Cruising on the Side
21 February 2019 | Punta de Mita
Everyone, no matter how far they cruise, find themselves marina bound at one time or another. It could be because of mechanical issues, family matters or health. Whatever the reason, it happens to all of us whether we are in Mexico, Fiji, or sail the US. This year it is our turn. We have a short season due to work commitments and Jay is healing from hand surgery. So, other than our day sails (with a little help from our friends) we are staying put. That doesn't mean we can't explore.
I think Jay sensed I was feeling a bit restless and secretly made a plan to take me away for Valentine's Day. He wanted to surprise me, but when it came down to two options - Marina Vallarta (downtown) or Punta de Mita (out of town), he asked my opinion. I chose the latter. I wanted to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and we had only been to Punta de Mita once before and only for lunch.
Punta de Mita is on the northwest point of the bay. It is a very small village with a few high-end hotels situated on the point. With help from Talia (a Marriott executive) Jay found the Hotel W and booked an ocean view room with our family discount.
Jay thought we might get a driver to take us there, but I disagreed. "No. We don't need a driver. We'll take the bus. Getting there is part of the adventure." I said with a smile.
The first bus was actually what the Mexicans call a "combi." It is a van. Some are new but most are old and rickety. They can have holes in the seats, no air conditioning and stuff as many people in as possible. Once, I counted 17 of us in one van. Most have no shocks. And Mexicans love their topes (speed bumps).
Evidently, Mexicans don't follow traffic rules, especially stop signs. To force the drivers to at least slow down, they put in topes. Imagine this. We go slow over the speed bump, then the driver hits the gas hard. We speed up as fast as we can but only go about 100 yards before another speed bump. He hits the brakes. This goes on for miles. Sometimes the sliding door doesn't fasten and it opens and closes with each speed bump and acceleration. It's crazy!
For 12 pesos each, we take the first "combi" to Walmart. All commercial travel seems to revolve around Walmarts. There is a Walmart stop if you are traveling north and there is a Walmart stop if you are traveling south. We went to the Walmart north to make our next connection. This time we catch the bus and for 20 pesos each, it will take us all the way to Punta de Mita. (Figure 20 pesos to the dollar.)
The buses aren't much better. (The local ones. The buses that take you from city to city are quite nice.) They are old with no shocks either. There is always a crack in the windshield. A rosary hangs from the rear-view mirror. If you are lucky, there is air conditioning and curtains on the window to protect you from the heat of the sun. Otherwise, the windows are open and you long for those few times there are no topes and the driver can speed up sending fresh air through the bus.
As we made the last turn toward Punta de Mita, we found ourselves on a winding road with jungle on either side. There are few places to stop so the driver hits the gas pedal. Jay and I mention we are glad we had a light breakfast as we twist and turn. We hold on. Our driver drives in the center of the road, going uphill on a two-lane highway. Another bus comes around over the hill. I shut my eyes and pray. "OMG!" I said. "Did you see that?" We laugh, nervously.
We pass the W to the left. We decided to go into town first and have lunch at Si Senor, a very nice Mexican restaurant that is right on the beach. We go another five miles, or so, and get off the bus and walk into town. It is basically, two streets.
Our lunch was wonderful. They made fresh guacamole and salsa at our table. Jay had a mahi mahi dish with adobo chili sauce and I had a traditional vegetarian plate with an enchilada, a tostada and a chili relleno. We decide to take a cab to the W. 500 pesos later we asked ourselves why. 500 pesos! To go about five miles! "I read that everything is expensive in Punta de Mita." Jay told me. Ouch.
So, instead of arriving by bus at a five-star resort, we arrived by cab. However, we were in shorts and flip-flops with only a backpack. We walked through the entrance at the top of the hill where we were ushered into a golf cart. "Your luggage?" the porter asked. I turned my back to him, "This is it." He looked a bit bewildered, then shrugged and got in. We drove down a narrow road, part cobblestone, part asphalt, toward the beach. More curves and more jungle. There was no hint of what lie ahead.
It was one of those breath-taking entrances. The lobby led into what they called "the living room." (A mere extension of the lobby.) Stairs led to the bottom floor where there was a bar in the center of the room. The entire room was open on either side. A view of the jungle could be seen where we had just arrived and a view of the pool with tall palm trees separating it from the beach was the view as we walked in. The décor is what we called contemporary Mexican with bright colors and exquisite artifacts. Even the lights that hung from the ceiling were works of art. We were welcomed with a special tequila cocktail and then taken by golf cart to our room. It was an unusual entrance, but everything about this hotel was unusual.
The hotel is divided into three parts; the ocean-front suites, a three-story building that was hidden in the jungle - we didn't even know it was there until we stumbled upon it while walking along a foot path - and single-story rooms set back against the hill. Everything about this hotel seemed to be designed to be in harmony with nature.
Ours was one of the single-story dwellings. The front door led us into an outdoor porch. It had a brightly colored basket chair hanging from the ceiling and a painting on the wall of Freida Kahlo with a skateboard. I wondered what she would have thought about such a whimsical portrayal of herself. From this, we entered through a sliding-glass door to our room. It was in keeping with the hotel theme and was decorated in turquoise and yellow and a mix of bright colors everywhere. There was another portrait of Freida, this one with a surfboard. Next to her was a painting of Diego Rivera. He was holding a skateboard. The back porch had a second bed and was designed to be completely private with a view of a lake. The room was described as "ocean-view," but was really more like a lake view. It didn't matter to us. The man-made lake was beautiful with the jungle off to one side and the ocean on the other. We had a peak of the ocean and could hear the surf crashing on the shore. The bathtub also had a large window overlooking the lake. Overall, the room was light and airy and fun.
Later, we explored the grounds. We found two pools, three Jacuzzis, several restaurants, and a long, white beach that was so empty, it felt like our own private beach. We also found the Chevcheria. It is a ceviche bar made out of a Chevy truck. So cool. The ceviche chef enjoyed showing off his skills and prepared us one of his specialty dishes while we sat memorized by the ocean view.
Two days of total relaxation and we were ready for the bus ride back to Nuevo Vallarta. With our flip-flops, shorts and back-packs, we took the golf cart up the hill and caught the next bus into town. From first class to third class in a matter of minutes. It can be that way here in Mexico.
Jay and I usually don't make much out of Valentine's Day, but he instinctively knew I needed a change of scenery. I really love visiting new places and hanging out at the W in Punta de Mita was incredibly romantic... Even if we did commute via chicken bus and combi!
Note: More photos in the photo gallery.