First Impression: Beauty and the Beach! Puerto Vallarta is utterly breathtaking, exciting and romantic, and full of family fun and bountiful adventures. There’s so much more to this Mexican city than just beaches and a busy cruise port. It’s a magnificent blend of beauty, culture, architectural charm and various adventures to please even the most discerning travelers and families. With so much and wells pread otu in the area, traffic is kept well controlled. Beach lovers and water-sports aficionados have more to do than just bask in the glorious sun on beautiful beaches, and adventure enthusiasts have ample opportunities to get their adrenaline pumping with endless activities within the lush jungle, the mountains and the bay. This Mexican jewel offers something for everyone, from tame to wild!
Weather: Puerto Vallarta enjoys a warm tropical climate year-round, with average daytime temperatures of 80 degrees F (27°C) and cooler evening temperatures in winter months. Summers are sunny with afternoon rains, just enough to cool off for your evening activities. Sunscreen is an essential item to pack and wear daily, even in the winter months. The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is April-June, when the weather is pleasant, tourists have tapered off and the room rates are more affordable. There isn’t as much rain April-June as there is in the cheapest/off season, July to September. Temperatures spike the most in summer, and there are often brief bursts of rain. Airfare and hotel rates are usually at their lowest, so pack an umbrella and enjoy the discounts of July-September. If you’re interested in whale watching, visit from January to March, one of the best times of year to visit Puerto Vallarta. The trade-off comes, though, in the area’s highest fares. October is a great time to visit, and you can consider departing before the November festivals signal the kick-off of tourist season.
Getting Here: Puerto Vallarta is easily accessible by land, sea and air from major urban centers within Mexico and North America. Located on the Mexican Pacific coast, the maritime corridor to Baja California and California makes it a popular cruise ship port. The destination is linked to the major western region cities, mainly Guadalajara and Mexico City further out. Puerto Vallarta’s bus terminal allows many access routes to and from other important destinations in Mexico and now includes luxury coach seats. The recently expanded and renovated Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR), just 4 miles from Puerto Vallarta, offers excellent connectivity on commercial carriers from Guadalajara, Monterrey, Toluca, Mexico City and major U.S airports. Charters arrive daily from Canada, U.S and Europe, as well as South America.
Documentation: Proof of citizenship is necessary to cross the border into Mexico. A current passport will suffice. Upon arrival, visitors are given a tourist card that must be turned in upon departure at the airport; at that time a departure tax is payable in U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos. Many airlines now include this tax when ticketing, but call the airport ahead of time to be sure.
Transportation: Gustavo Diaz International Airport (PVR), just 4 miles north of downtown, is the main airport into Puerto Vallarta. There are frequent taxi or van transfers from the airport at reasonable rates. Pay at the taxi booth, and you’ll be assigned to a taxi/van that will take you to your destination. There’s frequent bus service with numerous routes through the town streets. They are identified by number and prominent signage (“Centro” for Downtown), but more easily by color: The blue colored buses run the route from Marina Vallarta to downtown. Fare is approximately $.50 U.S. cents, which makes it the most affordable transportation available (6 a.m. till approx. 11 p.m. daily). A fleet of some 1,000 licensed taxis are readily available all around the city. They are not equipped with nor use meters, instead charging by zones. Taxis charge a minimum of approximately $3.50 (U.S.), with approximately $1.50 (U.S.) for each zone crossing. Example: If you travel from downtown to Marina Vallarta, crossing three zones on the way, the fare would be approximately $8.00 (U.S.) Tips are included in the fare!
Water Quality & Electricity: Purified water is standard in all hotels and restaurants, and the municipal water system has been certified for almost two decades. Mexico operates the same 110-volt current as in the U.S. and Canada, so electrical adapters are not needed if traveling from those destinations. If traveling from Europe, you’ll likely need adapters and can call your hotel ahead of time to find out exactly what you need.
