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Puerto Vallarta's famous sea horse

Puerto Vallarta is considered to be the "most Mexican" of all the beach destinations in Mexico. Its home state of Jalisco is known as "the most Mexican" of all the states, due to its rich traditions and folklore. Among other things, it has given Mexico its traditional costume, that of the "charro"; its national beverage, Tequila; and its most representative music, that of the Mariachi. Puerto Vallarta presents all the Mexican traditions, folklore, and elegance which, along with the hospitality of the local people, set it apart from all other beach destinations in Mexico despite its expansion into a sprawling metropolis of multiple hotels, restaurants, discos, art galleries and shopping arcades. It remains to this day a distinctively Mexican city. Puerto Vallarta is, in that respect, utterly unlike those planned resort communities of Cancun and Ixtapa, with their sanitized settings. As you stroll the streets of the original village of Puerto Vallarta, you'll be charmed, even set aglow, by the fact that it is still Mexican and authentic. It is for all of these characteristics that Puerto Vallarta was honored with the National Award for Tourism Quality. In addition, Mexico's National Secretary of Health has certified the quality and cleanliness of the public water supply for the past four consecutive years. When American film director John Huston brought his crew to Puerto Vallarta in the early 1960s to film the Night of the Iguana, very few visitors had discovered this then nearly almost mythical tropical paradise. True, the few flights arriving did carry such famous individuals as actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (a statue of the pair is located near the Municipal Market). With Hollywood stars enjoying the pleasures of this Pacific paradise, others were soon to follow, building their own spectacularly situated villas on the hills now called "Gringo Gulch". It is now a city of approximately 250,000 residents and the most popular vacation spot on Mexico's upper Pacific coast. Despite the transformation, every attempt has been made to keep the town's character intact. Even the parking at the local Gigante supermarket is cobblestone, and by law any house built in town must be painted white. You'll still see houses with red-tile roofs on palm-covered hills overlooking glistening blue water and pack mules clopping past.


    Within miles of town are peaceful coves, rivers rushing to the sea, and steep mountain roads that curve and twist through jungles of palms and other tropical plants.
One of Mexico's three most popular urban resorts, Puerto Vallarta offers a combination of natural beauty, luxury and outdoor activities centered around a pleasant town full of good shops and restaurants coupled with numerous attractions:


Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe 

    The cathedral of Puerto Vallarta, although relatively new, has been under construction for many years. The cathedral's famous crown steeple has become the city's best known symbol. The headpiece was modeled after one worn by Carlota, mistress of Archduke Maximilian, who ruled Mexico for three years in the 1860s. Angels clasping hands decorate the exterior.


The Zocalo of Puerto Vallarta

    The historical center of Puerto Vallarta is the main downtown square, known as "El Jardin Principal" (The Main Garden). Like all main squares in Mexico, this one has the traditional gazebo with elaborate wrought iron and a wood ceiling. Several times a week music fills the square as local bands serenade locals and the many visitors. On the west side of the square is a life-sized statue of Don Ignacio L. Vallarta, the former governor and jurist for whom Puerto Vallarta is named.


    The Malecon is downtown Puerto Vallarta's "main drag", a nice place to rest on a white wrought-iron bench. Of all Puerto Vallarta's special places, the Malecon is one that best symbolizes the vitality and constant duality lived within the city. A seawall and sidewalk (Puerto Vallarta's "boardwalk") runs along the bay, combining the traditions of yesterday and today, with tourist entertainment offered at the lively restaurants and bars across the street, or the traditional entertainment of watching the little children play, elders relaxing on the elaborate benches admiring the view, and the teenagers "maleconean" - walking the Malecon up and down, checking everyone out.  There are three nautically themed bronze sculptures along the walkway: La Fuente de los Delfines (Fountain of the Dolphins), Neptune y Serena (Neptune and the Mermaid) and Caballito de Mar (The Seahorse) which has become an unofficial Puerto Vallarta trademark. The Malecon runs parallel to Paseo Diaz Ordaz approximately 16 blocks, extending from Rio Cuale northeast to 31 de Octubre. The traditional looking tree-shaded park, Plaza de Armas, with its central bandstand is just off the Malecon.


