Framed in picturesque fashion by the Banderas Bay to the west and the Sierra Madre mountain range to the east, Puerto Vallarta offers one of Mexico’s most inviting destinations for a diverse array of travelers. This enticing coastal destination brings countless thousands of visitors in each year for its spectacular seaside settings along with its verdant jungle vistas, but offers plenty of interest beyond its signature natural splendor.
As recently as the 1960s, Puerto Vallarta was a virtually unknown fishing village tucked away on the Mexican coast. Its modern renaissance was sparked chiefly by a fateful visit by iconic Hollywood director John Huston, who sought an idyllic setting for his “Night of the Iguana” film starring silver screen superstars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Rumors of their romance brought the tiny town to an international stage, transforming it into a global destination in the decades following.
Today, Puerto Vallarta is an enjoyable escape for visitors from around the world. Its warm climate delivers on average 280 days of sunshine yearly, and the surf in the area is typically calm, making the beaches an excellent choice for families. Vallarta’s placement between the bay and the mountains also affords it significant protection from hurricanes and other natural disasters common in tropical locales, making it a viable visit year-round.
At both the national and municipal level, a special focus is placed on maintaining visitor safety in Puerto Vallarta. The federal police work with local law enforcement to maintain a peaceful environment throughout the region, and a special bilingual tourist police force ensure a positive experience for guests by providing assistance and information as needed.
On the beaches, a comprehensive evaluation system for water quality and surf intensity helps to ensure swimmers are as safe as possible. Streets are also typically well-lit at night. Together, these factors contribute to a local environment that is widely rated as among the safest in the Americas for visitors.
In the sections of the city that experience the most traffic, Puerto Vallarta is a highly walkable locale. Many of the major points of interest are located within a few minutes’ walk from each other, making it possible to take in many of the signature sights in a long afternoon. The city is also home to a number of transit options, from the comprehensive bus system to taxicabs and ridesharing services, making exploration of the city into a fun and easy activity.
Points of Interest
Among the many worthwhile attractions in the area is the world-famous Malecon. Once a short stretch of cobblestone that connected the oldest hotel in the city to the shores of the Pacific, the Malecon is now a thriving pedestrian promenade spanning over a mile in the heart of the city. This seaside stretch is lined along its length with restaurants, dance clubs, sculptures, and shops as well as hosting a variety of street performers and other cultural presentations.
Along the Malecon as the Centro district leads into the neighborhood known as Old Town are two particularly appealing options for curious travelers. The first is the Los Arcos Amphitheater, an open-air exhibition stage frequented by local performers who put on free shows to the delight of locals and visitors alike. Across the street, Plaza Las Armas is home to the city’s municipal seat, the local tourism office, and a range of special events including a weekly food fair.
Isla Cuale is another popular destination in the most active area of the city. This thin strip of land standing where the Rio Cuale flows into the bay is home to a network of riverside restaurants and bars and a tequila distributor as well as a cultural center offering free workshops and special events. Isla Cuale is also a prime destination for visitors seeking out souvenirs, as the island is also home to dozens of vendors specializing in handcrafted wares.
Puerto Vallarta delivers no end of interest for visitors looking to dive into local culture. The city boasts a world-class culinary scene showcasing cuisines from across the country and around the world in stylish restaurants, and the panoramic views on the bay also make boat trips a frequently enjoyed activity. The water visibility is also exceptional in some areas, making a trip on the water to dive or snorkel into a memorable experience.
However, the true richness of the region reveals itself in some of the more unexpected entertainment options in the area. The terrain in and around the city presents plenty of opportunities for active travelers to enjoy a hike, from the staircase leading to the Mirador, an observation point offering a stunning view of the bay, as well as the trail that leads from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas and treats hikers to a tour of secluded coastal beaches along the way.
A few sunny Vallarta afternoons are reason enough to visit, but the city offers a thriving nightlife scene as well. Not only are many bars, restaurants, and other establishments open well past 2am, an evening out on the town is also the perfect time to sample the selection of street food that brings first-time visitors back time and time again.
Practically any day on the calendar is a good time to find yourself in Puerto Vallarta, but the spring months are especially appealing to visitors looking for a unique experience. This time of year is packed with concerts, festivals, and other attractions that bring visitors from all over the globe to experience the magic of the Banderas Bay region.
The month of May claims some of the best and most reliable weather of the year, and so it is an excellent time for outdoor events and special presentations. MayoFest is the city’s annual anniversary celebration, and combines nearly a full week of live music with activities for all ages and expanded nightly fireworks shows. Restaurant Week spotlights the diverse dining options in Vallarta, with restaurants around town offering special prix-fixe menus during what has become a nearly month long affair.
Puerto Vallarta welcomes thousands upon thousands of visitors to its sparkling shores on a yearly basis thanks to an exceptional degree of appeal to travelers of all types. Whether you’re enjoying a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a thrilling solo adventure, there’s something for everyone in this sunny city by the sea.