I’m in Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s glamorous west coast, where holidaymakers laze on palm-backed sandy beaches, watch the sunsets, then let loose in the pumping nightlife.
Getting here is a doddle as TUI fl y direct in 10 hours from the UK.
After landing early afternoon, within minutes I’m kicking back with a drink at the five-star, all-inclusive Now Amber Hotel right on the honey-hued Banderas Beach.
The mostly seaview rooms are spotless and spacious plus there’s luxury dining in its gourmet restaurants.
It has a variety of pools, al fresco bars and watersports on the beach. Leaving the resort proves to be something of a wrench.
But you definitely should head out as just down the road is the vibrant town centre, where the malecon (boardwalk) is buzzing with tourists sipping mojitos as waiters dart back and forth with platters loaded with colourful cuisine.
If you want to be led straight to the most authentic eateries, take a Bikes and Bites tour, offered by vallartafoodtours. com.
Mexican food has never tasted so good, with tacos drizzled with hot spicy salsas, carnitas – dubbed breakfast tacos – made with slow-cooked pork, as well as melt-in-the-mouth Barbacoa goat tacos all washed down with crisp local Victoria beer.
Should you fancy pushing the boat out, try a meal at the acclaimed La Leche (The Milk) restaurant.
The decor is entirely white – as if you’re in a milk bottle. Just try not to spill the red wine.
If you’re lucky enough to meet the eccentric chef Alfonso Cadena, he’ll tell you all you need to know about the place, and more.
Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a serene and magical day trip.
Spread over 64 acres this tropical paradise is perfect for getting lost in your thoughts and the beauty of nature.
For daredevils, a trip into the Sierra Madre mountains for the Canopy River Bridge tour is a good bet.
We are driven at high speeds in an opentopped buggy through the mountains before riding over the famed Canopy Bridge that hovers over the jungle.
I also enjoy a round of golf at a Jack Niklaus-designed course, Vista Vallarta, one of the top-quality nearby courses.
Guests at the Now Amber play for free. Another adventure on offer is a day at the deluxe Casitas Maraika beach club (casitasmaraika.com/beach-club), only accessible by hiking or boat.
Here we enjoy the sun with cocktails and the most exquisite ceviche – raw fish dishes – in chilled surroundings.
For a chance to swim with wild dolphins we board a boat chartered by Wildlife Connection (wildlifeconnection.com).
The excitement of seeing the creatures so close in their natural environment has many on the boat squealing with delight. We then travel up the coast to the more laid-back Riviera Nayarit region.
Staying at the five-star W Punta De Mita Hotel, set right on the beachfront, is a once-in-a-lifetime treat.
Sipping fresh-pressed juice on one of its in-pool loungers is an ideal way to cool off in the heat. Alternatively, head to the shore where a 1950s Chevrolet has been transformed into a trendy beach bar.
A great day out from here is a marine safari with Punta Mita Expeditions (puntamitaexpeditions.com) – where you can snorkel through coral reefs.
A trendy little hotel, the Cielo Rojo, in the hippy beach town of San Francisco, is a colourful abode with vine-covered walls and a busy organic restaurant, minutes from a bustling street full of markets and bars leading to the beach.
La Patrona Beach Club (lprluxury.com/ lapatronabeachclub), a stunning, openair beachfront restaurant is a beautiful place on the Riviera Nayarit to watch the sunset.
For a livelier night head to Sayulita. As cool as it is stunning, it’s a haven for surfers and hippies as well as tourists in the know.
We pop into a few bars, sampling mezcal with the locals, then grab a table at Don Pedros (donpedros.com) for the oysters – dubbed the best in town.
Getting there: Fly with TUI from Gatwick and Manchester from £617 per person return. Book at tui.co.uk.
Where to stay: Stay, all-inclusive, at the Now Amber hotel Puerto Vallarta from £225 per person per night. See nowresorts.com/ amber.
The W Punta de Mita starts from £209 per room per night. See wpuntademita.com Rooms at the Hotel Ciel Rojo start from £112 per room per night. Go to hotelcielorojo.com.
For more information on Puerto Vallarta visit visitpuertovallarta.com and for Riviera Nayarit visit rivieranayarit.com.
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