In February 2012, we went on vacation with our two children, ages 5 and 1 1/2, and their paternal grandparents to the Pacific coast of Mexico. This is our third vacation with extended family, and we thoroughly enjoy the intimate times in a relaxed environment.
We spent our first week in a condo apartment in the small town of Bucerias, 25 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, and the second week in a remote and exotic community, 1 ½ hours further north. We flew direct from Calgary to Puerto Vallarta since lay overs with children are to be avoided at all costs. The flight was successful and we had an easy transition at the airport. Since we had decided not to rent a vehicle, a taxi (van) transported us to the beach-front condo.
The apartment was pure delight with three bedrooms, great amenities and a spectacular patio that faced the beach. Since we were located in the northern part of town, we were removed from the cluster of hotels for tourists and the hundreds of other people just like ourselves. We have discovered that condos are perfect for children as you can make your own meals, eat whenever you like, and enjoy sufficient private space to play and relax as a family.
We never felt that a vehicle was necessary at this location. The condo was situated within walking distance of the market and restaurants and a short ride to the grocery store. On our first morning, we hopped on a local bus to travel 10 minutes to MEGA (franchise of Costco) where we loaded up on a week’s supply of groceries. We returned to the condo by taxi for a reasonable cost. We also took the bus to the charming seaside town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, 20 minutes north of Bucerias—an easy travel experience and a great opportunity to practice our little Spanish with Mexicans who were unfailingly helpful and friendly.
We routinely spent our days playing in the sand, boogie boarding and swimming in the pool. The kids enjoyed visits to the market where they were able to experience the Mexican culture and pick out souvenirs. The property manager provided names and locations of restaurants and shops as well as information about doctors and pharmacies in the event of a medical emergency.
We thoroughly enjoyed Bucerias, the fabulous condo and the small town feel of the nearby market. The cobblestone streets and charming storefronts added to the appeal. We always felt safe and the environment was perfect for a family with small children.
Riding the buses to Mexico’s colonial cities
Platanitos is a small fishing village 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Puerto Vallarta. Very few foreign tourists visit this area; however, a group of Canadians and Americans have built a compound of gorgeous villas situated on a plateau overlooking the sea—an ‘off the beaten path’ gem.
The area is remote, the beaches pristine and endless, and the physical environment breathtaking. The grounds of the compound have been lushly planted and beautifully designed to create privacy for each of the villas. The villa we stayed in was open concept within a huge pallapa. There were three bedrooms, a large kitchen and eating area and plenty of seating to relax in. The villa also had a small infinity pool, and was a few steps from the main pool area. The views from this condo are spectacular and on occasion, whales and dolphins could be seen arching in the waters.
The villa came with a fabulous cook from a nearby community who made authentic Mexican meals. Rosa served the largest meal in the early afternoon, unlike the Canadian tradition of heavier evening meals, but everyone seemed to adjust easily to the change. Although the food was very different from our daily meals at home, the children seemed to do okay and there was always peanut butter in a pinch. Sundays are Rosa’s day off and we were given a voucher to eat at the local fishing village beach-front restaurant. Due to allergies only two attended the restaurant and they gorged on food meant for six. It was mouth-watering seafood, freshly caught by the local fishermen.
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Getting to the beach was a bit of a challenge. Every day, we would wait for the tide to go down and then cross an estuary, blindly walking without truly knowing what lay beneath our feet. When the tide was high, it was a little scary getting the kids across, as the currents were strong. The beaches were vacant, except for the presence of the occasional person staying at another villa or a local family, and they went on for miles, undeveloped and pure—a rare find.
We spent a lot of time at the beach with the kids, boogie boarding, watching crabs and building extraordinary sandcastles complete with army figures from the dollar store. The kids loved to collect washed up seashells and the adults marveled in the long walks along the sea, in solitude.
We ventured out one day to take a tour of a crocodile sanctuary. A driver from the property management transported us and stayed with us during our outing. The car ride was a little long, with lots of curves, which did not sit well with the kids. The boat tour was great. We saw crocodiles, birds, crabs and wildlife, an adventure that was particularly exciting for our 5 year old. We stopped by a few villages and historical spots, on our way back.
The week in Platanitos was a unique experience. The location and property presented more challenges for entertaining small children on a rainy day but the experience was more authentic and memorable – few tourists, more locals and little commercialization.
Overall our vacation was fabulous. The kids had a great time and the adults, especially the grandparents, were able to spend one-on-one time with each child. And vacationing with grandparents allowed us to go out for dinner, enjoy walks on the beach alone and spend much needed quality time with each other. An opportunity for three generations to come together in two beautiful settings – what perfection!
By Carla and Craig Reinhardus
Photo credits Barbara Reinhardus
© Riding the buses 2012