Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide

The beautiful beach city of Puerto Vallarta is located in Mexico on the Pacific Coast. Along one of the most alluring stretches of the Pacific Mexico coastline, known as the Mexican Riviera, the lush jungle of the Sierra Madre drops down to meet idyllic palm-lined beaches and small tropical coves.

One look at its stunning stretch of beach with mountainous backdrops, cascading waterfalls & lush jungles and you will see why it is a traveler’s paradise. This location is very popular among travelers because of the many water activities like snorkeling, diving in the underwater caves of Los Arcos, sailing, parasailing, fishing, whale-watching and much more. Travelers also enjoy the beautiful Vallarta Botanical Gardens where you can venture through the 20 acres of enchanted highlands and tour the Agave Gardens, Palm Gardens, Rose Garden, Jungle Trails, Tree Fern Grotto, Orchid House, Carnivorous Plant Collection with displays of Mexican Wildflowers. You can also enjoy tropical bird watching and take a swim in the crystal clear Rio Los Horcone. Go into the downtown area and enjoy the many culturally diverse restaurants that Puerto Vallarta has to offer. From typical Mexican street vendors to fabulous rooftop restaurants with spectacular views, you are sure to find something to satisfy. There are many bars and nightclubs located in downtown on the beachfront, Old Town and Malecon playing either live music or have DJs spinning top hits.

Puerto Vallarta is a study of contrasts – always intriguing and endlessly colorful. A beach resort of the highest order to be sure with the population changing daily – yet this charming city is home to more than 5,000 expatriates who came to visit, fell in love, and stayed. And stayed. The Mexican people and the “Vallartenses” in particular are intensely private and extraordinarily open, friendly and caring to all. Very Catholic and – the dichotomy – extremely tolerant of those with different lifestyles.

Puerto Vallarta’s heart and soul revolves solely around one objective – her tourists. Most families in the city have at least one member involved with tourism and, because there is no other industry, the Vallartenses embrace their visitors as warmly as sunshine. Puerto Vallarta – a city where handmade adobe-brick houses bump up against million-dollar homes and where restaurants serving haute cuisine peacefully coexist with taco stands. A city leaping into the future but ever vigilant to preserve and honor history and tradition.

Puerto Vallarta is a haven for weary vacationers who want nothing more than a good book, a tan and icy cold beers delivered poolside at regular intervals by an adept probably bilingual waiter. For those who choose not to sit still many, many bars and nightclubs close when everybody decides to go home.

Oh yes…and the weather is perfect, too!

Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide

Travel Information

Puerto Vallarta is located in the central west region along the beautiful beaches of the Pacific coastline of México known as “The Mexican Rivera”. Built where the tropical lush jungles of the Sierra Madre Mountains meet the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. The Bay of Banderas has acted as a natural harbor from hurricanes and tropical storms for the people and boats that, at one point or another, have inhabited and sailed in this part of the world.

Puerto Vallarta is located on the tip of the State of Jalisco (one of the 32 States of México). In the past five years, Puerto Vallarta has achieved the status of being one of the most popular tourist destinations in México. It is also probably the most visited city in Latin America amongst North Americans and Europeans. Its Marina is considered one of the best in the whole continent.

Today Puerto Vallarta has over 250,000 Mexican Residents, including close to 6,000 permanent Canadian, American and Australian residents. Its a small, quaint city that blends the tranquillity and enchantment of a “Mexican Pueblo” with the cosmopolitan activities and breathtaking infrastructure of the modern resort area it has become. Puerto Vallarta has a unique architectural style, enhanced by cobblestone streets, white stucco houses topped with red terracotta tiles and highlighted with wrought iron balconies commonly adorned with colorful local flowers.

Unlike other cities in Mexico, such as Guanajuato or Chi-Chen-Itza, which offer a rich historical and cultural background dating back centuries, Puerto Vallartas documented history only goes back to 1850, when Guadalupe Sanchez and his family settled along the mouth of the “Cuale River” to do some farming.

The region that now comprises Puerto Vallarta was discovered in 1541 by Don Pedro de Alvarado. Not long after Alvarado first touched ground in this area, that bay was practically forgotten for almost 300 years.

Puerto Vallarta was known as “Puerto Las Peñas” from 1851 until 1918 when it was designated as a municipally and received the official name of “Puerto Vallarta, in honor
of Don Ignacio L. Vallarta, a reputable representative of the State of Jalisco at the time. For 30 years this small village remained a fishing village.

International attention was first drawn to Puerto Vallarta after American director John Houston discovered the natural beauties of the town by reading written descriptions
from travelers. This prompted Mr. Houston to visit Puerto Vallarta; the result was the filming of “Night of the Iguana” in nearby Mismaloya.

