Destination Mexico – "Vivacious Vallarta." - Reviewed by Lisa
Puerto Vallarta’s rapid rise as a top-notch tourist destination has been almost accidental. Apart from a few small hotels, Puerto Vallarta remained relatively unknown as a tourist destination until the early 1960’s. The event that sparked its growth was the filming of John Houston classic, The Night of the Iguana, on nearby Mismaloya Beach. The film’s star, Richard Burton, was embroiled in a torrid romance with actress Elizabeth Taylor. The scandal sheets couldn’t get enough of the story, sending packs of paparazzi to report on every juicy detail. As a result, the mass media discovered the hidden charms of this “quaint, little fishing village” along the way. Since then, the city has grown to become the second-largest urban centre in the state of Jalisco.
As Puerto Vallarta became better-known as a tourist destination, it needed room to expand. The result is the Hotel Zone, an area north of downtown that is home to wide beaches of soft sand and well-known hotel chains. Conveniently located just minutes from the airport, most hotels here offer easy access to quiet beaches and all-inclusive packages, making them an ideal destination for family vacations.
The famous Malecon, miles and miles of sandy beaches, the elegant architecture of Old Town and the charm of the Mexican people combine to make the perfect tropical playground. Yet, even with its rapid growth, the city’s residents are still faithful to their cherished Mexican traditions. Even today, you’re likely to come across solemn parades in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe as well as other time-honoured, local practices.
As you stroll down the Malecon, you can’t help but notice the many open-air sculptures. Art galleries abound here, with events and showings throughout the year from both local artists and those of international renown.
Wander through the old-fashioned cobblestone streets of the historic Romantic Zone and discover wonderful cafés, bars and restaurants along the way. Or, amble through Isla Rio Cuale (Cuale River Island) – a central walkway lined with small shops situated between downtown and the Romantic Zone. Shopping is the order of the day here, with plenty of opportunities to load up on Mexican souvenirs, talavera, silver jewelry, clothes, authentic handicrafts and more.
Foodies will be happy to learn that Puerto Vallarta is rated as one of the most important culinary destinations in Mexico. There’s even an annual festival, known as Restaurant Week, which is dedicated to palate-pleasing purlieus in Puerto Vallarta and the neighboring Riviera Nayarit.
Visit the nearby Botanical Gardens, stroll through the Marina, or hit the fairways at one of the nine nearby golf courses. There’s never a dull moment in this remarkable, Pacific-Coast jewel.
And, best of all, is the warm, welcoming spirit of the locals – an inviting attitude which has earned Puerto Vallarta the title of the “World’s Most Friendly City”.
- Beautiful beaches: Just south of the city, there are a number of South Shore Beaches to discover.
- Food and gastronomy: Puerto Vallarta offers many wonderful restaurants from out-of-the-way local places like the fabulous Ocean Grill to world-class cuisine. The city is also known for its food festivals such as the Festival Gourmet International, in November, and Restaurant Week, which takes place in late May. Or, take a cooking class and learn how to make some delicious Mexican specialties on your own.
- Hiking and walking tours: Take a stroll along the newly revamped Malecon. Or, get a workout on one of the several jungle hikes in the area including one through town and up the mountain to ‘La Cruz‘.
- Boat rides: Head over to Boca de Tomatlán and hike along the beach to Las Animas. Or, take in the Rhythms of the Night excursion at Las Caletas Cove. Stop and visit Conchas Chinas and other secluded beaches and waterfalls which are accessible only by boat. And, why not take in a whale watching expedition while you’re in town?
- Nightlife: Puerto Vallarta has great venues with fabulous and varied shows. Whether you’re looking for a bar with a pounding bass beat, a live-music venue, or a gay-friendly club, there’s a place to meet your needs.
- Nature: Visit the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, a 20-acre garden showcasing plants of the Tropical Dry Forest Biome as well as exotic plants from around the world. Participate in a local Sea Turtle Conservation and release program and watch the day-old hatchlings make their way off to sea. Or, simply take in the gorgeous sunset from one of the many spectacular locations.
- Water sports: Fishing, paddle boarding, scuba, snorkeling, surfing, swimming, diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing, jet skiing, parasailing, paragliding, SUP, flyboard…
- Shopping: Markets and flea markets with local food, artisans and entertainment. Art galleries, art walks, handicrafts and folk art. Big box stores and shopping malls… you’ll find them all in Puerto Vallarta.
Want to know more? Come join us on a Perfect Puerto Vallarta Weekend!