Sun, Sand and Surf in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!

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Happy Friday everyone – I hope you had a wonderful week!

As I mentioned on Wednesday, Ben and I recently got back from a trip to sunny, sandy Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with the friends we met while living in Minneapolis after college. We’ve been mindful to stay in touch over the years, and Ben and I were both beyond excited to get together for a week of fun with the good time gang! While I’ve been to PV before, this trip was completely different and one of the best we’ve ever taken in terms of where we stayed, how relaxing it was, and, of course, the company.

Let me give you the details!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

First and foremost – the house we stayed in. Oh my gosh! We went the VRBO route for this trip so we could all stay together, vs getting 5 hotel rooms, and it was spectacular – I would return in a heartbeat! Our home for the week was Villa Encantada, a 5 bedroom, 6 bathroom home in the hills above Puerto Vallarta, which included a full kitchen, solar-heated pool and hot tub, tiki bar, a private chef, concierge, and laundry services.

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Completely open to the elements, Villa Enantada is decorated with custom artwork, and seriously just made us feel like celebrities for the week, without the price tag. When all was said and done the cost was comparable to staying at an all-inclusive resort in the area.

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I forgot to mention the view, or rather, the VIEWS – plural! This was the scene Ben and I woke up to every morning in our bedroom facing the ocean. I seriously had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t still dreaming! Just kidding, I sleep terribly away from home, but this view more than made up for the lack of zzzs.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

While there’s tons to do in PV, and we did a lot, some of our most fun times were spent hanging by the pool reading, drinking, eating, and playing center man, a game the men invented which basically involved punching a deflated basketball over and over for hours. I couldn’t make this stuff up! ;)

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

No matter what our evening plans were, we always made sure to be home for sunset at 7pm, which we had the perfect view of from our seats at the outdoor dining room table. Completely unforgettable.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Speaking of the dining room table, we ate out at several wonderful restaurants in PV including Gaby’s (<– the fajitas!) Vista Grill (<– the “From the Sea” dish and sweeping views!) and Tapas Barcelona (<– the bay scallops!) This was the first trip I’ve taken out of the country since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease so I was extremely nervous about getting glutened because I don’t speak the language and, well, spending 4 days in bed can kind of ruin a vacation.

That said, Mexican cuisine is very fresh and definitely doesn’t focus on wheat as much as we do here in America. But, there’s always a risk so I printed out this Restaurant Card in Spanish which I went over with waiters if I had a question and had ZERO issues the entire time we were there. So, so thankful!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

While our meals out were tremendous, as I mentioned, the house rental came with a private chef, Walter, who cooked his heart out for us everyday. This was the most unique travel experience I’ve ever had – knowing you’re on vacation, but feeling like you’re at home.

I believe Walter could have cooked all three meals a day, but we usually had him prepare breakfast and either lunch or dinner, and then appetizers for cocktail hour. We were provided with a big menu which we could choose dishes from everyday, then Walter and Rene, the concierge, shopped for the ingredients and cooked the food. We just paid the grocery/drink bill at the end of the trip. Totally slick.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Some of my favorites were garlic-butter lobster, fresh fruit salads, GINORMOUS nacho and fresh fruit platters, and homemade empanadas. They were aware of my GF status before we arrived and made every effort to cook gluten-free (to be clear I never asked the group to eat GF because it’s my problem, not theirs, but it was basically a non-issue because many Mexican dishes are already GF.) If a dish couldn’t be modified, they provided a separate plate made just for me. I couldn’t have felt more at ease.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Rene was an amazing griller, and whipped up steak fajitas for us a couple of times.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Gahh!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Without a doubt, my favorite meal was the grilled Bacon-Wrapped Jumbo Prawns we had for lunch one day. So simple, so spectacular. I think I had 40.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

