Puerto Vallarta offers visitors an eclectic mix of the old and new. Original pueblo architecture remains intermingled with modern, luxurious beachfront resorts. Whether you choose to frolic with the crowds or find a secluded hideaway, there is much to see in Puerto Vallarta.
The Bay Puerto Vallarta has a wealth of natural beauty, friendly people, glorious sunsets, world-class sport fishing and great cuisine. Not to mention first-class resorts, shopping, diving and sailing. The gorgeous Bahia de Banderas serves as Peurto Vallarta's playground. It begins where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, forming one of the largest bays in the world and the largest in Mexico. The "Bay of Flags" extends from
Playa Play First, let's explore the main reason most people come to Puerto Vallarta: the "playas" or beaches.
Heading into town proper, visitors will find
Viejo Vallarta A narrow island in the middle of the Cuale River divides Old Vallarta. On the island, people can visit quaint outdoor shops, museums and an arboretum. Speaking of trees, dine in a treehouse overlooking the river at
Art lovers will find the works of internationally known Mexican artists featured at the
Visitors can also enjoy the architecture of the
Hotel Zone Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascencio runs north to south through the city and is aptly dubbed "the Hotel Zone." On the north end, the
Tours Maybe the best way to see Puerto Vallarta's sights for the first time is to use one of the many tour services available. Nature lovers will enjoy
This once tiny fishing village is now a Mecca for international visitors. The city offers visitors numerous things to see and do, but before you can begin your journey, you'll need to reserve yourself a place to stay. If you're new to the area (and even if you aren't), choosing the right hotel or resort can be a bit challenging. In order to reserve the right type of accommodations, take the following things into consideration: what your needs are and what you want to do during your stay. These factors will determine the area in which to reserve your accommodations and will also help to cut down on a lot of unnecessary travel.
Business travelers should look to the larger resorts to have their needs met. Many of the smaller hotels do not have the accommodations or facilities you may require. Instead, the staff at the smaller hotels will direct you to the local Internet cafés for computer and online services. Most of the resorts that can and will fit the needs of the business traveler tend to be along the river and beachfront or listed as luxury resorts. These resorts are larger than those found inland and have business and large conference facilities on their premises.
Beachfront and Waterfront Accommodations Beach lovers and waterfront property seekers will find a variety of hotels around the Marina Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, Banderas Bay and River Cuale areas of this port city. There are a number of properties in these locations that have rooms available for less than USD 100. The Hotel Alagre, Hotel Buenaventura, Paradise Village Resort and Spa, Marbella All Suites Resort and the Sierra Hotel Nuevo Vallarta are just a few of the accommodations available in these waterfront areas. Places to stay near the water that newcomers might overlook (but shouldn't) include waterfront apartments, condominiums and houses. Many of these require at least a five to seven-day stay, but also offer discounts for extended visits. The La Casa del Puente apartments and the Andale Hotel (which also has apartments available) offer discounts for extended stays. One thing to remember with these types of accommodations is that typically there isn't any maid service offered.
Business and Luxury Accommodations Sometimes everyone needs a little taste of the good life, whether it's for you or to entertain a client. Those visitors who prefer to live (or entertain) in the lap of luxury while on a trip should look to the north of the downtown area. Almost all of Puerto Vallarta's five-star resorts, luxury hotels and suites are found in and around the Marina Vallarta area. This region is, for the most part, a city in itself with shopping centers, restaurants, bars, condominiums and golf courses at your disposal. With all the amenities available in this area, visitors may never have to go in search of anything unless they want to explore all that this area has to offer.
The resorts within this northern area starting under USD 125 per night include: Marriott Casa Magna, Melia Puerto Vallarta, Omega Las Palmas Beach Resort, Premiere Hotel Gran Turmiso, Sierra Hotel Nuevo Vallarta and the Velas Vallarta Grand Suite Resort, to list just a few. Most of these resorts and hotels offer facilities and services to accommodate the business traveler. Some offer additional services such as cellular phone rental (in case you forget yours at home).
