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Brooke Jackson | 11.15.2018

Realistically, when I first heard I was heading down to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico for an adventure itinerary, I was a little confused. Was it going to be an epic of margaritas on the beach and poolside naps? Not what I define as adventurous. And apparently, not what Puerto Vallarta does either. The locals in the resort-side town on the Bay of Banderas get after it just as hard as the next outdoor lover. The scene for a solid adventure is set, you just have to know where to look for it.

Over three days, I was shown the badass side of Puerto Vallarta. Not only does the area offer activities like waterfall diving and singletrack mountain biking, it also ends with every true adventurer's favorite thing - great beer and delicious tacos!

So whether you’re heading down to Mexico or looking for a little inspiration on where to plan your next three-day weekend, here are my rough suggestions from my recent Puerto Vallarta adventure. Admittedly, I only experienced the tip of this tropical iceberg, and I plan to go back for more (hopefully soon!)

1. Grab a board and hit the swell

No surprise, but Mexico has some sweet surfing. I did not participate on this particular trip, but I have in the past, which left me feeling inclined to include the option. For beginners and intermediates, take a local bus north (about 45 minutes) to the sleepy surf town of Sayulita. With an abundance of rental shops on the beach, there is no trouble finding a board to play on. Due to the soft sand below the break, Sayulita is a great spot to hone your skills and introduce new surfers to the sport.

2. Earn a dip

Puerto Vallarta area is pouring with waterfalls. While there are opportunities to take specific tours to some waterfalls (like an ATV ride with Canopy River or horseback riding with Vallarta Adventures), there are also other ways to reach the same end destination. One option I witnessed was basically the coolest version of a triathlon I’ve seen in a while. Road cyclists began from Puerto Vallarta and started to climb some serious vertical to the Canopy River office. There you can ditch you bike a few more miles up the paved road and transition to a hike or trail run in to the final waterfall. I drove an ATV, but the run itself would be about 4 or 5 miles one way. At the end there is a waterfall waiting for you with a perfect diving platform to play from. Head back out once you’re done with your dip and celebrate with a lunch at the Canopy River open air restaurant (the mango margarita is top notch).

3. Shred on singletrack

Manuel Zuloaga is a man of many talents. I met him while taking a Bike & Bites tour around Puerto Vallarta. The tour consists of biking around the town and eating as much local food as you can cram into three hours. It was pretty glorious. Manuel not only works as a guide for Vallarta Food Tours, and he not only works as a private chef, he also is deeply involved in the emerging mountain biking scene of Puerto Vallarta. Manuel and his group go out weekly to personally and manually work on developing singletrack trails. The scene is growing, and Manual has big dreams for the area. Rent a bike and find out for yourself. I recommend reaching out to the man himself via Instagram, @Manuzuloaga, or check out the trails listed here.

4. Beer and taco tour

Craft beer in Mexico? You better believe it. Within recent years, the scene has been growing in a rebellious effort to fight back against macro brewers such as Pacifico and Corona. As one local guide told us, “We want to have the right to choose our beer!” Therefore, locals have been practicing the art of homebrewing and slowly translating their successes to small-craft brews. Because we were newbies to the scene with no idea where to start, we booked a tour with Vallarta Eats and were not disappointed. Here are the stops that really stood out along with my favorite beer from each spot:

  • Monzon Brewing Company (Calle Venustiano Carranza 239): Originally from Seattle, this young couple learned to brew while living in Mumbai, India. Try their Kolsch paired with the house ceviche in pink sauce.
  • Florios (185 Galeana St. in Centro): A cool Italian-Mexican fusion restaurant with a wood fire oven for pizza prep. Taste the Terrible Barba Roja and Stout with Mexican Pizza (don’t be afraid - get it spicy!).
  • Cerveceria Union (Main section of the Downtown Malecon): So this place isn’t a brewery itself, yet offers a great draft sampling of the local scene. The stand out here was the ITA, which is an acronym for ‘India Tequila Ale,’ and it was fermented in an old tequila casket. Paired with the cheese molcajete and you might need a few minutes before you’re able to walk off all that delicious flavor in your belly.
  • Cork & Bottle with Nina (265 Aquiles Serdan St. inside Los Mercados): If you’re not in the mood to wander around looking for good beer, or you just want to grab a few bottles to enjoy at your leisure, this is where you want to go. A local bottle shop started by another Seattle local, Cork & Bottle carries exotic offerings from all over, and the owner, Nina, is happy to engage and share the story of each.

5. Check out surrounding island villages

Hire a water taxi and get away from the crowds for awhile by exploring the village cultures around the Bay of Banderas. Bring your hiking or trail running shoes and really get into the wilderness. With plenty of horse trails developed as means of transportation, the opportunity to hit the dirt and explore is pretty expansive. Alternatively, rent some scuba or snorkel gear and get blown away by the water clarity. You could also go the route of stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking, too. I think you get the idea; there is no shortage of adventurous opportunities in these villages. Be sure to bring some pesos and support the local communities by buying traditional snacks, meals, and even liquors like homebatch Racilla.

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