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5 Must-Visit Mexican Destinations

Take your family south of the border to score sweet deals and have some fun in the sun.

By Laura Manske

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"Horseback riding near Puerto Vallarta/Courtesy of Rancho el Charro"
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Puerto Vallarta

Between the hike-friendly foothills of the Sierra Madres and 26 miles of supersoft sand, you'll find Puerto Vallarta, a charming town set along the horseshoe-shape Banderas Bay, with both ocean and mountain diversions.

Zigzag through the streets of Viejo Vallarta (Old Town), past the Baroque-style Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, topped with a golden crown. Listen to mariachi melodies in palm-shaded plazas or just people-watch while you stroll the seaside boardwalk, the Malecón. Find locally made leather huaraches (sandals) and bright sarapes (shawls) at the main flea market, Mercado Municipal, then catch a little culture at the Mexican Fiesta, with its folkloric dancing, clowns, piñatas, and fireworks ( Basilio Badillo (known as Restaurant Row) is where you'll find the bustling Café de Olla; stop in for authentic fare like enchiladas and quesadillas. Outside of town you can take a horseback ride ( or visit a turtle camp—in August visitors can release hatchlings into the sea ( And to the south, in the town of Mismaloya, Zoologico de Vallarta has white Bengal tigers, and guests can hand-feed giraffes and other animals ( Or take an hour-long boat ride to Las Caletas to relax in beach hammocks overlooking amazing vistas (

Where to Stay
The centrally located 236-room Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Spa has three pools and a giant Jacuzzi. Rates start at $135 and kids under 12 stay free ( The small and simple Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas, also within walking distance of Puerto Vallarta's commercial zone, has kitchenettes and a pool—as well as a great view of the bay (, from $99).

Must-Do Freebie
Spend an afternoon on the city's south side at Playa de Los Muertos, a bustling beach where musicians and dancers perform and bodybuilders strut their stuff.

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