Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide

Malecon in Puerto Vallarta

TripSavvy / Ana Alarcon

Located on Mexico's Pacific coast in the northwest corner of the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta rings Mexico's largest natural bay, the Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags). This popular beach resort area is one of the main ports of call for Mexican Riviera cruises, has a well-deserved reputation as a foodie destination, and is also home to a wide variety of natural and cultural attractions.

History of Puerto Vallarta:

The area around Puerto Vallarta was long inhabited by indigenous groups, most notably the Huicholes. Spaniards first came into the area in 1524. According to legend, they were met by a large group of indigenous people carrying flags, giving the bay its name Bahía de Banderas - "bay of flags." The area remained sparsely populated until much later, however. It wasn't until the film "Night of the Iguana," directed by John Huston and starring Richard Burton, was filmed here in 1964 that Puerto Vallarta became known to the world.

During the filming, Richard Burton and his wife Elizabeth Taylor became enamored of the beautiful location and subsequently purchased a home in the Romantic Zone. Puerto Vallarta soon became a gathering place for celebrities and their entourage, increasing its general appeal. In the 1970s, the tourist infrastructure began to be built up to accommodate the influx of visitors, though the town still maintains its charm and the bay its natural beauty.

Banderas Bay:

Banderas Bay is shaped like a horseshoe and covers 60 miles of coastline from Punta Mita to Cabo Corrientes. The entire area surrounding the bay is all known simply as Vallarta, but it is divided between two states: Jalisco and Nayarit. These states are in different time zones; Puerto Vallarta is in the central time zone and Nayarit is an hour earlier. The area of the bay that is located in the state of Nayarit is known as Nuevo Vallarta.

What To Do in Puerto Vallarta

In Puerto Vallarta, you can take it easy on the beach, or fill your days with fun activities - it's entirely up to you. Check out the selection of things to do in Puerto Vallarta activities, or choose from this list:

  • Stroll along the Malecon to see the collection of sculptures. In the evenings, there are often buskers here entertaining passers-by.
  • Go on a boat trip to the Islas Marietas.
  • Shop for handicrafts, such as the beadwork of the Huichol.
  • Get an adrenaline rush on an extreme adventure offered by Vallarta Adventures
  • Enjoy Puerto Vallarta's many beaches. You can enjoy the beach, pool and fun scene at Mantamar Beach Club, or visit some of the best beaches which located in the secluded area south of Puerto Vallarta and are accessible only by boat (water taxi).
  • Make a visit to Puerto Vallarta's Botanical Garden, where you can discover the exuberant flora and fauna of the area and take a dip in the Horcones river.
  • In the evening, find a spot to enjoy Puerto Vallarta's beautiful sunsets - from the Malecón or any of Puerto Vallarta's beachside restaurants.

Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta:

There are a great many choices of hotels and resorts in Puerto Vallarta, in all price ranges and for all tastes. Some popular choices for both couples and families include the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta and The Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta. For an adult-only boutique stay, consider Casa Velas or Villa Premiere.

Street food in Puerto Vallarta
TripSavvy / Ana Alarcon

Dining in Puerto Vallarta:

Puerto Vallarta has a deserved reputation as one of Mexico's fine dining destinations. With its annual gourmet festival and abundance of restaurants, you will find Puerto Vallarta delivers on its promise of great food. Take a street food tour to discover all the wonderful street food and low-key dining options, or enjoy one of Puerto Vallarta's upscale restaurants like Café des Artistes. Here are some of our favorite Puerto Vallarta restaurants.

Getting There:

You can get to Puerto Vallarta from Guadalajara by bus in under five hours. The bus line ETN offers first-class service. See more information on travel by bus in Mexico.

The most popular way to get to Puerto Vallarta is by air. Puerto Vallarta's airport, the Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (airport code PVR) is located approximately 6 kilometers north of the center of town.

Was this page helpful?