Admit it or not, we all possess a bit of healthy voyeurism, delighting in the opportunity to see how others live, especially in the unique seaside ambiance of Puerto Vallarta. Thanks to the efforts of Vallarta’s International Friendship Club (IFC), visitors and locals alike can stroll through some of the most beautiful homes in the bay area, experiencing first-hand life in “Paradise.”
Beginning in mid-November and running through April, the IFC’s home tours are offered every Wednesday and Thursday. This wildly popular tour, operating since 1986, begins at Aquiles Serdan 242 across the street from Molino de Agua condominiums, where ticket sales begin at approximately 9:30 am. The bus departs at 10:30 and if needed, a second bus departs at 11:00 am. For three hours, in the comfort of air-conditioned coaches, patrons are transported to four stellar residences, some ocean-side, others in the undulating hills of Conchas Chinas and other charming neighborhoods.
Knowledgeable and entertaining expatriate docents volunteer their time to provide interesting commentary in transit, offering patrons the chance to satisfy their curiosity about shopping, buying, driving, residing and thriving in Vallarta. Over the course of the tour, participants visit four intriguing homes, spending about 20 minutes in each, exploring the premises, taking pictures if they like and fantasizing about being the lucky proprietors. With over 50 residences available for viewing and featured homes changing each week, the tours often attract return customers. (The current record for most tours taken by one individual is 17!)
Best of all, the home tour proceeds are used to provide assistance to the local community. A large portion helps fund a very successful cleft palate program that brings doctors to Puerto Vallarta four times a year to do corrective surgery on children who would otherwise have to live with this disfiguring birth defect. Prior to the assistance lent by the home tour revenues, the closest source for corrective surgery was Guadalajara, a financially prohibitive option for many locals. Currently, the International Friendship Club flies-in Guadalajara doctors, who donate their services. The IFC pays all other related medical costs incurred through completion of the operation, so patients receive care free of cost. Each time the surgeons visit, approximately a dozen operations are completed.
Home tour revenues also provide financial assistance to local schools and to financially compromised individuals who need eye surgery/glasses, hearing aids, medications and medical treatment, to name a few. And a portion of the $450 Peso ticket price helps support various civic/service organizations, including a scholarship program for local students, a safe house for needy families, an orphanage, a day care center, the public library, a boys home and a rice and beans program that helps feed families and keep kids who might otherwise have to work in school. It should be noted that since 2008, Smile Train Inc. contributes significantly to our Cleft Palate program.
Thanks to the patronage of some 4000 locals and visitors yearly, the home tours provide a large portion of the International Friendship Club’s annual $1 million peso budget, all of which is used to serve those in need. It is the only not-for-profit tour in Vallarta and is the community’s largest fund-raiser. Over 20 docents volunteer their time, and more than four dozen residents open up their homes to assure the tour’s success.
Reservations are not taken. Just show up early (9:30 am is recommended) at Aquiles Serdan 242 across the street from Molino de Agua condominiums, on the day you wish to tour and purchase your ticket. Comfortable walking shoes are suggested. Participants may be required to climb some steep hills and stairs. Call the IFC at 222-5466 for more information.