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 Punta Mita in the north (at the Sierra De Vallejo Mountains) to Cabo Corrientes (in the lower foothills of the Sierra del Cuale mountain range).
Playa Play First, let's explore the main reason most people come to Puerto Vallarta: the "playas" or beaches. Punta Mita , located in a small fishing village to the north, offers spectacular scenery and water-sport venues. Off the coast lie the Marieta Islands , which provide exceptional snorkeling, scuba diving and whale-watching sites. Going south towards the city is Bucerias , a quaint beach community and fishing village with sandy coves and cobblestone streets.
Heading into town proper, visitors will find Playa de Oro , a paradise for surfers looking for the perfect wave. Beach-goers will begin to notice more people enjoying the beaches at this point, and the multitudes of vendors who cater to them. Playa de los Muertos , the “beach of the dead,” is located south of the Hotel Zone and is notorious for its treacherous undercurrents, but it is a popular venue nevertheless. Conchas Chinas , a quiet beach also in the hotel area, features natural wading-pools created by rock formations. At the southernmost point of Banderas Bay (and accessible only by boat) is the Playa Yelapa , a very secluded and beautiful spot. Breathtaking views, a waterfall, hiking and riding make this a hidden paradise.
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 Las Brisas . A seaside walkway, El Malecón , is also in this part of town and is considered to be the heart of Puerta Vallarta. The Hotel Rosita , the first hotel built in this city, enjoys this central location and a spectacular beach view. A couple of the popular restaurants in this area are Las Palomas and Carlos O'Brian's . For the after-hours crowd, the Zoo features reggae and rock music into the wee hours of the morning.
Art lovers will find the works of internationally known Mexican artists featured at the Galeria Pacifico . This gallery is well worth your time to experience a taste of Mexico's cultural best.
Visitors can also enjoy the architecture of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe , one of the most recognized landmarks of the town. With the beautiful bay as a backdrop, visitors will also see noted statuary such as Los Arcos (the arches), The Dolphins, and El Cabillito (the sea horse) while strolling along the Malecon.
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 Krystal Vallarta hosts five restaurants and The Christine Discotheque , along with authentic Mexican fiestas held twice a week. The Hotel Buenaventura is another fine choice, offering marvelous ocean views and an extensive list of amenities. Villa del Mar occupies more than eight acres of gorgeous beachfront property along with its sister hotel, the Villa del Palmar . The Playa Del Sol Costa Sur is perfect for combining business with pleasure. A club especially designed for children is on the premises, as well as conference facilities for meetings.
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 Eco Tours for whale, bird and turtle watching. Vallarta Adventures allows you to swim with dolphins or explore nearby Caletas Beach (hideaway for movie mogul John Huston). Adventure of a different sort awaits aboard the Marigalante, with both day and sunset cruises. This “pirate” ship replicates a 15th-century Spanish Galeon right down to the last detail. Passengers enjoy meals, an open bar, dancing and fireworks.
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 Cafe 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 Cafe , 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 Cafe 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, Cafe 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 Cafe 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.
In the beginning, somewhere around the eighth day, Puerto Vallarta must have been created. Once you see the beauty of the area, you'll likely agree. Sunshine will be your daily companion as you walk the magnificent beaches, sail in the Bahia de Banderas, or hike the secluded areas. These are only some of the ways to enjoy this tropical paradise:
Water World One of the great ways for the whole family to enjoy the sights and water activities is by sailing on the Marigalante, a magnificent reproduction of a Spanish Galleon. Meals are served on board as you set sail for a day of snorkeling or other activities near the Marieta Islands . Evening cruises allow passengers to sail into the sunset while enjoying delightful cuisine, Mariachi music and fireworks. Eco Tours allows visitors the experience of communing with the families of humpback whales that return to Banderas Bay every year. You will be able to hear these wonderful creatures communicate with one another by the use of special hydrophones on board. Turtle Camp is another interesting and educational trip offered by Eco Tours . Visitors can help release baby Olive Ridley Sea Turtles into the bay in an effort to preserve this endangered species.
Alegre Cruises will take passengers to the beautiful and secluded fishing village of Yelapa . Once you arrive, enjoy swimming and snorkeling; or just bask in the peace and quiet of this unique area accessible only by boat. The Puerto Vallarta Fishing Company will take you on your quest to bring home a trophy fish. Blue, black and striped Marlin swim these waters, as do wahoo and yellowfin tuna. If you are here in November, you may want to participate in the annual International Sailfish Tournament. Cash prizes are awarded for the biggest catch and a great time is guaranteed, win or lose. Terra Firma If water sports are not your thing, there are still plenty of things to do besides lounging in the warm sunshine with a cool drink and being waited on hand and foot. Golf fans will be happy to see some excellent venues to perfect their skills. The Marina Vallarta Golf Club combines a magnificent ocean view with palms, lagoons and waterfalls. Herons, ducks, sand cranes, iguanas and alligators will help you keep score. Flamingos Golf Resort offers a par-72 challenge designed by Percy Clifford.
Bicycle and hiking tours are available through B-B-Bobby's Bikes located in downtown Puerto Vallarta. This outfit has an excellent reputation for guided tours through the area including trips to Las Animas and Yelapa . If you wish to pedal around town and see the sights on your own, you can do that also. BikeMex Adventures will take rides to many venues for all levels of riding skill. One exceptional day trip will take you to Punta de Mita , a beautiful costal area north of Puerto Vallarta.
For an enjoyable tour on foot, visit the seaside walkway called Malecon, part of Old Vallarta and considered the heart of the town. Art lovers will enjoy the works of internationally known Mexican artists featured at the Galeria Pacifico, and the place is well worth your time. This gallery offers not only fine works by Mexican artists, but a “Walking Art Tour” as well. These enjoyable jaunts take place every Tuesday morning from January through the early part of April. Another must-see is the Galeria Sergio Bustamante, hosting the artistry of this famous sculptor. Visitors can also enjoy the architecture of the Church of Guadalupe, one of the most recognized landmarks in town. With the beautiful bay as a backdrop, visitors will also see noted statuary such as Los Arcos (the arches), The Dolphins, and El Cabillito (the sea horse).
Sun, Sand and Surf Offering a combination of both water and land activities are the playas in and around Puerto Vallarta. Punta Mita , located in a small fishing village to the north, offers spectacular scenery and water sport venues. Off the coast sits the Marieta Islands that provide exceptional diving and whale-watching sites. Next, going south towards the city, is Bucerias , a quaint beach community and fishing village with sandy coves and cobblestone streets.
Heading into Puerto Vallarta proper, visitors will come to Playa de Oro , a paradise for surfers looking for the perfect wave. This beach is popular with both tourists and the many wandering vendors who cater to their every need, offering helpful items such as sunscreen as well as knickknacks like Aztec symbols. Playa de los Muertos , the “beach of the dead,” is located south of the Hotel Zone. Despite its notorious treacherous undercurrents, it is an extremely popular beach. Conchas Chinas , a quiet beach also in the hotel area, features natural wading-pools created by rock formations. At the southernmost point of Banderas Bay, and accessible only by boat, is the Playa Yelapa . As beautiful as it is secluded, its breathtaking views, waterfall, hiking trails and horseback riding make this a hidden paradise.
For a variety of land and sea excursions, as well as eco-tours, contact Vallarta Encountours .
However you choose to see the sights of this city—by land, by sea, or a combination of both—Puerto Vallarta will delight you with its beauty and friendly people. Those who visit are likely to dream of returning.