Written by Joy Thrun.
Where does a Travel Agent go for their 20th Wedding Anniversary? After much debate and endless research, the answer became crystal clear: Puerto Vallarta.
When Tom and I first began planning our 20th wedding anniversary, we considered such exotic places as Morocco, Bali, and Australia. Then we found ourselves needing to visit the hotel La Jolla De Mismloya for business purposes, as we had booked this hotel for a group of clients and we wanted to ensure that this was a worthy destination. During our research we discovered that this location inspired one of the world’s most famous love affairs: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had fallen in love with each other (and Puerto Vallarta!) during the filming of Night of the Iguana. The film’s set was at the beach in Mismalola, and helped to make Puerto Vallarta the popular tourist destination it is today. All I can say is that, once we had this information, Tom and I couldn’t think of a more romantic or appropriate place to spend our 20th Wedding Anniversary.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta and had no trouble finding a cab for the 35-minute drive to the hotel La Jolla De Mismloya. I immediately fell in love with the property, and I was swept up in that romantic feeling you get only get on special occasions. This came as no surprise, seeing that the hotel La Jolla De Mismloya is rated one of the top 500 hotels in the world and one of the 10 best in Mexico, comfortably nestled in a cove with the Sierra Madre Mountains as a backdrop. When we stepped out of the cab and were instantly handed glasses of champagne, I knew this was a place I would never want to leave. The lobby was warm and inviting, and the staff welcomed us as we were given the keys to our 2-bedroom suite.
All the rooms at this resort have suite-style accommodations. The 1-bedrooms have a kitchen equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, and coffeemaker. In the 2-bedroom suites, one of the bedrooms has 2 twin beds, it’s own TV, and a bathroom; this room closes off to the hallway and master bedroom, making it ideal for families. The floors and master bath are tiled in onyx with good amenities. The furniture has a light natural wood finish and gives the room an airy, tropical feel. The beds were not the rock-hard version so popular in many Mexican accommodations, and the hotel offers various types of meal plans, from room-only to all-inclusive. We did three days of the room-only plan, and during the last four days we sampled the all-inclusive plan.
The all-inclusive at this hotel is different from your typical all-inclusive experience. The only buffets are for breakfast, which is served until 1:30pm. The rest of the meals are table service, where you are presented a bill with a zero balance. The lunch grill has oven pizza, great Mexican food, and burgers and sandwiches; you can choose to be served at umbrella tables or at your pool lounge chair. The dining room is open for lunch and dinner, and the Italian restaurant is of high quality. The hotel runs the Night of the Iguana and John Huston restaurants, though they are not part of the all-inclusive plan. They are, however, located on cliffs with tremendous views, great food, and wonderful ambiance. The hotel offers free transportation for guests, though we would have gladly paid the extra charge to dine at these fine establishments.
We didn’t have to travel far to sample various other local eateries. The hotel La Jolla De Mismloya is situated between two nearby beaches: The hotel maintains the first one, and the other is located just over the river. The beach located over the river is accessible by a small bridge and is a favorite spot of local beach lovers. This beach includes a string of local restaurants that serve fresh grilled fish and lobster. There is a note in your hotel room that cautions that the local restaurant are not guaranteed to have hotel standards for food preparation so to be careful what you order and be forewarned. However we took a chance and had 2 great lobster dinners for $18.00 US with all the fixings. Also if you like to fish you can hire a boat from the beach and they guarantee good fishing. You can then bring your catch back to one of the local restaurants and they will cook it for you. We decided that the next day should be spent lounging around the hotel to experience the service and engaging swimming pools (of course, this decision was made solely for research purposes. Someone had to be the testing guinea pig, and I felt it was my duty as President of Classic Travel to make the sacrifice!). The hotel La Jolla De Mismloya has three fantastic pools that are intertwined, yet separated with lavish foliage, rocks, and waterfalls. The adult-only pool includes a Jacuzzi that is actually located above the pool itself. The Jacuzzi is accessible by a bridge, and this separate entrance helps to offer relaxation, privacy, and great views. I don’t do Jacuzzi’s because of my germophobia, but the non-neurotic guests certainly seemed to enjoy relaxing in it. Also impressive was the poolside food and beverage service, which is of Ritz-Carlton quality; Tom gave especially high marks to the margaritas. We enjoyed another lobster meal on the beach that day and explored the coastline by foot.
