What I Love About Puerto Vallarta

If we’re going to talk about why I love the Banderas Bay area in general and Puerto Vallarta specifically, I have to start out by saying I decided to move here on my first visit.

Of course, I didn’t exactly have a Plan B…after a few weeks of research on possible destinations around the globe, I sold or stashed most of my worldly goods back in the States and brought my freelance jobs along with over $400 in financial holdings to this sunny city by the sea, known to me only through Google searches and the local tourism board.

For many, many reasons, this could have gone much worse…but it didn’t, and that’s what I love about PV.

I will continue to praise one César López every time I get a chance to do something like this. César is the superlative AirB&B host who went out of his way to give me indispensable guidance on everyday concepts such as how the buses worked and where, indeed, the ladies were at. He introduced me to his family and they all made fun of me in Spanglish, an initiation by which I could not have been more honored.

Without César I’m not sure my landing goes so smoothly, and he will always be emblematic of the way I was welcomed into the community with open arms by nationals and immigrants alike.

Let’s get down to it: people come here for the beach. I know this to be true, that’s why I find myself on the edge of 30 living on the Mexican coast when if you had told me of my future just five years ago, I would have asked you to pass what you were smoking and if you felt like getting tacos later.

Still, what I’ve really come to appreciate about this area of the world is the diversity of the landscape.

Wanna hit the beach and go into standby mode under the abundant Mexican sunshine? You got it!

Wanna climb a mountain? Go for it man, they’re right on the edge of town.

Wanna explore the jungle, maybe get eaten by a crocodile? It’s your life, cowboy.

As environments go, you can find pretty much everything but tundra within an hour or so of the city, but I didn’t come to Mexico expecting a winter wonderland so it’s pretty much perfect.

Of course, nature is splendid, but mankind has some damn fine achievements as well. One of them is art, and local artist Anastacio made an enduring impact on my life by immortalizing me in The Freeman—a work he insisted on painting after I requested and received a 2-meter wide Jimi Hendrix piece.

He also encouraged me to find more outlets for my own visual art passions…I could never hope to be the painter he is, but he indelibly underlined the importance of color and beauty in my life.

Speaking of which, I live a charmed enough life to desire and require face paint in bulk, so I also appreciate the party store on Calle Libertad for consistently stocking all the fun and inexpensive trinkets I often decorate myself with.

Sometimes it’s the little things. I love sticking my head out of open bus windows and feeling the wind in my hair. I will stand patiently at the stop as other buses pass to wait for one with open windows. I love getting on the wrong route and getting an unexpected tour of residential neighborhoods…once I ended up on top of a hill far inland where I could sit on a cloud and watch planes come into the airport.

Between these two factors, I am often late for things…but then again, in a place where even the Internet providers can take over two weeks to visit your home for installation and repair, you’re a bit naïve to expect a freelance writer to keep meticulous track of time.

Obviously, I love sauntering around in shorts and scarves practically all year. I love looking at local children like I have never seen a toddler before, since I apparently resemble an alien to them. I love the especially picturesque days when I’m sitting on the sand in Bucerias and the sunset and the stars share a stellar stage for a few fleeting moments.

Sometimes it’s the bigger things. I will always remember the way the community rose up as one to lift me off the streets of PV and into my vibrant new lair in Versailles during the Relocation Saga. (It’s a long story, this is a short word count, I’ll tell you in person if we cross paths.)

I love that so many other people see the same things I do in this little slice of paradise. What kind of person sells everything they own to chase their dreams across borders? Turns out, the best kind.

I love the exquisite craft cocktails at Bar La Playa, fresh fruits and top shelf spirits making the ideal start to a night with an unknown ending.

I love sitting down to a great steak at Florio’s, even if it’s tricky to find a date since some people insist on being vegan.

I love live music nights at El Soñador, I never know what delights are on the menu or who I’ll end up dancing with.

I love things besides the hot chicken sandwich at Ombligo del Diablo, but my mind always goes back to it.

Hell, I even love my other day jobs thanks to places like Vallarta CoWork, which puts a high-speed Internet connection, a dynamic community of visionaries, and the best air conditioning in town within sight of the shore. If I must be productive, there are worse places.

I often refer to myself an enthusiast…it’s something I stole from Anthony Bourdain, which I feel no shame about because I’d like to steal his job one day too.

I suppose what I love so much about Puerto Vallarta is that it gives me plenty to be enthusiastic about.

Puerto Vallarta makes it possible for me to be the absolute best version of myself, and no matter where my journey takes me from here I will always consider it my home. That’s love.


AJ Freeman on Email
AJ Freeman
AJ Freeman is an adventurous spirit, serial friendmaker, and general enthusiast. He lives his everyday life hoping to demonstrate the nearly infinite potential for discovery and wonder on this small wet rock orbiting a dim yellow star in the backwoods of the Milky Way.