This article is from the March 2001 The Mexico File
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East Coast, West Coast
by Lynne Doyle
Lynne Doyle is a
subscriber from Maine who recently took her first trip to Puerto Vallarta after
visiting Mexico’s East Coast for several years.
After sampling the delights
of Cancún and the Yucatán for many years, this year – thanks to Dave
Simmonds and Bernie Santos – we finally got to the West Coast and Puerto
Vallarta. However, since I’ve been excusing myself for my love of Cancún ever
since I hooked up with The Mexico File, and since according to
Frommer’s, they are the two most visited resorts in Mexico, it seems I did a
little involuntary comparing of the two. Here’s a little of what I found in my
journal when I got home.
From the northeast U.S., you
can leave in the morning and be on the beach in Cancún at noon. To get to PV
requires 18 hours of travel (more time in Houston than anybody needs), a
slow crawl to your room and at least a day to recover.
PV has wonderfully quaint
cobblestones; Cancún has an idiot-proof bus system.
Cancún has pristine coral
sand beaches with not a rock or seashell for a hundred miles. PV offers rocky,
gritty sand, gorgeous shells I’ve never seen before (plus one specimen
supposedly only found in the Caribbean!), and the sound of surf to go to sleep
PV has an art gallery on
every corner. I’ve searched for ten years in Cancún and found only one...but
there are at least five American chain gyms.
In Cancún, the sky is
always blue, the water always turquoise, and it never, but never, rains. PV has
a breathtaking sunset every night.
PV has traditional
architecture, a handsome centuries-old cathedral and picturesque white buildings
with red-tiled roofs. Cancún features five (count ‘em, five) malls just like
the ones at home.
Cancún has broad,
spotlessly clean tree-lined streets with tópes to control vehicle speed. PV has
narrow, crowded streets with foot-high curbs to control rainy season runoff from
Both PV and Cancún have
abundant quantities of folk art from all over Mexico and both cities sport the
pricing expected of major tourist attractions. You really need to go to the
representative states for good buys.
Cancún is a planned resort
where shopping of interest to tourists is concentrated and easily accessed. In
PV, to get to our favorite folk art gallery, we passed a pharmacy, several
restaurants, a nail salon, a beautiful private home, a hardware store (Mexican
style...), a place to buy car batteries and a children’s clothing store, not
to mention negotiating those curbs.
PV has several large
supermarkets and, price-wise, they’re a steal. Cancún has one and the prices
are much the same as at home. We couldn’t find skim milk in either place.
In Cancún, you can buy lots
of leather goods, but most of it is made in either the U.S. or Taiwan. In PV you
can watch your belts and huaraches being made.
IN PV, they not only wrap
well, but will also ship reliably and for reasonable cost. As a collector of
Talavera pottery, this is a big deal to me. In Cancún, I have yet to find a
shop that knows how to wrap for travel, and currently, no one offers shipping
No one will ever describe
either Cancún or PV as economy vacation spots, but in Cancún if you did deep
enough, you can find clean economy hotels and non-Mexican restaurants at bargain
prices. In PV, while there is at least one economy hotel, if you need to eat
cheap, you’d better like tacos.
In PV, forward-thinking
restauranteurs post notices announcing water purification systems. In Cancún,
drinking the water is never a problem.
Cancún is a great place to
go to rest, beach, drink, party and renew. In PV you can be as lazy or as busy
as you want to be.
In both Cancún and PV, all
Mexicans seem to think all Americans are rich.
In PV, you get to shop, eat,
travel and share the sidewalk with the Mexican people, at the same time that you
experience their culture. In Cancún, the only Mexicans you will see are either
waiting on you, selling you something or driving your taxi.
Cancún has Mayan ruins. PV
has the Pacific humpback whale.
In PV everyone speaks
English. In Cancún everyone understands English.
In Cancún, you can walk for
half a mile and still be only up to your knees in water. In PV, the undertow can
and will knock you on your ass and steal your $300 sunglasses.
The entire Yucatán
peninsula is as flat as a board. In PV, the majestic Sierra Madres run right
into the sea.
In Cancún, some of the
hotels have peacocks and iguanas living on the grounds. In PV, you can see downy
egrets, great white herons, pelicans and brown boobies as you stroll around
In PV, at least the Mexicans
are native to the area. In Cancún, even the Mexicans are from somewhere else.
In both Cancún and PV, all
Mexicans seem to think all Americans are drunks.
In Cancún, you can sweat
24/7/365. In PV, while days can be warm, the dawns and dusks are mild and
The West Coast has
earthquakes. The East Coast has hurricanes.
In Cancún, the salsa is
made of tomato, onion, etc. In PV, salsa consists of jalapeño with some other
stuff thrown in.
PV had Liz Taylor and
Richard Burton. Cancún has the folks from Baywatch.
From a plane, Cancún looks
like Miami. PV looks like Mexico.
In PV, lots of great places
can be reached only by boat. In Cancún, an air-conditioned taxi can get you
anywhere you want to go.
Both Cancún and PV are
overrun with beach peddlers and timeshare salespeople, although in PV there are
more of them and they seem a little more enthusiastic.
In PV, a house tour will
take you to Mexican-style homes built in the 20th century. In Cancún,
before 1971, there was nothing but sand.
In Cancún, all public baños
are functional, but some of them don’t have seats. In PV, it’s hit or miss
in terms of flushing, but they all have seats.
For every good cook in Cancún,
PV has two master chefs.
PV has Memo Barroso’s La
Casa de la Hotcakes. Cancún doesn’t.
Cancún has lots of pre- and
post-Hispanic history all around it. PV has a little colonial history here and
In PV, there are several
different kinds of stores that carry English paperback novels at reasonable
prices. In Cancún, there is one, FAMA, that has a limited inventory of
paperbacks that cost as much as a hardback.
Both PV and Cancún area photographer’s dream, although with vastly different subject matter.
My very patient husband
occasionally accompanies me to Cancún. He is actually talking about spending
the winter months in PV....