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by Brittany Yap, editor
 

Puerto Vallarta was one of three ports at which the ship stopped, and unfortunately the ship only spent about eight hours at each port. Many guests took advantage of the few hours they had at Puerto Vallarta by signing up for an onshore excursion. I chose ATV riding at Hacienda Ranch, just one of the activities offered. Others chose horseback riding, dune buggy riding, hiking, and biking. One of the most popular activities was the canopy adventure, where guests swung to and from a series of platforms mounted in the trees about 30 to 100 feet above the ground.

All participants in the ATV ride were briefed on how to operate an ATV quad and had to wear a helmet, goggles, and handkerchief to protect their face from dust. Because tour guides in the United States are strict and overly cautious with their guests (because they don’t want any lawsuits), I thought the Mexican guides would be the same way. However, they were very relaxed and trusting.
“ The tour guides were concerned for our safety, but they also let us have fun,” said Honolulu Community College student, Hanalei Jaber.

The following two hours were unforgettable. With adrenaline pumping and the sun beating down, we hit speeds of up to 40 m.p.h. on the dusty trails near the mountains. We maneuvered through little villages, up rocky steep hills, and through running rivers. I felt like a kid playing in the dirt without a care in the world. By the end of the day, my clothes were drenched from river water, and my skin was white from trail dust.

“ The best part was the last 20 minutes of the ride when they let us loose,” said Jaber. “We had a field day plunging into the river.”

After returning to the ranch and putting away our equipment, we were treated to a free lunch— authentic Mexican tacos with hand-made tortillas, all the trimmings, and bottled water or beer. A mariachi band played through lunch and guests shopped at little stores adjacent to the dining area. A boy, about 15, sold tiles painted by hand—literally, no brush.

The climax of the excursion was a tour of the tequila factory, also on the ranch property, where we learned what different tequilas are used for and the Mexican way of tasting tequila.

“ First smell it, then take a deep breathe in and out, then tilt the head back and pour the entire shot down the throat until it hits the stomach, and inhale once more so the taste overwhelms your senses,” said the local expert.

Good thing we did the tasting after we rode the ATVs! Many people bought tequila bottles to take back home. A bus tour of the countryside, a two-hour ATV ride, lunch, and tequila tasting, were all for a mere $99. It was worth it.

For those planning a trip to Mexico any time soon, Puerto Vallarta is very rich in culture, and if you only have a day, Hacienda Ranch will definitely be an unforgettable experience and well worth the money.

 

Quick Facts

Name: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Location: On Mexico’s Pacific Coast in the state of Jalisco. The town sits on the shore of one of the world’s largest bays—the “Bahia de Banderas” or “Bay of Flags.”

Area: 1,980 square miles

Population: 300,000

Languages: Spanish (official) and Latin-American Spanish

Tourists: Two million annually. It’s the second most-visited destination in Mexico.

Climate: The town has a semi-tropical climate with an average daily temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.

 


Brittany Yap stands in front of a fountain at Hacienda Ranch, to take one last photo before boarding the bus back to the ship. The tequila-tasting factory is in the background.

Photo by Hanalei Jaber


Guests position themselves in a convoy as the tour guide gives last-minute instructions before their two-hour activity begins. Brittany Yap shows the peace sign.

Photo by Hanalei Jaber


Another cruise ship comes into dock at Puerto Vallarta. Annually, about two million tourists visit the town located on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

Photo by Brittany Yap


The tour guide takes pictures of his soaked guests as they pose near a river they plunged through on their ATVs. The cool water was a refreshing relief from Mexico’s hot sun.

Photo by Brittany Yap


 

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