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PV on the Cheap: Inexpensive and Authentic Mexico

December 15, 2003 - Providing a counterpoint to manmade Cancun on the opposite coast, Puerto Vallarta offers a genuine Mexican experience from it's roaming mariachi bands along the beach to myriad vendors selling real, local cuisine from their food carts in the Zona Romantica. Just outside of town are rainforests you can explore from ziplines, sleepy fishing villages like Bucerias that attract surfers from around the world and tequila distilleries to tour. We've rounded up several air and hotel packages to get you there.

Aeromexico has some of the best deals going through the end of December 2003. Departing from Los Angeles, you can spend three nights at the Riu Jalisco, all-inclusive, from $439. Up to two kids can stay free (through age 12) with two adults in a family room only. If you want to upgrade your hotel, try the Crown Paradise from $499, also all-inclusive, or going whole hog, the Grand Velas from $709. Also all-inclusive, this resort guarantees you an upgrade to an Ambassador Suite, and gives you a two-day spa pass per stay, as well as allowing unlimited golf (green fees) at Vista Vallarta & Marina. If you can travel by December 23, 2003, they have a deal at the Melia PV with an oceanview room upgrade starting at just $424, again all-inclusive. Contact Aeromexico Vacations at 800/245-8585 (in Spanish at 800/672-8380), or visit www.aeromexicovacations.com.

If you are lucky enough to have eight days off to celebrate New Year's, give a thought to Sun Trips, which has a neat package departing from Oakland on December 29, 2003. The deal includes roundtrip air, the hotel, transfers, all hotel taxes and service charges; making it all-inclusive adds on the meals, drinks, tips, entertainment and activities. Cheapest is a stay at the three-star San Marino with a plan that includes breakfast, for $749. There are five other resorts involved, some just European Plan (no meals or activities), but two are all-inclusive, costing $1119 and $1279, respectively, at the four-star Viva Wyndham and the five-star Riu Jalisco. Flights on public charters. Contact Sun Trips at 800/SUNTRIPS or visit them at www.suntrips.com.

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Liberty Travel likes the Fiesta Americana resort in PV, and says if you book by January 18, 2004, you can get a five-night vacation there for just $935 out of New York (JFK). The package includes that airfare, airport/hotel transfers, the lodging, free continental breakfast daily, and hotel taxes. They say the price is lowered by making your fifth night "free". You can travel from January 7 through 31, 2004. Typical prices for departures from other cities include $885 from Miami, $809 from Chicago and $679 from Los Angeles. These packages use US Airways and Mexicana Airlines, with Monday through Thursday departures. American & Continental airlines are for Sunday through Wednesday departures, and Aeromexico is for departures Mondays through Fridays. Contact Liberty at 888/271-1584 (automated recording only) or visit www.libertytravel.com.

The prices in all the packages mentioned above are per person in a double room, subject to availability and with some restrictions. Prices do not include airport taxes and fees.

For additional information on Puerto Vallarta, pore over our free online guide at www.frommers.com/destinations/puertovallarta. You can also take a gander at the official tourism site at www.puertovallarta.net.

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