Dolphin show at Aquaventuras in Puerto Vallarta

Dolphin show at Aquaventuras in Puerto Vallarta

By Eileen Ogintz

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (DAY 3) — Meet the cutest sisters you have ever seen.

Quetzalla is two and Barlaam is three and-a-half and their antics certainly will keep you laughing.

They are among the seven dolphins at Puerto Vallarta’s most popular family attraction:  Dolphin Discovery Aquaventuras Park.

“Dolphins are like kids—they need to learn something new every day,” says trainer Kim Coca, who wants everyone who visits to leave with an appreciation of how important it is to keep our oceans clean. These dolphins have been bred in captivity but certainly seem happy with enthusiastic trainers, healthy eats and 24 hour medical care as well as plenty of space to play.

There are dolphin discovery programs run by this company all over the Caribbean but this park is different because for the same price (a little over $100) there is a challenge course, water slides, a water play area for younger kids, even a zipline over the slides). And you get lunch too.

Families with young children opt for “dolphin encounter;” older kids and adults can actually swim with the

Water Slides at Aquaventuras in Puerto Vallarta

Water Slides at Aquaventuras in Puerto Vallarta

ee why this place is so popular!

Puerto Vallarta is located on Mexico’s Pacific Coast–on the Bay of Banderas, Mexico’s largest bay where you may see Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in the water.  Every year, Humpback Whales migrate here to breed from September to April and you can watch them in the bay.  The Olive Ridley marine turtle is also protected and from July-November, they come to lay their eggs on the beaches.  A hotel and government sponsored initiative invites families to come see the baby turtles released in the ocean.

For those who wanted to get away—there are the Las Caletas Islands with the backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains—an excellent place to snorkel, kayak or bird watch.  Let’s not forget Los Arco National Marine Park popular for divers and snorkelers a like with rock arches, runnels and reefs teeming with sea life.

What I especially like about Puerto Vallarta is the choices of things you have to do.  Of course you have the beach, water sports and your pick of all inclusive resorts.  But  Puerto Vallarta is also home to one of the fastest growing art scenes in the country with more than 30 galleries and public art that lines the Malecon, the town’s seaside boardwalk popular with locals and tourists alike.

The Malecon is also lined with shops, bars and restaurants but everyone poses to take their picture with the giant sculptures like the nine-foot-high Seahorse that has become  the most enduring symbol of the city since its installation in 1976.

Sculpture along the Boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta

Sculpture along the Boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta

My favorite is Ramiz Barquet’s La Nostalgia which represents his own life—falling in love, being separated from his love, and ultimately becoming reunited. The couple seems to be looking out at sea.

The Rotunda on the Sea is an ensemble of seven mostly sea inspired sea creatures.

From late October till the end of May there is a free evening art walk Wednesdays from 6-10 p.m.  that helps you find the galleries on the Centro Historico, with its charming cobblestoned streets.

I also learned that this state where Puerto Vallarta is located is where the agave plant was first turned into spirits.   The new Viva Tequila Experience with its interactive museum, tasting and live show is fun for the whole family.  And soon, there will be supervised kids activities while parents enjoy the tasting—do you prefer white or gold tequila?

We end the evening eating local seafood–snapper, lobster tacos, shrimp and grilled octopus on the beach at one of the many restaurants La Palapa.  The waves are lapping, there are soft lamps hanging in the sand—all that and dinner is a bargain.

Sometimes vacations don’t get better than this.