Puerto Vallarta Vacations
Nestled between palm-covered mountains and an azure sea, Puerto Vallarta is seriously picturesque. Wander its cobblestone streets, admire its whitewashed houses, then relax on its gorgeous sandy beach - dolphins can be seen frolicking year-round, and humpback whales cruise by from December to March.
Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit
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Puerto Vallarta has mutated from a sleepy seaside village into an international resort so quickly that some are quick to deride its spoilt charms. But it's simply impossible to hold a grudge against this sophisticated, friendly city with its lively beaches, bars, restaurants and galleries.
What To Do
Vallarta has loads of operators providing skiing, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, sailing, fishing and swimming tours. The northernmost point of Banderas Bay also offers some brilliant year-round surfing. Wildlife-watching is another popular activity - dolphins and humpback whales are regular stars.
What To See
Soak up the colonial charm, or sit and watch a dolphin play.
Just strolling the streets of Puerto Vallarta is an exercise in relaxation. Begin at its heart, Plaza Principal, then peruse the outdoor amphitheater, climb up to the steeple of Templo de Guadalupe, pop into Museo del Cuale before taking a trip the peaceful seaside village of Boca de Tomatlán.
Bahía de Banderas
Below the warm, tranquil waters of the Bahia de Banderas is a world of stingrays, tropical fish and garishly colored corals. Great spots for diving and snorkeling are Los Arcos, the rocky islands south of the city center, and the Islas Marietas, which are surrounded by reefs, tunnels, walls and underwater caves. Dolphins, whales and giant manta rays are often sighted between December and April.
Isla Río Cuale
A trip to Vallarta wouldn't be complete without lingering on Isla Río Cuale, where the city's earliest residents built their humble homes. Upstream you'll notice two rickety cable suspension bridges, connecting the island to the Zona Romantica.
Los Arcos Amphitheater
This outdoor amphitheater, a Vallarta landmark, is backed by Los Arcos, a row of arches that has become a symbol of the city. It's also regularly used as an open-air theater for cultural performances and festivals on weekends and during holidays.
Museo del Cuale
This tiny museum near the western end of Isla Cuale has a small collection of beautiful pottery, grinding stones, clay figurines and other ancient objects. Text panels are in Spanish and English.
Playa de los Muertos
Despite its name, Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) is a lively beach which is handy to the city center. At the southern end of the beach, a stretch of sand called Blue Chairs is a popular spot with gay men.
Splash Parque Acuático
Done with beautiful white-sand beaches? Kids will go nuts at Splash Parque Acuático, which has 12 waterslides, a lazy river swimming pool and a daily dolphin show.
Templo de Guadalupe
The crown-topped steeple of the Templo de Guadalupe is a Vallarta icon.
Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Orchids, bromeliads, agaves and wild palms line the paths of this gorgeous nature park, located 30km south of Puerto Vallarta. Butterflies flit by as you dine at the open-air Hacienda de Oro restaurant. Follow hummingbirds down paths and through fern grottoes, or head down to bask in a chair on the sand and swim amid huge boulders in the river below.
El Gato Gordo
This rather small shop looks harmless enough, but it's chock full of lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) masks and Cuban cigars.
In business since 1978, this excellent little shop displays authentic Mexican dance masks, folk art and rural antiques.
Vallarta’s choicest nightspot commands the most artful DJs and an open-air rooftop bar furnished with oversized beds. On the dance floor the music is frenetic, but there’s also a mellow chill lounge.
J&B Salsa Club
Vallarta’s premier Latin dance club (pronounced ‘hota-bey’) features live bands Friday and Saturday, with DJs the rest of the week. The salsa lessons (from 8pm to 10pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) are a big draw, as are the Monday-night tango lessons. It’s about 3.5km north of downtown Vallarta along the main coastal highway.
Attracting a very enthusiastic all-Mexican crowd, this restaurant-bar presents an entertaining (if slightly amateur) show of music, comedy and mariachi every Tuesday through Sunday evening starting at 11pm. It’s a great bit of local color.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) - is the cue for Vallarta's beaches and bars to go into full-on party mode. May is the month of Fiestas de Mayo - the city celebrates with concerts, art exhibits, sports events and carnivals. In mid-September, Mexican independence is commemorated with horsemanship events and bullfights, along with parades, festivities and fireworks displays. The busy month of November sees art, food and film festivals. November 22 is Día de Santa Cecilia, a tribute to mariachis (those spirited, sombrero-topped Mexican musicians). November is also when deep-sea fishing enthusiasts cruise in for the international Torneo de Pesca, with sailfish, marlin and sea bass high on the sporting menu. In early December, Mexico's patron saint, the Virgen de Guadalupe, has her day out on the town.
Puerto Vallarta Gourmet Festival
Gourmets come from far and wide to celebrate this annual 10-day festival, held in mid-November. Showcasing the talents of local chefs and guest chefs from around the world, it features gourmet cooking classes, wine tastings and other delicious events.
Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe)
A week or more of festivities throughout Mexico leads up to this celebration in honor of the Virgin who appeared to an indigenous Mexican, Juan Diego, in 1531, and has since become Mexico's religious patron. Children are taken to church dressed as little Juan Diegos or indigenous girls. The biggest festivities are at the Basílica de Guadalupe in Mexico City.Many offices and businesses close on this optional holiday
Food and Drink
This elegant, urbane restaurant has long showed Puerto Vallarta a thing or two about good eating. The menu changes, but it’s always Asian fusion, with savory fish in rich tropical sauces the highlight.
Esquina de los Caprichos
This classy little place combines an intimate front room with a Gaudi-inspired back patio full of colorfully painted tables and broken tile mosaics. Most of the dishes you’d expect to find at a tapas bar in Barcelona – delicious gazpacho, fried calamari, garlic shrimp and paella (Saturday only) – are served here on charming handmade plates.
La Dolce Vita
A cheerful, often-crowded spot for wood-fired pizzas, pastas and people-watching. Request a table upstairs by the window for great views.
Blanco y Negro
A pleasant bar and cafe in the Zona Hotelera that attracts mainly locals, this is a great place to hear trova (Latin accoustic pop ballads) on Friday and Saturday evenings.
El Mole de Jovita
Its tables glowing with colorful Mexican oilcloths in classic fruit and flower designs, this family-run restaurant specializes in chicken with mole (chili sauce), but also serves good breakfasts and reasonably priced Mexican standards.