Mexico has a handful of cases of COVID-19, but when I arrived in Puerto Vallarta this morning, one couldn’t tell the difference.
My flight wasn’t full, but it appeared other arrivals around the same time were. The crush of pale northerners seeking sun at the resorts around Banderas Bay seemed about like it always has. The bottleneck of first-timers falling for the timeshare pitches at the Customs exit was the same; the frenzied hunt for a licensed taxi the same; even the midmorning Saturday traffic exiting the airport the same.
Aside from some diligent area cleaning with disinfectant wipes by many passengers during the flight, this was a relatively normal Spring Break period arrival.
Puerto Vallarta itself seems similarly unfazed by the threat of the virus, and everyone, from the Customs agent to the cab driver, beamed with the warm hospitality that has made Mexico a sought-after destination among leisure travelers for decades.
The pool loungers at the Westin Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa are gone by lunchtime. The extent of social distancing here is wading across the pool to the swim-up bar for a frozen drink or a bowl of ceviche.
There is a pump of hand sanitizer at each station at the front desk that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there when I last visited a few years ago; aside from that, it’s business as usual. From my ocean view room, I can see the bay cruises coming and going to Marina Vallarta, and they seem fuller than normal for a Saturday, which is often a changeover day here when visitors arrive and depart and aren’t likely to be interested in same-day excursions.
Saturday is also traditionally not a cruise ship day for Puerto Vallarta as seven-day itineraries from California typically berth here midweek. The impacts of the cruise industry hiatus won’t be felt at many of the resorts here, but I begin to wonder about the outlook for many of the day boat operators whose boats are full—today.
Everybody at the resort, it seems, is in vacation mode. There’s no discussion of outbreaks or supply shortages, only discussions about where to have dinner or what time to make reservations for, or whether one prefers a margarita frozen or on the rocks.
Beaches are still dotted with joggers, beachcombers, ocean bathers, trinket sellers and hair braiders. There’s still a living to be made on the hot sand. “Amigo, amigo, would you like to look?” With foot traffic still strong, his major concern is what it was before anybody even heard of COVID-19—that fewer visitors these days carry cash.
For travelers seeking to escape, Puerto Vallarta has always been an attractive respite. Today, at least, that still hasn’t changed. The neighboring Riviera Nayarit Region has published recommendations for travelers with concerns about coronavirus, noting that to date no cases have been reported in the states of Jalisco or Nayarit.
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