Bride Danielle: Honeymoon in Paradise

Danielle and Tim at their beachside dinner at Dreams Villamagna.

Tim and I had an incredible time on our Mexican honeymoon in Riviera Nayarit, the area north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. We found the landscape to be just gorgeous — it truly was paradise. Knowing we would be exhausted from planning, wedding weekend and also travel, we decided to spend the first half of the trip relaxing at a full-service, all-inclusive resort to recuperate before heading to a more rustic hotel and take surf lessons.

We flew to Puerto Vallarta out of Newark, which saved us about $500. It was brutal getting up in the middle of the night to get there, but it was completely worth the savings. We couldn’t get a direct flight from either Philly or Newark, so we figured we’d bite the bullet and sleep on the beach when we arrived. It was not a bad choice. However, by the time we arrived at PVR we were cranky and not happy about all the solicitation going on in the airport. For those of you used to flying into Cancun, it’s a different experience in the smaller, west-coast airport. It was super pushy — but we finally got loud, grabbed a cab, and were whisked away to our first stop, Dreams Villamagna in Nuevo Vallarta.

We spent five days at the resort, which was beautiful, simply relaxing and spending quiet time together. We were surprised at the amount of children there, and we ended up spending most of our time hanging on the beach under a palm umbrella reading and sipping drinks. The beach was gorgeous and the ocean clear and warm, so we were happy camping out there reading and napping. Highlights of the week were definitely our beach dinner (the sunset was gorgeous, and the food was very good for an all-inclusive), the gorgeous soaking tub, and of course, the balcony Jacuzzi. We had lots of champagne, and surprisingly, we really enjoyed eating breakfast on the balcony and in bed. It was so nice to be able to ease into the day after so much craziness.

After five days we were feeling relaxed and we got into another cab and headed north to the small surf town of Sayulita in search of our next resort, Playa Escondida. This self-proclaimed “Private Jungle-Beach Hideaway & Spa,” was difficult to find (the cab driver had to ask for directions three times) due to the fact that there were no street signs, and we had to climb up a dirt road, which led to a cobblestone road over a steep hill, then back down again to the hotel. Let me tell you, the trek was worth it. This place was just amazing — little rooms open to the outdoors, with impeccable service and very few people at all (and no children).

We had selected a small room closest to the ocean, with shutters that opened up to a view of waves crashing on the rocks. I felt like I was in a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, looking out at the horizon. The ocean kept Tim awake the first night and he had to go get a pair of earplugs from Guest Services, but I loved the sound – it completely lulled me to sleep. The food was excellent at this resort, the bartender was both talented and personable, and I had the most incredible spa experience way up in the top of a tree house with a view of nothing but ocean.

We decided we would definitely go back to this resort, which was a great bargain. However, if you aren’t good in rustic environments, we do not recommend this to you. With open rooms, narrow paths that require flashlights at night, and mosquito netting, it’s definitely not for everyone. And while we were there we experienced a phenomenon that I’m glad I saw, but I would definitely not want to stomach ever again: the land crab migration.

One of our newlyweds' little uninvited house guests.

During land crab migration, thousands of male land crabs (a protected species that cannot swim) head down out of the hills to the beach to dig holes so the females can come lay their eggs. This usually happens right around the beginning of rainy season, and the first rain took place our second-to-last night. Needless to say, our last day and night the migration was on! It was incredible to watch these little guys dig out nests for their would-be mates, but our room happened to be in the direct path to the beach. And as I mentioned, all the rooms are open. So we came back around 12:30 our last night to find crabs pouring into the shower. I had been dealing with the elements pretty well, but I kind of lost it when I considered having to sleep with crabs running around my room.

Tim did what any new husband would do – he stayed up most of the night pushing the crabs back out the windows so I could sleep. He was my hero – totally won lots of husband points that night which I will have to pay back doing awful things that I swear I will do without grumbling. He finally crawled into bed around 4 a.m. and had to sleep by the pool the next day before we left for the airport. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, when you’re LEAVING, PVR is a great airport. It’s clean, with marble floors, and bathrooms that you could eat in. Unbelievable how different our experiences were coming and going.)

And of course, the highlight of the trip (aside from the crabs) was our surf lessons. We booked two days of lessons through WildMex, a school that got consistently great reviews on We had a very patient instructor, though Tim did not need patience, as he was such a natural he stood on his FIRST TRY! I was insanely jealous, tripping myself the first few times I tried to get up. Finally, after an hour, I got the hang of it and I have to say, we are both now totally hooked. We’ve already talked about going back for four-day surf camp – sometime other than during land crab migration!

For all you brides still planning, I completely recommend trying something a little off the beaten path – after you have had some time to relax and catch up on sleep. Thanks for reading, and I wish you all the best in your plans and your future as a bride and a wife.

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