Puerto Vallarta

Destination Location

Puerto Vallarta
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Hotel reviews summary
4.5

Our guest rating from 18 reviews

Overview

Known as the Pearl of the Pacific, Puerto Vallarta is a paradise for vacationers. Over the years, Puerto Vallarta has become one of Mexico's most popular winter destinations due to its great diversity and almost perfect climate. Along with golden beaches, mountains and jungles, visitors can discover modern amenities and enticing attractions here.

If you love the water, you can swim, snorkel, scuba dive, visit with sea lions and even spot a whale in Puerto Vallarta. If you like your vacations packed full of adventure, rent a sailboat, zipline through the jungle, or go on a mountain hike or jeep safari.

Pamper yourself at Puerto Vallarta's day spas, which offer plenty of treatments including an Aztec sweat lodge purifying ritual. And make sure to leave space in your suitcase for the many fabulous finds you'll want to bring back with you. Some of the best items sold here include resort wear, fine art, decor, dazzling jewelry, unique handicrafts and more.

Before the debut of John Huston's 1964 film The Night of the Iguana, Puerto Vallarta was a quiet fishing village on the Pacific Coast where the states of Jalisco and Nayarit met. When Elizabeth Taylor came here to keep an eye on Richard Burton while he was filming with Ava Gardner, the publicity around the movie and its stars put Puerto Vallarta on the map.

When it comes to romance, Puerto Vallarta delivers. Dazzling sunsets, swaying palms and candlelit beach dinners accompanied by mariachi quartets are sure to fan the flames of passion. Food lovers will also find the dining options here appealing. With all the variety, there's plenty to savour at this city's many fine restaurants.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta has kept its colonial charm and boasts a vibrant street scene all day and night. Visitors here are warmly welcomed by hospitable, fun-loving locals who will make your vacation truly memorable.

Puerto Vallarta is a fantastic destination for:

  • beach
  • culture and history
  • nightlife

Destination basics

Puerto Vallarta enjoys a tropical climate. During the sunny dry season from November to May, daytime temperatures hover around 27 C to 30 C and there is virtually no rain. At night, the temperature drops to a comfortable 14 C to 18 C. But do pack a light jacket for evenings out. The hotter, more humid season lasts from June to October.

During July, August and September, mornings are typically bright and warm with temperatures around 30 C. Early afternoons tend to be cloudy with short rainy periods. But by late afternoon, the sun returns and there's usually a pleasant, balmy breeze.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Puerto Vallarta

When Spanish conquistador Francisco Cortés de Buenaventura arrived on the Jalisco-Nayarit coast in 1524, he and his men were confronted by an army of 20,000 Aztecs, their bows decorated with colourful banners. Cortés was so impressed by the group of warriors that he called this area around the Rio Ameca (north of present-day Puerto Vallarta) the Valley of the Banners. That's also how the great body of water came to be known as the Bay of Banderas.

By the mid-1800s, the lure of gold and silver drew many to the region and by 1918, the municipality officially became known as Puerto Vallarta. Eventually, the mines petered out and the town became more of a ghost town or sleepy fishing village. However, when John Huston and the cast of his The Night of the Iguana film arrived, they brought with them global attention and the beginning of Puerto Vallarta's tourism industry.

Nowadays, tourism thrives in this resort town that has expanded both north and south of the Cuale River. Locals seem genuinely happy to welcome visitors here and many Canadians who travel here annually during the winter have made it their home away from home. Drawn to the region's ideal climate, many visitors end up investing in real estate and businesses here.

Even though most people here will converse with you in English, try practising a bit of Spanish too.

Puerto Vallarta is second only to Mexico City for its diversity of eateries, ranging from taco stands and beach vendors to glamorous gourmet restaurants tucked in the hills with views of the Bay of Banderas. The service here is excellent as well. In fact, the expression "service with a smile" may just have originated here.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Puerto Vallarta. Canadian debit cards are also widely accepted but Canadian currency and travellers cheques are not. That said, most stores in Mexico do not accept debit, so using pesos is usually easiest.

To exchange your Canadian cash or travellers cheques, stop by one of the many banks, exchange kiosks or your hotel front desk. Just don't forget your passport—it's required to cash your travellers cheques.

