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8 Things That Surprised Me About Puerto Vallarta

Last updated November 22, 2021

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I don’t remember the first time I heard about Puerto Vallarta, but I do know that once I learned more about the place I knew that I wanted to go. I heard about the malecon and Banderas Bay. I heard about the tequila and the mariachi bands. I heard about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. A lot about Elizabeth Taylor to be honest.

I knew that a visit to Puerto Vallarta would be incredible no matter what I did. How amazing a destination this tourist town is was no surprise to me. There were however, a few things that did surprise me about Puerto Vallarta.

View of the pool, beach, and mountains, from our hotel terrace. Things that surprised me about Puerto Vallarta.

8 Things That Surprised Me About Puerto Vallarta

How nice the public transport was.

The busses in Puerto Vallarta are great to take. Most of them are new, and they remind me of a greyhound bus. They’re very clean, large, air conditioned, and run on clean natural gas. Not only are the nice to take, they are very efficient.

The yellow seats behind the driver are reserved for those who need them most, such as the pregnant and the elderly. The ride is 10 pesos, and when boarding in a group one person pays at the end after everyone has boarded. Similarly, when boarding as male and female, the female will board first, leaving the man to pay for both when he boards. This keeps things moving swiftly and shows respect for both the bus driver and the riders.

Kids are welcome everywhere.

In Canada it’s pretty rare to see children out late at night, and to be allowed to go in anywhere. In Puerto Vallarta children are out late at night and brought in wherever their parents want to go. We would be out walking the marina zone later in the evening after a late dinner, and children would still be out walking about, walking into bars with their parents. Some children would even nap on the restaurant chairs while their parents and their friends would eat and drink. They are a very family oriented culture.

A corona before our dinner arrived. Things that surprised me about Puerto Vallarta.

Tipping is expected for everything.

I’m used to tipping at restaurants, or for food delivery. Regular things that you tip for. But if you’re traveling in Puerto Vallarta then you better carry some cash on you as tipping is expected for everything.

While it definitely is annoying constantly being asked for tips, remember that a lot of locals live off of getting these tips, and they work hard for them. I didn’t mind giving over some pesos for the people who were helping me.

How friendly people are.

No matter where we were, people would go out of their ways to help out, and would be so friendly the whole time. You can expect to be greeted by an “Hola” when you walk past someone, usually accompanied by a smile and a wave. If in a store you’ll hear “Buenos dias!” I loved this!

How many children work.

I’ve always heard that children working in certain areas of the world is common, I didn’t know though that so many children worked in Puerto Vallarta. You couldn’t sit at a restaurant or walk down the streets without a child running over to try to sell their families goods.

As a nanny, I did not like seeing kids working.

A lion statue at the Westin Puerto Vallarta

The love people had for their city.

Many people I spoke to were either from Puerto Vallarta, had moved away, and then moved back because they missed it, OR they were from elsewhere in the world, had visited PV, and then found ways to move there because they loved it so much. I admired how much love the people had for their city, because it’s those people who make the city so special.

Children riding in the front seat.

I don’t know what the laws are in Puerto Vallarta regarding where children need to sit in the car, but children were just sitting on their parents laps in the front seat. I found this so shocking to see and couldn’t get over it whenever I’d see kids on their parents laps.

I’m used to seeing children in the backseat, buckled up safely. I know that lots of other countries are more lax when it comes to children in cars, so it’s probably not that weird, but it was for me.

And lastly the FOOD.

The food in Mexico is so incredible, healthy, fresh, delicious, and quite cheap. I could eat veggie fajitas for every meal, and I pretty much did while there. I had been expecting the food to be good, but I didn’t expect the food to be just as delicious as it was.

My shrimp ceviche cooking class for example. I expected whatever we made to be good, but the end result was so delicious and the ingredients were so simple! But the flavours and spices used in Mexican cooking is just perfect.

Have you been to Puerto Vallarta?

Do you want to go?

