Fun and Fiesta in Puerto Vallarta

Strolling Puerto Vallarta’s scenic Malecon on a sunny December morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

“There are only two religions in Puerto Vallarta,” said our guide as we bounced along in our motorcoach towards our tequila tasting. “Catholics and alcoholics!”
Holland America Line’s Westerdam pulled into our last port of call this morning, coming alongside the pier in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico just after 7:00 am.The line offers a total of 18 different shore excursions in Puerto Vallarta, from easy highlights tours to tequila tasting excursions, zipline adventures, off-road explorations, and tours to areas further afar, like Las Caletas and the colonial town of San Sebastian.

Westerdam at her Puerto Vallarta berth. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

To make the most of my time in Puerto Vallarta, I took the Mexican Fiesta and Puerto Vallarta excursion. At five hours in duration, this tour costs $89.95 per person and includes a tour of Puerto Vallarta’s main sights, followed by a trip to the Hacienda Dona Engracia tequila factory that’s situated about 40 minutes north of the city, where lunch is provided.
I’ll admit: my expectations for this tour were rather low. I took it because I wanted to write about a decent, entry-level tour that would be good for the first-time visitor to Puerto Vallarta that’s looking for a food-oriented excursion. In the end, I was blown away by how comprehensive it was.

As guests disembark Westerdam…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…a local Mariachi band kicks into gear. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our tour began with a guided walk through Puerto Vallarta’s historic old town, along the picturesque waterfront stroll known as the Malecon. We walked at a decent pace and stopped frequently to hear about sites of historical importance. Bathroom breaks were provided, followed by a visit to Puerto Vallarta’s old Cathedral.
Afterwards, we drove through Nuevo Vallarta – the new part of Puerto Vallarta, which I’d never been to before in four previous visits. Then, it was off to the Hacienda Dona Engracia, located out in the countryside.

Our guide led us on a fantastic tour…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…along Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…with its unique sculptures. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Church looms large over Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The tour description says that the Hacienda produces tequila, but doesn’t say we’ll be able to enjoy it – yet that’s exactly what happened. We were able to learn about how tequila is made, and the differences between various tequilas. Of course, nothing beats actually tasting those differences, so we sampled six different kinds of tequila made on-site, along with some very hot sauce that can be bought for $5 per bottle. You can, of course, bring back some tequila too.
Then, it was on to lunch: a true Mexican feast with all the expected goodies. If you don’t like Mexican food, this may not be the tour for you, although a small salad bar was available.
Throughout all of this, our guides were fun, festive, and encouraged us to do the same. The Pacifico’s were free-flowing at lunch, as was the food – all of which was complimentary. Do keep some small bills on you though for tips for the local servers; they’re much appreciated.

At the Hacienda Dona Engracia…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…guests learn about how tequila is made…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…before sampling it for themselves! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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