The Vallarta–Cabo Compromise: Cruising the Mexican Riviera

Puerto Vallarta cruist me hammock 7-2012 WM Fuji Velvia

The Vallarta – Cabo Compromise: Cruising the Mexican Riviera

Unlike most of the world, the idea of going on a cruise has never been entirely appealing to me. I get that they’re amazing in theory:

Travel? Check ✅

Saltwater? Check ✅

All you can eat? Che<nomnomnom>ck ✅

Swim up pool bar? Double check ✅✅

What lacks appeal, for me, is the lack of adventure. Days and days at sea with just 6-10 hours on shore to explore each destination just doesn’t seem like enough. I want to meander down the side roads, snack at the street stalls and find a sunny spot to sit and people watch without having to constantly check the time against the ships schedule.

What if I find a gorgeous and thought-provoking piece of street art? Or an outdoor artisan market with a million sparkling bits and bobs? Or a bartender with a dimple and a twinkle in his eye that lights up at my hilarious jokes?

You get the picture.

Despite all that, one of my best gal pals and I recently stumbled upon a 7 day Mexican Riviera Carnival Splendor Cruise a last minute deal that would have been a sin to bypass. And just like that, a few days later found ourselves mounting the ramp of a ship that was to set sail south from Long Beach Harbor along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Girl’s trip!

Cabo San Lucas boat arch 7-2012 me katy cruise (1) WM.jpg

Fast forward just enough time to drop off our tiny bags in our tiny room and change into our tiny bikinis, we hopped straight into the pool (margaritas in hand, obviously) and started to plan out our options. The cruise ship of course had several excursions available for our stops in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta – dolphin swims, snorkeling, kayaking, zip lining – the possibilities were essentially endless. Only problem was, of the 6-day duration, only 2 of them were opportunities to dock and explore.

My partner-in-crime-cruise had nothing but sun, fun and relaxation on her mind, so this was absolutely fine for her. The voyager in me, however, felt a little claustrophobic at the idea of such little adventure time. I mean, I love karaoke and cocktails on a boat as much as the next sane person, but this is the Mexican Riviera!

The Vallarta – Cabo Compromise

Cabo San Lucas boat arch 7-2012 me katy cruise (16) wm.jpg

So, as any good pirate wood do, we came to an accord.

The Vallarta-Cabo Compromise. (ahem ©) 😉

The ship would first sail all the way down to Puerto Vallarta, where we agreed we’d sign-up for one of the advertised excursions – a secluded beach getaway complete with snorkeling, paddle surfing and a seafood buffet (yes please!). I mean come on, even a vagabond backpacker couldn’t turn that down!

The compromise?

We’d do Cabo my way. No organized excursions and no following an “expedition leader” holding a red umbrella in the air. We would dock, hop off and find an adventure.

Las Caletas, Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta cruist me hammock 7-2012 WM Fuji Velvia

When the ship finally docked in Puerto Vallarta (FREEDOM!), we joined the herd  to exit in a mass that would put Disneyland lines to shame. Packed together like sardines with the other excursion-goers and waiting for our group to be called, I would be lying if I said I was optimistic about the day ahead. Finally we were called, and our group of 15ish (thankfully smaller than many of the others) exited the ship and made our way to a catamaran. Now, this was more like it.

Las Caletas Beach Hideaway

We set off along the coast to the hidden beach of Las Caletas. The journey was stunning, to put it lightly. Turquoise waters, a dramatic coastline with verdant green vegetation and impossible rock formations. A pod of dolphins dip and bob and weave their way around us and a group of kayakers wave up to us as they rest beneathe the shade of some high hanging cliffs at the shoreline. The Pacificos and Tecates are free flowing and the wind is in my hair. Looks like these excursions actually might be all they’re cracked up to be.

Winter is is the worst. #daydreaming of #mexico ☀️🌴🗺

A post shared by Erica | Get Lost! 🌍✈️ (@getup_getout_getlost) on

As we pull up and anchor, we’re greeted by what can only be described as paradise. A golden beach lined with palms and hibiscuses, hammocks and lounge chairs, and tranquil, clear waters reflecting the sunlight. We’re immediately led to the open bungalow-style dining area where the buffet awaits – fish, lobster, shrimp, salads, rice dishes and more. All with spectacular views of our stunning surroundings. Yep. These excursions are, in fact, all they’re cracked up to be.

Puerto Vallarta cruist food 7-2012 (3) WM.jpg

We pass the rest of the afternoon in a haze of peace and blissfulness. Exploring the hills above our cozy concealed beach, spying on the brightly colored fish with our scuba masks, taking the standup paddle boards out for a spin and some serious siesta time on the hammocks.

Wait… Do I love cruises after all?

Cabo de San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas boat arch 7-2012 me katy cruise WM Fuji Velvia

The next day was mine.