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28 Responses

  1. I don’t think I’d like to see children working either however, things are different in every country. And that is why we love travel – learning the uniqueness of each place we visit.

  2. I noticed a few of these things when I was in Mazatlan as well over the last few years (although the buses in PV sound a lot nicer hahaha). Sucha different culture there, but it is so great! 🙂

  3. Puerto Vallarta looks like a child friendly destination. I can resonate to the scenes off children working or sitting on the lap inside the cars, in India too. There are no rules to , however I really wish these change! Lovely post!

    1. Thank you! Puerto Vallarta is a very child friendly destination! It’s a great place for family vacations that everyone will love, but it is hard to see kids working and unsafe, I’ll never get used to that.

  4. I would *LOVE* to visit Puerto Vallarta, in fact I was supposed to be spending Sept, Oct & Nov this year their until Covid-19 came along and changed all my plans. I’ve spent so much time in Mexico but always in the state of Oaxaca, so decided it was time to branch out.. this was a great post & I continue to feel inspired to get there ASAP!

  5. I haven’t been to Mexico yet but I really want to go. This gives me some good expectations. I admit I’m the same when I see kids working but I also remember traveling Asia and seeing the same and in a lot of cases there are these family businesses that literally everyone is involved in. I also remember seeing entire families on a motorcycle but that’s a different story. Great tips for Puerto Vallarta, I’m looking forward to getting there myself one day

    1. I hope you get to go to Puerto Vallarta one day!!

      You’re absolutely correct, it’s often the whole family working together and that’s how they survive. I know and understand that, but I think I’ll always feel a bit shocked seeing children working.

      I cannot imagine whole families on motorcycles! Wow.

  6. I’ve been to Mexico a few times but never to Puerto Vallarta – would love to go one day! The food alone would get me there. Sad to hear that children are working. I remember seeing that in Mexico and, of course, other parts of the world and it’s always very upsetting.

    1. I’ve always known about children working around the world, but since Puerto Vallarta is a touristy North American destination I just wasn’t expecting it there. My ignorance about it clearly.
      BUT. IT is such a fun and beautiful destination, with the best food.

  7. Havent been to Puerto Vallarta but I think I see it on so many House Hunters International LOL. But you made it clear why so many people love that place and why I need to make it happen soon!

  8. This is the first time I’ve heard of Puerto Vallarta, but since amazing food was on your list, it’s getting added to my to-visit list. I’m especially glad to hear how good the public transport is as that’s the main way I get around while travelling!

  9. Thanks for this – really helpful post for anyone planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta! Good to know about the tipping etiquette there… and it’s always awful to see children working in places like this. But without travel, people wouldn’t realise this is happening as much as it is all over the world. One of those bitter sweet things I think 🙁

    1. Thanks Justine! I love the way you put it, how bittersweet it is. It’s incredible to travel around the world and see how things operate there, but still sad to see children working instead of playing.

  10. I have been to Mexico about 6 or 7 times, but never to this part. I too, love the food there, especially if you get outside of the resorts and find those hidden gems offering authentic local cuisine.

    1. We’re opposites. I’ve only been to Puerto Vallarta, so I need to go check out the rest of Mexico! And I completely agree. The best food we ate was definitely not on the resort. The worst food we ate was on the resort however haha.

  11. In general Puerto Vallarta sounds amazing, but I’m not sure I’d be able to enjoy my vacation if I had the constant reminder that kids there have to work… I hope they are least get to go to school. It might sound harsh, but I wish people would stop buying stuff from kids. Then their parents would no longer make them work and while it would be tough for a while, the long term effect would be a positive one.

    But the food sure sounds good!

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Brooklyn standing in front of the pyramids of Giza

Brooklyn Murtaugh

travel blogger

Hi! I’m Brooklyn. Like many, I thought my purpose in life was to go to university, settle down and have kids. But that is not me. 

My aim is to inspire you to travel as much as you can while you can, whether that be through au pair work, or on your limited vacation days. It CAN be done. This world is incredible, let’s explore it!

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