Migrating from the north cold winter, the humpback whale find its way to Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Flags) which is considered one of the largest and most beautiful bays in the world.
The calid warm waters of the bay are perfect for whales to mate and give birth.
The courtship grouping, bird process and nursering are some of the whale behaviours you witness on a whale watching tour.
Humpback whales arrive to Banderas Bay from November to late March. Other marine life found during this period is the orca whale, dolphins, tourtles and rays.
I love to see these beauties return each year – and celebrate with their breeches – showing off and loving the bay as much as I do.
I have the great luck of representing some remarkable villas in Puerto Vallarta. I hate to admit that rental inquiries for them have been pretty slow the last few months but this last two weeks something seems to be changing. I have been inundated with calls for large property rentals for December and January. Most of the folks who call or write are traveling with extended family and friends and want 5-6 bedrooms. This is a major change from holiday inquiries of the past. I guess that speaks to our time – when people are putting more value on relationships and being with those we love. I know that my most wonderful memories are those of the Christmas’s when my entire family rented a large villa together and all shared in holiday meals as well as lazy days on the beach. It a wonderful way and a magical place to spend the holidays.
One of my favorite things about Vallarta is the way it come alive at night. Around 8 PM as everyone is finishing dinner or sunset drinks – the stroll begins. That is the stroll along the Malecon – ( the walk along the water in downtown). This stretch of sidewalks used to be divided by the road with lots of car traffic and was the local spot for “cruising” and showing off your modified car and its load speakers – that has all changed this year. The area has now become a wonderful walking mall – closed to all car traffic that is no diverted to the back streets. Now people stroll – all along this half mile stretch of beachfront sidewalk. May holding hands – kids running and playing – people walking dogs and big family groups all walking and talking together. The street is alive with life and love and families. I love to walk this stretch of of land and watch as the shops bustle with people shopping and the bars and restaurants buzz with action. I walk to the end of the Malecon to the Kites sculpture and explore the little local food booths and hungry or not not – I have to buy a taco of local spiced meat. I take my time walking back along the beach and usually find a table at the window of one of my favorite spots either Bodega del Medio or La Paloma – where I always have a nightcap and watch the scene. It’s my happy place and I wish someday to spend every evening just that way!!
PSSST – I am going to let you all in on my favorite dinner spot in all the world. Truly remarkable and memorable. Its a little open air restaurant in Yelapa called “Tacos Y Mas”. The name does not do it justice as there is sooo much more MAS than Tacos. First a lithe background.
Many years ago a good friend of mine traveled to Yelapa – from the cold north of Lake Tahoe and he fell in love, with the place and the people and the lifestyle. He made up his mind to live there and made a deal with a local guy to build a floor on top of his house for him to have his own Yelapa retreat.
Fast forward about 15 years – the same guy is now in Southern Cal taking care of his aging dad and he gets a call from his Yelapa house partner who for years has been building his little addition brick by brick. He tells him is sister is living in So. Cal as a Nanny for a family and he asks his amigo to check it out and make sure she is OK.
Being the nice guy that he is he looks up the little sister and what do you know – they fall in love – get married and move back to Yelapa together and finish the little house – which all these years later is a pretty big house two stories high on top of her big brothers original house.
Present day – this lovely couple open a small restaurant on the patio of what was the girls family home on the mountainside waterfall trail in Yelapa and a magical place called “Tacos Y Mas” is born.
In the hot Mexico summers this terrific couple actually work along side world famous chefs at Alaksa’s renown Talon Lodge – and they bring back their culinary skills and blend them with other talented family members tried and true recipes and magic happens.