Los Arco Open Air Theater

Los Arcos Open Air Theatre

    The Theater Aquiles Serdan, is a center of activity at the beginning of the Malecon near the south end of downtown. The theater has four arches made of cantera (quarrystone) and is probably one of the more photographed sites in Puerto Vallarta. Benches of the theater face the bay and the top row is at street level with seating levels descending toward the interior. To the left is the often overlooked statue of the archangel San Miguel, also made of cantera.

Viejo Vallarta

    Stretching along the Malecon as far north as the Rio Cuale, Viejo Vallarta (Old Vallarta), is the original fishing village around which the big resort town sprung up. Here you'll find charming cobblestone streets, bars and restaurants, famous-name boutiques, and smaller shops offering Mexican jewelry, leather goods, and handicrafts. Street names are denoted on Mexican tiles on the sides of buildings. Viejo Vallarta exudes charm with dusty cobblestones, hurried crowds, sputtering taxicabs and even an occasional burro - all reminders of a more prosaic Mexico.



Isla del Rio Cuale

    Separating the north and south ends of Puerto Vallarta, this tiny island is hidden from view amongst the bridges along the Cuale River. This trendy spot, accessed by foot bridge, is home to chic bars and restaurants, art galleries, a small park with a statue of director John Huston, and nice views of various parts of the town. Here too is the Museo del Cuale, an archaeological museum containing Indian artifacts and paintings by local artists. Its secluded setting provides an escape from the often busy streets. The kiosks and shops are integrated with the natural surroundings, allowing tourists and locals to set their own pace as they shop or simply relax away from the crowds.


The Flea Market

    Puerto Vallarta's flea market, known as "Tianguis Artesanal", stretches along the Cuale river and is the perfect setting to quickly see the diverse Mexican art evident in different forms, colors and textures. Bargaining is the norm here as vendors and buyers spare with each other.

Gringo Gulch

  Gringo Gulch - On very steep hills, this upscale neighborhood of cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses with red-tiled roofs is home to many American expatriates who settled here beginning in the 1950s. The area gained international fame during the filming of John Huston's Night of the Iguana in 1963 when Richard Burton bought a house there for his lover Elizabeth Taylor. Later, after their marriage, they bought the house across the street. To better cross the street they built a bridge that connected both homes. This pink "lover's bridge" is now a landmark. Several city tours which point out the highlights of the area are available.

Casa Kimberly

    The most famous attraction of Puerto Vallarta's "Gringo Gulch" is Elizabeth Taylor's above referenced former home, Casa Kimberly, a gift from Richard Burton. The house was sold in 1990 and is now open for tours, which include the Liz and Dick museum. The villa is open daily 9AM to 6PM in high season and Monday-Saturday, 10AM to 2PM in off-season.


The Streets of Puerto Vallarta

    Cobble stoned, narrow, steep, serpentine, filled with tired donkeys and modern cars, never ending parades of taxis, buses, friendly policemen, shops, mobile vendors, children selling roses, and tourists are all representative of the folklore that is Puerto Vallarta's magical streets.


Bull Fights

    From November to April the bulls and matadors do their intricate dance every Wednesday at 5PM at the La Paloma Bullring.

Marina Vallarta

    This flat 568-acre site is situated on the northernmost end of Puerto Vallarta. Stretched along its beachfront are the Maritime Terminal, an 18-hole golf course, a marina with 500 slips, several yacht and tennis clubs, and Plaza Marina, Puerto Vallarta's largest shopping mall.


