Welcome to this month’s edition of my Travel Column. I thought it only fitting this month to zero in on one of my favorite winter spots for vacation – Puerto Vallarta, since I’ve just returned from there once again from a blissful two months away from my Canadian winter.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Part One.
Puerto Vallarta is situated on the Pacific Ocean’s Bahia de Banderas, in the state of Jalisco – a Mexican resort city spanning just over 502 square miles. It was named after Ignacio Vallarta, a former governor of the state of Jalisco. (1872–1876). His full name was José Luis Miguel Ignacio Vallarta Ogazón.
Puerto Vallarta was once a thriving Mexican village back in 1859 before it became the popular resort town that it is today. During the 18th century the city grew from a small fishing village to a small beach landing port for easy access to the Sierra towns. By the 19th century, the town began accumulating regular vacationers from nearby inland Sierra towns. It became a municipality in 1918, and that is when it was named Puerto Vallarta from its former name – Las Penas. Until 1942 the city could only be accessed by sea, air and by mule trails to the Sierra towns.
The new road finally created have vehicular access to the newly becoming resort town it is today. And the first vacation advertising from Modern Mexico Magazine in New York gave Puerto Vallarta its start at becoming a destination resort. By the 1950s Puerto Vallarta began attracting American writers and artists and ex-pats wanting to escape the politics of the Eisenhower/McCarthy era.
In the 60s and 70s, Puerto Vallarta became a popular vacation destination, and 6 influential factors helped put PV on the map:
- Government intervened with century-old property disputes by parceling out land as communal farms stifling development for much of the 20th century, eventually transitioning into private ownership by the early 70s to generate sales revenue to help develop infrastructure.
- In 1964, American director, John Houston began filming the movie – The Night of the Iguana, in a small town south of Puerto Vallarta, featuring Richard Burton. At the time, the US media had Burton and Taylor in the spotlight for their extra-marital affair and the publicity that ensued gave Puerto Vallarta recognition.
- The Mexican government heavily invested in making transportation more accessible, building better roads, and an airport, (Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International airport, named after the president in power 1964-1970), and the El Salado Wharf (the current cruise terminal), making Puerto Vallarta become the first harbor town in the state of Jalisco. All these improvements made PV become a booming resort town.
- In 1968, Puerto Vallarta became a city from a municipality. The city began to grow with ex-patriates from Canada, US and Europe.
- In 1970, President Ordaz met with US president, Richard Nixon for treaty negotiations. The media exposure given to this event with the scenic views in the background helped to attract more visitors.
- The hotel development began a booming industry for Puerto Vallarta in the early 70s with the building of grand luxury hotels and resorts. The early 80s also brought on a downtown of the Mexican economy, devaluing the Peso (international currency), which of course helped to attract more tourists to get a good bang for their buck for an attractive ‘bargain’ destination. This boom of course, inspired other destination spots in Mexico to be built such as Cancun and Ixtapa, which became new tourist getaway spots in the early 90s.
The city offers a gorgeous climate, beautiful beaches, and a rich cultural history. With a typical tropical climate of wet and dry, the average daytime temperatures are 86 degrees, with lows at night as low as 65 – 70 degrees. The rainy season runs typically from June through October with August being the rainiest month of all. And PV is not traditionally a hurricane hotspot. Although, like much of the North American west coast, PV is vulnerable to earthquakes. Typically, there are 300 sunny days a year. And spectacular sunsets!
Tourism makes up over 50% of Puerto Vallarta’s economy. It’s one of the most popular destination vacation spots on the west coast of Mexico, especially when the drug related violence escalated in the once popular Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta seemed to take over the once heavily tourist populated city. PV has also become a popular retirement place for many Canadians and Americans, which brought another boom of condo development to satisfy the demand. The ever-increasing growth of PV has made Nuevo Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit, just north of PV, become the spillover place for resort vacations. Nuevo Vallarta is a twenty-minute cab ride just north of Puerto Vallarta’s international airport.
Puerto Vallarta has become one of the most popular destination resorts for the LGBT community, supporting Gay Pride, which is celebrated annually since 2013, coinciding with the US Memorial Day. There is a huge gay community in the downtown (romantic zone) district off the Malecon (Boardwalk).
Puerto Vallarta services three main bus services which will take you almost anywhere in the city, and for real cheap, 10 Pesos, approximately 50 cents U.S.! Fleets of taxis are also available everywhere you turn, and the taxis are rate controlled by a union. Meters aren’t used as rates are set by zones. Taxis are also cheap. Everywhere I’ve travelled within Puerto Vallarta hotel zone had a standard taxi fee of 50 Pesos – the equivalent of approximately $3.50 Canadian, less in American dollars. In 2017, Uber came to Puerto Vallarta, which has caused some displeasure with the taxi industry, apparently costing less than a taxi. Personally, I’d stick with the taxis as the fares are already quite low and safer. To save 50 cents by using Uber sounds almost ridiculous when it comes to peace of mind, but I met a few people who did use Uber and some of them said their drivers got lost and couldn’t find specific places.
