Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers veered far from her usual
island course to take in the sights, sounds and scents of Puerto
Vallarta on a recent trip. Here is her report:
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- Mix art, music and restaurants with
sun, shops, attractions and culture.
It's a recipe for a memorable fun vacation, and Puerto Vallarta
serves it up well.
What's not to like about this place where the green foothills of
Sierra Madre del Sur meet the blue Bahia de las Banderas, where the
river Rio Cuale divides the city and where the steamy "Night of the
Iguana" movie that put Puerto Vallarta on the map in 1964 is still
the best-selling video in town?
PV, as it's often called, is a one-stop (nonstop if you choose)
vacation destination that offers more choices for activities than
there are brands of tequila in Mexico.
Many visitors, especially first-timers and those on package
tours, stay in Marina Vallarta, dominated by high-rise chain
hotels, upscale condominium developments, a marina and yacht club,
golf courses and elaborate complexes of pools, fountains, swim-up
bars and restaurants.
It's a resort city within a city, a bit north of the center of
During my explorations, I met several visitors who stayed
Although most seemed content with their lodgings, some complained
that the shuttle rides to city center took a long time due to
Agents should strongly recommend to clients that they leave the
cocoon of the marina area and venture forth into Puerto Vallarta
Plaza de Armas is Puerto Vallarta's hub. The square has a
bandstand in the middle, the crown-topped Church of Our Lady of
Guadelupe a block behind it and the wide walkway known as the
Malecon fronting the plaza on the sea side.
That's great fun for a while, but PV has so much more than
souvenir stalls, mercados (markets) and fast food outlets with
It's a 15-minute walk from the cathedral to Viejo Vallarta (the
Old Town), whose whitewashed stucco walls and red-tiled roofs
characterize old-style Mexico.
This area is loaded with unpretentious hotels, cobblestoned
streets, braying donkeys, family-run restaurants, beachfront condos
with bougainvillea-adorned terraces and coffee shops serving cafe
con leche (coffee with hot milk) and e-mail and Internet access for
$2 to $3 an hour.
Street names are displayed on old Mexican tiles on the sides of
buildings, stray dogs claim their places in the sun and schoolkids
in uniforms crowd the sidewalks in early morning and at the 2 p.m.
No matter where tourists go, PV always is a show. Here are my
recommendations for some not-to-miss spots:Mundo de Azulejos. If Mexican tiles and pottery are a turn-on,
this store is a huge high.
It is wall-to-wall with handmade and handpainted tiles, sinks,
plates, planters, murals and house signs in the Talavera design
found only in Mexico.
The store ships items to the U.S. at a reasonable price and in
reasonable time.Playa de los Muertos. Don't let the English translation of this
beach name deter a visit. It means "beach of the dead," a reference
to some long-ago battle.
It is anything but dead.
In fact, tourists who are torn between sunning and shopping can
do both from the comfort of a lounge chair while sipping a
margarita or cerveza (beer).
Vendors selling everything from pareos and pies to barbecued
fish-on-a-stick (the PV equivalent of a Coney Island hot dog) and
folk art roam the beach all day long.
Bargaining is not only expected -- it's also part of the fun, as
are parasailing, banana- boat rides, fishing charters, Jet Skis and
A good spot to park mind and body is Eldorado Beach Club &
Restaurant, which charges $4 a day for a lounge chair, table and a
palapa (thatched umbrella).
This includes a chit for a free (and very potent) margarita.Casa Kimberly overlooks the river in a hillside area of PV
dubbed "Gringo Gulch."
Elizabeth Taylor lived here while carrying on a torrid affair
with Richard Burton. Burton was in Puerto Vallarta in 1964 filming
Tennessee Williams' "Night of the Iguana" with Ava Gardner.
Burton rented the house right across the cobblestoned street
from Taylor and connected both houses via a pink arched bridge.
Today the house is a mini-museum and bed and breakfast whose
rooms contain everything Taylor left in the house when she sold it
in the 1980s.Museo del Cuale. This tiny museum on Isla Rio Cuale (the island
in the middle of the river) is well worth a visit for its
pre-Columbian ceramics.Dancing and drinking are PV's main forms of nighttime
Stroll down the Malecon in the evening for music, romantic bars
and rowdy revelry.
Tequila's Mexican Cafe on the Malecon offers live mariachi bands
For romance, atmosphere and a high tab, Le Bistro Jazz Cafe on
Isla Cuale is a top pick.Best chicken sandwich in town is at Chile's in Viejo Vallarta,
and the best market for mangoes, English magazines and Mexican
bread is Gutierrez Rizo in the center of town.