service near Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, marketing and PR businesses) and also the Coordinator of General Services for George Lucas' LucasFilm Company in Marin County, CA.  

She decided to shuck it all and move to Lakeside after coming on a Focus on Mexico learning adventure in January 2009.  She moved to San Juan Cosala (Raquet Club) exactly one year later -- January 10, 2010 and hasn't looked back.   

When not house/pet sitting or on the dance floor, she is available to help you create and execute unique and fun events, parties, dinners, etc. 

Please give this "Cruise Director Without a Ship" a "ship" to launch her Mexican business. Contact Stacey Hewitt at or (387) 761-1042 





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