Friday, January 7, 2011

The Unleashed Trip Report

Only a week and a day to go now until I'm knee deep in those beautiful blue waters of the Caribe again! I figure I'd better tie up the loose ends on the Bucerias/Yelapa posts so I can get busy packing!

Part of the reason we travelled to the Puerto Vallarta area in late November was to simply see what we thought of the flip Pacific side of Mexico. So here's the unleashed unvarnished trip report!

Nothing compares to the gorgeous turquoise water of the Caribe! I kept trying to compare Bucerias and Yelapa to Isla Mujeres, but they're manzanas and naranjas! Craig told me to quit it when I started comparing the food and restaurants, but then he found himself doing it too. Isla Mujeres is still number one in our book, but the terrain around Puerto Vallarta is quite striking with lush jungle covered mountains rolling right down to the sea.

Waterwise, I only waded in Bucerias and Yelapa because the Pacific in December is just too dang cold. I did manage to swim in the unheated pool at the condo which was quite a feat considering I quit swimming at home when the water temp dips below 84 in the pool. I'm guessing the pool water was in the lower 70's. The beach in Bucerias was amazing for walking. We'd walk the beach for an hour in one direction, and then turn around. I think the sand goes for 13 or 14 miles! And we did find seaglass in both Bucerias and Yelapa. Not as good or plentiful as the stuff that washes up on Isla Mujeres, but I was pleasantly surprised!

Isla definitely wins in the food category, and I have an all new appreciation for the variety and quality of food on Isla. In Bucerias, the restaurants in general we dined at were more expensive than Isla. Here's the list of places we tried with good food in Bucerias: Adauto's, El Brujo, Adriautico, Claudio's, Sweet Things, and Karen's. Overall, we were just a little disappointed because we never found the place that we wanted to go back to night after night. I'm sure those restaurants are there -- we just didn't find one.

I'll note a few stinkers so no one else wades in if they're headed that way. There's one right off the square in Bucerias, Miguel or Michael Angel's. I also heard someone refer to it as Michelangelo's. We'd noticed it walking past, but had no interest until the owner chased us down on the street and gave us a cloying plea along with a coupon for a free drink. Note to self: If a restaurant has great food, the owner won't need to chase people a block away! Craig ordered a carne asada dish that tasted like day old roast beef from Denny's. I made the mistake of ordering chicken enchiladas in mole and the sauce was a bitter inedible concoction. The service was like watching paint dry. We waited forever for drinks and then forever for the food. The crowning glory came with the bill. 570 pesos to be exact. I fortunately caught it when I saw Craig putting a 500 and a 200 down on the check. WHAT! The actual tab when corrected came to 240 pesos. After questioning the waiter about the amount, Miguel rushed to the table with a gushing apology explaining he had personally misfigured our bill (by a whopping 330 pesos). Hmmmmmm. Every evening after that when we'd near the Bucerias square, he would dash towards us as we ran the other way. One night he yelled, I see you! I see you! How are you tonight? LOL!

Another restaurant on our avoid list is Eva's Brickhouse. Note to self: If the restaurant looks empty every time you walk past, there might be a reason? We were fooled by its number one rating on Trip Advisor, but I've come to the conclusion that Trip Advisor reviews are often skewed by an owner's personal posse. When a place gets a bad review, they call in a load of friends to bury it. I ordered a shrimp and avocado salad for 120 pesos that I assumed by the price would be entree size or at least side salad size? It literally came out on a small saucer that was by no means heaped with the finely chopped ingredients. The world's smallest salad! Craig and I laughed until we cried. I wanted to take a photo, but Eva was lurking because we were her only customers. The food didn't taste bad -- it was just grossly overpriced and the portions were tiny. Who knows, maybe all the salad plates were dirty that night, so they whipped out a saucer? No bread, no booze, and the tab was 470 pesos for my tiny tablespoonfuls of salad and Craig's five pieces of shrimp, 3 tablespoons of rice, and 3 pieces of broccoli. After the mugging, we hungrily foraged for food on the way home from dinner.

Yelapa saved the vacation when it came to food! The Bahia Cafe, Tacos y Mas, the Eclipse, the Yacht Club, Brisas, the little cafe at the town waterfall -- we had wonderful reasonably priced food at all these places! We didn't have a single bad food experience in Yelapa. Since it was still slow season, Yelapa didn't have quite the selection as far as number of restaurants open nightly, but the food there reminded us of the quality of food on Isla.

In Bucerias, we stayed in a penthouse condo just a half block away from the Kissing Bridge where the markets are located. We visited Sayulita to the north for the day and it had a younger cool surfer dude vibe -- the first time I've experienced that in Mexico! We just scratched the surface of Sayulita and I could have spent another day roaming the village area. We rode the bus up there and that was an experience in itself. Note to self: Don't wait until 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. on Saturday to take the bus home. Standing room only!

My big regret is that we didn't travel farther north to San Pancho and beyond. Craig would like to return to the Puerto Vallarta area someday and spend a few more nights in San Sebastion.

Yelapa was a truly unique experience. For me, getting there in the water taxi was quite the adventure! I learned that I can ride in a small boat without getting motion sickness, and somehow some way, I can depart that small boat on the beach. When we return to Yelapa, I'll choose a rental with doors and windows that close. I'm just too big of a worry wart to deal with the possibility of human and creepy crawlers prowling about when I'm sleeping. There was a locking concrete walled bodega in the house for valuables, but that still didn't keep me from waking up in a panic in the middle of the night after hearing a few horror stories from locals. We slept in a fold down bed on the lower level with the mosquito net pulled over us. I even pulled the sheet up over my head for good measure. Extra scorpion protection? And no, we never saw the dreaded scorpion. I'm guessing they were all hiding since the nights were quite chilly! And that's the other reason for a rental with windows. With everything open air, I got cold the minute the sun went down.

We weren't prepared for the cobblestones in the Puerto Vallarta area! Silly us! I packed my normal beach vacation shoes -- flip flops and walking sandals. Ouch, ouch, ouch! Craig and I both had sore feet every night from walking up and down the cobblestone streets and paths. Next time we travel to a destination with cobblestones, we'll definitely pack some type of heavy soled running shoes or hiking boots!

This trip was more about adventure and touring than kicking back and relaxing on the beach. We saw so many new things and had a blast, but I'm so glad we have a trip planned to Isla Mujeres in another week. The trip to Bucerias and Yelapa just made us more homesick for Isla!


IslaZina said...

I am glad you have seen the error of your ways. I was at a loss as a distant observer. He to see you soon!

Life's a Beach! said...

Funny Zina!

Jane said...

Love the new "pointalist" header. Always enjoy your candid-camera trip reports.

Life's a Beach! said...

That header was a wall mural in Bucerias. I love all the vivid art in Mexico!

Anonymous said...

I remember Michael Angel's but I never ate there - glad I didn't! Another point for the western side is the stunning sunsets - Isla's sunsets are beautiful but not the same thing!


Life's a Beach! said...

Jeanne, you are so right about the sunsets! Breathtaking! Avoid Michael Angel's. LOL!