Each evening features several selections of traditional mexican favorites and a few “worldly” specials – (The Chicken Picccata is my favorite”. The ambiance of the stone patio with the ocean breeze and sound in the distance on one side and the rush of the waterfall just up the path coupled with the amazing Margaritas are sheer heaven. IMG_0811
lovely yelapaIf you visiting Puerto Vallarta there are certainly a lot of “must do’s” on the list. By far the biggest has to be a trip to Yelapa. “Yelapa, you may say” – “never heard of that” its not even on the roadmap? For good reason – you cannot get there by road unless you are a marathon hiker or mountain biker. Yelapa is a tiny fishing village accessibly only by boat, But getting there is both affordable and a trip in and of itself. Pongas aka little boat leave almost hour sly from Los Muertos beach just at the edge of the Romanitc Zone and also a few times a day from the end of the road at El Boca de Tomatlan. Either on is just a few dollar trip – $8 per person at last price check and it takes about an hour. Years ago the boat captains used to have to quickly help you jump out of the boat on arrival with all your belongings held high on your head as the tide receded – but today they have two very modern docks and you can unload with out excitement. Personally I like the excitement of watching frighted men and women jump into the water holding way too much personal luggage for a day trip!! Times have changed in Yelapa – when I first started going there in the early 1980′s they had no electricity of telephones – talk about pure heaven. As night fall canldes would flicker in every window and the only sounds were some distance singing or the noise from passers by chatting on the way home. Today they have both and when a telephone rings the whole village is aware as most homes still do not sport glass windows – just open are arches that let in the fresh air and sunshine. There are no cars here – donkeys are the preferred means of getting larger items up the hill – these days thats mostly bricks being used for building newer home up river as more foreigners find this oasis and rent lands from locals to build their retreats. The activity of the day most days is beach going – with a half dozen great place to sit complete with lounge chairs and table service of cold beer and great local food – who could ask for more! Save room for dessert as Yelapa s favorite resident is the “Pie Lady” every day she walks the beach pies stacked several high balanced on her head – offering chocolate, lemon, and my all time favorite fresh coconut. Now this is a must do.
One of the newest additions to the adventure scene in Puerto Vallarta is the Zip Line tour – offered by Vallarta Adventures. www.vallartaadventures.com So of course my crazy teen age sons and my GI Joe adventure action figure husband had to do it. Now I have done a zip line tour in Costa Rica that was pretty awesome and not to scary so I of course was more than willing to go along.
So we arrive at the tour center and board a crazy 4 wheel drive open air “vehicle” that looks like it was straight out of the movie “Predator” – and away we go high into the jungle areas above Vallarta. The young guys who outfit us and give us our safety talk are so funny and have us all laughing so hard with their jokes and antics, I forget that I am high above the city ready to “Zip” down a mountainside hanging only by some nylon steps suspended from what looks like a pretty thin wire.
For some reason it was ordained that our of our group I go first – something about being the lightest one – I guess that diet is paying off after all – non the less – I hook up my harness as a light rain begins to fall. The guides are excited – they say this means we will go faster!!! Oh joy!!
So my first Zip is a blast – almost half a mile of at least 40 miles an hour flying over jungle tree tops. As my husband gets ready for his turn the guys on my platform are on alert – he is a big guy and I guess they want to be ready – because they all call out – “Get ready – El Gordito is on the line” – lucky he could not hear them – I think he might take offense!
All in all it was a terrific day and I highly recommend this terrific activity.
I am not in Vallarta at the moment – but I am longing to be strolling down the Malecon with Spring in the air!!! It really is my favorite time of year in Mexico. Its warm but not too warm and people just seem to have spring fever and are more talkative and lively than usual. I love getting up in the morning and just putting on a bathing suit and sarong and your set for the day. I got an e-mail from a new company that is renting stand up paddle boards. So happy this has finally caught on in the Bay and I cannot wait to rent one next time I am there.
I had to re-blog this from Lonely Planet -its a great article.
Every week or so I get asked, ‘Is it safe to go to Mexico?’ I had always said, if you’re thoughtful about where you go, yes. But after my most recent trip there, I’m changing my answer… to a question:
Do you think it’s safe to go to Texas?
To be clear, violence in Mexico is no joke. There have been over 47,000 drug-related murders alone in the past five years. Its murder rate – 18 per 100,000 according to this United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime report – is more than three times the US rate of 4.8 per 100,000. Though Mexican tourism is starting to bounce back, Americans appear more reluctant to return than Canadians and Brits (5.7 million Americans visited in 2011, down 3% from 2010 – and, according to Expedia, more than four of five bookings were adults going without children). Many who don’t go cite violence as the reason.