You can also withdraw cash from ATMs found in banks, grocery stores and hotels. Normal banking hours in Puerto Vallarta are Monday to Friday, typically from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with some branches open Saturday. Most exchange kiosks are open late.

Although American money is widely accepted, regulations are now in place to limit the amount of US cash both residents and visitors can exchange in Mexico.

By regulation, the maximum visitors can exchange per month is US$1,500. Many financial institutions have imposed additional rules, limiting this amount further to US$300 per transaction.

As for using American money for purchases, local businesses will only accept a maximum of US$100 per transaction; however, there is no limit on the maximum number of transactions per customer. You should also keep in mind that many businesses in Mexico have chosen to forgo accepting US money altogether. The best way to pay is therefore with Mexican pesos or credit card.

Puerto Vallarta is a city rich with history and an integral part of that stems from its cuisine. A few hundred years ago, as the city was just beginning, inhabitants didn't have the luxury of dining at four-star restaurants. Residents had to rely on their own knowledge and experience in order to feed their families. Through trial and error, a great number of the recipes that Puerto Vallarta cherishes today were created. Many of those same recipes have been handed down from one relative to the next, for generations. Some families have taken their prized recipes and opened restaurants. Today, many share them with locals and tourists alike.

Today, finding a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta is easy. The only foreseeable problem is which restaurant to choose. There are the typical chains and fast food restaurants such as McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, KFC and Taco Bell, if that's what you're in the mood for. Places like Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Café are around for those who want to drink in a familiar environment. There is also a wide variety of international restaurants and bars in the city—German, Italian, American, Asian, South American and Moroccan are just of few of the types you can expect to find. There are also the more regionalized Mexican restaurants and taverns that seem, logically, to be the biggest draw.

Northern Puerto Vallarta North of the downtown area and the Cuale River are a number of popular eateries and taverns. Abadia Basso (on Hildago) is one of the area's most romantic and frequently visited restaurants. The Mezza Luna (also on Hildago) is Vallarta's premier Italian restaurant. If you head a little closer to the downtown area, you're bound to find Chez Elena (on Matamoros); the best time to dine here is in the evening, when the garden is illuminated. On Paseo Diaz Ordaz there are a couple of tasty choices: for burgers and traditional Mexican cuisine in a casual atmosphere, there's Cheeseburger in Paradise; Old-World Italian cuisine can be found at La Dolce Vita. Over on Morelos is Mickey's No Name Café, the areas best BBQ hands down; be prepared for a wait here regardless of when you arrive.

The Downtown Area In the downtown district choices include hip nouveau eateries and small out of the way places. One of the more trendy places to dine is Café des Artistes (on Guadalupe Sanchez). Its combination of French cuisine and original artwork creates a serene atmosphere that is unmatched anywhere else in town. International fare has become quite the trend amongst Puerto Vallarta's restaurant community, and Cafe Maximilian (on Olas Altas) is no exception. Memo's Casa de Hotcakes (on Basilio Badillo) is where virtually everyone in Puerto Vallarta goes for breakfast, so there's always a wait to get in. For some truly authentic Mexican cuisine there's only one place to go downtown, Café Olla (on Basilio Badillo). Be prepared for a wait, as it does not accept reservations.

Southern Puerto Vallarta To the south of the downtown area is Olas Altas, also known as “Restaurant Row.” It is the most heavily visited street in south Puerto Vallarta, due mainly to the sheer number of restaurants located there. Some of the eateries in this area include Chianti's, where fresh homemade pasta is always the house specialty. Just down the road, party-goers will find Daiquiri Dick's, renowned for its frozen daiquiris and Sunday brunch. Another popular stop is Rosie's at Santa Barbara, well known throughout the city for its authentic American-style cuisine. Located just a short walk from Olas Atlas is Café Frankfurt (on Basilio Badillo). The German cuisine and open-air dining experience is what customers come here for.

Banderas Bay Scenic views, spectacular sunsets and an abundance of romantic intentions are what you can expect if dining along the Banderas Bay. Tropical plants and an impressive waterfall surround you at El Palomar (on Aguacuate). International cuisine with a Mediterranean flare is the specialty of the house at Coco's Tropical (on Olas Altas).

