By the time Spring rolls around in the Midwest, most of us are entirely fatigued from the frigid weather in these parts. Spring Break is on, so it’s time to get out of town on vacation with the kids. Destination: somewhere warm!
We decided to head to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after contemplating a few options: a trip to the Adriatic coast, a tour around France, and even going back to Cancun where Rachel’s sister lives. Logistically, we just couldn’t make any of those work, so we decided to head somewhere new and visit the West coast of Mexico.
This time we chose to stay at an all-inclusive resort. We rarely do that and had only stayed at all-inclusives twice before. But lured by the promise of easy days, activities for the kids, and an abundance of food and drinks, we caved.
Puerto Vallarta – la ciudad más amigable del mundo
Puerto Vallarta (PV) is located on the Pacific Ocean in the state of Jalisco. It’s the second largest city in the state and part of the Riviera Nayarit. Like Cancun and the Riviera Maya, the area is very popular with American and Canadian tourists (at least 70% of the English-speaking tourists in our resort were from British Columbia or Saskatchewan). But there’s also a considerable amount of Mexican tourists, primarily from Guadalajara and Mexico City.
There are plenty of activities for families, from relaxing on the beach to whale watching or sightseeing. Puerto Vallarta is a great place for a vacation with kids.
Soak Up the Sun on the Beach
The beaches in PV are fairly clean, and if you stay at a resort, it’ll likely be private. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you are free from beach vendors. They’re a dime-a-dozen. And they all seem to sell the same four products. If you’re bothered by them, then know before you go. On the other hand, if you engage, know that haggling is a sport. We ended up buying a few trinkets and toys for the kids and got them for half the original price.
One of the most popular family activities, whale watching season goes from December to March. Whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other animals can be seen close to the coast in the Pacific or in the Bahia de Banderas. You can book tours directly with vendors on the beach (less expensive) if you’re comfortable. Otherwise, book ahead online or with the hotel staff.
Water Sports et al.
Just like most Mexican or Caribbean beach destinations, there are a multitude of water sports, catamaran tours, boat rides, banana boats… As with other tours, you can buy them at the beach or book ahead. While most of them are safe for children, use your best judgment on what you choose for your family. One of the beach vendors tried to convince us that the banana boat was perfectly safe for our son Ian (20 months old).
I’ll admit. There’s only so much laying-on-the-beach I can do before I’m yearning to see and experience the city. The Malecon is a boardwalk in downtown PV replete with shops and restaurants that is perfect for a leisure stroll with the family. There, you can also see El Caballito (The Seahorse) sculpture, one of 3 symbols representing PV.
Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Just off of the Malecon is the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the city’s main square. Atop the church, sits a wrought-iron sculpture of a crown, giving the church tower a unique look rarely seen in other churches (we’d never seen that before). The Church is second city symbol.
Los Arcos (The Arches)
Los Arcos is a set of arches and caves accessible from Mismaloya Beach on the south side of the city. As one of the symbols of PV, the area is fairly popular with tourists who come out to the area for sight seeing, snorkeling, paddle boarding, etc.
Other Things to Do with Kids
- Vallarta Botanical Gardens ($3/person | Free/child age 0-10)
- Aquaventuras Park ($25/aduilt | $19/child age 4-11)
- Horseback Riding
Hotels, Resorts, or Vacation Rentals?
There are hundreds of hotels and resorts in PV. Choosing one is highly dependent on your budget, vibe, and desired location. Prices range from $30/night for vacation rentals to $250/night for all inclusive resorts.
We chose to stay at Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta (see our full review of the resort) because the resort offers a ton of kid-friendly activities, amenities, and services, like a water park with pirate ship, a castle, and water slides, zip lining, and included child care (starting at 18 months old). We took advantage of most of these, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to use child care services.
Tip: You can save 10-15% by bundling Flight + Hotel on Expedia.com.
Puerto Vallarta is not huge, but getting around, depending on where you stay, requires transportation. We opted to ride an Uber from the airport to the resort ($2.50/ride). For our city excursion, we made a deal with a beach vendor to take us on a 6-hour city tour for $20 for all four of us in air-conditioned tour van (a pretty good deal!) Other options include taxis and rental cars.
Is it safe to go to Mexico?
Is it safe to go to Mexico? I guess I understand the sentiment and maybe even apprehension. I know Mexico has had a long, well-documented history with organized crime. But the fact is it’s no more or less safe to go on vacation with your kids in Mexico than anywhere else in the United States.
It’s important to use common sense and the right approach when traveling anywhere:
- Keep your kids close
- Don’t flash your phones and jewelry
- Store your valuables in the room safe
- Put away purses and electronics in your car
- Beware of strangers asking too many personal questions…
We were completely at ease. And believe me, we’re as cautious as any. Lucas played on the beach on his own and made friends most of the days we were there.
Without hesitation, Mexico is a safe place to vacation with kids.
Even though resort travel is not our typical travel style, we had a great time. The kids had tons of fun, there was more food than we could ever dream of consuming, and most importantly, the sun was hot and the pool was warm. Just enough time to thaw before we headed back home.