Puerto Vallarta has a scenic location on the sea with the Sierra Madre foothills behind it, and the ornate crown of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe serving as a photogenic landmark. It is a quaint, picturesque town with cobblestone streets, Colonial buildings, traditional Spanish red tile rooftops, and brilliant flowers. This is one of the most popular resort towns in Mexico, with golden sunny beaches and many private coves hidden by the lush coastline, gourmet dining, an exuberant nightlife, entertainment, art galleries, world-class shopping, golf and tennis options, watersports and excursions galore, and all this surrounded by the backdrop of a traditional Mexican village.
Puerto Vallarta continues to grow as new hotels are constantly being built along the beach and north of the city. However, the old town retains its original, typical Mexican charm, since there can be no further building – Puerto Vallarta town is bound by hills, leaving no room for expansion. In fact, there are just two main, one-way streets (usually very congested with traffic) leading through town, one going north and one south.
The majority of Puerto Vallarta’s hotels are not in the town center, but just to the north. Here the hills are farther back from the coast, and you find a long sweep of wide beach bound by a continuous strip of high-rise, modern hotels. Other hotels are located in small coves just south of town, where the hills drop right into the sea, forming intimate, sheltered coves.
The newest tourist area is north of Puerto Vallarta, just across the border in the state of Nayarit in an area of spectacular beauty called Punta Mita. The beaches here are of superb white sand, surpassing by far those usually found along the Pacific Coast, where the sand is coarser and golden yellow. Puerto Vallarta offers all the usual beach-resort activities, but the river is also popular for kayaking. Also offered are expeditions along the jungle trails that lead into the mountains, which are popular for mountain biking and horseback riding.
There are many boat excursions available. During the season, whale and dolphin expeditions are popular, while another excursion involves a trip south in a boat that hugs the splendid coast to Yelapa (a private beach accessible only by boat). The town isn’t special, but the trip down is lots of fun.