Los Voladores de Papantla

    This folkloric show features Indians from the Papantla region performing riveting aerial dances. Four men at a time perch atop a 20-foot pole to which their feet have been tied, while musicians on the ground below play traditional native songs. At a designated point in the men above launch themselves head first toward the ground, spinning and descending toward the ground. You'll be dazzled by this dangerous and breathtaking feat while experiencing a taste of pre-Hispanic Mexican culture. The performance is held on a regularly scheduled basis in Las Iguanas.

Specialty Center in Marina Vallarta, Iguana Park

    This area south of the city limits has been created to preserve the locally historic site where the Night of the Iguana was made. Visitors can enjoy a meal or a drink in the restored house where John Huston lived during the filming and examine mementos of the occasion.

Los Arcos from Puerto Vallarta

Los Arcos

    In the bay just south of the city are the famous Los Arcos (The Arches), a series of three rock islands that are natural shelters (and protected ecological zones) for an astonishing variety of marine life and water birds. The largest rock forms the natural arch that gives the triad its name. Small boats are able to pass through this natural seawater tunnel created by years of erosion.

Swim with the Dolphins

    At Puerto Vallarta's Dolphin Adventure, located north of the city in Nuevo Vallarta, you can share the ocean with these gentle and friendly mammals.



Whale Watching

    During the winter months whales come to mate in the warm waters of the Mexican Pacific. Beginning in February, calves are born right in the bay. (At one time, Banderas Bay was also known as Humpback Bay (Bahia de los Jorobados) because of the large number of humpback whales that frequented its waters. At Punta Mita, on the northern tip of Banderas Bay, the views of the ocean and of mountains are fantastic and provide a prime spot to view the whales.


Sierra Madre Mountains

    Puerto Vallarta is located on the edge of the Sierra Madre mountain range. To glimpse the former setting of the erstwhile fishing village, head out of town to the lush, green mountains where the Rio Tomatlan tumbles over boulders into the sea. You'll enjoy the verdant tropical landscape as you drive on the steep mountain roads that curve and twist through the dense jungles.

    Along the coast of Punta Mita, you'll find beautiful beaches fronting quaint villages like Bucerias and Cruz de Huanacaxtle, where the bay's best surfing is found. From Punta Mita, take a fishing boat to Las Marietas Island, where you can admire tropical birds in a protected sanctuary or snorkel in irresistibly clear waters. Another ideal haven for those seeking refuge from civilization is Playa Yelapa, a fishing village located south of Puerto Vallarta. Here, you can enjoy the simple life amidst lovely beaches, waterfalls, and tropical surroundings, with no interruptions from telephones or television.


For the Kids

    Joyland Kartodromo Go-Carts, located just behind Plaza Caracol, is an exciting attraction where kids can drive motorized go-carts around fun, safe tracks. Aquapark Waterslides is another children's favorite located at the Vidafel Hotel. This park has fun for the whole family, featuring slides, pools, and other typical water park aquatic attractions.


  Ocean - coves so quiet that crabs sunbathe on nearby rocks. Puerto Vallarta's enormous horseshoe shaped Banderas Bay (Bay of Flags), is the largest natural bay in Mexico. Its 100 miles of coastline, studded with palm trees and ringed by mountains, are some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, with long flat stretches north of town and secluded coves and inlets to the south. In the center of the north and south shores is the town itself, divided by the Rio Cuale. On the south side of town is Playa Los Muertos, or Dead men's Beach, supposedly named after a pirate's raid on the town. Far from reminding anyone of its pirate past, this town beach is by far the most popular and full of life, a bit honky-tonk, and lined with numerous thatch-covered restaurants. Vendors selling lace tablecloths, wooden statues, kites, jewelry and other items stroll the beach.