The film featured Richard Burton and Ava Gardner. Puerto Vallarta has experienced massive growth in the northern part of town, including the Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta Areas. Tennis courts, health clubs, golf courses and a large marina with up-to-date facilities make Puerto Vallarta a truly world-class destination.

Puerto Vallarta Hotels

Puerto Vallarta’s hotels run from tiny one-room lodgings to magnificent Presidential Suites and absolutely everything in between the two extremes. Wonderful Gran Turismo resorts (the highest designation in México) like the Camino Real offer impeccable service and lavish surroundings. Three-star establishments offer more budget-conscious accommodation.

There are many tourist resorts and hotels located in Puerto Vallarta, so many that it can be overcrowded and pricey. You are going on vacation to relax right? So the best way to do so is by booking a Puerto Vallarta vacation rental. Booking a vacation rental is so more affordable than a resort or a hotel and you get way more than you pay for. We offer the best in luxury apartment rentals in Puerto Vallarta. These condos are all beautifully furnished and decorated, very spacious, and come with all of the amenities you would expect to have at home. A Puerto Vallarta condo rental is perfect for any traveler, whether single or traveling with family. We select each and every property that goes on our site to make sure you are receiving the best quality, best location, and the best pricing available. Look through our property listings here at SumoApartments.com and you are sure to find something to fit your budget and all of your travel needs.

Puerto Vallarta Weddings

Given that Puerto Vallarta is one of the most romantic places on earth…where better to have your wedding? The choices are endless: formal, in Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Church with the reception in a five-star resort ballroom; still formal but barefoot on the beach with the sun setting in the background; the whole wedding party at sea on a sailboat or motor launch while the crew opens champagne and readies the hors d’oeuvres.

Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta

It would take months and months for someone to eat at all the restaurants in Puerto Vallarta; there are hundreds and hundreds of places from which to choose. Watching people on the Malecón from the terrace at Viejo Vallarta, tons of fun at Andale and the elegant La Perla in the Camino Real, Mexican cuisine has become justifiably popular all over the world. Here in Vallarta, we have everything from simple comida corrida to the exquisite La Palapa on the beach. And, restaurants in Vallarta have diversified widely and offer Greek, Oriental, Italian, French, Spanish cuisines and more. We have roasted chicken takeouts, delis, a couple of Mc Donald’s, a Burger King and pizza places that deliver including Dominoes. Taco stands (of course!) and carts selling churros are still around.

What has really changed Vallarta’s restaurants was the inception of the Gourmet Festival six years ago. For two weeks every November more than 20 restaurants, including the incomparable Abadía Bassó, invite chefs from around the world to come to Vallarta and create new menus to dazzle the tourists and residents. This Festival has raised standards across the board and has elevated Puerto Vallarta to be one of the finest places to eat in the world. ¡Buen Provecho!

Puerto Vallarta Vacation Rentals

More and more visitors to Puerto Vallarta are discovering how much better it is to stay in a condo or villa rather than renting a room in a hotel. Almost all real estate brokers in Vallarta offer a rental division and we are fortunate to have companies that specialize exclusively in rentals whether it be a luxury villa in Conchas Chinas with full staff or a one-bedroom condo on the beach.

Prices range from under a hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars per night. Events including conventions and weddings can be far more pleasant in a home-like atmosphere when compared to a “ballroom” setting. And, the luxury of being able to make a sandwich or cup of coffee in the middle of the night (unlikely in a hotel room!) only makes vacation time that much sweeter.

Nightlife in Puerto Vallarta

There are as many activities to pursue at night in Vallarta as there are during the day. Great spots like the Zoo Bar and Viejo Vallarta restaurant dot the famous Malecón entertaining tourists and locals until the wee hours of the morning. Vallarta is blessed with fabulous places to eat that span the spectrum from Dominos Pizza to haute cuisine at Abadía Bassó and La Perla. In the Zona Romantica stop for a drink (or more!) at the Andale Bar then dine on the beach with your toes in the sand at La Palapa.

Puerto Vallarta Activities & Excursions

Canopy Tours is an exciting adventure situated high in the jungle’s treetops. We are located in one of the lushest areas of Puerto Vallarta – Las Juntas y Los Veranos. Experience a once-in-a-lifetime chance to zip from tree to tree and take pleasure in the wonderful sights and sounds of our magnificent jungle.

Scuba diving
The diversity of sea life and the structure of the Bay itself will delight the most seasoned divers. Equipment can be rented or you may bring your own; tours leave daily and include dive masters on each boat. If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving take a course in your hotel pool! Nearly all the major hotels offer lessons.

