Puerto Vallarta is the fifth largest city in the Mexican state of Jalisco and is located on the Bahia de Banderas in the Pacific Ocean. It's named after Ignacio Vallarta, who was the governor of Jalisco from 1872 to 1876; prior to that the town was called Las Penas. Once famous for its pearl divers, Puerto Vallarta attracts millions of tourists annually and has been a tourist destination since the middle of the 1800s.
Aside from the fact that archaeological evidence indicates the presence of humans since 580 B.C., little is known of this immensely popular city before the 1800s. Apparently, the area was under the dominion of the Aztatlan culture from about 900 to 1200 A.D., and periodic skirmishes have been documented between the natives and those who would colonize the area. Accounts of piracy and smuggling indicate that the area was used as a landing site in order to evade customs operations at Nayarit.
The town now known as Puerto Vallarta was founded on December 12, 1851 by Guadalupe Sanchez Torres and named Las Penas de Santa Maria de Guadalupe. Business was thriving at that time, including mining, fishing, smugglers, pearl divers, and foragers. Conflicting information on historical documents evokes some questions on the exact date of the founding of Las Penas, but the city was thriving by the 1860s and the population had grown to about 800 residents by 1885.
© Miss Shari - View of Puerto Vallarta
Las Penas obtained the status of a municipality in 1918 and was renamed Puerto Vallarta; at the time, most of the municipality was the property of the Union en Cuale company under the control of an American named Alfred Geist. His practice of selling only large plots of land at exorbitant prices motivated the citizenry to petition the government for a land grant according to the provisions of the new constitution.
Although the land grant was approved, it was only 23,000 acres and led to dissension among those holding the grant. Developers weren't interested in the land grant because it didn't have a clear title, so growth stagnated for almost half a century.
Puerto Vallarta gained road access to Compostela, Nay in 1942; previously, access was limited to air, sea, or mules; 1942 also saw the first advertisement for Puerto Vallarta as a vacation destination.
Electricity became available 24/7, 1962 brought a new airport, and vacation packages became available for all. John Huston filmed The Night of the Iguana in a town south of Puerto Vallarta and extensive media coverage pushed the town of Puerto Vallarta into the limelight as a tourist destination.
Finally, in 1993, the decades-old squabble over the land grant was resolved and resulted in a rapid expansion of new construction. Retirees, returning visitors, and snow birds were able to own property as a result and the demand for housing grew exponentially.
Puerto Vallarta has an abundance of attractions to suit any taste, whether it's outdoor activities, shopping, museums, botanical gardens, or almost any other activity.
© Sarah - Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens
© cielodlp - Los Arcos Islands, Puerto Vallarta
© Javier Castañón - El Malecon, Puerto Vallarta
Other interesting attractions in Puerto Vallarta include:
© Harvey Barrison - Puerto Vallarta Beach
Puerto Vallarta's beaches are some of the best in the world and are among the three most popular tourist destinations. Some beaches are better for swimming and some for other activities, such as fishing or surfing.
© Jonathon McDougall - Beach in Puerto Vallarta
Other beaches in Puerto Vallarta include:
*Accessible by water taxi only; other beaches not asterisked are available by car, taxi, or bus.
A variety of travel options are available to those wanting to visit Puerto Vallarta, which is accessible by air, car, tour bus, or cruise ship. As yet, no trains travel to Puerto Vallarta. Discount airfares often make flying the most cost-effective method for reaching the popular vacation site.
© Jenni Konrad - Puerto Vallarta Airport
Cruise ships offer a more leisurely method for travel to Puerto Vallarta and great deals are available for passage on a cruise ship. The best prices are available online; travel agents may have last-minute specials available also.
Rental cars are available in Puerto Vallarta, but they are expensive and navigating the roads can be harrowing. Advance reservations are definitely recommended for those who plan to drive a rental car. Valuables should always be stowed in the trunk and not left inside the vehicle.
Taxis are abundant in Puerto Vallarta and most are inexpensive. Since they charge by zone not by distance, be sure to ask the driver what the fare will be. Many carry rate sheets that are available for free to passengers.
Buses are the most economical method for touring the city. They run frequently and service most areas of the city. Green buses are for in-town and gray buses are for excursions out of town. Transfers aren't included with the price of a ticket; each transfer will require another ticket.
© Kurt Bauschardt - Buses in Puerto Vallarta
U.S. citizens are required to have a passport in order to visit Puerto Vallarta. In addition, Mexico requires a Mexican Tourist Permit, which is usually free to tourists and issued upon arrival. Visitors are required to retain the Mexican Tourist Permit and present it when they leave.
Puerto Vallarta offers lodging accommodations to fit all budgets, from the five-star rated Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit to hostels located south of Rio Cuale. Puerto Vallarta's five top-rated hotels, in order of ranking, are the:
© Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta
Affordable and budget-friendly hotels are located primarily in the romantic zone of downtown Puerto Vallarta. These include:
Some others are available in the South zone, the Marina, the hotel zone, Bucerias, and Nuevo Vallarta. Many of these hotels start at less than 40 dollars per night and enable the traveler to enjoy the local culture and downtown ambiance more fully.
© Wonderlane - Rosita Hotel, the oldest hotel in Puerto Vallarta
For off the beaten path activities, consider the following:
© Chris Goldberg - Puerto Vallarta Old Town