    Local entrepreneurs also visit, giving you an opportunity to parasail (a parachute ride over the ocean), water-ski or rent other beach toys including everything from rubber inner tubes to wind surfers. Trips to nearby beaches that much more resemble the old Puerto Vallarta can be made most leisurely on boats that sail from the marina each day. One of the most beautiful spots is Yelapa, a tropical village lined with a slip of South Seas-like beach that would have pleased Gauguin. Plan a day there, you'll find it's like no other place in Mexico. There you can horseback ride along mountain trails or walk to a waterfall with a 150-foot (46-meter) drop. The Serape and Vagabundo are among the boats with bars, tropical music, and dancing that leave each morning from the marina for this day trip. At Yelapa, you can try a "sopa de marisco" (shrimp soup) at one of the thatched-roof cafes or prepare your own picnic lunch before leaving Sun style Properties. Other cruises are available, some going nearby to Mismaloya Beach with snorkeling at Los Arcos rock formation, and others for the horseback ride or hike to the waterfalls at Quixmito. The trimaran Bora-Bora leaves from the marina each morning on its way to Las Animas Beach; along the way you can fish, enjoy an open bar, and have lunch. Mismaloya Beach can be reached by road as well, by taking Calle Badillo to Insurgentes, then following Mex. 200 south out of Puerto Vallarta for 7 miles (12 kilometers). The location of Night of the Iguana (and other less famous movies), Mismaloya Beach is nestled at the foot of tropical, lush mountains and affords a good view of the famous Los Arcos rock formation offshore. Other notable beaches in tucked-away coves south of town include Punta Negra, Las Estacas and Boca de Tomatlan. Or you can take a tour or "Pacifico" bus to Nayarit in the north, where the Punta Mita Peninsula juts into the sea. This unpopulated area features several excellent beach areas. Lo de Marcos, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away, is one of the most attractive. Sayulita, about 30 minutes from Puerto Vallarta, has a great beach, excellent surfing, and some good eating spots. Fifteen minutes beyond Sayulita is the interesting town of San Francisco, unofficially known as San Pancho, with eateries and a mile-long, barely developed stretch of beach.

Guided Tours

    Popular city tours are a great way to get quickly acquainted with the area. If you wish to see the surrounding area, guided jungle, ecological and even hot air balloon tours are offered.

Water Sports 

    Puerto Vallarta is located on Banderas Bay (Bay of Flags), the largest bay in Mexico and the seventh largest in the world, which is said to have been formed by the sunken crater of a giant, extinct volcano. A new modern sewage treatment plant further ensures the quality of water in the bay as being among the cleanest in the world. Shark-free because of the many dolphins that inhabit its waters, its no wonder Puerto Vallarta has virtually every water sport a vacationer could want from water skiing to parasailing to jet skiing to sea kayaking. To sample the beauty and fun of the Pacific, windsurf or sail on rolling waves or ride an inflatable banana boat. Whatever your aquatic desire, the water sports in Puerto Vallarta are sure to provide non-stop fun and entertainment.



Sports Fishing

    Fishing is among the area's most popular activities highlighted by the annual International Sailfish Tournament held during the first week of November. Ardent fisher folk from all over Mexico and the U.S. participate. The rest of the year, this world-class fishing destination, offers sport-fishing featuring snapper, sea bass, tuna, bonito, dorado (mahi-mahi), wahoo and roosterfish plus marlin and sailfish from October to May. Fishing charters depart from both the Marina and the north end of the Malecon.


Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

    A variety of underwater experiences are readily available from several experienced and well equipped dive operations. The National Underwater Park at Los Arcos (an island rock formation north of Mismaloya), the Islas Marietas (Marietas Islands) at the entrance of the bay and Majahuita located near the village of Quimixto are all incredible spots for snorkeling and diving. You'll potentially get a chance to get up close and personal with dolphins, migrating humpback whales, giant manta rays, Golfina sea turtles and tropical fish while exploring the impressive reefs, underwater caves, tunnels and walls surrounded by irresistibly clear waters. El Morro, about 25 miles from the city, lies beyond the protected waters of the bay and is arguably the area's best dive site. The location is known for its pinnacles that rise from the ocean bottom and features numerous caves and tunnels. It is best reserved for experienced certified divers only.