Currency: The peso is the national currency, although U.S. dollars are widely accepted in businesses throughout town. Major credit cards are also accepted in most establishments. Banks offer currency exchange during business hours, which are generally Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with a few offering morning services on Saturdays. It is better to have American dollars than Euros, if not Mexican currency. Ask your bank about exchange rates and get some cash-carrying pesos for necessities upon arrival. Universal ATMs are widely available for cash withdrawals from global cash cards. Money exchanges and hotels also offer currency exchange services 24 hours.
Shopping: Puerto Vallarta has a diverse selection of retail therapy, including vibrant street-side vendors with unique and colorful items—many of which have grown hand in hand with Vallarta and offer goods made by local artisans, clothing, sombreros and hats, shirts, bags, Mexican trinkets, souvenirs and so much more. You’ll also enjoy shopping centers with trendy department stores and fashion boutiques, as well as sporting goods stores, must-have accessories, banks, movie theaters and art galleries, and the famous promenade with merchants and restaurants, El Malecón, which runs parallel to Banderas Bay. An endless number of businesses open their doors to bring you the best in customer service and value—many to give you an authentic cultural experience as well. Temporary events and shows can be found in the shopping center of your choice, some of which also have casinos and gaming centers. The shopping centers have become meeting places for locals as well as visitors. Whatever your pleasure, from flea markets and Costco to Mexican village boutiques, high-end shops and gallerias, Puerto Vallarta has a wide variety of shopping options in store for you!
Tracing Tequila: Arguably Mexico’s most famous export, “tequila,” is alternately admired and reviled, even misunderstood. Take the train or travel by car following the Tequila Route, which goes through the communities that manufacture tequila, such as El Arenal, Amatitan, Teuchitlan, Magdalena and Tequila, along with their impressive lineage of distilleries, taverns and haciendas. The Tequila region is spectacularly beautiful with rolling hills, fields filled with the majesticagave plant, charming villages, colonial churches and archeological sites. Learn more about tequila, how it’s harvested and the art of production. Its namesake town, Tequila—a UNESCO validated region in Jalisco where it’s produced and now part of the world’s cultural legacy.
Local Flavor: Long ago, Puerto Vallarta was only famous for its beaches and the global jetsetters that arrived to laze upon them. But over the years, Vallarta has reinvented itself into a thriving yet still relaxing vacation destination to become the number 2 beach resort in Mexico, thanks in part to its variety of award-winning restaurants and late night eateries. Over a decade ago, many of the leading restaurateurs joined forces to launch the Festival Gourmet, an internationally recognized culinary extravaganza that is held every year in the middle of November and serves as the unofficial launch of the Vallarta tourist season. Today, award-winning chefs and leading restaurants create new culinary masterpieces to entertain and stimulate the palates of visiting guests. These restaurants and beachfront cafés are partly responsible for Vallarta’s reputation as the place to go for romance. You’ll also find little Mexican taco stands cranking out griddle-fresh quesadillas, carne asada and homemade salsa, and veritable “holes in the wall” slinging some decent vegetarian dishes. For those preferring simpler fare, the city is bursting with international restaurants of many varieties, sidewalk cafés, café-book stores, delis, as well as authentic fondas and cenadurías—small restaurants serving typical Mexican food. For the more adventurous taste buds, travelers recommend Mole Negro, a chocolate and chili sauce served over a breast of chicken. Another local favorite is Birria, which is served as tacos or consommé. Huitlacoche is Mexico´s answer to the Italian truffle, and is a delicacy served with seafood or fowl at leading restaurants. Some popular eateries among the many in Vallarta include Ocean Grill Vallarta, a hidden secret serving fresh seafood, grilled items, Mexican specialties and barbeque. For a taste of Spain, try Barcelona Tapas. For great steaks, seafood, rack of lamb and gourmet international fusion, grab a seat at the intetractive Teatro Limon. If you’re in the mood for great scenery while dining on great food, try the Twisted Palms Rooftop Lounge. Another great establishment with spectacular views and great Mexican, seafood and international cuisine is Casa Isabel in Madison South. For an incredible, low-cost, casual bite on the run, try Poncho’s Takos. If you’re into some great Asian, Mexican, South American and American options, tempt your palate at Taste Restaurant at Casa Cupula. Whatever you desire, there are several Vallarta establishments that can satisfy your cravings and your sweet tooth, like Xocodiva, with some of the best chocolates in the world.
