What do you look for in a holiday? Culture? Adventure? A good beach and book with nothing else to think about but how to kick back and relax? I took a trip to Mexico's beach resort Puerto Vallarta and the coastline Riviera Nayarit, and discovered that you can get all of this and more – more colour, culture, music, food – at the two beautiful locations on the Pacific coast. Find out more about the highlights of visiting the stunning coast of Mexico...
Adventure in Puerto Vallarta
Ready for culture and adventure, we took a trip to the Botanical Gardens. Offering a vast array of plant species from all over the world, I was fascinated by both our tour guide's knowledge of the plants, and his passion. It was also difficult not to become enamoured with the natural beauty of the place, with something new in every direction you looked. After a bite to eat, we then made our way to Casitas Maraika, a very secluded, very beautiful island that can only be reached by a short speedboat ride from the mainland. Finding a quiet part of the golden beach that stretched across the island, we settled down for an afternoon of sunbathing while snacking on fresh fish dishes from the cool nearby bar.
Exploring Casitas Maraika
Swim with wild dolphins with Wildlife Connection
A highlight of the trip was having a swim with wild dolphins. Taking a boat out to an area of the ocean where dolphins are known to frequent, our host kept her eye out for some who looked like they wanted to play. Eventually we found a pair who had been spying on us from the water, and jumped into the ocean as they swam around and under us. The experience was fabulous, and seemed so much more satisfying seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat rather than in a resort.
Searching for wild dolphins
Vallarta Food Tours
Taking a trip downtown, we saw all that the seaside resort had to offer in the best way possible - via a foodie bike tour! The trip was hosted by Juri, who happened to know all of the very best food stalls that you would never dream of visiting yourself – and we snacked on tacos, homemade green juice and, well, more tacos, while taking in the beautiful seaside sites. My favourite part of the coastal town was the amazing artwork on the beachfront, and if you're lucky, you may also see the Voladores de Papantla, who take part of an ancient Mesoamerican ritual by spinning from ropes in death-defying acts from a 50-foot pole.
Take a seafront bike trip
Canopy River Bridge
For adventure seekers, our trip took a hilariously terrifying turn as we travelled across the longest rope bridge in the world, the Canopy River Bridge, on a RZR (basically an off-road car). Our driver sped across the surrounding forest and took sharp turns (clearly amused by our screams), before stopping at a hidden lake and waterfall, where we took it in turns at jumping from a high rock into the water. The whole day is now a wonderful memory, and seemed so much more special than your average day at the pool!
Travel across the world's longest rope bridge
Adventure in Riviera Nayarit
We chased adventure once more by heading to the Marietas Islands for a tour marine safari provided by Punta Mita Expeditions. The island is entirely meant for birds and animals, and fishing in the surrounding areas is banned, meaning that it is the perfect place to birdwatching and, in our case, snorkelling. After spotting some yellow pufferfish, we grabbed a few paddleboards and practised our skills from the boat, which was great fun.
Paddleboard around the Marietas Islands
Where to shop
If you are looking to spend all of your pesos then head to Sayulita, a town famous for its great surfing and with it, an undeniably hippy vibe! While we didn't have time to ride the waves, we did go shopping, and the town offers a fabulous mix of tourist trinkets and truly beautiful macramé, handmade hammocks, and cool artwork. Frankly, I could have spent all of my spending money there in one go.
Shop and explore the bright and bold surfing town Sayulita
Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta
Located in Puerto Vallarta, our first hotel – Now Amber – blew me away. With restaurants offering cuisines from authentic Mexican dishes to sushi, cocktails on tap and parties every night with Mariachi bands playing and performers clad in Day of the Dead costumes lurking, the hotel offered tourists a taste of Mexico as well as an all-inclusive haven for holidaymakers who want it all – good food, good entertainment and good sunbathing! I especially loved visiting their beautiful indoor spa, where I enjoyed a 60-minute deep tissue massage.
The view from Now Amber's lobby
Where to stay in Riviera Nayarit
In Riviera Nayarit, we stayed at the simply incomparable W hotel Punta de Mita. The hotel was a perfect balance of bright and bold, and cool and modern. The hotel is known to be one of the most Instagrammable in the country, and we tried to find the most popular spots for snaps at the hotel – the VW beach van that doubled as a bar, the private beach during sunset and the bright staircase leading to a balcony overlooking the ocean to name but a few. As well as a fantastic massage at the resort's private outdoor spa, we spent time lounging in the poolside Jacuzzis while enjoying the DJ sets, playing everything from the latest hits to remixed 80s classics, before settling down to dinner at the beachside restaurant. We also dined at the hotel's incredible Asian Fusion restaurant, Spice Market.
The hotel room at W Punta de Mita
After a jam-packed week of sightseeing, relaxing and eating tacos, we headed back to the UK via a wonderful flight with Tui Airways, tanned and happy – but still feeling like there was so much more we could have experienced. The trip was full of memories that I will always treasure, and hope to experience again on my return to the two tremendous locations in Mexico. They are certainly not places you can only visit once!