Cuale River Area If you enjoy dining with a view, there are plenty of places to choose from along the Cuale River. Cuiza (on Isla Rio Cuale) is a popular spot for couples, especially those with marriage on their minds. If you enjoy dining in an open-air restaurant that overlooks the river, Caruso's (on Insurgentes) is your best bet. An enchanting spot for two is Las Brias (on Calle Aquiles Serdán), a tree-house restaurant that overlooks the “Gringo Gulch.”

One last bit of advice—If you're having a hard time deciding, ask the hotel management where you're staying or one of the local store owners. Do not ask the cabdrivers; many of them get paid to recommend specific restaurants.

Puerto Vallarta offers visitors an eclectic mix of the old and new. Original pueblo architecture remains intermingled with modern, luxurious beachfront resorts. Whether you choose to frolic with the crowds or find a secluded hideaway, there is much to see in Puerto Vallarta.

The Bay Puerto Vallarta has a wealth of natural beauty, friendly people, glorious sunsets, world-class sport fishing and great cuisine. Not to mention first-class resorts, shopping, diving and sailing. The gorgeous Bahia de Banderas serves as Peurto Vallarta's playground. It begins where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, forming one of the largest bays in the world and the largest in Mexico. The "Bay of Flags" extends from Punta Mita in the north (at the Sierra De Vallejo Mountains) to Cabo Corrientes (in the lower foothills of the Sierra del Cuale mountain range).

Playa Play First, let's explore the main reason most people come to Puerto Vallarta: the "playas" or beaches. Punta Mita, located in a small fishing village to the north, offers spectacular scenery and water-sport venues. Off the coast lie the Marieta Islands, which provide exceptional snorkeling, scuba diving and whale-watching sites. Going south towards the city is Bucerias, a quaint beach community and fishing village with sandy coves and cobblestone streets.

Heading into town proper, visitors will find Playa de Oro, a paradise for surfers looking for the perfect wave. Beach-goers will begin to notice more people enjoying the beaches at this point, and the multitudes of vendors who cater to them. Playa de los Muertos, the “beach of the dead,” is located south of the Hotel Zone and is notorious for its treacherous undercurrents, but it is a popular venue nevertheless. Conchas Chinas, a quiet beach also in the hotel area, features natural wading-pools created by rock formations. At the southernmost point of Banderas Bay (and accessible only by boat) is the Playa Yelapa, a very secluded and beautiful spot. Breathtaking views, a waterfall, hiking and riding make this a hidden paradise.

Viejo Vallarta A narrow island in the middle of the Cuale River divides Old Vallarta. On the island, people can visit quaint outdoor shops, museums and an arboretum. A seaside walkway, El Malecón , is also in this part of town and is considered to be the heart of Puerta Vallarta. The Hotel Rosita, the first hotel built in this city, enjoys this central location and a spectacular beach view. A popular restaurantin this area is Las Palomas. For the after-hours crowd, the Zoo features reggae and rock music into the wee hours of the morning.

Art lovers will find the works of internationally known Mexican artists featured at the Galeria Pacifico. This gallery is well worth your time to experience a taste of Mexico's cultural best.

Visitors can also enjoy the architecture of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most recognized landmarks of the town. With the beautiful bay as a backdrop, visitors will also see noted statuary such as Los Arcos (the arches), The Dolphins, and El Cabillito (the sea horse) while strolling along the Malecon.

Hotel Zone Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascencio runs north to south through the city and is aptly dubbed "the Hotel Zone." On the north end, the Krystal Vallarta hosts five restaurants and The Christine Discotheque, along with authentic Mexican fiestas held twice a week. The Hotel Buenaventura is another fine choice, offering marvelous ocean views and an extensive list of amenities. Villa del Mar occupies more than eight acres of gorgeous beachfront property along with its sister hotel, the Villa del Palmar. The Playa Del Sol Costa Sur is perfect for combining business with pleasure. A club especially designed for children is on the premises, as well as conference facilities for meetings.

Tours Maybe the best way to see Puerto Vallarta's sights for the first time is to use one of the many tour services available. Nature lovers will enjoy Eco Tours for whale, bird and turtle watching. Vallarta Adventures allows you to swim with dolphins or explore nearby Caletas Beach (hideaway for movie mogul John Huston). Adventure of a different sort awaits aboard the Marigalante, with both day and sunset cruises. This “pirate” ship replicates a 15th-century Spanish Galeon right down to the last detail. Passengers enjoy meals, an open bar, dancing and fireworks.

