This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
Adorned by its proximity to the Sierra Madre Mountains, Banderas Bay and its cathedral’s dazzling crown, Puerto Vallarta wows upon first and last impression. Its downtown alone is a traveler’s jewel, with a friendly beachfront boardwalk embellished by the sea, of course, but also by many sculptures including “The Seahorse,” Vallarta’s most emblematic. A seaside stroll in the direction of Mismaloya leads visitors into the city’s main square, where the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe towers over downtown.
The center’s cobblestones and red tile roofs lead to narrow streets filled with eclectic shops and dozens of art galleries. In fact, Puerto Vallarta is a hotspot for art lovers, with a Wednesday night Art Walk running from October through May. The city’s dining and after-hours scene is another draw, with high-caliber gourmet restaurants competing with casual eateries and hot clubs welcoming huge crowds. The Olas Altas zone, a comfortable walk from the main square, is famous for both. There’s even an annual Vallarta Restaurant Week, this year from March 15 through the 31.
At Mismaloya, visitors will continue to discover why John Huston fell in love with the area and chose it as his location for “The Night of the Iguana,” changing Puerto Vallarta’s history forever. Mismaloya Beach itself is hidden away in a romantic cove and provides an eyeful of Los Arcos, three rock formations that form part of an underwater park popular with snorkelers. Hotels and resorts such as Barcelo Puerto Vallarta provide easy access to a variety of watersports, fishing outings, humpback whale watching during the winter, and breezy sails around Banderas Bay. Outdoor adventures are an essential part of the Vallarta experience, including great excursions to consider include the Marietas Islands for great snorkeling and off-road journeys through the jungle.
- Best time to go:
Year-round; it might get chillier during the winter months, especially in Mexico City and Monterrey, but it’s nothing a jacket won’t fix
- Fun fact:
Mariachi music and traditional Mexican cuisine now form part of UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta to Puerto Vallarta
- Entry documents:
- Must-try local food:
A few of the hundreds of varieties of thick moles; on the Pacific side, pescado zarandeado (grilled fish in a tangy tomato sauce); in Monterrey, try the cabrito a las brasas, barbecued kid goat
- Best buys:
Silver, indigenous original artwork, tequila—some of the best brands are not sold in the U.S.
- Information please:
Mexico Tourism Board’s website—visitmexico.com