VACATION during Spring Break in March 2006

Date of last edit = 04/22/2006

Our departure from Houston was a bit of a hassle as we learned at the airport that we didn't have the proper documentation for proof of US citizenship for international travel to Mexico. After we finally got our documentation problems resolved, we were on our way to Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

Upon arrival at PV airport about 11:30pm we went through customs without a hitch. Our luggage had actually arrived ahead of us on a previous flight, which airport personnel at American Airlines (AA) said would not occur. They insisted that baggage must travel with the customer on international flights due to security procedures. Apparently someone at AA didn’t follow procedures. In any case, airport baggage personnel had our luggage stored at another area of the PV airport, which was located past customs. It was apparent that security had checked our bags, because the zipper was newly broken on my luggage.

Currency conversion booth at the airport was closed at the time we arrived. This was not much of a problem, because taxi drivers are quite willing to accept US dollars, and we knew that we could later exchange currency at our resort. We caught a taxi van from the airport to the Paradise Village resort. Posted taxi fares indicated 423 pesos for taxi ride from airport to “zone 2” for 1 to 4 passengers. Our taxi driver offered us the taxi ride for $40 USD.

First Full Day at Resort (Monday) - I exchanged currency at the resort. Exchange rate was 10.30 pesos per US dollar. Jeremy and I walked 2 blocks over to the Plaza Mall grocery store and bought some groceries. The teenage store employee who bagged the groceries also walked the cart back to our room at the resort. We tipped him 50 pesos ($5 US) and he was thrilled. In the future, I should bring my own coffee and enough filters for the week so that we can have coffee that first day without making a grocery store trip.

We went to the beach. The kids played in the surf. The kids and I went body surfing. The kids dug up little crabs at the beach. We later went to the swimming pool. We also went down the water slides and Tom got to play water volleyball. For dinner we walked one block over to Il Pescadore restaurant on the marina. Food there was a bit pricey and the service was slow, but the atmosphere was quaint. All the customers were either Americans or Canadians. All the restaurant staff appeared to be locals.

Second Day at the Resort (Tuesday) - We went to the beach and swam in the surf. We also swam at the pool and slid on the water slides. Tom got his photo taken at the security office in order to get a photo ID card, which was picked up later in the afternoon. Tom spoke with resort concierge about getting tickets for swimming with the dolphins. Concierge said that we can get discounts on swimming with the dolphins if we take their timeshare tour. They said that regular price was $160 USD and that their discount reduced the price to $90 USD. For comparison, the results of an online web search conducted a couple of weeks earlier indicated that the advertised price was $138 USD and customers get a 10 percent discount if tickets are purchased online in advance. Online ticket price would be $124.20 USD. The fine print in the “Swim with the dolphins” promotional literature at the resort indicates that children under 10 must be accompanied by a ticketed adult swimmer. The online web sites indicates the age limit was kids under 8 must be accompanied by adult.

About 2pm at the pool, there was a contest which involved tossing a coconut the greatest distance in the swimming pool. There were separate competitions for children, women and men. Contestants had to hurl the coconut using two hands and either of two styles of throw... either an overhead soccer throw in or a basketball granny shot. Tom tried a granny shot. and was in first place for much of the competition, but someone eventually surpassed his hurl distance. About 4pm at the pool, there was a golf chip shot competition. Participants had three chances to chip plastic golf balls across the pool and hit inside hula hoop targets. Most players (including myself) missed on all three attempts. There were two players who did succeed in hitting the target and they had a playoff to determine the winner.

For dinner we all walked over to the plaza mall and checked out the restaurants available both upstairs and on the main level. There were several restaurants from which to choose, and they ranged from fast food at McDonalds to an all-you-can-eat buffet at Churrascuria. Posted prices for dinner at Churrascuria were 199 pesos for men and 169 pesos for women. Kids under 12 years old get in for half price. We actually ended up walking over to the Dominos Pizza and ordered a couple of pizzas and cinnamon sticks and sodas. I don’t recall exact cost of dinner, but it was cheap. Wait time was 20 minutes. There was a long line waiting to order pizza by the time our pizza order was ready to serve.

Third Day at the Resort (Wednesday) - Tom and Elizabeth got up early and at 9AM went to the concierge desk to take the resorts timeshare tour. We also got a free buffet breakfast of assorted fruit, eggs, hashbrowns, sausage, juice and coffee. The tour was informative and the facilities were quite nice. Our assigned sales person was named Magdalena. She was quite friendly and her English was good enough to get by. The resort sales people informed us of their points system for 10 to 40 years terms of right to use. The resort does not provide deeded ownership. Weeks at Paradise Village are able to be traded through Interval International (II). They have no affiliation with RCI. We did not buy anything, but did thank them for the tour, and they thanked us for the opportunity to make the presentation to us. After the tour, Elizabeth and Tom picked up the discount tickets for “Swimming with the dolphins”.

We went back to our room and ate some lunch, and then went to the pool. We swam for a while. Tom and Katie Beth played volleyball for a bit. We later checked out some body boards and went to the beach for some body surfing. Jeremy dug up some sea shells and brought them back to the room in a frisbee.