Puerto Vallarta offers visitors a wealth of things to see and do, whether it's shopping, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, golfing, clubbing, visiting ruins or just plain relaxing on the beach. Regardless of what your budget is, or what your interests are, “Vallarta” offers unlimited fun, day or night.

Sun and Fun Puerto Vallarta has 26 miles of the most beautiful beaches in all Mexico, maybe even the world, and these beaches are one reason that this area has been dubbed, the “Mexican Riviera.” Banderas Bay is the focal point and popular gathering place for visitors, providing easy access to many beaches. Virtually everywhere you turn there's a beach vendor renting everything from boogie boards and water bikes to jet-skis and wind surfing equipment. Thrill seekers (who don't mind heights or spending $25 per each 10 minutes), might want to try their luck parasailing. Try Club Bananas Water Sports Center at the Las Palmas Hotel. The view from aloft is a spectacular panorama of the city and the miles and miles of surrounding coastline and jungle terrain.

Each local beach is unique in its own right and seems to serve a different purpose. Playa Los Muertos is a centrally-located, lively restaurant and vendor-strewn hot spot, regardless of its ominous-sounding name. To the north there is Punta de Mita, which has beautiful white coral beaches, making it extremely popular among sunbathers. Playa Anclote, nestled within a small cove, is perfect for swimming and surfing. Playa Pontoque offers visitors crystal clear waters, making it perfect for snorkeling. To the south (and accessible only by boat) are three beaches worth making the trip to: Playa Las Animas, another cove protected, white-sand beach popular with swimmers and sunbathers and those with small children; Quimixto another beach perfect for snorkelers; and, Vallarta's southernmost beach, Playa Yelapa, located in the well-known, once hippie-inhabited town of Yelapa.

Cruising Along the Deep Blue Sea There's always a sense of intrigue and adventure surrounding taking to the sea in ships. Maybe it's something we dream up on our own, or maybe it's something Mother Nature instills in us. Whichever the case, it has become a pastime that many people enjoy, and while in Puerto Vallarta, there is no reason not to indulge this whim.

Hop aboard the 116-foot Alegre Cruise ship for a day of fun in the sun or a romantic sunset cruise. Ecological cruises have become increasingly popular in these waters and elsewhere; Humpback whale enthusiasts may fancy a whale-watching voyage with Sailing and Fishing Unlimited. The first time you see a whale it's sure to leave you speechless, and the waters surrounding this area is rife with just such opportunities from mid-November to mid-March. Those with adventure in their blood (and a playful nature) may want to try their luck aboard the pirate ship Marigalante, a day-long, round-trip voyage that's guaranteed to make you dream of pieces o' eight.

Back on Dry Land Puerto Vallarta's rich art culture dates back centuries to the Aztec culture and much of the artwork you'll find here—from the pottery of its indigenous peoples to gleaming streamline modern sculptures—is steeped in historical significance. One gallery not to be missed is the Galería de Ollas, which is devoted to exhibiting and selling the works of art created by the areas finest Mata Ortiz potters. Pre-Columbian and Talavera designed pottery is the trademark of Studio Terra Cotta Ceramica. This gallery also offers lessons to visitors interested in learning the trade. At Museo Munoz Acosta, visitors will see the exceptional plastic panorama handiwork that famed Ernesto Munoz Acosta has been perfecting since the 60s.

More contemporary works can be seen at the Manuel Lepe Museum Gallery, which showcases the work of the area's most renowned artist. Lepe's colorful works of art (dating back to the 60s) allow you to see a more natural side of Puerto Vallarta, a side that only Lepe has been able to bring to life. The Galeria Pacifico is a great starting point for novice art enthusiasts, offering an eclectic array of paintings and sculptures by up and coming local artists.

Shopping opportunities abound despite the fact that there are no major shopping malls here. In fact, many of the bargains to be had here come directly to you as you relax on the beach. Locals, hawking their wares, offer a wide variety of souvenirs, necessities and local folk art to visitors as they relax in the shade of a palapa—be sure to haggle over the prices, it's expected.

For those who simply must get a little browsing in while on vacation, be sure to stop by the municipal market in the Rio Cuale area. Everything from the mandatory souvenir T-shirt to fine silver jewelry is available there. If you get hungry while shopping up a storm, check out the food market upstairs; it serves some of the best traditional Mexican dishes around. Once fortified, you'll be ready to do the town.