After a night of kareokee, hot tubs and girl talk, we docked once again the next morning and disembarked at the port of Cabo. I felt the familiar electric rush that buzzes through me every time I arrive in a new city with no plan and little idea where I am.

My favorite drug.

We knew that the thing to do in Cabo was to snorkel beneath the infamous arch at Land’s End, so now we just had to find our way there. Scanning the docks, I set my sights on the small fishing boats at the opposite end of the ships. Jackpot.

Cabo San Lucas boat arch 7-2012 WM Fuji Velvia

We made our way peering in to find a friendly face and little luck. We came across a boat with a couple of young guys playing cards in a small patch of shade, fishing poles and snorkel gear visible (silent squeal of delight). Thanks to the last few years of living in Spain, I greeted them and made some small talk in Spanish. As Bogart might say, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

After a few minutes of aimless chatter, we asked if they were busy (no), if they had snorkel masks (yes) and how much they would charge to take us out for a spin at the arches (about 10 bucks each). We shook on the deal and they pointed us toward the nearest shop where we could score some cervezas to pass the salty sweet afternoon.

The rest of the afternoon slipped away in splendid, unplanned perfection. The fishermen delivered us, as promised, to el Arco – the distinctive rock formation that adorns 99% of Cabo postcards and travel brochures. Snorkels and flippers firmly fastened, we flopped into the clear cerulean Sea of Cortez and allowed the gentle ebb and flow to guide us through vibrant schools of fish glittering beneath the Pacific sun.

Cabo San Lucas boat arch 7-2012 me katy cruise wm

We befriended a few more locals who pointed out a family of siesta seals sunbathing on a rock just beside the arch and explained to us why El Arco is sometimes known as ‘Land’s End’ – because from that point of the tip of Baja California, you can draw a straight, uninterrupted line to Antarctica without a single land mass in between.

Cabo San Lucas boat arch 7-2012 me katy cruise (18) WM.jpg

After a few laughs and a bit of cliff jumping with our newfound amigos, we eventually waded up to Lover’s Beach, where we feasted on the snacks that we-may-or-may-have-not have stashed away from the ships’ all you can eat buffet. Sand on my toes, salt in my hair, a full belly and a cerveza in hand. This, my friend, is the life.

The Vallarta – Cabo Conclusion

Puerto Vallarta cruist city 7-2012 (7) WM.jpg

So, who won this round of two bad ass travel babes?

The luxury travel, always in fashion, organized excursion gal, or the spontaneous, go with the flow vagabond?

One of the reasons we travel is to step out of ourselves, to explore new perspectives and to view the world from a different light. If we become so accustomed to a certain travel style, we begin to close ourselves off to another dimension of discovery. I absolutely adored the relaxing day we spent in Las Caletas, and she soaked up every moment of hitchhiking to Land’s End.

So, who wins? Both, obviously. It’s the Mexican Riviera, after all – you can’t lose 😉 Mexico is always a good idea.

What’s Your Travel Style?

Are you more of a go-with-the-flow traveler, or do you prefer organized tours? Have you ever travelled with someone who had a completely different travel style than you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow me for more on teaching English in Spain 📚 and adventures ✈ in the Canary Islands, Spain and the world 🌍!

Love & Light, Erica

© Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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38 Comments Add yours

  1. Danila Caputo says:

    Oh gosh! Here it’s so rainy and cold that I felt warmer just reading this post! I like how you took things in your hands, and it turned out for the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      We’re having an unseasonably cold winter here in the Canary Islands as well… I think that’s what inspired me to come back and wrap up this post!

      Like

  2. Tara Higgins says:

    I definitely like to mix n match when it comes to travel. At times, I’m all budget/backpacker looking for the most bang for my buck and how much activity I can pack into one day. Other days, I just want to spend the entire day on the beach or in the park reading and people watching followed by a “treatyoself” dinner or a bottle of wine by the sea. I like how you and your bestie compromised so you could both get the most out of the trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I used to be all about the adventure and spontaneity, but I have noticed over the last couple of years that I’m much more inclined to a pool lounger and sauvignon blanc then I used to be! Still, I like the freedom to choose my lazy days and not feel trapped in a strict itinerary.

      Like

  3. Shruti Bondal says:

    Love the pictures on this blog…amazing!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thank you so much! And thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  4. Brianna says:

    Yeah, honestly each one sounds like fun. I tend to be more organized in my planning, but I also like to leave days open to wherever the wind calls me! But either way, a Mexican Riviera cruise sounds so nice right about now! I’m so sick of winter 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Same! I think that’s what inspired me to dust off this half finished anecdote and polish it off… I needed to remember sunshine!

      Like

  5. Followingtherivera says:

    I’m more of a balanced traveller in that I like to plan as well as be spontaneous. It looks like you had a great time in Puerto Vallarta. It’s one place I’d love to visit one day!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I’ve done a lot of travelling on the Pacific Coast of (gorgeous) Mexico, and Puerto Vallarta is so far my favorite! The city is lovely and the surrounding beaches are pure paradise!

