The beachside town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico has been a top vacation spot since the mid-1960s, when movie director John Huston put the city on the international tourist map by filming The Night of the Iguana in the Banderas Bay area.
Since then, the once sleepy town has had no problem attracting a steady stream of tourists. Yet with its white sandy beaches, forest-clad mountains and pretty cobblestone streets, the location has undoubtedly held on to its original charm. We've sketched out a four-day itinerary that enables you to see the area's main attractions, while also allowing enough time for lounging by the beach.
Morning | Explore the Cathedral and Plaza De Armas
Once you've dropped off your luggage at the hotel, it's time to head out. Your first destination should be the Plaza de Armas, the city's main plaza and the beating heart of the city. Here you'll find souvenir hawkers, shaded park benches and free Wi-Fi. A few steps from the plaza is Puerto Vallarta's most famous church, La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Squint your eyes and look up at the wrought-iron crown that tops the building. Towards the sea are Los Arcos, four grand stone arches that form the background to the city's open-air theater. As well as being one of Puerto Vallarta's most iconic monuments, free concerts and cultural events are held here throughout the year.
Afternoon | Hit the Beach
Evening | Take a stroll by the sea
For gourmet Mexican cuisine, dine at Los Xitomates de Xalisco, an innovative and elegant restaurant owned and run by the award-winning chef Luis Fitch. With its focus on "high Mexican cuisine," the restaurant takes traditional dishes and fuses them with Mediterranean, Caribbean or Asian influences.
Los Xitomates de Xalisco, Morelos 610, downtown Puerto Vallarta Tel: (322) 222-9434
Morning | Visit the Botanical Gardens
Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Barra De Navidad Km. 24, Cabo Corrientes, (322) 223-6182
Afternoon | Soak up the sun at a secluded beach
Your mini van will take you back to your hotel or you can head back to the city center by waving down El Tuito bus from outside the Gemelas condominiums.
Evening | Enjoy dinner on the beach
La Palapa Restaurant, Pulpito 105-3, Emiliano Zapata, Puerto Vallarta, Tel: (322) 222-5225
Bar La Playa, Lázaro Cárdenas 179, Emiliano Zapata, Puerto Vallarta, Tel: (323) 854-0581
Morning | Take a relaxing island stroll
The Isla Cuale in the center of Puerto Vallarta's Cuale River is a great place to wander and is home to a cultural center and several relaxing restaurants. Shaded by a dense thicket of trees, the island is also a cool and refreshing break from the beach. Be sure to visit the Museo del Cuale, a small island museum which showcases an impressive collection of pre-Columbian ceramics.
Afternoon | Shop until you drop
If you need souvenirs to bring home from PV, Isla Cuale is the place to go! It's an island in the middle of downtown, formed when the Cuale River that flows through the city, forked and separated this patch of land from the rest. In order to get the island, you have to cross a hanging wooden bridge, which can be easy or hard depending on who else is crossing with you...(Walk in the middle! People clutching the ropes from the side make it worse for everyone crossing!) When you get across, the island is full of little souvenir stands. Even though the goods tended to be the same from booth to booth, it was still a fun spot to shop!
Evening | Knock back a drink or two
Steer clear of the tourist trap clubs on the Malecón and head to Bar Morelos, which has a much more local feel. This stylish joint has great service, a solid menu and a sizeable drinks collection. Sample tequila's smoky cousin, raicilla, or order a delicious chocolate martini. After a hard day's sightseeing, you deserve it.
Bar Morelos, Morelos 589, El Centro, Puerto Vallarta, Tel: (322) 222-2550
Morning | Check out one of Mexico's most authentic beach villages
Afternoon | Tuck into a pie
Surprisingly, Yelapa's local delicacy is not its seafood, but pie. There are several so-called pie ladies in town, who walk the beach with Tupperware containers filled with their baked produce. The original and best pies are made by Chelly Rodriguez, who has been baking them in Yelapa for more than two decades. Rodriguez makes 10 different varieties of pie: lemon, apple, pumpkin, cheesecake, chocolate, coconut, chocolate and coconut, banana cream, pineapple and nut.
Evening | Enjoy a stylish dinner
Back in Puerto Vallarta, cap off your trip with a dinner at Café Des Artistes, the celebrated Mexican and French fusion restaurant. You'll find some truly unique offers on the menu, including a delicious starter combining chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican dish of fried corn tortillas and tomato sauce) with lobster. Choose between a table in the stylish modern interior or the beautiful, candle-lit garden and toast to an excellent vacation.
Cafe Des Artistes, Guadalupe Sánchez 740, El Centro, Puerto Vallarta, (322) 226-7200Original article