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Puerto Vallarta, JA

Puerto Vallarta RecreationThe Bay of Banderas extends north to Punta de Mita (Mita Point) and south to Cabo Corrientes (Corrientes Cape), where the foothills of the Sierra de Cuale range begin. Water depths of up to 1,500 feet give the bay characteristics normally associated with oceans, but it also is protected due to its shape and the surrounding geography. The result is generally calm water, clear visibility and ideal conditions for boating.

A favorite snorkeling destination is the underwater park at Los Arcos (also called Las Peñas), a short distance offshore from Mismaloya Beach. The oddly eroded formations jutting out of the bay served as an early landmark for ships. Colorful marine life is particularly evident around these rocks.

Kayakers and experienced divers head for the Marietas Islands (Islas Marietas), off Punta de Mita at the bay's northern end. Tropical fish thrive here, dolphins are frequently sighted, and the islands also are a protected bird sanctuary. Chico's Dive Shop, Paseo Díaz Ordaz #772 at the northern end of the malecón, rents equipment and organizes dive trips to the Marietas; phone (322) 222-1895.

Sport fishing charters can be booked through your hotel or a travel agent. Rates depend on the size of the boat, where you fish, and whether bait and tackle are supplied. Bring your own refreshments, since most trips don't include them.

Sailfish and blue marlin are normally hooked November through February; smaller game species such as dorado, roosterfish and tuna can be caught seasonally most of the year. A catch-and-release policy is stressed if the fish is not going to be eaten.

Marina Vallarta has more than 500 slips and offers boaters fresh water, as well as cable TV and telephone hookups. Hardware and boating supply outlets are located along the boardwalk of this sprawling complex, which also has an 18-hole golf course, luxury hotels and condominiums. Tour boats and fishing excursions depart from the marina's Maritime Terminal. Boaters can explore a variety of tiny coves and hidden beaches along the shore of Banderas Bay, or drop anchor for awhile at Bahía de Banderas in Nuevo Vallarta.

Swimming, water skiing and parasailing are some of the many fun things to do outdoors at many spots along the bay. Surfers head for the open waters and bigger waves around Punta de Mita. For those who would rather view the bay than venture into it, a shoreline horseback ride can be arranged through a travel counselor.

Rancho El Charro organizes guided 2- to 3-hour horseback riding excursions into the foothills of the Sierra Madre, past jungle plantations and rural villages. Transportation is included and reservations are necessary; phone (322) 224-0114 for Rancho El Charro, (322) 294-1689.

There are several 18-hole golf courses in the area. Water comes into play on 11 holes at the Marina Vallarta Club de Golf course. Member privileges are extended to guests staying at certain hotels. Greens fees range from $75-$139 (U.S.) and include a shared cart. Golfers wishing to play outside peak tourist season should check with the club; phone (322) 221-0073.

The Flamingos Golf Club is about 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of the airport off Mex. 200, in the state of Nayarit. Greens fees (shared cart and a bottle of water included) at this older, par-72 course range from about 925-2,940 pesos; caddies are available. (Note: Nayarit observes Mountain Standard Time, which is an hour earlier than Puerto Vallarta and the rest of Jalisco.) Reservations and transportation can be arranged through your hotel, or phone (329) 296-5006.

The Vista Vallarta Club de Golf, 653 Circuito Universidad, Colonia San Nicolas, is about 3 miles inland from Marina Vallarta. There are two courses, one designed by Jack Nicklaus and one by Tom Weiskopf. Greens fees (motorized cart included) range from around $110-$210 (U.S.). For tee times and hotel package information phone (322) 290-0030.

Most of the resorts provide clay tennis courts for their guests. PV also has two tennis centers: the Canto del Sol Tennis Club, at the Canto del Sol Plaza Vallarta resort in the Hotel Zone; and the Los Tules Tennis Center, near the Fiesta Americana Hotel.

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Puerto Vallarta, JA

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Travel Information

City Population

255,681

Elevation

6 meters (20 feet)

Police

In case of emergency, dial 060 and ask to be connected to an English-speaking operator. For non-emergencies phone (322) 290-0507.

Consumer Protection

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.

Hospitals

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.

Newspapers

Vallarta Today is an English-language daily newspaper geared toward tourists; it has information on everything from local restaurants to currency exchange rates.

Visitor Information

Avenida Independencia Puerto Vallarta, JA . Phone:(322)224-1175

Currency Exchange

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.

Staying Safe

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.

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