The deluxe luxury resorts starting at more than USD 150 per night include: Westin Regina, Sierra Plaza Golf and Spa Hotel, Krystal Vallarta, La Jolla de Mismaloya, Presidente Inter-Continental Puerto Vallarta and the Qualton Club. It's safe to assume many of these resorts will run you into the USD 200 per night range, depending on the season (rates are higher during winter months). Some of these hotels incorporate an “all-inclusive plan” into their prices, especially during high season. Typically that plan includes three meals a day, all drinks (sodas and call brands), resort activities (on sister properties, as well) and limited water sports. Some resorts offer 50 percent off for water sports with the all-inclusive packages. Also, it is not uncommon to see a hotel charging an additional 5-15 percent for lobster, shrimp and fine cuts of meat if you choose those items from the menu. Most of these “all-inclusive” packages are the same, however, and special deals for honeymooners and those on anniversary and birthday trips are available. If you are interested in the all-inclusive packages, be sure to specify your needs when making your reservations.
Moderate Range Accommodations Hybrids between moderate and luxury resorts (less than USD 110 per night) are the Mayan Palace and the Omega Las Palmas Beach Resort. Each hotel offers many (if not all) of the same amenities and facilities that the bigger luxury resorts do. The only real difference, in most cases, is the standard room size. These rooms may be a bit smaller in square footage (but not substantially). Of course, the price is smaller too, usually half that of the luxury resorts.
If you're not into the high-end resorts and prefer something a little more down to earth, there are still plenty of accommodations to choose from. Many of these offer luxury perks without the luxury price. The Hacienda Hotel, Hotel Rosita, Hotel Buenaventura and the Marbella All Suites Resort are a few of the places you may want to consider if accommodations less than USD 80 per night are more suited to your budget.
If you're looking for something a little more untraditional, say perhaps a unique bed and breakfast, then Casa Kimberly is highly recommended. This B&B used to be the home of Elizabeth Taylor and is a real treat for would-be starlets, movie buffs and nostalgia seekers.
Budget Travel Accommodations Those traveling on limited means needn't look far for accommodations. There is a large selection of hotels and motels within city limits for less than USD 35 a night. The Hotel Alegre, Hotel Frankfurt, Andale Hotel, Posada de Roger Hotel and the Yasmin Hotel are the most commonly selected and recommended for the budget-minded. Some of these hotels will provide guests with discounts if they're staying for extended periods of time, usually longer than a week.
Puerto Vallarta is a city rich with history and an integral part of that stems from its cuisine. A few hundred years ago, as the city was just beginning, inhabitants didn't have the luxury of dining at four-star restaurants. Residents had to rely on their own knowledge and experience in order to feed their families. Through trial and error, a great number of the recipes that Puerto Vallarta cherishes today were created. Many of those same recipes have been handed down from one relative to the next, for generations. Some families have taken their prized recipes and opened restaurants. Today, many share them with locals and tourists alike.
Today, finding a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta is easy. The only foreseeable problem is which restaurant to choose. There are the typical chains and fast food restaurants such as McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, KFC and Taco Bell, if that's what you're in the mood for. Places like Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Café are around for those who want to drink in a familiar environment. There is also a wide variety of international restaurants and bars in the city—German, Italian, American, Asian, South American and Moroccan are just of few of the types you can expect to find. There are also the more regionalized Mexican restaurants and taverns that seem, logically, to be the biggest draw.
Northern Puerto Vallarta North of the downtown area and the Cuale River are a number of popular eateries and taverns. Abadia Basso (on Hildago) is one of the area's most romantic and frequently visited restaurants. The Mezza Luna (also on Hildago) is Vallarta's premier Italian restaurant. If you head a little closer to the downtown area, you're bound to find Chez Elena (on Matamoros); the best time to dine here is in the evening, when the garden is illuminated. On Paseo Diaz Ordaz there are a couple of tasty choices: for burgers and traditional Mexican cuisine in a casual atmosphere, there's Cheeseburger in Paradise; Old-World Italian cuisine can be found at La Dolce Vita. Over on Morelos is Mickey's No Name Café, the areas best BBQ hands down; be prepared for a wait here regardless of when you arrive.
