Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide
Located along Pacific Coast along a narrow strip of land before the Sierra Madre Mountains rise sharply to the east, Puerto Vallarta is a beach resort that stands in sharp contrast to the desert feel of Cabo San Lucas and the Caribbean flair of the Mayan Riviera.
With a long history that eclipses the purpose built settlements of the prior two places, it has a draw that will make you into a fan of this place within hours of your arrival.
Cultural and Natural Attractions
While Puerto Vallarta is more focused around its natural assets than its more culturally endowed counterparts inland (Guadalajara, Mexico City, etc), it does have a centrepiece church that is well worth seeking out.
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located in the heart of Zona Romantica near the old city of Puerto Vallarta, and it is hard to miss, as it is topped by a regal-looking crown. This neoclassical gem (with Renaissance and Baroque influences as well) was built in the early 20th century, and though the original crown was destroyed in an earthquake in the early 1990’s, it was quickly replaced by one made of fibreglass.
Inside, look for a painting of the Lady of Guadalupe, and be sure to attend the festival that celebrates her legacy if you are in Puerto Vallarta between December 1st to the 12th.
During the course of your stay in the area, book a boat trip out to the Marieta Islands, which can be found on numerous “most beautiful beaches in the world” posts on various blogs across the internet.
Accessed by a tunnel that is safe to swim through at low tide, Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach) is the focus of tourist attention out here, as the fact that it is walled off from view from those approaching the island on the outside makes it especially alluring.
Snorkeling and diving around the perimeter of these isles is quite excellent as well, making a journey out here well worth it for those that love to explore the world beneath the waves.
Being subject to long wet seasons due to the moisture-wringing effects of the wall-like Sierra Madre Mountains, the slopes of the highlands along the coast near Puerto Vallarta make them ideal habitat for a large variety of flora.
A visit to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens will confirm this fact, as this beautiful park situated at 1,300 feet above sea level has over 3,000 species over 20 acres of land. From orchids to roses and wild palms, there is much to see for those with a green thumb.
During one of the evenings while you are here, be sure to take a stroll along El Malecon, a concrete seawall that is home to variety of sculptures, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. Culture hounds will love the Voladores de Papantla performance, which is a death defying tradition where height-loving performers hang off a 50 foot pole to the amazement of observers.
This place is a great one to watch the sun set, so get here early so you’ll have a front row seat so you can watch it sink into the horizon with a cerveza in hand.
On the south side of the Rio Cuale lies Old Vallarta. If you find the modern resorts of the Hotel Zone alienating, then you will find this part of town to be a breath of fresh air.
Cobblestoned streets, street food carts serving up fish tacos, and gorgeous restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine are all par for the course here.
Don’t miss Mercado Emiliano Zapata on Calle Lazaro Cardenas, as its selection of fresh foods and mom and pop lunch counters make this place a joy for foodies to visit.
Finally, Puerto Vallarta and the Bahia de Banderas is filled with amazing beaches that draw tourists from around the world.
Playa Los Muertos is an attractive beach in town, as its location adjacent to the Old Town, and its LGBT friendly nature make a fun place to be.
There are more isolated and physically stunning beaches south of Puerto Vallarta, with Playa Las Gemelas taking on an aqua green hue that is hard to find along the Pacific Coast and Playa Mismaloya being home to the Liz Taylor movie, The Night of the Iguana.