Dance the Night Away Puerto Vallarta's nightlife used to be pretty tame, but within the last couple of years there has been a surge in the dance party scene. Take the Malecón, for example. This area used to be filled with shops and restaurants, but not anymore. Nowadays it's the place to come dance ‘til dawn. Star's is the area hot spot and a great place to get your party started.

Those who think disco is dead are in for a rude awakening. The area's hottest nightspot is The Christine Discotheque and Disco is still king here. The laser light show and pulsating Donna Summeresque music keep the crowds boogying until the wee hours of the morning. Drag queens (and kings) can be found strutting their stuff across the runways of Club Paco Paco three nights a week (Friday-Sunday). This mind-boggling show packs the house every weekend. If you arrive early you may be able to participate in the “Ranch Hands Show” (run three times nightly).

For those who appreciate a less raucous form of nighttime entertainment, the Marina Vallerta section of town may be more suitable. Dozens of martini bars and jazz clubs offer a more subdued repose from the day's activities. Love is in the air--110 feet up in the air, to be precise--at the El Faro Lighthouse Bar. Mostly couples can be found here enjoying a panoramic view of the city and listening to live jazz music.

Another way to wind down your day is to attend one of the “fiestas” hosted by several of the local hotels. These productions combine costume, lights, music and food while giving visitors a glimpse at Mexico's diverse culture. Some of the best are the hosted twice weekly by the Krystal Vallarta Hotel.

Day or night, Puerto Vallarta offers plenty of opportunities for visitors to do it all—or nothing at all.

Puerto Vallarta


State: Jalisco


Country: Mexico


Puerto Vallarta by the Numbers

Population: 255,725 (city); 379,886 (metro)
Elevation: 7 meters / 23 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 1392 millimeters / 55 feet
Average January Temperature: 21°C / 71°F
Average July Temperature: 28°C / 83°F


Quick Facts

Electricity: 110-120 volts AC; standard flat, two-pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-6 or GMT-7 April through October

Country Dialing Code: +52

Area Code: 322


Did You Know?

John Huston's "The Night of the Iguana" was filmed in Puerto Vallarta in 1963.

Puerto Vallarta is the second most visited resort destination in Mexico.


Orientation

Nestled on the west coast of Mexico's mainland, Puerto Vallarta shares the same latitude as Hawaii. The Banderas Bay (one of the largest in the world) laps ashore from the west while the Sierra Madre Mountains border the town from the south and east. It is 553 miles northwest of Mexico City, 278 miles southeast of Mazaltan, and 1,200 miles south of Nogales, Arizona.

Puerto Vallarta sits in the middle of the Bay of Banderas, Mexico's largest bay with 68 km of coastline. North of the city, the Ameca River forms a natural boundary between Jalisco and the state of Nayarit, where newer resorts and developments form Riviera Nayarit.

Once you get away from the beach, Puerto Vallarta's hilly cobblestone streets seem to merge into the green foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains. The Cuale River that divides Puerto Vallarta in half flows down from the mountains and empties into the Pacific.

From mid-December to the end of March, humpback whales migrate to the Bay of Banderas, where females mate and give birth. Take a whale-watching excursion and see pods of whales close up. Or, catch sight of a pod from the comfort of your lounge chair on the beach. Orcas and various species of dolphins also call these waters home.

A Port in the Storm Since the 16th century, when Spanish soldiers first landed on the shores of the Banderas Bay, it has been known as a safe haven. During that era, the need for ships to find shelter along the Pacific Coast was of vital importance. These safe havens helped to provide ships with shelter if pirates and renegades were to attack. They also provided ships with a place to seek repairs and to stock up on needed supplies such as food, water and firewood.

In the late 16th century, Captain Pedro de Unamuno proposed that a settlement be built on Banderas Bay; however, he was not he first to suggest this. Other navigators such as Gonzalo de Francia, Sebastian Vizcaino and Lopez de Vicuna had proposed ideas that such colonies be constructed, but their requests never received any formal attention. However, in 1644, a shipyard was built in what is now known as Mismaloya. Two of the ships constructed in that shipyard were built for Bernardo Bernal de Pinadero and were used to help colonize the southern region of California.