The Downtown Area In the downtown district choices include hip nouveau eateries and small out of the way places. One of the more trendy places to dine is Café des Artistes (on Guadalupe Sanchez). Its combination of French cuisine and original artwork creates a serene atmosphere that is unmatched anywhere else in town. International fare has become quite the trend amongst Puerto Vallarta's restaurant community, and Cafe Maximilian (on Olas Altas) is no exception. Memo's Casa de Hotcakes (on Basilio Badillo) is where virtually everyone in Puerto Vallarta goes for breakfast, so there's always a wait to get in. Vegetarians will enjoy Papaya 3 (on Abasolo) serving only 100% all-natural cuisine. For some truly authentic Mexican cuisine there's only one place to go downtown, Café Olla (on Basilio Badillo). Be prepared for a wait, as it does not accept reservations.
Southern Puerto Vallarta To the south of the downtown area is Olas Altas, also known as “Restaurant Row.” It is the most heavily visited street in south Puerto Vallarta, due mainly to the sheer number of restaurants located there. Some of the eateries in this area include Chianti's, where fresh homemade pasta is always the house specialty. Just down the road, party-goers will find Daiquiri Dick's, renowned for its frozen daiquiris and Sunday brunch. Papaya 3, the vegetarian eatery, has a second location on this street. Another popular stop is Rosie's at Santa Barbara, well known throughout the city for its authentic American-style cuisine. Located just a short walk from Olas Atlas is Café Frankfurt (on Basilio Badillo). The German cuisine and open-air dining experience is what customers come here for.
Banderas Bay Scenic views, spectacular sunsets and an abundance of romantic intentions are what you can expect if dining along the Banderas Bay. Bombo's (on Matamoros) has a beautiful view of the bay and is perfect for those interested in gourmet cuisine and a romantic interlude for two. Spectacular sunsets and jazz music at El Manglar (inside the Buenaventura Hotel) is just what the love doctor ordered. Tropical plants and an impressive waterfall surround you at El Palomar (on Aguacuate). International cuisine with a Mediterranean flare is the specialty of the house at Coco's Tropical (on Olas Altas).
Cuale River Area If you enjoy dining with a view, there are plenty of places to choose from along the Cuale River. Cuiza (on Isla Rio Cuale) is a popular spot for couples, especially those with marriage on their minds. If you enjoy dining in an open-air restaurant that overlooks the river, Caruso's (on Insurgentes) is your best bet. Avid jazz enthusiasts can often be found dining at Le Bistro Jazz (on East Bridge). An enchanting spot for two is Las Brias (on Calle Aquiles Serdán), a tree-house restaurant that overlooks the “Gringo Gulch.”
One last bit of advice—If you're having a hard time deciding, ask the hotel management where you're staying or one of the local store owners. Do not ask the cabdrivers; many of them get paid to recommend specific restaurants.
A Port in the Storm Since the 16th century, when Spanish soldiers first landed on the shores of the Banderas Bay, it has been known as a safe haven. During that era, the need for ships to find shelter along the Pacific Coast was of vital importance. These safe havens helped to provide ships with shelter if pirates and renegades were to attack. They also provided ships with a place to seek repairs and to stock up on needed supplies such as food, water and firewood.
In the late 16th century, Captain Pedro de Unamuno proposed that a settlement be built on Banderas Bay; however, he was not he first to suggest this. Other navigators such as Gonzalo de Francia, Sebastian Vizcaino and Lopez de Vicuna had proposed ideas that such colonies be constructed, but their requests never received any formal attention. However, in 1644, a shipyard was built in what is now known as Mismaloya. Two of the ships constructed in that shipyard were built for Bernardo Bernal de Pinadero and were used to help colonize the southern region of California.
