Puerto Vallarta
A Gem on the West Coast of Mexico
by Jade Rauenzahn

Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican resort city situated on the Pacific Ocean's Bahía de Banderas. The 2007 census reported Puerto Vallarta's population as approximately 180,800 making it the fifth-largest city in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The City of Puerto Vallarta is the government seat of the Municipality of Puerto Vallarta which comprises the city as well as population centers outside of the city extending from Boca de Tomatlán to the Nayarit border on the Ameca River. 

The has an area of 502.19 square miles (1,300.67 km). To the North it borders the SW part of the state of Nayarit. To the East it borders 
the municipality of Mascota and San Sebastián, and to the South it borders the municipalities of Talpa de Allende and Cabo Corriente. 
Puerto Vallarta is named after Ignacio Vallarta, a former governor of the state of Jalisco.   "Puerto Vallarta" is often shortened to "Vallarta." and English language speakers call the city P.V. for short. In internet shorthand the city is often referred to as PVR, after the code for its international airport. English speakers sometimes misspell or mispronounce the city's name as "Porto Vallarta".

Puerto Vallarta has a typical tropical climate, with near constant temperature and humidity year round and with a pronounced wet and dry seasonal variation.  The average daily high temperature is 86 °F (30 °C); average daily low temperature is 70 °F (21 °C). Even during the rainy season precipitation tends to be concentrated in large rainstorms with insignificant precipitation on most days. Occasional tropical storms will bring thunderstorms to the city in November, though the month is typically dry. Hurricanes seldom strike Puerto Vallarta.

Here I am with my pal Iggy.
Puerta Vallarta is a picturesque community tucked away on the west coat of Mexico ( Central Time Zone ) and surrounded by majestic mountains. That means the temperature is warm and tropical all year round.

Puerta Vallarta by the sea.
Few details are known about the history of the area prior to the 19th century. There is archaeological evidence of continuous human habitation from 580 B.C., and there is archeological evidence from sites near Ixtapa and in Col. Lázaro Cardenas that the area belonged to the Aztatlán culture which dominated Jalisco, Nayarit and Michoacán from aprox. 900-1200 A.D. Unfortunately the limited evidence and relative lack of interest in occidental Mexican archeology have meant that we still know very little about pre-historic life in the area.  Spanish missionary and conquistador documents chronicle skirmishes between the Spanish colonizers and the local peoples. In 1524, for example, a large battle between Hernán Cortés and an army of 10,000 to 20,000 Indians resulted in Cortés taking control of much of the Ameca valley. The valley was then named Banderas (flags) after the colorful standards carried by the natives.

Looking for a perfect retirement home? There are condos galore in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico and if you have American cash, you can cash in on the very, very favorable exchange rate and live like a king on a beer budget.  Puerto Vallarta has become a popular retirement destination for US and Canadian retirees. This trend has spawned a condominium development boom in the city.  Rapid growth in tourist volume in Puerto Vallarta has given rise to rapid growth in hotel and rental apartment construction. This growth has spilled over from the city limits into Nuevo Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit.

There are dozens of resorts and hotels. At the Sea Life Park you can swim with dolphins, snorkel and just relax in the golden Mexican sun.  Flamingos boasts a magnificent golf course as does Grupo Mayan Hotel and Resort. 

Condos, condos everywhere.  This is a great place to retire.

The 'Predator' pool is now a terrffic resort.
Puerto Vallarta is a very popular location for shooting Hollywood films.   ''The Night of the Iguana'' (1963) - filmed on location at Mismaloya and other minor locations in the Puerto Vallarta area. The filming brought Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Tennessee Williams, and Elizabeth Taylor (who was not in the film). The off-screen activities of Burton and Taylor were reported in the tabloids and tabloid newsreels of the day. After filming was completed, John Huston decided to build a home in the vicinity and soon his children created The Puerta Vallarta Film Festival.

    ''Predator'' (1987) - the jungle scenes were filmed on location in the hills behind Mismaloya. Part of the set, a river pool and jungle were recently converted into a resort for tourists.  "Puerto Vallarta Squeeze" (2004) - a filmed version of the Robert James Waller novel of the same name was shot on location in and around Puerto Vallarta.

For TV who could forget ''The Love Boat'' where Puerto Vallarta was often mentioned as a port of call for the Pacific Princess. Another TV show "Flavor of Love" shot its final episode in which Flava Flav picks the winner was shot on location on Las Caletas beach in Puerto Vallarta.  Finally, "The Heartbreak Kid" (2007)- featured a scene where Ben Stiller fights with a sea lion and these portions were shot on location in Puerto Vallarta at the Sea Lion Adventure of Vallarta Adventures one of the tour companies there.

Piloting a boat is not as easy as it looks.