When we weren’t stuffing our faces, we were out on the town, or rather, beach. Puerto Vallarta has gorgeous beaches that are great for walking, and cool water with waves that are perfect for bobbing. I don’t know about you but I could beach walk and/or wave jump for hours on end.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Since our house was up in the hills we had to climb down a near vertical set of stairs every morning to get to the beach, while fitness-focused folks ran laps around us. Holy cow I need to step up my fitness game – my lungs were burning on the way up every afternoon!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Luckily the destination at the end of the journey was worth it!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Off the beach there’s plenty to do in downtown PV like visiting the Malecon, kind of the town square with shops and restaurants.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an anchor of the Malecon and is a big tourist attraction in the area. Ben and I always find it interesting to compare places of worship we’ve seen around the world – Mexico, Asia, Europe, the south, etc, – and this one is right up there with some of the prettiest we’ve seen.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Speaking of pretty, PV is a stunningly beautiful town. Vibrant and unique. Of all the Mexican tourist destinations I’ve been to, it’s absolutely my favorite. Super slow, less touristy (don’t get me wrong, they have clubs – which we woo-hood it up at…until 11pm – but it’s a completely different feeling than Cancun for instance,) and I just can’t get over the bougainvilleas that are dripping over every surface of the town, in all shades of pink, coral, yellow, and white (I guess that’s just one shade…)

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

I especially loved peeking down alleyways throughout the town to get little slice of life shots. I could totally see myself being a snowbird here when I’m 70!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Sun and sand are nice, of course – I couldn’t get over just how perfect the weather was every single day we were there – but a chance to spend a week with wonderful friends was our favorite part. We missed everyone the minute we left!

Fun group activities included puttering up the coast for a couple hours in a boat, with fresh coconuts spiked with rum to sip on. Can you tell how EXCITED Ben was for it?? BAHAHAHAHA. Ben hates boats and open water (he prefers rivers where he can see both banks, thank you very much,) but insisted on coming along because, well, YOLO.

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

And finally paddleboarding! I’ve been wanting to paddleboard for years now, but the only option we have around home is at a lake that I most definitely do not want to fall into…ever. Anyway, us girls forked over some money and got a paddle and board in return, and then we were off.

Woah – WAY harder than I thought! I think I fell off at least 10 times in 20 minutes, but it was such a cool experience, and wow, paddleboarding quickly gives you an idea of how good your balance is…or isn’t, in my case!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

All these fun experiences wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for the great group of friends we were experiencing them with. These 9 people (Ben included, of course,) are so genuine and really make an effort to take care of each other. Hilarious, too. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. (Thanks, Annie, for the pic!)

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

We’ve committed to doing a group vacation every other year so you will be seeing them again!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

Afterall, any group that takes tequilla shots with dinner is alright by me. ;)

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com

The most important thing about this trip was spending more time with my guy in one week than we have in 19 months. Leaving Lincoln behind with my parents was almost unbearable – I cried for weeks and considered cutting our trip short beforehand – but once we got there I realized how good this would be for all of us, Lincoln included. We absolutely cannot wait to return again (and hopefully to Villa Encantada – I’m telling you, paradise in Puerto Vallarta!)

Thanks for reading along – this was a really fun recap to write and relive. Back to regularly scheduled programming next week – have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation #travel | iowagirleats.com


Our Week in The Cabin at Wintergreen

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Spinach, Avocado and Sun-Dried Tomato Home Fries Skillet

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Spinach, Avocado and Sun-Dried Tomato Home Fries Skillet is light and healthy yet perfectly filling. Did you know hash browns don’t have to come out of a bag? Not that I’m looking down my nose at bagged hash browns. Right now I have approximately five bags of varying quantities hogging precious space in my freezer,…

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Smoked Cheddar Shrimp and Grits Bites

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Savoring and Sipping Savannah, GA!

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Hi everyone, I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend! The boys and I just returned from a few days of R&R in sunny Savannah, GA! Ben and I started exploring the south a few years ago with a trip to New Orleans. A couple hours in and we were…

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