Vallarta’s Visitors

To all of the people braving the airport in Puerto Vallarta this holiday season, I salute you. We can salute each other, actually, because I’m spending a bit of time there myself during December and January with family coming and going.

It’s not easy navigating inside or outside this place, that’s for sure. And that’s because there are a lot of people in Vallarta’s bigger, better airport and there are more cars than parking spaces, too.

But I can’t complain. I enjoy watching all the arrivals when I go to pick up a loved one. Is there anything nicer than seeing people walking into their very first second of vacation?

Sure, there’s airplane hair to deal with, and no one dresses up for their flights anymore like they did about thirty years ago. Some people look a little shell-shocked, disembarking alongside passengers from five other flights, being herded through baggage, customs, immigration, and every car rental agency in Mexico.

But despite all of the chaos and confusion of landing in a busy airport, almost all the arriving human beings look pretty much ecstatic. They may have been in transit since about 4 am, but they have a spring in their step like they just stepped out of a tube and into a tropical paradise. Which, ahem, is the literal truth.

I love to see it because sometimes I forget where I am. Wait. That sounds concerning. What I mean is, that I get busy doing the Costco run, going to work, cleaning my home, and making endless quantities of macaroni and cheese for teenagers. Sometimes, I forget that I live in a tropical wonderland next to a glittery ocean and green velvet hills.

But you walk into the airport, and people are ripping off their tear-away track pants to show off their palm-tree print board shorts while wheeling their suitcases toward the taxi line. They are digging through carry-on bags for their new sunglasses and ordering a 95 peso Corona Lite at the airport bar. It’s impossible to ignore where you are.

Outside of the airport, Vallarta’s visitors also fill the streets. I’m always glad to see them as I go about my day. Tourists on vacation don’t seem to mind minor inconveniences as they make their way around a new city in a different country.

In Walmart, they certainly look for their children’s favorite yogurt tubes but convince them to try the little sugar-saturated kids’ brands. They jump on the jam-packed buses and are enthused about the cheap ticket prices.

They line the taco stands, knowing full well they will reach for the antacids the next day and know it will be worth the afterburn.

In other words, Vallarta tourists don’t sweat the small stuff like they might at home. Like I do at home.

And I think it’s that joy and openness that brings out the best in all of us locals, which makes an impression on the visitors who return to their country talking about how friendly we are in Puerto Vallarta. It’s a truly virtuous cycle we’ve got going down here!

Watching Vallarta’s visitors embrace all that this shiny, rowdy, imperfect town has to offer, good and bad, reminds me of why I decided to stay twenty-three years ago.

It keeps our ever-growing town friendly and fun, and it is one of the best places to visit in the world.


  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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