Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta

Author Anne Plau

After Cancun and Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta is the most famous seaside resort in Mexico. It is located in the extensive Bahía de Banderas on the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by tropical vegetation and the foothills of the Sierra Madre. In the 1960s, the then small fishing village was chosen by John Huston as the filming location for the film "The Night of the Iguana." Since then, Puerto Vallarta has become a favorite of the rich and famous.

Puerto Vallarta - Hotel Zone

Puerto Vallarta - Hotel Zone


Today more than 220.000 people live in Puerto Vallarta. Around 50% of all employees work in tourism, the others in agriculture, industry and trade. Tourists love Puerto Vallarta because of the dream beaches, the colonial charm and the good cuisine. The main travel season is between October and May. Then the temperatures are bearable and it rains little. Puerto Vallarta has an international airport and a spacious marina for yachts and cruise ships.

Point of Interest & Sights

The main attractions in Puerto Vallarta are the dream beaches on Bahía de Banderas, the largest bay in Mexico. But there is also other interesting things to see and discover.

Malecón Pier

The promenade in the center of Puerto Vallarta is called the Malecón. The northern part begins at the level of the street Jesús Langarica and leads between the old town and the beach to Isla Cuale. The southern part begins at the Zona Romantica and leads to the end of Playa Los Muertos. Overall, the Malecón is 2 ½ kilometers long.

Puerto Vallarta - El Malecon
Puerto Vallarta - El Malecon - Naval Museum
Puerto Vallarta - El Malecón - El Cabalito de Mar
Puerto Vallarta - El Malecón - Armphitheater los Arcos and Museo Naval

 

On the land side there are hotels, boutiques, shops, restaurants and cafes, on the lake side you can enjoy a spectacular view of Banderas Bay. The Malecon is a promenade and a meeting place for locals and tourists. The Los Arcos amphitheater opposite the Plaza de Armas is particularly popular.

There are remarkable sculptures all over the Malecón.

Malecon - La Rotonda del Mar

Malecon - La Rotonda del Mar


The spectrum ranges from the dancing couple and the Cabalito de Mar (seahorses) to the elaborate installation “La Rotonda del Mar”, a group of eight surreal objects by the artist Alejandro Colunga.

 

 

Old town of Puerto Vallarta

There are still cobblestones and Spanish colonial houses here. The houses are white and the roofs are covered with red tiles. The old town is north of Isla Cuale. It stretches quite steeply up the hill behind the Plaza de Armas and the Church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.

Plaza de Armas and tower of the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church

Plaza de Armas and tower of the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church


From above you can see the red tile roofs and have a wide all-round view of the Bahía de Banderas.

The showpiece of the old town is the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. The bell tower can be seen from afar. It ends with a crown worn by eight angels and it looks really striking. Inside the church the beautiful dome and the marble altar are impressive.

The top of the tower of the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe - Altar

 

Gringo Gulch, a quarter up in the old town, is particularly picturesque. The narrow streets are very steep, and some of the houses can only be reached by stairs. An interesting building in the Gringo Gulch is Casa Kimberly. Richard Burton once bought the house as a gift for Elisabeth Taylor.

Casa Kimberly in the Gringo Gulch area
Street art in Puerto Vallarta's old town

 

The couple married in Puerto Vallarta and lived there temporarily. Today the Casa Kimberly houses an exclusive hotel.

Cuale Island

Isla Cuale is located in the center of Puerto Vallarta. The Rio Cuale divides before it flows into the Bahía de Banderas and forms this small island. It is about 600 meters long and up to 100 meters wide. Two roads cross the island, which is reserved exclusively for pedestrians. There is access from the Malecón at Banderas Bay and via both arms of the Rio Cuale. A stair bridge that connects the high-altitude Gringo Gulch with the island is worth seeing.

The stair bridge in the Gringo Gulch district

The stair bridge in the Gringo Gulch district


A path meanders along Isla Cuale, which is overgrown with tropical plants. It begins at the Malecón and leads east to the Centro Cultural Cuale. In the Centro Cultural there are workshops by artists, but art, cultural and educational projects are also funded there. On the way across the island are the small anthropological Museo del Cuale, a flea market and many stalls that offer handicrafts as well as typical Mexican clothing.

Puerto Vallarta - Signpost to the Isla Rio Cuale Museum
Puerto Vallarta - Cuale Island - BabelBar open air restaurant
Retail shop on the island of Cuale
The Instuto Cultura on the island of Cuale

 

In the shade of the lush vegetation and above the two rivers there are a number of pretty restaurants.

