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New Year’s Carnival In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

New Year’s Carnival in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

It’s easy to shrug off New Year’s Eve as “Amature Night” and try to avoid the crowds going out at all costs.  But with the little superstition we have left, my partner and I sometimes look back at bad events during the year and wonder if it was because we had a bad New Year’s Eve? Or maybe we forgot to eat humbly on New Year’s Day? Whatever the case, we decided we would spend New Year’s Eve in Mexico in order to assuage any potential bad juju for the year.  Coincidentally, the family had also decided to spend the holiday in Mexico, perfect for our schedule.

Puerto Vallarta has become our safety net locale for a  family vacation. It’s an easy location to travel to, where there’s something for everyone in the family.  Cheap massages for my father-in-law, cheap beer for my husband, that’s all you need! On top of that, Mexico is relatively close for a warm vacation.  It has it all, beaches by day, enough restaurants to keep you busy, and a bustling nightlife. Plus thanks to the residential boom, there’s a plethora of Airbnb or apartment rentals to fit everyone’s budget.

View from the Pinnacle 220 rooftop pool.

Our headquarters for this trip was the Pinnacle 220 on Pulpito Avenue.  Built on a hill, the developers generously installed a funicular to help guests, or really anyone, to get up the hill from Calle Olas Altas versus taking the stairs (just don’t miss the 11:00 PM closing of the funicular after a night of drinking, or you’ll have to shlug yourself up). The real draw for this property for us is the rooftop pool.  Pinnacle 220 and its sister property Pinnacle 180 both operate as apartment hotels, with various apartments containing full time residents, and some containing hotel guests, like ourselves. The 220 building has a rooftop pool, while the 180 pool is on the ground level. Reserving was relatively easy via their website, and two weeks prior to our arrival, they emailed us asking if we would like airport transportation (USD$38) or any groceries to be stocked in the fridge prior to arrival.  The staff are friendly and welcoming, with daily cleaning service, we couldn’t ask for more!

Sunset looking at the pier from Los Muertos Beach

Aside from the Pinnacle properties, I would recommend a variety of Airbnb’s in the Zona Romantica (Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town) as it’s easy to get around. Many of the buildings now have rooftop pools, perfect for lounging.  Here are a few properties we have booked through Airbnb, and if you like any of them, feel free to use my referral code for a discount (and benefit to me too!).

  • Molina Del Agua – Huge 3 bedroom apartments. No rooftop pool, but a large garden pool and lawn to lounge and their own private area of beach with 5-7 lawn chairs.  Adjacent to Isla Cuale.
  • The Park – Apartment building with a rooftop pool.  We were able to reserve two, 2-bedroom apartments for our family of 8, but the building is located right next to the bus stop which can be noisy on the lower floors.

New Year’s Eve started as any other relaxing vacation in a resort town. We like to start our days with a jog down the Malecon, dodging the cruise ship passengers as we run from the River Cuale to the Hotel Buena Ventura and back. The entire route is paved and flat, easy for a morning stroll.  After a quick breakfast, we decided to get a massage at one of the many spa’s cropping up in the Romantic Zone. This time I tried Xihuitl Spa. Their deep tissue massage was AMAZING! I’m not sure if there are any liability laws in Mexico, but if there were, they were definitely not afraid to lay into me, and I immediately cancelled all of my chiropractic appointments back home.

Xihuitl Spa

Lázaro Cárdenas 155, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

By this time it was 11:00 AM, and since it was too early for lunch, we decided on margaritas, ofcourse.  Joe Jack’s Fish shack is a well known seafood restaurant in the area, with in my opinion, some of the best passion fruit margaritas.  Yellow passion fruit is indigenous to Mexico, and these margaritas tasted fresh with real fruit. It might be hard to get a spot at the bar, as this is a popular spot, but they can take your name and call you when space is available.

Joe Jack’s Fish Shack

Basilio Badillo 212, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

After a marg or two, we decide it’s time for lunch, and simply meander across the street to Margarita Grill for our meal.  Not to be confused with the chain Margaritaville by Senor Buffet, this is a local restaurant with tropical decor and huge goblets of frozen margarita.  The portions are also huge, and we easily shared the beef fajitas with a ceviche appetizer.

Margarita Grill

Pino Suárez 321, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

Sufficiently full in our bellies and margaritas in our minds, we decide it’s time for a hike.  We know of an unsanctioned hike along the beach that takes you from Los Muertos Beach to Conchas Chinas.  If you walk from Los Muertos along the beach to Amapas beach, you’ll find some stairs just past the Seahorse statue.  Climb the stairs into the next small secluded beach, and there’s a sidewalk on the next hill along the beach. Follow the sidewalk along the beach past villas, and abandoned beach stalls, and on through new condo development until you reach Conchas Chinas.  This is a pretty stretch of rocky beach popular with families. At the end of the beach you’ll come to Lindo Mar resort, where you can end your ‘hike’ with some guacamole at their restaurant La Playita. This would be a great place to watch the sunset, except we had to get on home to don our NYE party attire.

Lindo Mar Resort

Carretera Costera a Barra de Navidad Km. 2.5, Int. 1190, Conchas Chinas, 48399 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

Where to go for New Years? Well in a resort town the party is really everywhere, but what would people be doing?  There were a number of advertisements for a Studio 54 type party on the island in the River Cuale (Isla Cuale), or we knew the Malecon is famous for a street party, but we thought the crowd might be to rowdy for our old bones.  Without dinner plans or an idea in mind, we decide to let fate choose our course. Heading to Pancho’s Tacos to see what the line would be like, we were pleasantly pleased to find that Olas Altas in front of the Los Arcos hotel was closed off for a street party.  Great! That would be an option.

Tacos = Priorities! The line outside of Pancho’s Tacos every night alludes to the satiating as well as wallet satisfying meal ahead.  Their specialty is Tacos Al Pastor, and if you walk by when they set up at around 4:00 PM, you can see the chef preparing his daily meat on the skewer, piece by piece, and you know he is a meat master.  The lines are long, and while there are other establishments in town with good or even better tacos, Panchos was directly in our line of travel, so we waited a good thirty minutes in order to be seated = worth it!

Panchos Takos
Basilio Badillo 162, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

Bellies full, we saunter through the night to Mr. Flamingo’s. If the Zona Romantica is the heart of Gay Puerto Vallarta, then Mr. Flamigo’s is the rhythmic beat that keeps it dancing.  But on this night it seemed that the crowds were a little sparse, and we found ourselves leaving after one drink. The road was also closed in this area, but for some reason the crowds were not there.  Must be the area for the late night party, we thought, and we vowed to return. Yeah, we’re those finicky crowd chasers!

We headed up the street towards the beach to Bar La Playa, a small watering hole with a wide variety of tasty cocktails and a friendly staff.  The menu of cocktails have a wide range of flavors, with an emphasis on instagram worthy looking cocktails, offering something for everyone. But on this night, all the chairs were taken, and the few outside tables they had were also full, so we moved along.

Bar La Playa

Lázaro Cárdenas 179A, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco 48380

Street party on Calle Olas Altas

Alas, we ended up full circle at the block party in front of Los Arcos with 30 minutes to spare before midnight. The carnival was at full height of revelry, and the street area was packed with loud music and vivacious dancing from the crowd. As we squeezed our way through the crowd laughing and dancing, we found our own corner to take in the energy.   The crowd chanted the countdown, and just like that, another year had passed. If this was a sea of amateurs, we were happy to be wading in the deep end.

Have you spent time in Puerto Vallarta?  Tell me about it!

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