Introduction Puerto Vallarta is a destination that has almost everything that travelers love about Mexico. The natural setting is glorious, the city situated along the shore of Banderas Bay, with a backdrop of mountains that seem to tumble right into the ocean and hillsides lush with a blanket of green vegetation. The beaches are lovely. Accommodations encompass everything from cozy beachfront bungalows to luxurious hotels. There are local restaurants and shops galore. And this resort has a downtown core as charming as any in the country.
The filming of “The Night of the Iguana” at nearby Mismaloya Beach put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map. John Huston's 1964 film became tabloid fodder due to the on-set love affair that ignited between star Richard Burton and tagalong Elizabeth Taylor—both of whom were married to others at the time. The romance made front-page headlines and boosted Puerto Vallarta's reputation as a vacation getaway synonymous with steamy tropical romance.
Puerto Vallarta (PV for short) has one of the largest resident art communities in Mexico; their exquisite work is on display at galleries scattered throughout town. Shops and open-air markets overflow with pottery, jewelry, silver, blown glass, ceremonial masks, folk art and other treasures. For T-shirts and souvenirs browse the stalls at the flea market, near the cruise ship docks just south of Marina Vallarta.
Non-shoppers looking for adventurous things to do can go on horseback rides into the surrounding hills or take a boat trip to idyllic coastal villages like Yelapa and Quimixto (key-MISH-toh) for snorkeling, kayaking or simply lounging on the beach with an umbrella drink. In the evening mariachi bands and street performers frequent the malecón, the paved boardwalk that runs along the downtown waterfront. And there's plenty of revved-up nightlife as well, courtesy of boisterous bars along the malecón and flashy dance clubs in the big hotels.
Puerto Vallarta, JA
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6 meters (20 feet)
In case of emergency, dial 060 and ask to be connected to an English-speaking operator. For non-emergencies phone (322) 290-0507.
Avenida Francisco Villa #900 (second floor); phone (322) 225-0000 (English may not be spoken fluently). The office is open Mon.-Fri. 9-3 and can assist with time share, taxi, store and other consumer-related issues.
Ameri-Med Hospital, in Plaza Neptuno at the entrance to Marina Vallarta (Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascencio), (322) 226-2080; CMQ Downtown Hospital, Basilio Badillo #365 at Insurgentes, (322) 223-1919; Red Cross (Cruz Roja), Avenida Río Balsas (at Avenida Río de la Plata), (322) 222-1533. All of these facilities are open 24 hours.
Local phone calls
If you don't have a cellphone, use public Telmex phones marked “Ladatel” rather than calling from your hotel room, which almost always incurs a hefty per-minute charge. Ladatel phone cards are available in various denominations from most local stores. Avoid phones with pictures of credit cards or decals saying ”3 minutos gratis” that advertise long distance calling to the United States and Canada; the charges will be outrageous.
Vallarta Today is an English-language daily newspaper geared toward tourists; it has information on everything from local restaurants to currency exchange rates.
Avenida Independencia Puerto Vallarta, JA . Phone:(322)224-1175
Banks are usually open Mon.-Fri. 9-5, although hours for exchanging foreign currency may be restricted and there's often a long waiting line. Currency exchange houses are open longer hours. ATM withdrawals are in pesos; receiving U.S. dollars usually requires a Mexican bank-issued ATM/credit card. Stores, restaurants, taxi drivers and street vendors will often accept dollars, but keep in mind that the minimum wage in Mexico is very low and workers in resort areas depend on tips to make a living. Always tip in pesos if possible, since U.S. coins are useless and dollars must be converted.
Crimes targeting tourists are infrequent, and it's safe to walk the downtown streets. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash in public and don't wander along back streets after dark. A hotel safety deposit box is a good place to keep money, passports, airline tickets, tourist permits and so forth. Bilingual “tourist police” wearing white safari outfits and baseball caps patrol the downtown area and are generally friendly and helpful.