    Los Flamingos Golf Club has an excellent 18-hole course located north of the airport. This course was literally carved out of the jungle creating both a scenic and challenging setting. There's also a beautiful 18-hole course designed by Joe Finger at the Marina Vallarta complex stretched along its beachfront (water comes into play on eleven holes). Both courses are open to the public and transportation can be arranged with your reservation.



    No resort in Mexico beats Puerto Vallarta for tennis. Clay courts are common. Tennis times can be arranged at the John Newcombe, Los Tulas and Iguana Tennis Centers and several resort hotels in the city as well.


Horseback Riding

    Equestrian trips are a popular way to see the surrounding countryside. Escape on horseback into the green verdant mountains of the Nueva Galacia forest, which surrounds Puerto Vallarta on three sides. Enjoy the exotic flora, including bromeliads, orchids and wild poinsettias, while the call of green parrots serenades you. If you prefer the gentle lull of the waves, embark upon a horseback ride along the seashore, an activity especially memorable at sunset. Optionally, ride to several small and remote villages, to thermal baths or to an unexcavated archaeological site. Donkey polo along the shore is also a fun activity in which you may participate.


Mountain Biking

    Several local companies offer escorted private or group excursions into the lush mountains. Overnight, half-day and day bike rides are available, as well as bike rentals.



    While virtually everyone is aware of the setting for the Night of the Iguana, it's a lesson known fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger's Predator was also filmed around Puerto Vallarta. You can share the magnificent jungle scenes portrayed in the movie with leisurely treks through tropical settings to beautiful waterfalls and scenic mountain tops.


    Puerto Vallarta provides the best shopping of any resort in Mexico with its cobblestone streets, red tiled-roofs, breezy Malecon along the oceanfront and tranquil park on Isla Cuale. There's excellent shopping in boutiques and shops selling quality Mexican-designer clothing, folk art and crafts from all around Mexico including colonial-style furniture, elaborate traditionally painted masks, pottery from Tlaquepaque, embroidered clothing, hand-dyed woven rugs and tapestries, tooled leather goods, lacquered boxes and silver jewelry from Taxco. At the Mercado Rio Cuale (Municipal Market), which spreads out under the trees below the steps leading down from the northern end of the Avenida Insurgentes Bridge, you'll find plenty of souvenirs and curios plus the opportunity to really submerge yourself in local color. It's a great place to find inexpensive souvenirs, work on your haggling technique, and practice your Spanish. Crafts from all over Mexico are available in Puerto Vallarta. If you are specifically interested in local crafts, look for anything made from sea shells, paintings, blown glass, pottery, clothing and Huichol Indian embroidery and yarn paintings.


    The art galleries in Puerto Vallarta are among Mexico's oldest and most established, featuring the finest collections and exhibitions of Mexico's internationally renowned and emerging artists. Among traditional works, you'll also find stained glass, exquisitely designed woodwork, intricately woven tapestries of the Huichol Indians, contemporary sculptures, and lithographs. Of particular interest are paintings and prints by local artists like Sergio Bustamente, Manuel Lepe and Jose Telloso, whose works capture the fantasy and color of Mexican life. Several galleries have the actual artists working on premises so you can observe the creative process firsthand. The world famous Tequila is made from the blue agave cactus that grows in a large part of the state of Jalisco. The Tequila region north of Puerto Vallarta supports a large number of distilleries which produce the world's finest tequilas through a time-consuming, carefully controlled process that starts with the harvesting of the ten year old agave, fermenting in stainless steel vats and aging in wooden vats. Take advantage of your stay by purchasing premium Tequilas for substantially less at the distilleries (most of which offer tours) or at any of Puerto Vallarta's grocery stores.

    Prices in the shops are generally fixed, and U.S. dollars and credit cards are readily accepted. Bargaining is expected in the markets and by the vendors on the beach, who also freely accept American money. Shopping Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9AM to 2PM and 4PM to 9PM (though many stores are open continuously).

