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
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
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.
Zocalo of Puerto Vallarta
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 - 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.
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.
Streets of Puerto Vallarta
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.
From November to
April the bulls and matadors do their intricate dance every Wednesday at 5PM at
the La Paloma Bullring.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
there by Car
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.
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.
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
9AM to 2PM and 4PM to 9PM (though many shops are open continuously).
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).
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.
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
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.