Zona Romantica

The Zona Romantica old town is located south of Isla Cuale. Here you can find the Spanish colonial style again, whereby the newer buildings also show themselves in the characteristic white with red tile roofs.

Puerto Vallarta - Romantic Zone - Calle Basilio Bardillo

Puerto Vallarta - Romantic Zone - Calle Basilio Bardillo


The Zona Romantica is a trendy district with many art galleries, small boutique hotels, trendy clubs and bars. There are restaurants and cafes for all tastes and budgets.

Puerto Vallarta's beaches

Crystal clear water and fine sand characterize all the beaches of Bahía de Banderas. From remote to busy, everyone will find their favorite beach here.

The most popular beach in the center of Puerto Vallarta is Playa los Muertos. It is 1½ kilometers long, wide and lively. A perfect place for sun worshipers and water sports enthusiasts. The hallmark is the decorative pier, Muelle de Playa Los Muertos, where excursion boats and water taxis dock.

Muelle de Playa los Muertos
Muelle de Playa los Muertos

 

In the north - from the cruise terminal to the old town - there are long beaches, behind them large hotels, shopping centers and sports facilities.

Puerto Vallarta - Zona Hotelera - the hotel zone
Puerto Vallarta - Zona Hotelera - the hotel zone

 

It's quieter in the south. There are sandy bays in a particularly scenic location. The rock islands in the Parque National Marino los Arcos off the coast between Playa las Gemelas and Playa Mismaloya attract divers and snorkelers.

 

 

Excursions on the water and on land

The Bahia de Banderas invites you to go on boat tours. This includes watching dolphins, whales, turtles and waterfowl.

Puerto Vallarta Cruise Terminal - tour boats

Puerto Vallarta Cruise Terminal - tour boats


But the immediate area on land also has a lot to offer. There are “Magical Villages”, a botanical garden and a zoo. Here are some suggestions.

National Park Marino los Arcos

Los Arcos National Marine Park is located 12 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta, off the coast of Mismaloya. The granite boulders, arches, tunnels and caves are especially popular for diving and snorkeling. Sections of the nature reserve are protected as breeding grounds for pelicans, gannets and other water birds.

Boats depart from Marina Vallarta.

Marietas Islands

The islands are located in the middle of the Bahia de Banderas. We'll go there first with a larger boat. In the vicinity of the islands you can take part in kayaking and snorkeling expeditions and admire the tropical marine life. Direct access to the Islas Marietas is severely restricted to protect nature.

 Boats depart from Marina Vallarta.

Magical Towns of Mexico

The Mexican government has designated a number of places as "pueblo mágico" because of their cultural or historical value. In the vicinity of Puerto Vallarta there are four of these “magical villages” that are different distances away.

We recommend an organized tour.

Sayulita is a beach town about 40 kilometers northwest of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Ocean. The traditional fishing village is characterized by its friendly hippie atmosphere.

San Sebastián del Oeste is about 70 kilometers east of Puerto Vallarta in the mountains of the Sierra Madre. The remote village stands for mining tradition, churches and haciendas in beautiful landscapes.

Vallarta Botanical Garden

This small jungle paradise is located at an altitude of 400 meters, 24 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta. Exotic plants and birds as well as lush tropical vegetation can be admired here. The botanical garden is 26 hectares. There are hiking trails through the individual gardens, official tours, a river and a restaurant.

 We recommend an organized tour.

Puerto Vallarta for crusaders

The port of Puerto Vallarta is about five kilometers north of the center. In the front area there is space for three cruise ships, followed by the marina with berths for private yachts and charter boats.

Marina Vallarta - seen from the cruise ship

Marina Vallarta - seen from the cruise ship


The marina district includes elegant hotels and apartments, restaurants and shops as well as a promenade and an 18-hole golf course. The landmark of the marina is the El Faro lighthouse.

Cruise ships dock on the way from Canada or the USA to Central and South America or back in Puerto Vallarta, as well as on trips through the Panama Canal in a westerly or easterly direction.

From the more remote piers, small shuttle buses run through the extremely well-kept facility to the cruise terminal.

MS Rotterdam at the cruise terminal in Puerto Vallarta
Shuttle buses at the Puerto Vallarta cruise terminal
Puerto Vallarta cruise terminal - first impressions
View of the cruise terminal and the hotel zone of Puerto Vallarta

 

The terminal is brand new and very elaborately designed. There you will find information, waiting areas, tour operators, shops and restaurants. Taxis and private buses are waiting in the forecourt. Local buses going to the center stop on Francisco Medina Ascencio Street, just 100 meters away.

 

 

 

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