The Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta is probably best known as the location of the classic 1964 John Huston film The Night of the Iguana, and also as the site of some epic battles between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton when they lived there in the 1970 s during their romance of the century.
But today s visitor doesn t have to depend on nostalgia or celebrity-watching to enjoy Puerto Vallarta s charms, even though celebs like model Claudia Schiffler still enjoy its superb weather and beaches. Puerto Vallarta is a resort locale that has much more to offer than sandy strands. With cosmopolitan restaurants and nightlife, plenty of marine activities, proximity to rainforests, and spectacular mountain scenery, there s plenty to do beside loll on the beach. Even more welcoming are Puerto Vallarta s people, who fully appreciate that their friendliness to tourists is what fuels the city s booming economy. Go to its restaurants or on one of the day-tours and you ll understand why the city s population has grown tenfold in just thirty years, to its present size of almost half a million. The city is beautiful, clean, vibrant, and safe, and it was hardly affected by the H1N1 "epidemic."
Following are some of the attractions not to miss in Puerto Vallarta:
The Virgin of Guadalupe Church, which towers over the Main Plaza, is the scene of colorful processions on religious holidays. The church itself is an outstanding example of Latin American religious architecture. Look on the side for a striking statue of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Malecon, Puerto
Vallarta s boardwalk along the beach (in reality made of flagstones), is not just an attractive ocean walk, but also the location for many of the city s best restaurants and hippest clubs. It s also the site of a dozen public art sculptures that are world class and a draw in themselves.
The Marieta Islands, a nationally protected bird sanctuary, is the destination for catamaran tours run by Vallarta Adventures, offering scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking as well as watching the birds, dolphins, sea turtles and, in season, whales. An extra attraction is the exceptionally courteous staff.
Palma Real Fiesta, a night out on an authentic Mexican ranch that features show horses, roping demonstrations, mariachi music, traditional Mexican dancing from various provinces, fireworks, and a buffet of Mexican specialties. Offered on Tuesday and Thursday nights with transportation from many hotels.
El Eden Tour, a full day tour that includes the City Center and the Malecon, the Romantic Zone, shopping, a tequila distillery, the rainforest, and a scenic view of the Bay of Banderas coastline, including the cove where much of The Night of the Iguana was filmed.
Restaurants, for me the best attraction of Puerto Vallarta, which has some of the top finds in the world for all types of cuisine. Two that are worth the trip in themselves are Spiaggia, a new and first-rate continental restaurant along the Malecon, owned by a Mexican soccer star, and La Palapa, a venerable institution, appropriately located in the Zona Romantica, which has drawn gourmets and lovers for over forty years. It s a special treat to watch the pelicans dive-bombing for their dinner in the sea, while you re preparing to enjoy La Palapa s delicious fruits of the ocean.
Hotels? Puerto Vallarta s got plenty of them. Two very friendly five-star all-inclusive hotels with great beachfront locations are the Marival Grand in Nuevo Vallarta and the Crown Paradise Club, adjacent to the Marina in Puerto Vallarta, where huge cruise ships regularly make their calls.
For further information, contact the Puerto Vallarta Convention and Visitors Bureau at 888-384-6822 or online at www.visitpuertovallarta.com, or www.visitmexico.com.