Snorkeling
The Bay of Banderas abounds with sea life offering wonderful opportunities to snorkel in clear, warm water. Many species of colorful fish, sea turtles, huge mantra rays, dolphins, and every winter, humpback whales visit. Popular sites include the Los Arcos Marine Park and the Marietas Islands. Many tour boats leave the Marina daily and provide everything you need for an exciting day on and in the water.

Hiking
There is a number of companies that will organize a day’s hike based upon your level of fitness and where you want to go. Jungle hikes, desert treks; some combine walking and biking. And remember, some of the streets in Vallarta provide challenging hikes without even leaving the city!

Horseback riding
Gentle, calm horses can be rented at a number of ranches or on the streets of Zona Romantica. Guides will lead you up mountains, along rivers and streams (with breaks to cool off in the crystal clear rushing water), though canopies of jungle overgrowth to small ranchitos in the hills. For an hour or for an entire day, your ride will leave you with a delightful new memory of Puerto Vallarta.

Biking
For beginners, intermediate bikers and those who are not happy until they’ve ridden uphill for miles and miles will not be disappointed in the excellent quality of the machines and the expert guides available in Vallarta. Helmets and gloves are provided, as is instruction on how to use your mountain bike. Interesting and varied terrain awaits you either with a guide or on your own.

Swimming
The warm waters of the Bay of Banderas entice swimmers from all over the world. Many hotels have roped off areas that make the bay even safer to swim in. For a completely different experience try swimming in the deep pools found in all the rivers that empty into the Bay of Banderas. So cool and refreshing; some even come with waterfalls!

Fishing
Marlin, Dorado (mahi-mahi), Red Snapper, roosterfish, tuna and many more varieties of fish can be caught in our bay either from a simple “panga” oran elegantly turned out sport fisher. There is also bass fishing in a lake just a few miles south of the city. All equipment, bait, etc., is included.

Sailing
Many sailboats are available for tours and provide fishing and snorkeling equipment, food and drink for small groups or for private charter. Some boats sail north to quiet secluded coves while others opt for the south coast. A beautiful, different way to see Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta Airport

Puerto Vallarta is well connected to North America’s major airport hubs. Scheduled service is operated from several U.S. cities (Chicago, Dallas/ Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma and St. Louis).

Within Mexico service is operated from Guadalajara, Leon, Mexico City, and San Jose Cabo. From Canada, flights are operated by charters service only, primary from Toronto. Canadian Airlines (formally C.P. Air) used to operate scheduled service from Toronto to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta…about 15 years ago. The service was discontinued. Perhaps someday they will have the inclination to start-up service again!. Until that time Canadians are forced to deal only with charters or else fly through the U.S. (to the benefit of the American carriers!).

Puerto Vallarta International Aiport is served by twelve major airlines and countless charter companies (Aero Mexico, Air Canada Touram (Charter), Air Transat (Charter), Alaska Airlines, America West, American Airlines, Canadian Airlines International (Charter), Canada 3000 (Charter), Continental Airlines , Delta Air Lines, Mexicana de Aviacion, NorthWest Airlines, Taesa Airlines, and TWA .)

Airport Terminal Information

The main level of Puerto Vallarta’s airport offers several small shops and eating establishments. A post office, bank, currency exchange, and several magazine stands are also located on the main level. Telephones in the airport accept credit cards. Flight check-in, plus domestic and international flights arrive on the main level. The domestic departure lounge/gates are also accessible from the main level. International passengers must use the upper level to get to the departure gates and duty-free shops.

The second level of Puerto Vallarta’s airport offers a sit-down restaurant called “Wings”. Once past the passport and security check-in area, there is a large lounge/waiting area with duty-free shops (liquor and perfumes). There is a bar and small cafeteria in the lounge area as well. The international departure gates are on the level below (down a flight of stairs). Airport personnel will only let those passengers whose flights are called for boarding to wait in this area. The departure gate area is currently too small to handle all the passengers for more than 3 or 4 flights at a time. Therefore to avoid overcrowding, all passengers whose flights are not called for boarding are asked to wait in the upper lounge area, until their flight is ready for departure.

Ground Transportation

Puerto Vallarta International Airport is located in the northern section of town, just past the Marina Vallarta area. Transportation to and from the airport is mostly done by taxi (Areomovil) or combi bus (Colectivo minivan). Taxi and combi bus charge rates based on zones of travel. Taxi and combi minivans are paid for before entering the vehicle…at a small kiosk located just outside the terminal building exit. Once you have obtained your ticket, the driver will escort you to your vehicle, and drive to the parking lot exit. The ticket is then handed to the parking attendant at the parking lot exit…and you are one your way. Charges for Areomovil transportation is a little more expensive than regular taxi service. If you want, you can walk a few meters to the highway, and flag down a taxi.