Although April ended up being a very busy month for travel, my trip to Puerto Vallarta was the only one that I actually planned as a vacation a couple months back (everything else came up pretty unexpectedly). This was my first time in Mexico and I ended up getting a good deal on Alaska Airlines for a direct flight from San Francisco. Usually when I travel I pack in as much as possible (9 days and 4 cities ? Sure!), but this time I really had three basic goals: Do nothing, have a couple beers by the beach, walk around and see the city a bit. It is difficult, but I managed to avoid trying to do too much this trip.
I stayed in Zona Romantica, which is the opposite direction from the newer all inclusive tourist resorts and just south of the Cuale river. The area here is still very touristy, but it doesn't feel like you are on the set of The Truman Show: Tropical Vacation like in some resorts. Although you are definitely being catered to as tourists here, there is more interaction here with locals. The "hotel zone" was built from the ground up north of the airport for tourists is more like a different world. It is designed to keep people apart.
What's the fun in that?
For those concerned about safety, Puerto Vallarta is just fine. The streets felt safe, people were friendly, and nothing we encountered raised concerns. The only big advantage to staying in the hotel zone on this front is that there are probably fewer people on the beach trying to sell you stuff, but that's about it. We were out at all hours too. No issues.
Overall, I'll be back at some point. I enjoyed my couple days on the beach with no plans whatsoever. :)