The cruise ship docks are also a busy place with lots of cruise ships docking there daily during tourist season, harboring 3 berths to take in 3 ships on any given day and currently expanding capacity. I was lucky enough to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the ships coming and going from our balcony.
There is a plethora of restaurants to choose from all offering different cuisines besides the typical Mexican restaurants. You will find many choices similar to American dining with cuisines offered from Italian, Chinese, Japanese, South American foods and more! Popular dishes fresh from the ocean are Mahi Mahi, shrimps, and Red Snapper, as well as many other delicious seafoods, real cheap!
Here is a link to over 250 fabulous places to eat in Puerto Vallarta. If any of you are thinking of visiting, feel free to ask me for my personal recommendations.
Popular Sights to Visit
There are two big markets opened twice a week – Thursdays at the Marina Vallarta, and Saturday mornings downtown at the lower end of the Malecon, where you can find anything from artisanal gifts, souvenirs, and home baked foods. There are also several mini flea markets that run daily in different parts of the town which I’ll talk more about in the next edition.
Plaza de Armas is located into old town down by the boardwalk where you can often hear live music being played. The Malecon is the boardwalk in downtown Puerto Vallarta where there are numerous restaurants and stores and a known place for artists to display their wares nightly. An archaeological museum houses a collection of local and regional Hispanic artifacts. An abundance of nightclubs are opened nightly for those who crave the nighttime action.
Discover the art scene, galleries and boutiques, sculptures, at the Artwalk, which runs from 6-10pm every Wednesday evening till the end of May annually. There are also classes offered in various parts on everything from Spanish classes, to health care groups, to writing cafes, and more. The downtown Romantic Zone has Act II where different plays are performed weekly just like in North America, but with their own actors. You can get tickets at the box office while you’re downtown or book online with most tickets running approximately $20 per person. Tours are offered everywhere from sidewalk kiosks to booths located in shopping areas, and on the beaches where commissioned sales people will offer you deals – just don’t forget to bargain. Often the first price offered is too much because they expect to be bargained with.
Puerto Vallarta is touted as one of the safest cities in Mexico to visit so you don’t have to be worried walking around town. I have heard from sources that because Puerto Vallarta is one of the few places on the western coast with heavy tourism that some of the properties are owned by the famed ‘El Chappo’ and it is ordered to keep the city free of crime to maintain tourism. Hey, you can’t get any safer than that?
Visit these: links for more tourist information.
There are numerous beaches in and around Puerto Vallarta, with various names, but Banderas Beach and Los Muertos Beach are popular tourist beaches. Because the tourist part of the city is built along the oceanside of the city, you can literally walk from the northern part of Puerto Vallarta to the downtown Malecon and further along the beaches, although that would be a very long walk and some mighty fine exercise as you encounter some hillier and some rocky areas along the way. You will also find just about every water sport activity offered along the beach as well by the resorts. There are many different water activity tours such as swimming with the dolphins, whale watching, sunset cruises, fishing cruises, day trips to little towns, parachuting, skydiving, and more! (Sal add love beach photo)
Puerto Vallarta is a great place to shop and not have to spend a lot of money. Souvenirs of interest you will find in PV are: silver jewelry, local pottery, blown glass objects, Tequila, beach wear, artwork from local artisans, just to name a few. You won’t even need to walk any further than your beach chair to purchase items sold locally right on the beach as many natives walk the beaches selling their wares. Just don’t forget to bargain, it’s part of the shopping scene particularly at markets and when buying on the beach. It’s a fact that the sellers know they are going to get haggled so traditionally, they will start at a higher asking price so never pay the first price given – also, be reasonable, they still have to make a living. Typically, on the beach if you are purchasing a souvenir, you can bargain them down to half of what they start at.
Visit these links for more about shopping in Puerto Vallarta:
Do stay tuned for Part 2 of this series as I will be delving more into my experiences, recommendations, best bang for your currency exchange bucks, what to look for when seeking a rental, and terms to beware of, and more!
About D.G. Kaye
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.
Books by D.G. Kaye
One of the recent reviews for P.S. I Forgive You on Goodreads
Another wonderful read from author D.G. Kaye. I admire Kaye’s courage in sharing her story of a strained, abusive and then estranged relationship with her mother. How she overcame her guilt for letting go and saving herself from further damage from her own mother was rewarding to read.
As well, the very thought of ‘leaving a parent’ goes against all that we learn and what societal norms tell us is right. Therefore, we must be horrible people to cut off a parent, right? Wrong. Sometimes there is no other option if you want to live a fulfilled and happy life. Especially when said parent is a text book narcissist. Kudos to Kaye for making the break and following through with tough decisions regarding her toxic mother.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO
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My thanks to Debby for sharing some of here holiday highlights and the background to this popular Mexican holiday resort..As always she loves to hear from you with comments and questions.
Catch up with all the travel columns and some exotic destinations: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-travel-column-with-d-g-kaye/