    Puerto Vallarta offers a multitude of attractive restaurants, some quite sophisticated. With more than 400 dining establishments to choose from, you are sure to find numerous choices fitting your taste and budget.


    Puerto Vallarta offers visitors a medley of nocturnal activities. The evening entertainment opportunities begin before nightfall with the city's famous sunsets. The setting sun seems bigger and more fiery here than any place else on earth and spreads like orange molten lava over Banderas Bay before disappearing behind the horizon.

    You can embrace this favorite pastime by positioning yourself for the awesome sunsets at the bar of your choice. El Set (Mismaloya Road), overlooking Conchas Chinas, provides fine views, as do the terraces at Felipe's and Sr. Chico's (with guitar music to usher in the sunset during happy hour) in Altavista. The view from "Gringo Gulch" includes the cathedral and tiled roofs of the old town in its panoramic sweep from El Nido (the rooftop bar at Restaurant Chez Elena). Daiquiri Dick's and La Palapa on Los Muertos Beach, as well as Cuiza on Isla Cuale, are but a few of the other popular sunset-watching spots from which you have to choose. Or you can take in the view from the water with a sunset cruise to Mismaloya.

    Certainly the most popular form of entertainment in Puerto Vallarta is a relaxing meal to the accompaniment of music. For the very best mariachis in town, go to Mr. Tequila's Grill (Malecon at Mina, upstairs; 9PM onward). For flamenco guitar, try Mama Mia (Malecon at Allende), a branch of the San Miguel de Allende restaurant that has made a reputation on good music and moderately priced international food.

    Or you may want to try one of the Fiestas Mexicanas - elaborate buffets with Mexican culinary delicacies and live entertainment. The whole family will enjoy watching traditional dance performances, mock bullfights, lariat demonstrations, and stand-up comedians. Most of Puerto Vallarta's better hotels offer these fiestas at least one night weekly. At night, the Malecon and the Zocalo (town square) come alive as locals and tourists gather to socialize on the streets and in the adjacent bars and restaurants. On Sunday afternoons local bands perform here as well. For those seeking lively American-style bars, there are the ubiquitous Carlos O'Briens, the Zoo and the Hard Rock Cafe (both adjacent to the Malecon). For those craving romance or tranquility, smaller bars such as El Set and El Nido (both referenced above) are ideal quiet spots for relaxing over a cocktail. Later in the evening, look for the Club Roxy (Vallarta near Madero), the best spot in town for live jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues. Then, too, there is the disco scene: Christine (2 miles/4 kilometers north on Carretera Aeropuerto) with the latest in sound and video equipment in its elegant disco; Christine's (at the Krystal Hotel); Friday Lopez (Carretera Aeropuerto at Fiesta Americana Hotel) with live music for dancing and an upstairs game room for billiards, backgammon, and dominos; Collage (Carretera Aeropuerto at the Marina Vallarta turnoff) with multiple bars, a nightclub and disco, bowling alley, pool hall, and video arcade; and nearby, in Marina Vallarta, Sixties (in the Marriott Casa Magna Hotel), where you can dance to nostalgic tunes. These late-night spots don't really warm up before 10PM and usually stay open until 3 or 4AM.

Alternative Lifestyle

Puerto Vallarta offers a variety of clubs restaurants and night spots for those looking for alternative life style. For great sunset bars visit the rooftop of the Decosal del Sol Hotel, or the Blue Chairs Beach Hotel. During the day time the Beach front bars are the Looney Tunes (green chairs) and the Blue Chairs Restaurant and Bar on Los Muertos Beach. Before going out to the bars stop by Apache Club and choose from over over 20 different Martinis on Olas Altas. The bars start late usually after midnight but go till 6:00 am. Bars include Paco Pacos, The Ranch, Los Dos Amigos, Los Balcones and Anthropology. There are a variety of special events Gay cruises and day trips available for those interested.  

January 1 - New Year's Day: National holiday.

