By Debra Conkey
Debra is a professional writer and photographer who resides in Southern California. She is passionate about traveling and is a frequent contributor to Sleeping Around Travel.
Located in central Mexico on the western edge of the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Bay of Banderas, one of the world's largest natural bays. Lush tropical forests, the rugged Sierra Madre mountains, an abundance of birds and wildlife, and 100 miles of coastline make it a popular destination.
Recognized as a city of Mexico in 1918, Puerto Vallarta was primarily an agricultural center with few visitors. That changed in 1963 when the world press descended onto the town to cover the romance of Elizabeth Taylor with Richard Burton, who was filming John Huston's "Night of the Iguana" with Ava Gardner. When Burton, Taylor and Huston purchased long-time homes there, Puerto Vallarta's allure as an international destination skyrocketed.
Today the city of 300,000 attracts more than 2 million tourists a year and is the second-most visited resort in Mexico. (Official Web site) While known as a world-class resort with luxurious amenities, Puerto Vallarta retains an historical richness with its winding cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and landmarks such as the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe church.
Where to stay:
|Courtesy Puerto Vallarta Tourism|
Visitors enjoy accommodations of every level and style: luxury ocean-front resorts, apartments, condominiums, low-cost hotels, villas, and beachside campsites. The region comprises eight areas that surround the crescent-shaped bay, including the North Shore, Nuevo Vallarta, Marina Vallarta, the Hotel Zone, El Centro, Zona Romantica (Los Muertos Beach), Conchas Chinas and South Shores. Many hotel guests stay in the glitzy Playa de Oro area (Hotel Zone), but others opt for more intimate resorts, such as those along the Nayarit Coast in the north and around Careyes Bay in the south. Family-run casas de huespedes (guesthouses) in old town and in outlying villages offer a more personal option. The high season runs from the middle of December through March, around Eastertime, and throughout August.
Bargain hunters can find inexpensive luxury accommodations in the off-season, search out small hotels and guesthouses that are simple but clean, locate larger beachfront resorts that were once first-class hotels, and seek out long-term stays and promotional packages. For less than $1, you can hop a city bus, sit among the locals and get a flavor of the outlying neighborhoods. Travelers over 60 can enjoy discounts on select hotels, shops and restaurants from mid-April through May.
Tours and activities:
|Courtesy Puerto Vallarta Tourism|
Recreational opportunities abound in and around Puerto Vallarta: wildlife viewing tours (parrots, seabirds, sea turtles, Humpback whales), cultural visits with the indigenous Huichoi Indians, expeditions to the Sierra Madre via all-terrain vehicles, and boat trips to Caletas, once the home of John Huston. Visitors can also swim with dolphins and try their hand at sailing, sea kayaking, horseback riding, hiking and snorkeling. The adventurous can embark on photo safaris or fly to the cultural landmarks of Guadalajara and Tequila and to the isolated 15th-century mining town of San Sebastian.
Shopping and eating are popular pursuits, with some of the best selections located downtown. You can visit museums, art galleries and workshops where artists demonstrate their talents in traditional settings. Restaurant offerings are plentiful and eclectic, with an emphasis on fresh seafood. A popular church-day activity is to stroll along the Malecon promenade, where in the evening you can find everything rolled into one: seaside restaurants, a sculpture gallery, food vendors and local couples dressed in their Sunday best.
Whether you're looking for a simple guesthouse in a remote fishing village, a cultural visit with the reclusive Huichol Indians, a visit to a folk art gallery, a swim in warm ocean water, or a luxury resort where you can sip cool cocktails, Puerto Vallarta has them all.
Grupo Vallarta Tradicional
A group of local tour groups, hotels, shops and restaurants located in Old Town Vallarta, whose goal is to provide simple and traditional alternatives to the high-end resorts and restaurants.
Offer a variety of adventure tours and claim they are the leading provider of eco-tours and adventure excursions in Puerto Vallarta. Their tour philosophy is to combine "contact with nature with ecological awareness and good times with new friends."
Puerto Vallarta weather forecast.
Mexico on a Budget.
A funky budget guide to Puerto Vallarta written by Jeff Walker, who says he has wintered in the seaside town for nearly 12 years. Tips on how to spend as little as $20 a day.
©Debra Conkey 2001, all rights reserved.