Food and Fun – Sand, Sun and Sipping Cocktails: Christmas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

“Eat, drink and be merry” should follow Feliz Navidad if you’re spending the Christmas holidays in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There’s no need for snow and freezing temperatures to put a rosy glow on your face as you slip into the Christmas spirit in this beautiful, romantic beach destination.

Food and Fun

Located on the Bay of Banderes with the dramatic Sierra Madre Mountains as a backdrop, there is natural beauty everywhere you look and plenty of abounds to give you that winter tan. With average daily temperatures in the low 70’s and very little chance of rain, December is the perfect month to enjoy all the holiday festivities Puerto Vallarta has to offer.

After deciding to spend Christmas away from home, but wondering if we’d miss some of our holiday traditions, my husband and I were delighted to arrive in a city decked out with sparkling decorations and palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights. Christmas trees are few but fortunately poinsettias are plentiful, and in combination with other tropical flowers like bougainvilleas, orchids and birds of paradise, they make for exquisite floral arrangements.

Christmas celebrations begin December 1 and continue through January 6, so no matter when you arrive you can be sure to see, if not participate in, some unique festivities. During the first 12 days of the month candlelight processions by thousands of residents and visitors alike proceed to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Participants come to commemorate the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the peasant Juan Diego. Events culminate on the evening of December 12 with a mass followed by parades, floats dancing and fireworks.

Los Posadas, a procession reenacting Joseph and Mary’s travel to Bethlehem takes place December 12-24 in various parts of the city. You may come across children dressed as Joseph and Mary being symbolically turned away from people’s homes until they are finally welcomed with an ensuing fiesta.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are spent with friends and family with celebrations beginning early in the morning and continuing all day. Generally businesses are closed, but there is no shortage of impressive places to dine in Puerto Vallarta. Without last minute shopping or frantic holiday cooking ahead of us, we enjoyed an afternoon of sunshine on the beach sipping tropical cocktails piled high with luscious fruit.

Looking for a romantic Christmas Eve dinner, we made a fabulous choice with Rincon de Buenos Aires, an Argentinean restaurant known for its imported cuts of meats cooked over a wood fire. The steaks were perfectly prepared, sizzling hot and juicy, but the pasta and seafood I saw at other tables looked tempting as well. Be sure to order the fl creamy and sweet as a special treat. Not ready for the evening to end? Consider a stroll to the historic district where festively dressed people enjoy lively music and dancing well into the early morning hours.

 Christmas morning is typically very quiet in Puerto Vallarta but by afternoon restaurants are eager to serve a holiday meal with turkey and all the trimmings. Having had one delicious meal after another over the past few days we opted for lighter fare at Route 66 in the Marina area. Decked out with a 50’s rock and roll theme with dancing waiters, this is a lively choice with great marina views. With an American owner on site greeting you like family, enjoying a traditional holiday meal at a diner like restaurant didn’t seem unusual at all. We visited here several more times enjoying more traditional fare like hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fried steak and shakes.

Once we had our fill of poolside cocktails and hunted for our next favorite restaurant, we checked out what activities the city has to offer. There are plenty to pick from like dolphin swimming to sailing day trips to shopping. We settled on whale watching. Puerto Vallarta is known for its large Humpback whale population this time of year as the mammals migrate to warmer water. In what seemed like nothing more than a rubber boat we headed out into open water. Our guide, a Marine Science Ph.D. student, explained how each whale can be uniquely identified.        He also stated that it would be a great day if we saw a whale “breach,” or jump out of the water. We were in luck as multiple whales treated us to this spectacular scene.

Back on dry land we spent another day walking along the famed Malecon, the seaside pedestrian walkway. Lined with beach front restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries, and commissioned outdoor bronze sculpture there is enough to do and see for an entire day.

New Years Eve is yet another reason for a fiesta in this party city with so many fine hotels and restaurants offering elaborate celebrations with dining and dancing a unique and romantic place to ring in the New Year is Las Caletas, the former estate of film director John Huston.

We took a sunset cruise to a secluded torch-lit cove and enjoyed a candlelit dinner, an open bar and Rhythm of the Night, a spectacular, high energy contemporary dance show. No matter how you choose to spend the evening, be sure to have your champagne glass full as the magnificent fireworks       explode and light the sky over the Banderes Bay at midnight.

A Christmas holiday in this festive, enchanting and romantic city can be all you hope for. Puerto Vallarta offers enough variety and activity for the Christmas visitor looking for lazy sun drenched days on the beach, or the high energy party goer looking to be out and about morning, noon and night.

By Rebecca Johnson

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