February 5 - Constitution Day: Official speeches and ceremonies are conducted nationwide on this national holiday. February through March - Carnival: As Lent approaches, Mexican towns celebrate this lively event with colorful parades, cockfights, food, dancing, fireworks, and live outdoor music.

March 21 - Benito Juarez's Birthday: Mexico observes a national holiday to honor one of the country's most beloved presidents and leader of the 19th-century Reform movement. March through April - Holy Week and Easter: During the days leading up to and including Easter, Mexicans hold celebrations and somber processions in observance of this religious holiday.

May 5 - Cinco de Mayo: This national holiday commemorates Mexico's 1862 defeat of the French in the Battle of Puebla. Late May - World Jazz Festival: Formerly the Cancun Jazz Festival, this annual event draws great names in jazz, such as Oleta Adams and Arturo Sandoval, and attracts music lovers from all over the world.

May - Fiestas de Mayo: During the entire month of May, the residents honor their city with the Festivals of May, which include parades in the downtown area, bullfights, soccer games, dancing, street music, and a gala featuring amusement park rides, children's performances, exhibits and foods.

September 16 - Independence Day: Mexico observes its 1821 independence from Spain with speech-making, flag-waving, fireworks, horse races, folk dances, mariachi bands, and an abundance of decorations in red, green, and white - Mexico's national colors.

Early November - Day of the Dead or All Souls' Day: Deceased friends, relatives, and ancestors are remembered and honored in a traditional Mexican celebration that includes graveside picnics, skeleton-shaped candy and dolls, and a party-like atmosphere. It was traditionally believed that the spirits of the dead return to earth on this day.

November 20 - Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution: Parades, speeches, and patriotic events recall the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

November - International Fishing Tournament: Occurring in the first week of November, this annual event draws fishing fanatics from all over. Even if you're not an enthusiast, this lively competition's color and high energy make it worth checking out.

December 25 through January 2 - Christmas Week celebrations: Festivities include a two-day feast commemorating the Virgin de la Soledad, nightly "posadas" (reenactments of Joseph and Mary's search for lodging), breaking of pinatas, and candlelight processions.


    Pronounced "PWER-toe vah-YAR-tah", this picturesque seaside resort was named after a 1918 governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Geography - Set on Mexico's Pacific coast in the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is a tropical gem 215 miles west of Guadalajara. Hugged by the crescent-shaped Banderas Bay and the Nueva Galacia forest, Puerto Vallarta marks the point where sea and mountains meet, interrupted only by a long stretch of golden beach. The area is decidedly tropical with cascades of vibrant bougainvillea flowers and swaying palm fronds two examples of the exotic flora to be found. The city by the bay has a population of 250,000 residents and covers 500 square miles (1,300 square kilometers). This metropolitan area has all modern conveniences without compromising its old world charm.


Travel Documents

    U.S. citizens must present a valid passport or notarized birth certificate (with raised seal) to enter the country. Mexico issues visitors a tourist card, issued on your flight into the country, that is valid for up to 90 days from the date of entry. Keep this card throughout your stay in Mexico because you must surrender it to immigration upon departure. Getting There by Air - Puerto Vallarta's Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport is located four miles (6.5 kilometers) north of town with service from a variety of major carriers including Alaska Airlines, American, America West, Continental, Delta  with flights. Service is available from numerous U.S. cities including Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma and St. Louis. Within Mexico, Aeromexico, Mexicana and TAESA provide domestic service with connections available from Guadalajara, Leon, Mexico City and San Jose Cabo. From Canada flights are operated by charter service only, primary from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.  Rental cars are also available at the airport and rates are better than in many Mexican resort cities.

Getting there by Car

    Reaching Puerto Vallarta by car involves a lengthy journey; the city lies some 1,200 miles (1,935 kilometers) south of the U.S./Mexico border crossing at Nogales, Arizona via Mex. 15/15-D and Mex. 200. From Tepic, the capital of the Mexican state of Nayarit, the latter highway is a scenic though slow and winding route through mountains that reach the coast. A toll highway that will link Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara is in the works.


