Puerto Vallarta for less

Charm and bargains in a Mexican beach town ― if you know where to go

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DAY 2: Island hop

Mexican beginnings are fine. We started the day at Cuates y Cuetes―CC's to the locals―with eggs à la Mexicana (a tasty scramble with hot sauce) and big cups of coffee.

Then, on Los Muertos Pier next to the restaurant, we caught the boat to Yelapa, an isolated town on the south end of Bahía de Banderas. The ride, about a half-hour long, was an adventure. We had pretty views of the jungle climbing up the hills from the sea and saw two dolphins jump out of the water.

Yelapa is a small town of about 2,000 residents on a cove, with two small hotels and a half-dozen restaurants. It's popular with American and Canadian expats and is inaccessible by car. Paths are shared by burros and people. It seemed far removed from the bustle of Puerto Vallarta.

We took a gorgeous half-hour hike up Río Tuito, passing vendors selling hand-carved wood bowls, to a waterfall in a jungle oasis called Cola de Caballo Catarata (Horsetail Falls).

Then we headed back to the beach, for drinks and lunch with homemade tortillas under the palapa at Domingo's. We took a dip in the ocean afterward (on a full stomach too―don't tell our moms) and lay out in the sun. That's when the best thing of all happened: Chelly walked by. Chelly, of Chelly's Pies, strolls the beach selling delicious homemade pies―banana, chocolate, nut, and lime―that she carries on top of her head. You can lie in the tropical sand on a tropical beach watching the waves, and someone will bring you a slice of the most delicious homemade pie you've ever tasted. Talk about paradise.

Unfortunately, we had to catch the boat back that afternoon. Shops are open late in Puerto Vallarta, so on our return we did some evening browsing along the bustling dining district called Restaurant Row, admiring the embroidered pillows at Indigo, the linens at Ponciana, and the tiled mirrors at Lucy's Cucû Cabaña & Zoo.

Up the road, we dined at Mariscos Polo, sharing fresh seafood and limonadas. The man at the table next to us was from our hometown in California but had lived in Puerto Vallarta for 20 years. "You've found the locals' secret," he said about the restaurant. "And you've only been in town two days? That's impressive." I patted Sam on the back.



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