About Puerto Vallarta beaches
Whitewashed stucco homes with terracotta-tiled roofs seem to tumble down forested hills toward Banderas Bay. The broad flat beaches north of downtown are lined with hotels, condos and marinas. To the south, the highway twists through hillsides above pristine coves. The combination of jungle, mountains and the sea gives Puerto Vallarta bragging rights as the most picturesque beach resort in Mexico.
Puerto Vallarta’s malecón runs along the downtown section of the bay and is lined with restaurants, cafes, hotels and a delightful array of sculptures. Playa Los Muertos south of the Río Cuale is the place for sunbathing and swimming with crowds of happy locals and travellers. Hotels supply all manner of water toys at the beaches along the tourism zone north of downtown. For serene swimming and snorkelling take a launch from Playa los Muertos to Yelapa, Playa las Animas and Majahuitas south of town.
Beyond the beach:
Even non-shoppers are entranced by Vallarta Viejo and the Zona Romántica. The action begins at the malecón, where sculptors build sandcastles on the beach and street artists entertain the strolling crowds. Locals gather at the Plaza de Armas (Calles Zaragoza and Juárez) and the open-air amphitheatre by the beach for dances, and concerts. Puerto Vallarta’s landmark Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe rises above the plaza, its filigreed crown serving as a landmark from atop the bell tower. South of the plaza stairways lead beneath bridges to a shady island in the middle of the Río Cuale, a good place to examine the wares of souvenir vendors.
Booze cruises to Mismaloya (where Night of the Iguana was filmed) are popular, as are sunset sailings and snorkelling trips.
Vallarta Adventures (www.vallarta-adventures.com) offers plane tours to San Sebastian del Oeste, a 17th-century mining town high in the Sierras and to indigenous Huichol Indian settlements in remote areas. On the ground, a drive north along the coast takes you to the rapidly growing beach towns of Bucerías, San Francisco and Sayulita. Surfers and laid-back expats spend months in these small towns where a few hotels and yoga retreats provide escape.
If you’re visiting between October and April, don your best sundress and sip wine at the many galleries participating in the Wednesday night Art Walk. Puerto Vallarta’s painters, sculptors and collectors turn out in full force and cheerfully chat up potential buyers. Dine fashionably late at the Cocina de Autor, chef Thierry Blouet’s private dining room at Café des Artistes (Calle Guadalupe Sánchez 740), or in the restaurant’s sleek Constantini Wine Bar.