Getting Around

    If you like to venture onto unmarked dirt roads or secluded beaches, rental cars are a fun and reasonably economical mode of transportation. They're available at the airport and at other in town locations. Taxis provide reliable and inexpensive transportation around town. Because taxis are not metered, be sure to agree on the fare before hopping into the cab. Tipping is not customary unless you receive special treatment or services. Public buses are also quite inexpensive, but are often very crowded.



    U.S. Dollars can be readily exchanged for Mexican pesos at a variety of banks, hotels, and "casas de cambio", or change houses. In 1993, the Mexican government introduced the "nuevo peso" (new peso) to replace the old currency. One new peso is equivalent to 1,000 old pesos. Old currency remains legal tender, but is virtually out of circulation. You'll also find that U.S. dollars are widely accepted (and generally preferred) by most tourist-oriented establishments and market vendors. Mexican currency tends to be in a slow devaluation process versus the U.S. dollar. Using a currency converter is an easy way to determine the dollar to peso equivalent.


Shopping Hours

    Monday-Saturday, 9AM to 2PM and 4PM to 9PM (though many shops are open continuously).


Banking Hours

    Monday-Friday, 9AM to 1:30PM. Some banks open Saturday for limited hours.

  Language - If you don't speak Spanish, don't worry. English is more widely spoken here than it is in most Mexican resorts. However, learning a few useful Spanish travel phrases can be fun and useful.

  Electricity - Electrical current, plugs, and sockets are the same as in the U.S.: 110 volts, 60 cycles, with flat, two-pronged plugs.

  Water - Because public water sources can be contaminated, it is not a good idea to drink tap water in Mexico. Bottled water is readily available and inexpensive. Also avoid ice in drinks and produce washed in tap water, unless they are offered in tourist-oriented hotels or restaurants. All licensed food and beverage establishments provide purified water (including ice). 


Local Time

    Puerto Vallarta is on Central Time (six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time), the same time as Chicago. That's two hours ahead of Los Angeles, one hour ahead of Denver and one hour behind New York. Like the rest of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta does not observe daylight savings time.


    Mexican long-distance phone service, Ladatel, has phones in many public locations that also allow credit card calls. You can also access American long-distance carriers, which enables you to bypass the Mexican phone system and call collect or charge the call to your phone card. These options are worthwhile, given the 60 percent tax Ladatel places on all international calls. Note that calls from Mexico to the U.S. are generally substantially more expensive than calls placed from the U.S. to Mexico. To reach Puerto Vallarta numbers from the U.S., dial 011-52-322 followed by the local number. Tourist Information - For more information on Puerto Vallarta, call the Mexican Ministry of Tourism toll-free from the U.S. at 1-800-44-MEXICO. Once in Puerto Vallarta, contact Puerto Vallarta's State Tourism Bureau at 222-0242 or 222-0243.



    The U.S. consular agent has an office at Avenidas Miramar and Libertad on the second floor of the Parian del Puente Building just north of the Avenida Insurgentes Bridge. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9AM to 1PM; telephone 222-0069 (answered 24-hours for emergencies). The Canadian Consulate is at Avenida Hidalgo #226 and is open the same hours; telephone 222-5398. Police - The male or female officers dressed in white and wearing white or blue pith helmets are part of the Tourist Police Force. Most speak English and are there to offer assistance to visitors. The City Police Department can be reached by telephone at 222-0123; to contact the Federay (highway) Police, dial 221-1065.


What to Bring

    With warm temperatures year-round, almost every day of the year is a "beach day" in Puerto Vallarta. Dress is comfortable and casual. Be sure to bring a bathing suit, sunglasses, and resort wear. Add a light sweater for evenings and a dressy outfit if you're planning on trying some of the fancier restaurants and discos. Insect repellant is advised if you plan outdoor excursions.


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