A City is Created During the 19th century, mining companies from Cuale and San Sebastian used the area to load and unload materials and mining supplies. At that time the area was known as Las Peñas. Halfway through that century, the area was dubbed Las Peñas de Santa Maria de Guadalupe. This formal name was bestowed by Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres (he delivered salt to the mines, which was needed in order to refine the silver). He named the area this because he arrived there on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres was so fond of the area that in the latter half of 1851, he brought his entire family there to live. It wasn't long before other families began to arrive and a small village began to emerge. Each family did their part to help the local economy grow. Some brought salt while others devoted themselves to agriculture and raising cattle. It was during this time that the French and Germans began to appear in this area in search of Brazil wood, a strong wood that they processed in order to acquire dyes.

By the year 1880, Las Peñas had a population of 1,500 inhabitants. Families from various places including Cuale and San Sebastian, came to Las Peñas to make lives for themselves. Within a few years the port was officially known as Las Peñas thanks to Admiral George Dewey's report to the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office, which was used to establish the exact geographical positions of cities along this coast in order to make an accurate map.

In 1885, Las Peñas was open to national maritime traffic and on July 23rd of that same year, a Maritime Customs Office was established. In October of the following year, the town was given its official political and judicial standing by the State Congress. Over the next 20 years, Las Peñas flourished thanks to the collective efforts of Don Guadalupe and the many families who settled there.

Growing pains In Puerta Vallarta The people of Las Peñas also suffered their share of setbacks. In mid-1888, a pot of grease, which was being heated over a fire in local restaurant, burst into flames and set the structure ablaze. The fire spread quickly, destroying more than half of the homes in town. It is said that the fire would not have caused such extensive damage had nearly all the town's male inhabitants population not been at a cockfight. In 1911, a waterspout hit the village, leaving more than 100 inhabitants homeless. In 1922, an outbreak of Yellow Fever spread through the city, causing more than 150 deaths.

In early 1911 Las Peñas' first post office was opened, and later that same year a telegraph was installed. In 1889, the port of Las Peñas was upgraded to a municipality. It was at this time that the settlement's name was changed to Puerto Vallarta, in remembrance of the Governor of Jalisco, Don Ignacio L. Vallarta.

Thirty-five years later, the Montgomery Fruit Company purchased 70,000 acres for banana plantations in the neighboring town of Ixtapa. Because of the surplus job opportunities created by these plantations, Puerto Vallarta began to flourish. Eventually, a railway was built in order to transport the bananas to El Salado and eventually onto the United States. Unfortunately, in 1938, the company was forced to leave the area due to new laws and restrictions that had been put into effect. Other products such as beans, coconuts, corn and tobacco continued to be grown and shipped to national markets.

The World Discovers Its Beauty Unlike some other cities in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta was not created for tourism. However, in the 1930's, the city got its first taste. Those who visited the area loved it so much that they began returning year after year. Word of Puerto Vallarta's beauty quickly spread, and each year the number of tourists grew. By 1950 the city was known internationally, but what really put Puerto Vallarta on the map was the movie Night of the Iguana (filmed in 1963) and the steamy romance between film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Thousands of tourists flocked to the area, eager to see the location where the movie was made. That exposure helped the city grow quickly. Transportation improved, hotels were built and the city now had a new primary income source, tourism.

Because of that growth, Francisco Medina Ascencio, governor of Jalisco, and Sr. Jose Vasquez Galvan as mayor of Puerto Vallarta, pronounced decree No. 8366, which elevated Puerto Vallerta to the status of a city. Puerto Vallarta has come a long way since 1930. Today, hotels and restaurants line the beaches. Cruise ships come into port on an almost daily basis. Tourism, which was once nonexistent, now draws in more than half a million visitors a year, turning this once a tiny fishing village into a sought-after vacation destination.

Taxis in Puerto Vallarta are inexpensive, easily accessible and the most common way of getting around. But do check with your hotel concierge to inquire about average cost to common points of interest. Even though the Mexican Taxi Syndicate works to regulate the rates of taxis, it is best to know what to expect.

If you're looking for a great way to experience Puerto Vallarta and immerse yourself in Mexican culture, try catching the local bus. To find the nearest bus stop, look for a blue sign with a picture of a bus and the words "parada" (bus stop).

