Published May 06, 2012
Crystal blue water, vine-hung foothills and an idyllic old town have made Puerto Vallarta one of Mexico's most popular travel destinations.
For years Puerto Vallarta lived in relative obscurity, eclipsed by more popular resorts like Cancun and Acapulco. But over the last 50 years, word of Puerto Vallarta's beauty has gotten out. The town was a frequent port of call in the popular 70s and 80s TV show “The Love Boat" and in 1964, it was the backdrop for Ava Gardner and Richard Burton’s movie “The Night of the Iguana.” The movie’s success, along with Burton’s off-screen relationship with film siren Elizabeth Taylor, helped draw attention to the glimmering Pacific Coast town.
Puerto Vallarta lies at the inner recess of the Bay of Banderas, the largest natural bay in Mexico. The town is positioned at the same latitude as the Hawaiian Islands, giving it a similar climate. It is a three hour flight from Los Angeles and a four and a half hour flight from New York. From water sports to colonial history, there is a perfect Puerto Vallarta vacation for everyone.
Puerto Vallarta boasts miles of pristine beaches. From secluded sanctuaries to hopping hotspots, the resort can meet any expectations. One of the town's most famous and popular beaches is Los Muertos, located in the Zona Romántica (Romanic Zone). Don’t let its name (translated as the beach of the dead) deter you.
Los Muertos is among Puerto Vallarta’s liveliest beaches. The area is full of hotels, restaurants and bars. The south section of the beach is part of Blue Chairs resort, the most popular gay beach in the area.Playa de Oro beach, which is located north of the city, is another popular spot. Playa Conchas Chinas stretches to the Sierra Madre Mountains and is said to be one of Puerto Vallarta’s most luxurious and peaceful areas.
Playa de Sayulita, about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, offers surfer-friendly waves and fishing opportunities. El Anclote, on the northwest peninsula of Banderas Bay, draws surfers year-round. Movie enthusiasts can visit Mismaloya Beach and see the movie ruins from the 1963 film “Night of the Iguana.”
Puerto Vallarta's old town, with cobbled streets and white stucco buildings, is also a huge draw for tourists and history buffs. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the central feature of the town's skyline. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Mexico and the destination of thousands of Catholic pilgrims during the 12-day Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe each December.
If you are looking for a taste of history during your stay, you can visit the rural village of San Sebastián del Oeste, which sits at an altitude of 4,500 feet, nestled among pine trees in the Sierra Madre mountains. About 90 minutes from Puerto Vallarta by car, you can get a feel for colonial Mexico at the 400-year-old former New Spain mining capital. South of Baderas Bay is Los Arcos National Marine Park, a popular diving and snorkeling spot.
Puerto Vallarta also boasts a vibrant art and culture scene and you can take advantage of the town's shopping, dining and partying along the Malecón (boardwalk).
While in Puerto Vallarta, you have the chance to swim with dolphins or sea lions. If you visit between mid-December and the end of March, you can go whale watching in the Banderas Bay, possibly spotting humpback whales and wild dolphins, Pelicans and parakeets are just a few of the birds you can see at the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
The waters surrounding Puerto Vallarta are a favorite for deep sea fishermen and the resort is also home to top-flight horseback riding, kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving.Whether you are looking for fun in the sun or a complete cultural experience, Puerto Vallarta has something for you.