**Pack The Pup is a dog travel series where my taco loving, jet-setting Chihuahua Poppy and I review pet friendly hotels across the world***
It seems like the sun has been setting forever. The sky has changed colors so many times I’ve lost track. Sunsets are one of my absolute favorite parts of a Puerto Vallarta visit. The location on the Bay of Banderas on Mexico’s Pacific Coast means the sun sinks directly into the sea and the nightly color show lasts upwards of an hour in summer.
I’m watching the sunset with my dog travel companion, Poppy, from the grass at the edge of the golden sand beach at dog-friendly The Westin Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta. It has a prime location for the main event.
While we watch, we munch on sandwiches (and for me mezcal and soda) at a beach picnic with a few of our industry friends. It's a package you can book at the Westin and its perfect for celebrating with your pup. Even better, book it for your dog’s next milestone birthday or Adoptaversary and invite a bunch of pup friends and human guardians.
Why To Stay At The Westin Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta
Dog friendly private picnics aside, The Westin has a few more perks to make traveling woofers want to stay. Besides the usual bowls and beds to borrow, the resort is a scent hound’s dream. The property sits on 14-acres and was once a palm tree plantation. Today there are more than 600 mature palms covering the grounds and each tree is numbered and maintained.
Poppy says there are lots of really excellent sniffs around those trees and could have spent hours wandering had I let her. The beach is also a great place for active pups to do zoomies or go for a swim (bring a life jacket as the water can be rough).
You can check out one of the two swimming pools. If like me, your dog is your kid, then head to Tlaquepaque pool, which has a swim-up bar and less children. Periquillos is the activity pool and has lots of kids. Dogs are also welcome to sunbathe with you in a lounger by the pool or join you for a snack if you are sitting outside at a restaurant.
The Westin is Marriott’s wellness brand and this property has a great fitness center with top of the line equipment, and my personal favorite, a spa. The treatments are designed to help with movement, sleep or just aid in relaxation. My deep tissue massage was quite therapeutic.
There are also five restaurants onsite. Arrecifes Seafood & Steakhouse is the signature restaurant. Right on the beach it showcases steak and seafood with fresh daily catches and some creative flavor pairings. For something more casual, check out La Cascada, where you’ll find an award-winning tequila program and regional Mexican dishes.
All the restaurants at the Westin also offer health focused, vegetarian and vegan selections to accommodate all types of foodies.
Why Mexico for a Pupupcation
Mexico is Poppy’s and my favorite international travel destination for a pupcation. Okay, I admit she is a little biased, since she claims Mexican heritage with her majority-Chihuahua DNA. But ancestry (and delicious tacos) aside, we love how easy it is for American pet parents to enter the country with their pups.
All you need is a written copy of your dog’s current rabies vaccine and then to undergo a quick wellness exam by an agricultural inspector at customs upon arrival. It is that easy. No expensive international health certificate required.
Mexico and Canada are the only two countries that do not require American dogs to carry an international health certificate (which requires a vet visit, some annoying back and forth FedExing with the USDA and costs around $300) when visiting.
Once in Mexico, you’ll find that many hotels are dog friendly so long as your dog is not too large. The majority of resorts I’ve been to that are pet friendly welcome pups small enough to fly as pets on airplanes in carriers, but are less accommodating of larger breeds.
Best of all Puerto Vallarta is an easy direct flight from a number of US cities including my hometown of Denver, Colorado. From Denver the flight takes just over 3-hours and airlines like United offer multiple flights per day. In California there are direct flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are also direct flights on multiple airlines from New York City.
What to Experience With Your Dog In Puerto Vallarta
Poppy insists on every trip we leave the hotel grounds and go find some street tacos somewhere, so we headed to the city’s malecón, a waterfront promenade that runs along the beach for about a mile. Walking it is a great way to spend some quality time with your dog.
After grabbing Poppy a few carnitas tacos (solo carne, sin cebolla) from a takeaway spot, we stroll. All 20 blocks of this vibrant boardwalk are lined with life size sculpture that range from the fantastic to the realistic with names like “Unicorn of Good Fortune” and “Caballero del Mar.” The later is of a naked boy riding a seahorse, Puerto Vallarta’s symbol, waving.
From the boardwalk you can walk across one of the hanging bridges to Cuale Island, where you’ll find rows upon rows of stalls and local vendors selling everything from touristy schlock to clothing, jewelry and ceramics. There are plenty more shops on the malecón itself, many high end, and most welcome well behaved perros.
Puerto Vallarta is also known for being Mexico’s most LGBTQ+ friendly city and The Zona Romántica is its heart. You can wander the cobbled streets with your dog, but you might want to return for dinner with your partner to dine at Tintoque. Book a table on the patio by the river at this nationally renowned restaurant and get ready to be impressed. The global Mexican menu that changes frequently, but when I was there I loved the crab croquettes starter.
You’ll either have to book a private yacht to get you there or leave your pup back at the Westin to experience Playa Majahuitas, which should not be missed. The private beach club has a boho hip cool factor with lots of Instagram designed photoshoot ops and can only be reached by boat.
If you leave your dog behind for this excursions, you can book an after tour with an operator like Vallarta Adventures. The group trips include drinks and snacks on the catamaran as it sails for Majahuitas. The trips also stop for snorkeling before reaching the jade hued water lapping at the golden sand.
All in all, Puerto Vallarta is a dog friendly destination where locals will likely greet your pup with a smile and lots of loving praise for his or her’s cute factor. It is home to activities for active and mellow pups and boasts hotels like The Westin Resort & Spa that welcome four-legged friends as family.