Located on the Pacific-Coast side of Mexico in the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is nestled on a 28-mile curve of the Banderas Bay and bordered by the Sierra Madre Mountains. This beautiful seaside city enjoys old Mexico charm and international popularity, as well as a place on a Disney Cruise Line Mexican Riviera vacation itinerary.
Puerto Vallarta's charming cobblestone streets, stunning beaches, international fine dining and sophisticated arts scene make this town one of Mexico's top tourist destinations, with more than a half-million people visiting each year.
Things to See and Do
Puerto Vallarta offers fun and sun for everyone—from cultural events and exhibits, to guided tours into the jungle, to virtually every type of beach activity you can imagine.
If it's outdoor adventures you seek, choose a venue. For sea lovers, snorkeling, scuba diving swimming with dolphins and—depending upon the time of year—even whale watching are all activities your family is sure to love. On shore, you can take a hike, ride a bike, join an eco-tour or embark on a 4-wheeling adventure through the jungle. You can even take flight in a kite.
Puerto Vallarta is great for souvenir shopping, with a wide variety of local artisans offering arts and crafts, including masks, clothing, ceramics, blown glass and silver. Great buys are to be had on locally produced goods, such as leather sandals and handmade cotton clothing. Look for deals at the Municipal Flea Market, the Marina Vallarta Malecon and the local mercados in central downtown.
Local Culture and Flavor
Puerto Vallarta is a city with a modern infrastructure and every convenience, yet it is infused with an old-world charm that is uniquely Mexico. And the locals are extraordinarily hospitable and welcoming despite the city's development.
Pride in its heritage, you'll find that the town is often dressed up in colorful decorations for a parade, fiesta or celebration, with Mariachi bands, woven Huichol Indian art and traditionally dressed cowboys.
The bright flavors of Puerto Vallarta are reflected in its seafood specialties, such as Huachinango Sarandeado—red snapper marinated in a paste of roasted peppers, garlic and spices and then grilled—or seared marlin skewers served with hot sauce and lime.
Past and Present
Spanish explorers first landed on the shores of Banderas Bay during the 16th century. The area became a safe haven from pirates and for restocking supplies. In 1851, a settlement was established when Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres established a trading post on the banks of Rio Cuale to supply salt to the gold and silver mines. He named the area Les Penas de Santa Maria de Guadalupe because he arrived on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe.
In 1911, the people asked the government for the right to self-govern, and in 1918, the state congress approved the request and changed to the name to Puerto Vallarta. Puerto, coming from the word "port" and Vallarta for Ignacio Luis Vallarta who was governor of Jalisco. In 1918, the Montgomery Fruit Company came in and transformed 70,000 acres north of Puerto Vallarta into banana plantations. When a railroad was built to transport the produce to port, the area saw huge growth.
Puerto Vallarta got its first taste of tourism in the 1930s when those who visited kept returning year after year. Since then, the number has grown each year as word of the area's beauty and tranquility spread. By 1950, Puerto Vallarta became known internationally, but it wasn't till the release of the film The Night of the Iguana in 1963 that tourists flocked to the area. In 1968, Puerto Vallarta was officially granted city status.
Today, Puerto Vallarta is a modern metropolis with 5-star hotels, designer shops and internationally renowned restaurants that line the beaches—and where tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world are drawn to each year.
Fun Facts & Tips
Herbie Goes Bananas and Predator were two of the many movies filmed on location in Puerto Vallarta.
Watch your step! The street curbs can vary dramatically in height from inches to feet in some places to stem flood waters during the rainy season.