The next day was the actual date of our 20 th Anniversary, so we decided on a round of golf at the scenic Visa Vallarta Jack Nicalas course, followed by a romantic dinner. There are two courses here, which are about 35 minutes by cab from Mismaloya. I can honestly say that the $20 cab fare each way and the $140.00 green fees are well worth the investment. In addition to being great courses, there is not one house or any roads to inhibit the stunning views of Puerto Vallarta while you are playing. I was only one stroke behind Tom at the turn, but then I made the mistake of letting the heat and scenery get to me on the back nine. Therefore, I couldn’t say I beat Tom at golf on our 20th Anniversary. I was not content with this turn of events, so we went back later in the week and played the Weiskoff course. Tom and I highly recommend both courses. While I was not able to fulfill my dream of a sub-90 golf score, it was like a dream to play these courses, and was an incredibly beautiful setting for our anniversary.
That night we dined at the Le Cliff restaurant, which is a popular landmark for tourists all over Puerto Vallarta. It is not difficult to see why people love it so much. Not only are the view and food first class, but the Le Cliff also hosts the largest palapa in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. In addition, Le Cliff restaurant sports a view of some of the best whale watching you will ever find. Just make sure you arrive at the restaurant early enough to wander around and appreciate the grounds and amazing scenery. My experience at the Le Cliff ranked right up there as one of my most romantic meals ever. Make sure you are sipping a margarita when the sun hits the sea, and you are guaranteed an experience you will never forget — even if it isn’t officially a ‘special’ occasion. But what, might you ask, do I remember most about this historic milestone in my life? Something that we had never done before, something so unusual you may never have even heard of it: Zip Lining. Zip Lining is a popular activity here in Puerto Vallarta, and consists of flying through the rain forest above the trees and over the rivers on steel wires in a harness! This adventure not only requires physical stamina, but it requires a fearless attitude, as well. You begin by climbing up narrow stairs to get to the starting platforms, which are located high in the mountains. After being placed in your gear and given instructions, you then find yourself zipping hundreds of feet through the air, above the foliage and across the gorges. Line zippers come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. We saw zippers as young as 7 years of age, and rumor has it that the oldest zipper is well over 80.
For as unique as this activity is, there is something even more surprising about the situation: I am agoraphobic! Yes, try and image the woman who is afraid of heights deciding that Line Zipping is the way to spend her 20th Wedding Anniversary. This is not to say that the road to my Line Zipping adventure was not without challenges. As I stood on the platform, I confessed to Angle (our guide) that I was starting to have second thoughts. He assured me that this was natural and that I would be fine. Angle got me suited up but, as I hung in my harness at the first of 15 lines, I insisted that I needed more time to ponder my decision. I decided to let some other adventurers go ahead of me, so I stepped aside while a group of children hurriedly brushed past me and fearlessly stepped off the platform. I heard their shouts of glee and delight, yet I was still arguing with myself about whether I was really capable of doing this. The more I thought about it, the worse it got. I finally stated that I had changed my mind and couldn’t go through with it but Tom just said, “Sure you can”, and proceeded to push me off the platform! To say that I felt a rush is an understatement. Tom, of course, loved it not — not only for the thrill and the exquisite scenery but because I was terrified! I am so glad did it, though. I faced my fear and, if I can Line Zip, so can you; I speak from experience when I say that you will be glad you did. Don’t forget to buy the photo and the video after your experience, either. The photo of you in the harness will prove to all those skeptics that you really did Line Zip, and the video is a must-have so you can see what you missed when you were too afraid to look down. We spent the balance of the day enjoying the poolside lunch service, celebrating our marriage, and toasting our bravery.
I can’t say enough good things about Puerto Vallarta, especially the downtown area. It is loaded with great boardwalks along the Pacific Ocean, with unique sculptures, and upscale (as well as flea market) shopping. There are lots of excellent restaurants and bars, too. I highly recommend visiting the Isle Cuale, which is an island in the river. It has great shops and restaurants and should not be missed. You can also take a tour of the house Richard Burton bought for Liz Taylor. Taking this tour is like taking a step back in time, and you will not soon forget the experience.
So 2 snaps up for Puerto Vallarta, a romantic, exotic destination unlike any other. Add it to your list of must-see locations and call me to today to book your trip!