      Like

  6. dwyeraddie says:

    I do like to be spontaneous, but I also make sure to have a little bit of structure as well. This looks like an amazing trip! I hope I get to visit some day soon!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      The Pacific coast of Mexico is absolutely stunning! (As is the rest of Mexico.) I hope you get the chance to visit soon 🙂 Thanks for reading.

      Like

  7. Inge says:

    Great photography! Love the pictures you made, they’re very convincing :p

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thank you! And thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  8. dwyeraddie says:

    What a vacation! You got the best of both worlds! I am more like you, want to do my own thing and really explore somewhere. However, the thought of taking a cruise also appeals to me (probably because I’ve never done one before). To me though, my style travel is a trip, while a cruise would be a vacation, so maybe that’s why it appeals to me 🙂

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I totally agree. I’m glad that I did a cruise for the experience, but now that I’ve done one I think I’ll stick with exploring 🙂

      Like

  9. Looks like it was a fun trip!

    Like

  10. Mel says:

    It sounds that your vacation turned out great! I’m absolutely jealous of the hammock close to the beach, its one of my favourite things to do!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It was so gorgeous, if you ever find yourself in Puerto Vallarta I HIGHLY recommend Las Caletas Beach Hideaway!

      Like

  11. So did this convert you to the cruising type? We are still adventure seekers and have never cruised. You certainly have made the most of this trip. But I’m still not sure if we are sold on the cruise concept.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Definitely not converted, but I did enjoy myself! I’m much more of a slow, go with the flow traveler, so anything rushed isn’t quite up my alley. These days I live on the Canary Islands and island hopping here is ideal – hop on a boat for a couple hours to get that cruisy feeling, and then you dock and have unlimited time at your destination!

      Like

  12. This is an interesting post! I was just reading about some problems they are having in this area about illicit alcohol. It is nice to see some good things about this area too!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It’s such an incredible area! Granted there are some dangers like in most travel destinations, but the pros of Mexico faaaarr outway the potential cons, in my book!

      Like

  13. Candy & Crystal says:

    I think I’m a mix of the two. I like to keep my schedule somewhat flexible but also like to have some activities planned. I have traveled with someone with a different travel style than me and it can be a challenge at times, but I’m sure the other person felt the same way about me 🙂

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Admittedly, I’ve probably missed out on some great stuff due to lack of planning! Like with most things in life, I think balance is great with a travel and with a travel partner. Part research and planning, part spontanaity 🙂

      Like

  14. Travel with Mei and Kerstin says:

    We’re not beach persons but sometimes it’s good to spend a few days or a short week doing nothing but relaxing. Glad that you ended up having a great time in “paradise”! 🙂

    Like

  15. wewhoroamns says:

    Totally can relate to wanting to be off the boat more! I also get restless spending so much time in one place rather than roaming around. Which is probably why my choice of travel would be road trips since you are constantly on the move! Cruise ships are still fun though, but maybe every now and then…

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I’m with you on the road trips! It’s by far my favorite way to travel and it gives you so many opportunities to see the small towns and hidden nature gems that many people miss.

      Like

  16. Rachel says:

    this looks like such an exotic and relaxing holiday – I think I’m due a beach hols!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I think I’m constantly due for a beach holiday 😉

      Like

  17. Jas says:

    You’re not alone hahaa. I’m not a fan of cruises either. I mean just the idea of getting stuck on a boat and not being able to escape kinda terrifies me a little. It looks like you had a blast though! And I’ve actually been looking at visiting Cabo so I might just have to look into this cruise idea!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Sometimes you can get amazing last minute deals when they’re trying to fill the ships! There’s plenty to see and do around Cabo, you won’t be dissapointed!

      Like

  18. The lack of adventure would bother me too! I’ve heard good things about Carnival. My kids have really enjoyed going on a few with friends, thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

  19. I’ve traveled extensively throughout Mexico, but never have been to Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas. I’m with you; I’d rather set off exploring rather than have a limited amount of time on shore. It sounds like you and your friend came to a great compromise! That water surely made me miss the tropics!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Mexico is such a beautiful country, everytime I go I start planning when I can go back! I hope you make it to Cabo and (especially!) Puerto Vallarta some time soon!

      Like

  20. amaixico says:

    I loved to read about your experiences in my Country. I love exploring the places on my own and only sometimes maybe a tour. But I think you can enjoy the places so much more taking your time and your decisions. I hope you can come back soon!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I can’t wait to come back! When I lived in California we would visit relatively often, but it’s much more complicated now that I’m based in Spain! I’m hoping to do a proper trip through Central America sooner than later, and the south of Mexico is at the top of that list!

      Like

  21. Michelle says:

    Hubby and I are definitely planned travellers! We like to have all our days planned out but we like to do everything ourselves instead of taking professional tours or hiring tour guides. I’m a little bit more go with the flow than hubby is, so I do like to have time to just wander and explore.

    Like

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