Beach Vacations to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta from above, Jalisco, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta from above, Jalisco, Mexico (Wonderlane/Flickr)

Tourists have been coming to this Pacific Coast resort since the late 1800s. The state of Jalisco, in which Puerto Vallarta lies, is where both mariachi and tequila originated. And though native Indian populations in parts of Mexico have all but disappeared into the Hispanic culture, the Huichol Indians from the hills above Puerto Vallarta have retained their culture, and their influences are found throughout the area.

Puerto Vallarta includes more than 40 miles of coastline on the wide expanse of Banderas Bay, from San Francisco on the north shore to Mismaloya on the south shore, and this entire area is known as Costa Vallarta. There are dozens of beaches, from small stretches of sand in romantic, away-from-it-all coves (accessible only by boat or water taxi) to broad crescents cradling the bay. Some, like Sayulita and San Francisco, are famous for surfing. Others sit at the edge of the jungle, where they provide the scenic view of modern high-rise hotels built at the sand's edge.

The city itself consists of two distinct areas: the old historic El Centro, and the newer sections including Marina Vallarta, the largest marina complex in all of Mexico with 500 slips, condo projects, a strollable malecon (seaside walkway), and a number of decent hotels.

You can, of course, come to Puerto Vallarta and simply relax on one of the many beaches. But PV has always been a place for adventures. Its waters teem with life—many kinds of whales and dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, and fish. It offers good snorkeling and diving and just about every water sport, from windsurfing and sportfishing to jet-skiing and parasailing. Then there's the jungle, literally at its doorstep, offering a wealth of land-based adventures, from canopy tours to cultural exploration of the Huichol.

Because Puerto Vallarta is a thriving city of 300,000, it also offers visitors an immersion in the region's culture with its rich heritage of arts, handicrafts, distinctive food, and music. Over 21? You have to try tequila here, because the libation can only be called tequila if it's made in the state of Jalisco. Puerto Vallarta's mix of cobblestone streets and contemporary zones with excellent tourism infrastructure makes it an easy place to visit. As with all cities, there are caveats. Beware of people on the street and at the airport posing as "official" guides, as most are time-share salesmen. Do not buy tours on the street or at the beach. Many of these are not of high quality and don't provide much for the price. Instead, talk to your hotel concierge or go with reputable companies that provide a quality experience, including Ecotours de Mexico, Vallarta Adventures, Vallarta Discovery, and Nuevo Vallarta Tours. You may pay a bit more, but it's worth it.

Published: 8 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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