We started our trip in Puerto Vallarta and were there for 5 nights. We stayed in 3 different hotels sprinkled around different sections of the city.
The town is certainly popular with tourists but it never felt overrun and it was always easy to escape the touristy areas and get some great Mexican food or wander the city’s quieter streets.
Our time in Puerto Vallarta was largely spent at the beautiful beach along the south end of town. We visited the Naval Museum, walked the boardwalk along the coast every morning and night, and just spent a lot of time hanging out at the beach, eating and playing. We also visited the waterpark 20km north of town a couple of times as the kids love water slides .
Puerto Vallarta had some truly great food — the best on our trip — and was a great start to our vacation.
After Puerto Vallarta we took a short taxi ride up the coast to Sayulita. The town has many long term vacationers and a very cool beach town vibe. Our hotel had a couple of bogey boards that we were free to borrow and that’s how we spent most of our 4 days there along with swimming, eating, and visiting the circus at night.
The hotels were much cheaper than Puerto Vallarta and we got a great place with a kitchen, dishes, toaster, and 3 beds for around $80 a night. The longer you stay the better the price and long term house rentals are easily found with a roaming walk around the hills surrounding the town.
Tepic was our stopover on the bus ride from Sayulita up to Mazatlan. We caught the bus to Tepic on the highway outside of town and arrived in Tepic 3 hours later.
Tepic is a inland city that sees few tourists and has a much different feel that the beach towns along the coast. Even the hotel workers spoke very little English, so it was a refreshing change from the very touristy towns where we started our trip.
We stayed at the Hotel Fray Junipero Serra that sits right on the main square and ate a delicious dinner at a friendly and homey restaurant just a few blocks away. The next morning we were up early to walk around the nearby market, get breakfast, and grab an early bus to Mazatlan.
The bus ride from Tepic to Mazatlan took about 5 hours and involved a number of security checkpoints — one of which we had to leave the bus while authorities searched the interior. We arrived in Mazatlan in the late afternoon, walked to our hotel, and headed straight for the swimming pool.
The highlight of Mazatlan was walking around the old town and then taking the seaside path around the cape and back along the beach into town. There’s lot to do outside of town — mountain biking, horseback riding, and sports fishing, etc — but we only had 2 days and kept fairly close to the pool and the beach.
We stayed at 2 places: The Hotel Sands Arena which had a great pool, looked out on the beach, and was directly between old town and new town. We then moved onto El Cid Mega Resort for our final night — an all inclusive resort that was sort of tacky but it kept the kids very happy for our 24 hours there.
If I had to go back I’d stay at a hotel in the old town — though there are not as many hotels in that section but it’s probably worth the effort to seek them out.