Puerto Vallarta’s natural attractions and activities are as wild as was “The Night of the Iguana” filming. “One of the best parts of Puerto Vallarta is all its recreation,” says Dan Sadleir of Elite Travel & Events in Arlington Heights, IL. “You can go ziplining through mountains before rapelling down a waterfall. Or you can ATV on backroads and through streams. The list keeps going. Puerto Vallarta is a true Mexican destination where our clients can feed all their travel cravings.”
The largest natural bay in Mexico, horseshoe-shaped Banderas is framed by the Sierra Madre Mountains, lush rainforests, tropical lagoons, pristine beaches and the Pacific Ocean. So it’s with good reason eco-tourism thrives. Bottlenose dolphins are a common sight on boating excursions, and the bay thrives with humpback whales that reproduce here between December and April. And then there are the protected Olive Ridley sea turtles that lay their eggs on the beaches between July and December. An initiative sponsored by various hotels and the government allows visitors to participate in nightly turtle liberation programs that release the Oreo cookie-looking hatchlings.
Most recently, El Salado Estuary has launched the Venture Into The Salado eco-tourism program. Some 320 protected acres considered Puerto Vallarta’s “green lung” is home to some 100 species of birds, 19 mammal species, and 29 species of amphibians and reptiles. Visitors experience the area’s biodiversity as they’re transported through the mangrove canals in a panga (small canoe) or via educational nature walks.
“This is one of only a few urban wetlands in the world encrusted in the middle of a city,” says Patricia Farias, the International Convention Center’s director. “It’s a sustainable way for the Sanctuary to maintain its flora and fauna, and teach its visitors about conservation. It’s very impressive that the convention center pays and maintains it completely.”
Adding to PV’s well-established rec menu is Vallarta Adventures’ new Extreme Zip Line Adventure. The multi-activity tour include rappels, Tarzan swings, a 50-ft. crazy ladder, hanging bridges, ATVs, twisting hillside waterslide and Mexico’s longest and fastest zipline—a 4,000-ft. speed demon maxing out at 60 mph.
The company continues to operate surf and turf action that includes snorkeling and kayaking at Los Marietas Islands wildlife sanctuary and cruises to the Las Caletas beach hideaway. In the evenings, it becomes the spiritual setting for Rhythms of the Night, a historic and hypnotic dance performance.
“We’re happy to maintain Puerto Vallarta’s proud tradition while bringing in so many positive improvements,” says Ohem. “We feel first-time visitors and repeat guests will all appreciate what they experience.”
The recently expanded Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR) welcomes service from major U.S. and Canadian gateways via US Airways, United, American Airlines, Frontier, Alaska, Virgin America, Aeromexico, Volaris and Westjet. A dedicated satellite terminal caters exclusively to international flights (some seasonal) to and from Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City, New York, Minneapolis, Charlotte and San Diego.
Puerto Vallarta with Funjet Vacations
According to Jorn Kaae, senior v.p. of relationship management for Funjet Vacations, the tour operator’s most popular itinerary is the Whale Photo Safari with Vallarta Adventures taking tourists to Banderas Bay to witness what Kaae describes as “the world’s most spectacular whale-watching opportunities.” Vallarta Adventures is the only tour company in the area with a spotter plane, meaning they can get you closer than you ever dreamed possible to witness these awesome creatures in action, he says.
Another popular excursion is the Off-Road Adventure with Vallarta Adventures, guiding tourists to Puerto Vallarta’s southern region to visit a 16th century village in the mountains, the world-famous botanical gardens, and regional attractions that offer unique insights to the area and its residents.
Kaae adds that Funjet Vacations has some new itineraries coming up for 2013, such as the Vallarta Eats Food Tour. A tour guide leads the group to local popular eateries to sample authentic Mexican food and explore the city’s historic Zona Romantica and Colonia Emiliano Zapata, all through the flavor of Puerto Vallarta’s cuisine. The tour operator is also offering the Extreme Zip Line Adventure in collaboration with Vallarta Adventures.
Besides the outdoor adventures and tours, Kaae suggests clients experience the destination’s downtown area. “The new malecon boardwalk is recently renovated and is a great place for tourists to explore local artists or to spend a nice evening in downtown Puerto Vallarta. The malecon is closed for traffic, making it a beautiful place to enjoy the scenery; and different events, exhibitions and concerts are held here. This is a must-see for all visitors to Puerto Vallarta. They will get a great sense of the local flavor and flair of the area, which is quite different than other areas of Mexico.
“Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful and vibrant area that goes beyond the typical ‘go to the beach, eat and drink it all’ vacation. There is a lot to offer—the beautiful beaches on Banderas Bay, of course—but also the diversity and charm of the different areas of Puerto Vallarta. There is the colonial downtown area; the malecon boardwalk with events, scenery, and local art; an exciting, hip nightlife; some of the best dining experiences in Mexico; and a huge variety of amazing tours and excursions.”
(888) 558-6654; funjet.com
Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort: puertovallarta.hilton.com
Now Amber: nowresorts.com/amber
Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board: visitpuertovallarta.com
Secrets Vallarta Bay: secretsresorts.com
Vallarta Adventures: vallarta-adventures.com
tour operator intel
Various tour operators were asked their impressions about Puerto Vallarta as a hot Mexican destination for 2013 and what makes their product unique in the marketplace.
GOGO Worldwide Vacations
“Puerto Vallarta is very unique. Many think of Mexico as home to some of the greatest all-inclusive destinations, which isn’t too far from the truth, but Puerto Vallarta is the perfect destination for those looking for a fantastic European Plan hotel as well. In Puerto Vallarta, guests can enjoy the all-inclusive hotel atmosphere, but they also have the option to choose a hotel where they can go out and explore the local cuisine instead.
“We have a great variety of properties in Puerto Vallarta for all types of itineraries. If guests are looking for the exclusive luxury vacation, we have a great selection of hotels in the Punta Mita area including The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort and Four Seasons Punta Mita. If guests want a family-friendly vacation, we have a large choice of properties in Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit including Now Amber, which just opened up their brand-new property about 10 minutes from the downtown malecon area.
“The sunsets in Puerto Vallarta are simply amazing. Your clients will never find a sunset like it. The mountains, the ocean water and the beautiful skies make the sunset a vacation to remember. In all my travels, Vallarta has the best sunsets I have ever seen from my hotel balconies. I would also share that this is a destination for the traveler looking for fun or relaxation alike, for the best service, and wants to experience Mexico. This is not your ordinary beach getaway; it’s a true Mexican experience that is as safe as it is fun.”
—Jim Tedesco, director of marketing
“A top international destination, Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful, culturally rich city that combines traditional Mexican style with a cosmopolitan feel. Puerto Vallarta offers world-class resorts, outdoor adventure, a stimulating cultural theater and arts scene, exceptional gastronomy, vibrant events and festivals and welcoming hospitality. In addition, the Punta Mita resort area outside Puerto Vallarta offers world-class luxury resorts including The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort and Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita as well as championship golf. The Punta Mita area is ideal for destination weddings and romantic honeymoons.
“Travel agents can increase their commission income with a variety of tours and activities available at pleasantactivities.com. The Outdoor Adrenaline Adventure provides the perfect ecosystem and setting for adventure, from ziplining on Mexico’s longest line and swimming with the dolphins to releasing crocodiles and turtles. Other popular activities in our portfolio include Caletas by Day, a water lover’s excursion to a private beach club accessible only by sea for a day of snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving lessons and more, and Rhythms of the Night, which includes a torch-lit pyramid performance set in a tropical jungle and includes a candlelit dinner under a star-studded sky.”
—Jack E. Richards, president and CEO
“Puerto Vallarta is a charming destination for tourists. Its cobblestone streets, great art galleries, and true Mexican hospitality make this sun and fun destination a must experience for everyone.
“Puerto Vallarta has such a wide array of flora and fauna, and so close to the hotels. Many of the hotels have created little sanctuaries for the nesting turtles, and it is so awe-inspiring to see the eggs hatching, and then the young turtles set free into the ocean. The great dining experiences in the town give the tourist so many options to really experience gourmet cooking at its best, as well as true Mexican flavors. The malecon is a great place for evening strolls, and the art galleries and handicraft shops are a shopper’s galore.
“Puerto Vallarta indeed has something to offer each one of the market segments. A convention center offers amenities for groups; the hotels have facilities for many types of groups suitable for the size hotel being considered. Destination weddings are very popular in Puerto Vallarta, and there are some beautiful backdrops for the weddings. Romantic honeymoons are available in the hotels, as well as multi-generational travel and of course the family reunions.”
—John Hanratty, executive v.p. and COO
(800) 284-0044; travimp.com