Paradise, as defined by some dictionaries and religions, is heaven or any environment that is ultimately pleasurable. We can’t help you get to heaven; however we can give you some good tips on getting to a place that’s almost ultimately pleasurable! It’s difficult to imagine that one of the routes to such a place is through central Mexico, a drive that we first made in the late 70´s. What an experience; a nightmare that we’ll never forget and surely never repeat! The roads were terrible with chuck holes everywhere, no signs anywhere, and littered with dogs, chickens, and even pigs in every small village. Well, things have really changed, especially during the past two decades.
In 1997, we purchased a newly constructed villa on the mountainside overlooking Banderas Bay and El Centro, the downtown area of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and have made it our permanent residence for 22 years. We have driven to Vallarta on numerous occasions, crossing the border at Laredo, El Paso, and Nogales. Although the trips to PV can be made in two days, we’ve never felt the sense of urgency to drive long days or at night and therefore typically make the journey in two and a half or three days of driving, spending two nights in Mexican hotels. Traveling from Nogales, we like to spend the first night in one of the fine ocean front resort hotels in San Carlos near Guaymas. The second night is spent in one of the fine ocean front resort hotels in Mazatlan. From El Paso, we spend the first night in the Chihuahua area and the second evening in the same resort hotel in Mazatlan as we would if coming from Nogales. Regardless of whether you’re coming from Nogales or El Paso, the two day drive to Mazatlan is all on beautiful new super toll roads with speed limits of about 110 km/hour which many Americans treat as 110 miles/hour!
The Mexican Federal Police patrol the modern toll roads but don’t seem to pay much attention to speed. There are many road assistance call boxes in the event services are required with road assistance people readily available. Huge modern Pemex stations with very nice restaurants are strategically located along these super highways for your convenience or rest. The total toll is roughly $100 but it’s definitely worth it because they are so lightly traveled. The third day of driving is somewhat different. The first half of this final leg is from Mazatlan to Tepic and is a fast drive on a modern toll road, however once you leave Tepic, the fun begins! The final 100 miles to Vallarta is a hilly, winding, narrow road through the Sierra Madres and requires a great deal of patience, especially when you get behind a slow moving truck. However, as you come out of the mountains and get your first glance at Banderas Bay, you know that you’ve about reached Paradise and the drive was worth it. Coming from Laredo is a shorter trip and the first night can be spent in the Saltillo area, the second night in the Guadalajara area, and then into Vallarta by way of Tepic. All but the final 100 miles is on super toll roads, very safe, and easy to drive. Getting to PV by car is nothing like it was twenty or thirty years ago.
Although driving to PV is not a problem, flying here is much faster and easier. During the past twenty years, the International Airport has quadrupled in size in order to accommodate the many domestic and international flights that are coming and going all day, every day. Flight time from Houston is two hours, from Chicago three and a half hours, Phoenix and Los Angeles two and a half hours, San Francisco three hours, etc. Almost everyone working in the new International Airport in PV speaks English and they have become quite efficient in processing and welcoming visitors to Paradise.
Ten years ago, the Maritime Terminal in PV was tripled in size. Twenty years ago, cruise ships arrived in Vallarta twice a week, however, today we often have two or three ships a day at the new Maritime Terminal. During the past year, they have constructed a brand new modern terminal building to welcome incoming cruise boat tourists. Currently, a new 400 car parking garage is under construction at the Maritime Terminal but more importantly, a huge aquarium is under construction which will become a major new tourist attraction in PV.
So, whether you chose to drive, fly, or cruise, Paradise, where the average daily temperature is 73°F with clear skies for the seven month “high season” of November through May, awaits you.