panoramic-resort-view-velas-vallarta-jaliscoPuerto Vallarta had never been high on my list of places to visit, but after attending a travel writers’ conference there earlier this month, it has moved to the top of the list of places I want to visit again…next  time with my husband. The only thing missing from my recent trip was having my favorite companion with me, since Puerto Vallarta is such a romantic city.

There are a lot of places that are fun to explore solo, but visiting this delightful city without your special someone may leave you feeling like Adam probably felt when he gazed at the Garden of Eden and thought “this could be paradise.”  I am already trying to find a time (and funds) to arrange for our second honeymoon trip there.

Staying at the Velas Vallarta resort, which was incredibly luxurious with lushly landscaped grounds reaching down to the white sandy beach and aquamarine waters of Banderas Bay, made the trip to Puerto Vallarta even more special.

Since I was there with a group of travel writers attending a North American Travel Journalists Association conference, our welcome from various government officials was perhaps a little warmer than most.  But after spending time talking to some of the local business owners and other tourists, it became clear that great hospitality was something everyone expected and experienced in Puerto Vallarta.

We were offered a number of special excursions to other places around Puerto Vallarta, all of which were interesting (and some, like the massage treatment at the nearby Marriott Spa) almost sublime.

Hacienda bedroomMy personal favorite side trip followed a three hour bus ride to the foothills of the Sierra Madres to visit Hacienda El Divisadero. Located on approximately 400 hectares of land that contains a river, beautiful trees, a stable of Andulusian horses and riding trails, this is the kind of remote location that would be perfect for honeymooners (or maybe even second honeymooners).

The family who own the Hacienda offer bed and breakfast accommodations there, a great place to unplug and unwind from the daily stress that can make us forget who we really are or who we’d really like to be.

This Hacienda El Divisadero is a very magical place, filled with history and carrying on ancient traditions that date back to pre-Hispanic times.  The Hacienda grows blue agave plants where they prepare a version of Tequila called raicilla, which legend calls the “ancient drink of the gods.”

We were given a tour of the ranch, where workmen showed us how they chop down the agave plants to begin the lengthy process of distilling the drink.   Of course we all had to taste at least a thimble full of this legendary drink, which was exceptionally smooth for a Tequila.

Hacienda El Divisadero verandaThe most exciting part of the trip to the Vallarta Adventures tour to the Hacienda was visiting the over 1200 years old, pre-Hispanic petroglyphs (one of 71 such petroglyphs found in Mexico) located and maintained on the property while owned by the government.   According to the dictionary, petroglyphs are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading.

But the most fun part of the tour (besides splashing in the cool waters of the river) was enjoying the delicious food prepared by our hospitable hosts back at the Hacienda.  They also make a large variety of cheeses there.

NATJA field trip Hacienda boundAlong the way our group stopped to see the now-closed to the public site of the filming of “The Night of the Iguana” starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton.  We posed for this photo with some famous rocks in the background where that notorious 1980’s-era Hollywood couple were photographed while he was making the film with co-star Ava Gardner (and Liz was along to make sure he behaved).

We also toured the village of El Tuito where we visited the central plaza, scene of many a “meet up” long before social networks came into being; local government offices; and the Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.

A big plus for travelers from North Texas is the fact that American Airlines has direct flights out of DFW Airport to Puerto Vallarta that can transport you to this delightful destination in less than three hours.  Temperatures in Puerto Vallarta are always mild and sunny, ranging from a low of 60 degrees Fahrenheit on up into the 90s.

For those of us suffering from way too much rain this spring, the never-failing sunshine is very welcome.  In summary, Puerto Vallarta is easy to get to, but really hard to leave!