Surf, sun and sand await this spring in Puerto Vallarta, one of the best destinations in Mexico for outdoor adventure. Some parts of downtown and certain popular beaches can get crowded, but on a recent visit, I felt safe with the safety precautions being taken. It certainly helps that you're spending most of the day outdoors.
Puerto Vallarta's hotels are still operating at a limited 75% capacity, according to Jalisco’s government health board COVID-19 requirements. Restaurants are allowed to operate at 50% capacity while bars and clubs are limited to 25% capacity.
Adults-only all-inclusive Casa Velas is being even more cautious than required. The 80-room boutique golf and spa resort is limiting reservations to 50% occupancy, transforming into an even more intimate 40-room property. Service is even more personalized now and the pool area is more serene. There's still live music at the restaurant, but it feels like the guitar player is singing only for you with just a few tables spaced out throughout the open-air dining room. Many guests opt for room service, which is no surprise when your suite has a private pool and outdoor dining table. The spicy hummus and mushroom tostadas and grilled local octopus are a couple favorites.
Spa reservations are easy to secure on short notice and treatments like the herbal ritual with botanical compresses and a hot stone massage will leave you feeling totally blissed out.
Yogis will enjoy the rustic remote beachs at Xinalani, another boutique retreat with just 33 oceanfront guestrooms spread across 10 acres of pristine jungle on the southern shore of Banderas Bay. The only way to get here is by boat and the resort is not ADA-accessible.
Trek up hundreds of steps carved into the sand to reach one of Xinalani's five yoga pavilions. Puerto Vallarta's best instructors enjoy teaching classes here, while listening to the jungle and roaring ocean. A gentle sea breeze keeps you cool as you flow through each pose. In addition to yoga, activities here include a Temazcal ancient Mexican sweat lodge, salsa dancing class, meditation and surf lessons. At Xinalani, it's easy to disconnect and find a grounding sense of calm and purpose. For safety's sake, I recommend staying at a smaller boutique property like Casa Velas or Xinalani for the time being rather than a larger hotel.
Vallarta Adventures is the biggest and most established tour operator in Puerto Vallarta, with an array of trips whether your want to swim with dolphins and sea lions, discover nearby Pueblos Mágicos like San Pancho and Sayulita, rappel alongside crashing waterfalls, or go off-roading in the jungle and learn how to make authentic corn tortillas. A day at Las Caletas beach club is one of their most popular excursions, often offered as an incentive for listening to timeshare presentations.
Downtown Puerto Vallarta has plenty of gems to discover too. Mar De Fe Jewelry in Plaza Galerias Vallarta is a great find for locally made souvenirs and the ChocoMuseo is a must visit for chocoholics. Learn about the history and process of chocolate making, then taste a selection of cacao beans, chocolate bars, and innovative chocolate products like cacao husk spiced tea and cactus cacao nib jelly, all made with cacao beans grown in Chiapas.
Prior to returning to the United States, travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. The Puerto Vallarta airport offers easy testing and an on-site lab with rapid antigen tests for $450 pesos ($22 USD) and results within an hour. PCR tests are also available at the airport for $1,450 pesos ($70 USD) and results guaranteed between 24 and 48 hours.
Many hotels like Hotel Mousai and Hyatt Ziva offer rapid antigen testing at no cost to US guests, while others like Casa Velas offer reasonably priced antigen tests with results arriving within a few hours. My test at Casa Velas was $400 pesos ($20) and there was a dedicated hotel suite staffed with medical personnel.
Throughout Puerto Vallarta, hotels and resorts are offering special accommodations and discounted rates if a positive test result requires you to quarantine in Puerto Vallarta. Here is a link to current information on COVID-19 procedures and protocols in Puerto Vallarta.