When you live in a beautiful tropical paradise, it can be really fun to pretend you are a tourist for a few days. I mean, as long as you can go without the sunburn and dehydration issues. Also without the hotel buffet, because I have already gained at least three pounds based almost entirely on my current obsession with mint chocolate cookies.
We decided that during our Christmas vacation, we would enjoy some of what Vallarta has to offer our visitors. For one thing, my parents arrived on December 18th for their annual visit. To add to the fun, my brother and his wife found last minute flight deals which enabled them to come down for the first time in fifteen years and, for their three children, their first time ever.
I was determined that we would pack as much activity into one week as possible so that my nephews and niece could tell all their friends that their aunt was the coolest instead of the weirdest, which is what they normally tell people. We booked two trips ahead of time: a Vallarta Adventures tour to Las Marietas, and a zipline tour with Canopy Playa Grande.
The Vallarta Adventures tour company is probably the best known company in Vallarta. They have a wide variety of tour options for absolutely every type of traveler. As locals, we can request a locals price list, which ranges from around 25% to 30% off the original price, depending on the time of year. This is not a cheap tour, but it is incredibly professional and well worth the price.
We chose the Las Marietas tour because my brother’s family wanted to snorkel and experience a boat tour on the ocean. My own family and I have experienced boat tours many times, and my son and I have experienced seasickness exactly that many times. We avoided the misery with some Dramamine and kept them handy for my prairie-dwelling relatives.
The hosts of our boat were wonderfully friendly, casual and knowledgeable. We had a chance to paddle board, snorkel and kayak while we were at Las Marietas, and we had a great tour of the islands, which collectively are a national park and bird preserve. The best part was spending time as an entire family with no distractions from cell phones or outside obligations of any kind.
Two days later we were bumping along in a covered truck to Playa Grande Ecopark, a beautiful natural park along the river in the Ejido Playa Grande, where they are involved in conservation projects as well as tours. We were greeted by an enthusiastic staff with a lot of energy and passion for their work.
I have some personal issues with ziplines. The issue I have is that I despise being hundreds of feet off the ground, connected to a small pulley that is positively screaming along the metal cable, hanging on with knuckles so white they could probably glow in the dark. But it’s not dark, so I can see exactly at what speed I’m definitely going to hit the tree at the end of my run.
I am happy to report, however, that I didn’t hit any tree, because there was always a confident staff member there to let me know when to slow down and, when I panicked slightly, to catch me before the tree abruptly interrupted my trip down the cable.
I highly recommend this new little company. If you join the website xplorapv.com, you can often find a coupon there that includes a canopy tour with transportation and a tequila tasting experience at the end of your tour. They offer lunch at their picturesque little restaurant, and there’s a beautiful river beach area where you can cool off in the crystal clear water.
Dear Vallartans, I’m so proud of you. Spending the week as a tourist I had the chance to understand again why our city is such a jewel. The spirit of Vallarta shines most brightly through all of her citizens. Thank you for spreading that passion, joy and goodwill to all who come to visit. Thank you for showing my family so clearly why, for so many of us, Vallarta is our cherished home.