At 5:30pm went down to the Western BBQ event. We were second in line at the entry gate, which didn’t open until 6pm. Once inside the gate, we got a round table located close to the mechanical bull. There were buffet tables filled with salads, vegetables, meats, and desserts. The food was plentiful and delicious. It was an all-you-can-eat event and customers were welcome to go back for seconds. Drinks were included too. Cost for two adults and two kids totalled about 867 pesos. Although we purchased our BBQ dinner tickets in advance, people could also buy their tickets at the door. Entertainment at the BBQ included a variety of events. A band played music on stage in between other activities involving audience participation. First event of the evening was the mechanical bull ride. Lots of kids got in line to ride the bull. Katie Beth and Jeremy were in the middle of the line and got their turn at riding after several other kids rode before them. Here is a picture of Katie Beth (age 9) riding the bull. A short time later, Tom (age 51) also got in line near the end of the line and eventually got his turn to ride. Tom got a major workout and eventually was thrown from the bull after a rigorous and spine jarring ride. If you have a highspeed internet connection, you can see a 25.8mb video clip of toms bull ride at this link. If you are using a dialup connection, don't bother with this link.

Later entertainment events at the Western BBQ included western line dances, and some couples dances. Katie Beth and Tom danced a box step number and a jitterbug number. Later there was an arcade style horserace event with horse tokens moving forward on the track based on roll of the dice. People were able to place $5 (50 pesos) bets on which horse they thought would win. Winners split the wager pot, and the race organizers didn’t keep any commission on the race. It was strictly for entertainment. Next event was a beer chugging competition between two teams of equal number persons that were organized on the spot. Each team contained 7 men and 5 women. Participants competed one on one by chugging a cup of beer and when complete, they had to tip their cup upside down on top of their head and then place it back on the table. In some cases, participants had left some beer in their cups, which spilled on their head and then on the table. The referee made those persons compete again by drinking their beer through straws. It was an amusing competition, and the winners got nothing but free beer.

Fourth Day at Resort (Thursday) - We loafed around the swimming pool, hiked up the stairway to the catwalk to the water slides. Tom found some gullible tourist take this photo of him on the water slide. We later went to the beach. After catching enough rays, we went back to the room, showered and changed clothes. About 4:10pm we caught a taxi to the “Swim with the Dolphins” at the Vallarta Adventure park on hte south end of the marina. Cost of taxi was 60 pesos. We arrived about 4:30pm, which just missed the 4:30pm swim event. We caught the 5:00pm event, but it was held further north at the Vallarta Adventure Center. We all pield into a big pontoon boat for a ferry ride over to the other location. Jeremy, Katie Beth and Tom swam with the dolphins. Here is a picture of Jeremy and Tom getting in starting position for the dolphin races. It was an impressive adventure and quite awe inspiring. Elizabeth took pictures during the swim. The Vallarta Adventure Park staff took digital pictures and video of the swim event. They sold 8”x10” photos at a price $15 USD for 1, $30 for 2 pix, $40 for 3 pix, $50 for 4 pix with free CD of digital images. DVD movie was $45 USD. We bought the movie and several photos. After the swim event, we looked for iguanas to invite for dinner. A bit later, we caught a taxi ride back to the PV resort. Only taxi available was a small compact car and the cost was 40 pesos total for all riders. After cleaning up at the resort, we went to the Tuxum Restaurant on resort premises and had a quiet dinner.

Fifth Day at Resort (Friday) - We woke up and had leftovers for breakfast. Marjean went down to the pool. Elizabeth and Tom walked around the resort and took photos of the plants, flowers, fruit trees, the amphitheatre, wedding chapel, etc. We later all got together at the pool and also went to the beach. Katie Beth got her hair braided by a local hairdresser vendor. Here are the before and after shots of Katie Beth's hair braids. Tom and the kids went body surfing for about an hour, then we loafed around the noisy pool for a while. Tom and kids played “horse” with the basketball, while Elizabeth and Marjean caught more rays. About 6:00pm we headed back up to the room and changed our clothes for dinner. We walked over to the Plaza Mall and had dinner at “The Jungle” sports bar and restaurant. The atmosphere inside this restaurant was somewhat similar to the Rainforest Café restaurants back in the US. The walls of the restaurant were decorated with stuffed heads of a giraffe, rhinoceros, gorilla, tiger, etc. Restrooms were distinguished by humorous signs of monkeys, one having two coconuts, and one having a banana. Here are some pix of Katie Beth and Jeremy at the Jungle. After dinner, Marjean and the kids went to an ice cream store in the mall and bought some ice cream. Marjean and Elizabeth also went to a t-shirt and souvenir shop and bought some souvenirs.

Sixth Day at Resort (Saturday) - We woke up early about 7:00am and packed our luggage. We cleared out the refrigerator of all the weeks leftsovers. We had the best leftovers for breakfast and pitched the rest. We saved some pretzels and fruit juice for snacks for latter in the day. Marjean checked out at the front desk and turned in the pool towel cards. We called a bellboy to bring up a luggage cart and within about 10 minutes he arrived. The bellboy loaded our bags onto his cart and wheeled it down to the front of the main tower and called a taxi for us. The taxi was a large SUV with plenty of space for us and our luggage. Cost of taxi for ride to the airport was 400 Pesos ($40 US) for all 5 of us. Once inside the terminal, we quickly walked to the American Airlines baggage check, where an inspector went through our bags to be checked. They did not check our carryon bags. We then rolled or carried our bags to the checkin counter and presented passports and other ID to get our ticketed boarding passes. From their we rode an elevator upstairs within the terminal and walked to the security check. There we waited briefly in one of two lines before depositing carryon bags, cameras cases, computer, and plastic bags of coins and pens from our pockets into bins to be xrayed by security. Then we walked to Gate A4, which was the designated gate for our flight to Dallas.

Overall, it was a fun and adventurous vacation. I was glad that we went. I will know next time how to be better prepared for such a trip with appropriate passports for the kids. More information about the Paradise Village Resort can be found at their own website at this link.