What you don’t get from most reports in the US is statistical evidence that Americans are less likely to face violence on average in Mexico than at home, particularly when you zero in on Mexico’s most popular travel destinations. For example, the gateway to Disney World, Orlando, saw 7.5 murders per 100,000 residents in 2010 per the FBI; this is higher than Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, with rates of 1.83 and 5.9 respectively, per a Stanford University report (see data visualization here, summarized on this chart, page 21). Yet in March, the Texas Department of Public Safety advised against ‘spring break’ travel anywhere in Mexico, a country the size of the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy combined. Never mind that popular destinations like the Bahamas, Belize and Jamaica have far higher homicide rates (36, 42 and 52 per 100,000). Why the singular focus?
Before you nix Mexico altogether, consider these five things:
1. Mexico may be more dangerous than the US overall, but not for Americans.
According to FBI crime statistics, 4.8 Americans per 100,000 were murdered in the US in 2010. The US State Department reports that 120 Americans of the 5.7 million who visited Mexico last year were murdered, which is a rate of 2.1 of 100,000 visitors. Regardless of whether they were or weren’t connected to drug trafficking, which is often not clear, it’s less than half the US national rate.
2. Texans are twice as safe in Mexico, and three times safer than in Houston.
Looking at the numbers, it might be wise for Texans to ignore their Public Safety department’s advice against Mexico travel. Five per 100,000 Texans were homicide victims in 2010, per the FBI. Houston was worse, with 143 murders, or a rate of 6.8 – over three times the rate for Americans in Mexico.
3. And it’s not just Texas.
It’s interesting comparing each of the countries’ most dangerous cities. New Orleans, host city of next year’s Super Bowl, broke its own tourism record last year with 8 million visitors. Yet the Big Easy has ten times the US homicide rate, close to triple Mexico’s national rate.
Few go to Ciudad Juarez, a border town of 1.3 million that saw 8 to 11 murders a day in 2010 (accounts differ – CNN went with 8). It’s unlikely to ever be a tourism hostpot, but things have been quietly improving there. By 2011, CNN reported, the homicide rate dropped by 45%, and the first six weeks of this year saw an additional 57% drop, per this BBC story.
If that trend in Juarez continues all year, and it might not, the number of homicides would have dropped from over 3000 in 2010 to 710 in 2012. Meanwhile New Orleans’ homicide rate is increasing, up to 199 murders last year, equivalent to 736 in a city with the population of Juarez.
4. By the way, most of Mexico is not on the State Department’s travel warning.
The best of Mexico, in terms of travel, isn’t on the warning. The US warns against ‘non-essential travel’ to just four of Mexico’s 31 states (all in the north: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas). The warning goes on to recommend against travel to select parts of other states, but not including many popular destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, the Riviera Nayarit, Cancun, Cozumel and Tulum.
Meanwhile, 13 states are fully free from the State Department’s warning, including Baja California Sur, Yucatan, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guanajuato and others.
5. Malia Obama ignored the Texas advice.
Of all people, President Obama and first lady said ‘OK’ to their 13-year-old daughter’s spring break destination this year: Oaxaca. Then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made snide remarks over that, perhaps overlooking that Oaxaca state has a smaller body count from the drug war than his home state’s murder rate (Oaxaca’s 4.39 per 100,000 to Pennsylvania’s 5.2).
Oaxaca state, not on the US travel warning, is famed for its colonial city, Zapotec ruins and emerging beach destinations like Huatulco. Lonely Planet author Greg Benchwick even tried grasshoppers with the local mezcal (Malia apparently stuck with vanilla shakes.)
So, can you go to Mexico?
Yes. As the US State Department says, ‘millions of US citizens safely visit Mexico each year.’ Last year, when I took on the subject for CNN, one commenter suggested Lonely Planet was being paid to promote travel there. No we weren’t. We took on the subject simply because – as travelers so often know – there is another story beyond the perception back home, be it Vietnam welcoming Americans in the ’90s or Colombia’s dramatic safety improvements in the ’00s. And, equally as importantly, Mexico makes for some of the world’s greatest travel experiences – it’s honestly why I’m in this line of work.
So yes, you can go to Mexico, just as you can go to Texas, or New Orleans, or Orlando, or the Bahamas. It’s simply up to you to decide whether you want to.
2- I hope to live there again some day and hope this blog will help me manifest that.
3- Mexico in general has gotten a bad rap lately and I just got back and its so safe and wonderful.
4- I want to share my knowledge an help anyone interested plan the perfect Vallarta Vacation – no charge just for the love of it and to turn the world on to a place and people who hold my heart.