Puerto Vallarta is a cove located along the Pacific coastline in Mexico's Banderas Bay. Once a quiet fishing village, Puerto Vallarta became famous during the mid-20th century as a setting of movies and a resort to celebrities. Stay in luxury and enjoy the exotic beauty of Puerto Vallarta. Explore the wild jungles that are home to jaguars and thorny-tailed iguanas, or relax on the sandy shores that give way to emerald mountains.
Try your luck at fishing in the deep waters of Puerto Vallarta for marlin and snapper, but steer clear of the five species of sea turtles that are in danger of extinction. Go scuba diving in the Pacific with the guidance of a professional dive company, Banderas Scuba Republic, which also offers diving lessons, certification and private diving excursions. If you are a pirate at heart, join Marigalante for a pirate-themed cruise. Spend a full day on the pirate ship, playing pirate-themed games and water sports before the grand finale - a mock pirate attack.
See Puerto Vallarta from the seat of a mountain bike on a guided tour by Eco Ride. Choose from five riding levels, with excursions taking you into the jungle, along rivers or through villages. Explore Puerto Vallarta with a hike through the tropical mountains, where you will find jack fruit, mango and pineapples growing alongside some of the 300 types of orchids found in the area. Go above the trees by way of zip lines and swings that carry you between 90-foot-tall platforms with Vallarta Adventures' Canopy Adventure Park excursion.
Take off on foot for an adventurous bird-watching expedition with more than 400 species of birds in the surrounding Sierra Madre Occidental. Experience a close encounter with sea lions that is available through Vallarta Adventures. Hop into a pool for a swim with a sea lion after a short educational program where you learn about these sea mammals. Swim with dolphins on a visit to Vallarta Adventures' Dolphin Adventure Center. Spend the day working alongside a dolphin trainer with the Trainer for a Day program. Vallarta Adventures also offers a special needs' program in a therapeutic setting.
The Marietas Islands
The Marietas Islands are a boat ride away from the mainland of Puerto Vallarta. A national treasure of Mexico, the islands are protected and exploration on the lands are limited. Slide into a sea kayak and float around the islands, or go snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters. Explore the underwater caves on a scuba diving exploration. Vallarta Adventures offers a package tour that includes kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving around the islands, as well as whale watching and dolphin sightings during boat rides out to the Marietas.
Bull fights are part of the culture in Puerto Vallarta. Head over to Plaza de Toros for a bull fight, complete with bullfighters in traditional attire, ribbon-adorned spears and the taunts of the crowd. Los Arco Amphitheater is home to theatrical performances, festivals and open-air markets. Visit the amphitheater, particularly during a holiday, to enjoy rubbing shoulders with locals and a chance to buy pieces of handmade pottery or authentic Mexican cuisine.
Miranda Brumbaugh has worked as a freelance writer since 2009. Her writing focuses on traveling, social issues, foster care, green living and environmental topics. Her work has appeared on USA Today Travel Tips and eHow. Brumbaugh received a Master of Science in sociology from Valdosta State University and studied abroad in Mexico.