When you see buses around town, you will notice that they all look different from each other. This is because they are all privately owned. Bus destinations are written on the front of buses. "Centro" and "Tunnel" are popular bus routes that take you to downtown Puerto Vallarta and Olas Altas, respectively.

If you're looking to travel to the airport by bus, look for buses will be marked "Ixtapa", "Juntas" or "Las Palmas".

Arrival

During your flight into Puerto Vallarta Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, you'll receive two forms to fill in. One is your Customs Declaration Form. The other is your Multiple Migratory Form for Foreigners or FMM for short. One Customs Declaration Form needs to be filled out per family, while each guest must complete an FMM.

In Mexico, there is a tourism tax of US$20 per person. For your convenience, when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in the price of your airfare.

Upon arrival in Puerto Vallarta, you'll be guided to the immigration hall where guests will form a line to meet with a Mexican immigration officer. This officer will ask you for your passport and your FMM and may also ask you a few questions as to the purpose of your trip, how long you will be staying and if this is your first time in Mexico. The officer will then stamp the FMM and return a portion of it to you.

Important: Keep your FMM with you in a safe place at all times during your trip. Mexican authorities can ask you to present this form at any time and you will need this document when you depart the country.

After passing through immigration, you'll pick up your bags and proceed to customs. A customs agent will ask you for your Customs Declaration Form and ask you to press a button on a traffic light-looking device. A green light means you get to pass through without inspection, while a red light means your baggage will be inspected. Should you get the red light, you'll need to open your baggage and the Customs Officer will perform a quick inspection.

After departing the customs area, you will find several representatives from transfer companies, tour operators and timeshare sellers in the corridor soliciting business. If you have purchased transfers to and from your hotel with WestJet Vacations, continue through the corridor until you're outside the airport terminal.

Outside, you will be greeted by a friendly Timon Tours representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign. Timon Tours representatives can be identified by their white shirts with the Timon Tours logo on the front and the WestJet Vacations logo on the back. Please identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest.

You'll then hop on the shuttle to take you to your hotel or resort. And with the airport located only 6.5 km away from town, you'll arrive in no time.

In the Puerto Vallarta Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport you will also have access to a bank, currency exchange and cash machines, providing you with many ways to obtain Mexican pesos.

Departure

When departing Puerto Vallarta, you'll need to provide officials with your signed FMM card. Lost FMMs can be replaced at the airport or at the immigration office before you check-in for your return flight. However, there is a fee to obtain a replacement card.

Feel free to browse the shops on the ground level of the airport and duty-free shops on the upper level while you wait. Or grab a bite to eat at the café, restaurant and bar on site.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended. The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that all travellers to Mexico get vaccinated for the H1N1 flu virus before leaving Canada.

Mexico uses the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

Puerto Vallarta was recently voted "the friendliest city in the world" by Conde Nast Traveler, "the best place to retire globally" by The American Association of Retired Persons, and "the best Mexican vacation destination" by U.S.News.com.

The Puerto Vallarta region is actually several destinations rolled into one, each with its own character and charm. The Cuale River (Rio Cuale in Spanish) divides the town into north and south. The Romantic Zone on the southern end is where the Playa los Muertos beach attracts sun worshippers to its golden sand and numerous beach bars. Farther south, you'll find the seaside villages of Boca de Tomatlán and Mismaloya (where The Night of the Iguana was filmed).

North of the river, the Old Town meanders uphill to Gringo Gulch. Along the bay, you'll find the Plaza de Armas (the main square) and Los Arcos amphitheatre, where daily free cultural performances of comedy and music draw crowds.

Even farther north, the Hotel Zone continues. You'll find many resorts and restaurants here. Cross the modern bridge from the State of Jalisco into Nayarit and you'll enter the rapidly developing destination of Riviera Nayarit. It features charming towns, such as Bucerias and Sayulita, and a host of resorts.

Puerto Vallarta's renowned seaside promenade, the Malecon, runs from the Romantic Zone to the start of the Hotel Zone. Here, you’ll find a whimsical collection of bronze sculptures – including the town's iconic seahorse.

During your flight into Puerto Vallarta Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, you'll receive two forms to fill in.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Puerto Vallarta.

Taxis in Puerto Vallarta are inexpensive, easily accessible and the most common way of getting around.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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