Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did you know … ?
- John Huston’s “The Night of the Iguana” (1964) was filmed in Puerto Vallarta.
- Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta’s state, is the home of mariachi music.
- Only tequila made in the town of Tequila (in Jalisco) can carry the town name.
- The local brew raicilla is believed to be the world’s oldest alcohol spirit.
- Tamales were created by ancient Americans as a portable ration for war parties.
Three destinations in one
Puerto Vallarta is at once a Spanish settlement and a beach town. There is a third element, too — pre-Columbian roots that reveal themselves through art, food and drink, and via the area’s Huichol Indian culture.
Tourists are attracted to the pretty setting that is fortuitously combined with perfect weather for outdoor activities on the water or in the nearby mountains. They come for a modern infrastructure that offers up-to-the-minute resorts with the additional diversions of golf, tennis, spas, fine dining and the like.
Located on the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta sits on Mexico’s largest natural bay, the horseshoe-shaped Banderas Bay, and it is encircled to the east by the rugged, tropical Sierra Madre Mountains. The bay, with deep waters, gives access to a rich diversity of marine life, as well as tropical lagoons, rain forests, mangroves, waterfalls and the mountains with their own exotic ecosystems.
The city, on the same parallel as Hawaii, counts nearly 300 sunny days a year; temperatures average 82 F, but winter nights cool off to around 70 F. The rainy season — which often means afternoon rains — lasts from mid-June until mid-October.
Puerto Vallarta offers an incredible array of activities, from relaxing days on the beach, soothing sunset cruises and days on the golf greens, to ATV excursions, bungee jumping, parasailing and much more.
Old Vallarta, with its cobblestone streets and colonial buildings, is a favorite with photographers and history lovers. Besides, some of the city’s charming boutiques, cozy restaurants and bars are found in the historic section.
Puerto Vallarta is a shopper’s city, too. It is a place to buy serious art, traditional Huichol crafts, jewelry and tequila, among other things. Many stores accept U.S. dollars based on the exchange rate of the day. Typically for a Mexican city, most stores close for at least a couple of hours daily beginning around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.
The city maintains a tourist police corps whose members provide assistance and directions. Although tap water is touted as “of a very high standard,” tourism officials recommend bottled water; purified water is standard in hotels and restaurants.
Things to do for Venturers
- Do the town at night. Choices include drinking cold cervezas in a noisy bar or visiting any of a range of music clubs featuring jazz or salsa, reggae or rock. Or, get serious about tequila tasting at the Palapa bar on the Los Veranos ecological reserve three miles south of Puerto Vallarta. Choose from more than 80 kinds of tequila, and sample the raicilla, which is made from the roots of the maguey plant. Given raicilla is considered the local moonshine, you have an idea what you are in for.
- Bungee jump, if you dare, in beautiful Banderas Bay. For more thrills on the bay, go parasailing or waterskiing.
- For a rich encounter with wildlife, go kayaking, scuba diving or snorkeling on the perimeter of the uninhabited islands that comprise the Marieta Islands Marine Reserve. See giant mantas, sea turtles, colorful tropical fish, an array of birds — blue-footed boobies, egrets, herons and more — as well as humpback whales when they are in the area.
- Take a mountain biking tour for a personalized way to see the area. Choose the route that suits your ability. Travel the trails used for silver and gold mining in the 1700s or cross streams under the jungle canopy.
- Learn more about the Wixarika Indian culture with a visit to one of the group’s villages high in the Sierra Madre. The Wixarika, better known as the Huichol people, may be North America’s last indigenous group to live according to pre-Columbian traditions, which involve a number of colorful celebrations and rituals.
- Take a canopy tour, which will have you walking through the treetops above the jungle in the Sierra Madre for a good look at the area’s native birds, including parakeets, parrots and the yellow-winged cacique. Make that a canopy walk using zip lines for transport from platform to platform.
Things to do for Centrics
- Focus on the Spanish heritage with self-guided strolls through the historic areas of town.
- Tequila takes its name from the town where it originates, in Jalisco state. Visit Tequila, the town, to taste the drink at its source. Buy tequila to take home, but remember you cannot tote it in carry-on bags when flying.
- Swim with Pacific bottlenose dolphins at the Nuevo Vallarta Dolphin Center.
- Go bird-watching or hiking the jungle trails — or both — in Las Caletas Islands.
- Hike near the Colomitos beach; take that walk through the tropical forests and over a rope suspension bridge. Then, relax on the beach itself, or stay active with snorkeling or kayaking.
- Shop for Wixarika handicrafts, which are generally yarn paintings and beaded objects. The Wixarika, aka the Huichol, are believed to be direct descendants of the Aztecs. Also, shop for catrinas, hand-sculpted clay and paper mache female figures; Talavera pottery, a tin and lead-glazed ceramic, and masks of carved and painted wood.
Things to do for Authentics
- Take a daytime sailing cruise, or take a romantic sunset cruise. Vendors for all cruises provide a briefing on the sport of sailing to ensure everyone can participate in the ride.
- Time your visit to coincide with the Virgin of Guadalupe processions, set for a 12-day period each December. Celebrations include traditional floats and Aztec-style dancers.
- Shop for art in a town noted for its numerous resident artists and for galleries that source their collections internationally as well. Join an art walk if your trip coincides with one. Or, picture yourself at the Festival of Erotic and Sensual Art. It is held each October.
- Attend cooking demonstrations and tastings during Puerto Vallarta’s annual International Gourmet Festival, in November.
- Watch humpback whales play in Banderas Bay between December and April. The huge creatures come to the bay each year to breed. Or, if your trip is timed right, participate in an annual release of baby turtles into the ocean. The Olive Ridley marine turtles, which lay their eggs on Puerto Vallarta’s beaches between July and November, are protected under a government-sponsored program.
- Set aside one evening for a Mexican fiesta, including folkloric dancing, mariachis, buffet dinner and fireworks.
For more information, consult the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board at www.visitpuertovallarta.com