Things We Never See in Minnesota


I spent a week in the Puerto Vallarta, Mexico area a few weeks ago. My sister has lived there for 20 years, and I went for a long overdue visit. While there, I saw many things we never see in Minnesota.

I’m not just talking about palm trees and the ocean (actually, since we have Lake Superior it’s very much like having an ocean)…but more unusual things. Things that jumped out at me because they’re so different.

Here we go…

Bougainvillea the size of trees


I fell in love with bougainvillea on my first trip to Puerto Vallarta back in 2000. This gorgeous, hardy flowering vine isn’t native to Mexico (it comes from South America), but it sure thrives there! Not only is it common in the landscaping of businesses, hotels and homes, it grows wild along the roadsides.

I’ve tried to keep one in a pot several times for reblooming, but with no success so far. I see there are numerous online articles about that, so I’ll probably give it another go.

Besides bougainvillea, there are dozens of other large subtropical plants we can only grow as house plants here.

Muskie-size dead fish washed up on shore

walking in mexico

Sorry—kinda gross. This specimen was washed up on the beach near my sister’s home. I’ve seen small dead fish along the lake shores in Minnesota, but nothing this cool!

Cows hanging out in the streets

life in mexico

Not just cows, but horses (which—I’m so bummed about—I didn’t get a picture of!) and chickens. We see lots of cows in Minnesota, but they’re all behind bars, not grazing casually next to restaurants.

3 and 4-foot lizards


This iguana wasn’t that big—maybe 2 feet long with the tail—but we saw some that were! Iguanas are fairly iconic for Mexico. They’re quite common, especially in the hot afternoons. We saw several large ones sunning themselves on the rocks next to the water.

Hiking trails called the “Jaguar Trail”

hiking in mexico

Black bear, moose, wolf…yes. Jaguar? No. How amazing would it be to see one of those beautiful cats in the wild?!

Decorative steps along the hiking trails

mexican stone work

We noticed some of these along a trail in the Botanical Gardens near Puerto Vallarta. I wonder if anyone in Minnesota has thought of using beautiful stonework like this on their trails?

Spiders the size of my hand


This was the only one on this list I didn’t see outside. In fact, it was much too close for comfort—it was in my bedroom at my sister’s house one morning! If it wasn’t a tarantula, it was a very close cousin.

Lisa very calmly took care of the issue and I even slept soundly the rest of the week!

Crocodile warning signs

life in mexico

Beware of dog? Yes. Beware of crocodile? No! This sign was at the Marina in downtown Puerto Vallarta. A very good reason to prohibit swimming!

Wild crocodile sightings while eating lunch downtown


Thanks to our friendly server at the outdoor cafe, we were waved over when a local female crocodile came into view to work on preparing her nest. This shot was not taken with a telephoto lens!! (There was a fence separating us from her, thankfully.)

This lovely cafe was across the street from the Marina, a block from the main highway that runs through Vallarta. It sits adjacent to a golf course and large pond. Prime crocodile habitat, apparently!

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  St. Augustine

It’s always fun to see new things when we’re in new places. Climates, geography and cultures are wonderfully diverse. Traveling is always an education!

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