Nightlife: Puerto Vallarta is a city that never sleeps—perfect for night owls. It comes alive at night with sizzling nightlife options that include many late-night venues and nightclubs, each one with defining characteristics, such as types of music, rhythm, drinks, ambience, décor and personality. In the heart of Vallarta, along the stretch of the Malecón, you´ll find late-night restaurants, live music venues, bars and nightclubs, offering something for everyone. Choose from a variety of options that let you party at your own pace, including everything from hip hop to country and rock ‘n’ roll clubs and piano bars to Spanish and Irish pubs, salsa dancing and karaoke clubs. Puerto Vallarta’s eclectic mix of trendy bars, high-energy dance clubs, beach bars, live music, street performers, venue shows, laid-back pubs, cruises around the Bay and entertainment complexes make every night a fiesta, with something to please everyone!
Spa Therapy: Grab a quick massage after the park or indulge in high-end exotic treatments at one of Puerto Vallarta’s award-winning spas. From elegant, fruit-and-spice-scented resort spas to Aztec-inspired day spas, each facility has its own distinctive personality and signature treatments. Competition keeps the creativity and diversity high, with ever-changing menus of services—as well as spas—many of which use native products like sage, chocolate, aloe vera and yes, even tequila. You can get a refreshing tequila margarita scrub at Punta Mita Apuane Spa, which has some of the most expensive yet worth-the-money treatments in town. Treatments are a bit more affordable at Terra Noble day spa where you can relax on the patio surrounded by rustic gardens and a scenic sea view after a 2-hour temazcal sweat lodge ritual that cleanses you physically, mentally and spiritually. Many of the treatments, like the coconut exfoliation with deep-tissue massage at the Ohtli Spa at the CasaMagna Marriott use local ingredients, including agave, cornmeal and sea salt in its signature treatment. This spa was inspired by indigenous cultures, and many of the room are adorned with Huichol art and interior gardens to maintain a spiritual and nature-oriented ambience. For reasonably priced unique and therapeutic co-ed treatments and services, spa designer Diana Mestre of Paradise Village Palenque Spa combines ancient healing arts with the latest modern technologies. The Gran Velas spa at Nuevo Vallarta’s most elegant all-inclusive is a 16,500-square-foot luxury facility with an extensive menu of treatments—highlights include the chocolate, gold or avocado wraps, the Thai massage, European facial, cinnamon-sage foot scrub and the buttocks sculpt-lift. Visitors also rave about the 90-minute, full-body massage for about 500 pesos at Venus Sunshine Massage and Spa. Inside the Puerto Vallarta Hotel of Villa del Palmar Flamingos, Tatewari spa offers a European-Mexican combination with 5-star services, including the Hydra Dew Express Lift Moisture Facial, Deluxe Manicure and Pedicure, Honey Body Polish and Vita Cura Thalassotherapy. Healing Hands Massage & Ayurveda, owned by Greg and Selene Soucy, focuses on restoring a client’s physical and spiritual balance by combining the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda with modern science, including treatments ranging from a classic Swedish massage to Restorative Integrative Muscle Therapy developed by Mr. Soucy after many years of experience and research. Go ahead, you deserve it….Indulge yourself amid the unique, diverse and ever-growing menu of spas in Puerto Vallarta.
The Great Outdoors: With the tropical Sierra Madre Mountains to the east, the lush jungle and Banderas Bay, Mexico’s largest natural bay and second largest on the North American continent, Puerto Vallarta has more opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to get there thrills and chills. Beyond the beaches, there are ATV, Jeep and dune-buggy rentals to venture the jungle or mountains, panther tours, zip lines, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, bird watching, world-class golf on pro-designed courses, scuba diving, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, sailing and boat charters, hiking, ecotours, sunset and dinner cruises, and so much more. The opportunities are endless year-round, and packed with everything from high-octane adventures to laid-back sunbathing on sunk-kissed beaches and cultural tours, all amid nature’s bountiful wonders of Puerto Vallarta.