A City is Created During the 19th century, mining companies from Cuale and San Sebastian used the area to load and unload materials and mining supplies. At that time the area was known as Las Peñas. Halfway through that century, the area was dubbed Las Peñas de Santa Maria de Guadalupe. This formal name was bestowed by Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres (he delivered salt to the mines, which was needed in order to refine the silver). He named the area this because he arrived there on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres was so fond of the area that in the latter half of 1851, he brought his entire family there to live. It wasn't long before other families began to arrive and a small village began to emerge. Each family did their part to help the local economy grow. Some brought salt while others devoted themselves to agriculture and raising cattle. It was during this time that the French and Germans began to appear in this area in search of Brazil wood, a strong wood that they processed in order to acquire dyes.
By the year 1880, Las Peñas had a population of 1,500 inhabitants. Families from various places including Cuale and San Sebastian, came to Las Peñas to make lives for themselves. Within a few years the port was officially known as Las Peñas thanks to Admiral George Dewey's report to the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office, which was used to establish the exact geographical positions of cities along this coast in order to make an accurate map.
In 1885, Las Peñas was open to national maritime traffic and on July 23rd of that same year, a Maritime Customs Office was established. In October of the following year, the town was given its official political and judicial standing by the State Congress. Over the next 20 years, Las Peñas flourished thanks to the collective efforts of Don Guadalupe and the many families who settled there.
Growing pains In Puerta Vallarta The people of Las Peñas also suffered their share of setbacks. In mid-1888, a pot of grease, which was being heated over a fire in local restaurant, burst into flames and set the structure ablaze. The fire spread quickly, destroying more than half of the homes in town. It is said that the fire would not have caused such extensive damage had nearly all the town's male inhabitants population not been at a cockfight. In 1911, a waterspout hit the village, leaving more than 100 inhabitants homeless. In 1922, an outbreak of Yellow Fever spread through the city, causing more than 150 deaths.
In early 1911 Las Peñas' first post office was opened, and later that same year a telegraph was installed. In 1889, the port of Las Peñas was upgraded to a municipality. It was at this time that the settlement's name was changed to Puerto Vallarta, in remembrance of the Governor of Jalisco, Don Ignacio L. Vallarta.
Thirty-five years later, the Montgomery Fruit Company purchased 70,000 acres for banana plantations in the neighboring town of Ixtapa. Because of the surplus job opportunities created by these plantations, Puerto Vallarta began to flourish. Eventually, a railway was built in order to transport the bananas to El Salado and eventually onto the United States. Unfortunately, in 1938, the company was forced to leave the area due to new laws and restrictions that had been put into effect. Other products such as beans, coconuts, corn and tobacco continued to be grown and shipped to national markets.
The World Discovers Its Beauty Unlike some other cities in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta was not created for tourism. However, in the 1930's, the city got its first taste. Those who visited the area loved it so much that they began returning year after year. Word of Puerto Vallarta's beauty quickly spread, and each year the number of tourists grew. By 1950 the city was known internationally, but what really put Puerto Vallarta on the map was the movie Night of the Iguana (filmed in 1963) and the steamy romance between film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Thousands of tourists flocked to the area, eager to see the location where the movie was made. That exposure helped the city grow quickly. Transportation improved, hotels were built and the city now had a new primary income source, tourism.
Because of that growth, Francisco Medina Ascencio, governor of Jalisco, and Sr. Jose Vasquez Galvan as mayor of Puerto Vallarta, pronounced decree No. 8366, which elevated Puerto Vallerta to the status of a city. Puerto Vallarta has come a long way since 1930. Today, hotels and restaurants line the beaches. Cruise ships come into port on an almost daily basis. Tourism, which was once nonexistent, now draws in more than half a million visitors a year, turning this once a tiny fishing village into a sought-after vacation destination.