The Restaurant on Top of the Mountain
Puerta Vallarta offers everything a tourist could want in fine native and continental cuisine of the area includes delicacies like Huachinango Sarandeado - rockfish marinated in a birria paste (roast peppers, garlic and spices) and grilled.  Grilled Marlin - served on the beaches and at some taco stands - the meat is skewered and cooked over coals then served with hot sauce and lime. Ceviche - raw fish with onions, hot peppers and lime juice. The lime juice cures the fish, turning the flesh opaque and giving it a chewy texture. The ceviche is usually served with tortilla chips or on a whole tostada.

Gourmets will freak out when they see the wide range of fine restaurants Puerto Vallarta has from Bubba Guimp's Shrimp to the Pipis Restaurant and Bar, Viejo Vallarta Mexican Restaurant with mouth watering delicacies and authentic Mexican fare. Or you can rough it at Quimixto Surf Taco and build your own burritos, tacos and salads to your specifications, then go surfing. Miss your basic diet? Try the Paradise Burger with Mixi-oriented burgers and seafood while you watch your favorite sports at the sports bar.  There is also live rock and roll music on some nights.

My first horseback ride.  Trotting the mountain trails.
The perfect weather allows for every type of recreational activity you can imagine, golf, wild horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking, parasailing, boating and fishing, scuba diving ( lessons included ), turtle camp and water skiing, snokeling, and much more. One day I blasted a bucket of balls at the driving range in preparation for a day of golf with my Dad. My handicap - don't ask!

We went up into the mountains to a ranch where you have an orientation session and a practice period before saddling up for the trail ride in the Sierra Madre Mountains. During our ride, our tour guide filled us in on the history of the area and the facts about the indigenous tribes that once inhabited the area.  After the ride there was a lunch at the ranch and a Tequila Tasting Tour. 

Tuesdays and Thursdays there is a Mexican Ranch Night with folk dancing, cocktails and snacks,a huge buffet, fireworks and dancing horses.

Head down, legs bent, arms straight.........

During the nineteenth century, the history of Puerto Vallarta, then called El Carrizal or Las Peñas, was linked to the history of the sierra towns of San Sebastian, Talpa de Allende and Mascota. While today these towns are considered quaint tourist destinations, during much of the 18th century, Mascota was Jalisco's second largest town, after Guadalajara. Mascota and its neighboring towns located in the high plateaus of the Sierra, developed as agricultural towns to support the growing mining operations in the Sierra. During the 18th century, as Mascota grew, Puerto Vallarta grew with it, transforming itself from a small fishing and pearl-diving village into a small beach-landing port serving the Sierra towns.  1859 saw an important turning point for the small village, then known as Las Peñas. That year, the Union en Cuale mining company took possession of land extending from Los Arcos to the Pitillal river and extending back up into the Sierra for miles. The Union en Cuale company was owned in part by the Camarena brothers of Guadalajara who had developed a small trade in oil palm in Las Peñas.  1859 marks the beginning of Puerto Vallarta as a village and by 1885, the village comprised about 250 homes and about 800 residents.  In 1918, the village was elevated to municipality status and renamed after former state governor Ignacio Vallarta. During the early years of the 20th century most of Puerto Vallarta was owned by the Union en Cuale company controlled by the American Alfred Geist.from 1925 until 1935 the Montgomery Fruit Company operated in the area around Ixtapa.

The first airplane service arrived in 1932, with electrical service on a small scale arriving about the same time. The first suspension bridge over the Cuale went up in 1933. The city's first plumbing system was started in 1939. In 1942 Puerto Vallarta was finally connected by road to Compastela, Nay. Until then, the only access to Puerto Vallarta was by sea, air, or by mule trails to the sierra towns. Also in 1942 in the New York based magazine Modern Mexico the first advertisement for a Puerto Vallarta vacation appeared, sponsored by the Air Transport Company of Jalisco. By 1945 the company was landing DC-3s in Puerto Vallarta carrying 21 passengers.  By the 1950s Puerto Vallarta had started to attract Americans, mostly writers and artists in search of a retreat from the USA of the era of Eisenhower and McCarthy. Gringo Gulch began to develop as an expatriate neighborhood on the hill above the Centro. The city also attracted Mexican artists and writers who were willing to trade the comforts of life in the larger cities for its scenic and bucolic advantages..

Many influences converged during the 1960s and early 1970s to launch Puerto Vallarta into its trajectory toward becoming a major resort destination. The Mexican government finally resolved century old property disputes. When, director John Huston filmed his 1963 film ''The Night of the Iguana'' in Mismaloya, a small town just south of Puerto Vallarta, the US media gave extensive coverage to Elizabeth Taylor's extramarital affair with Richard Burton, as well as covering the frequent fighting between Huston and the film's stars, Burton, Taylor, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon. This movie put Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, on the map - it didn't even have scheduled air service before John Huston shot the film there. The subsequent publicity helped put Puerto Vallarta on the map for US tourists. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Mexican government invested in the development of highways, airport and utility infrastructure, making Puerto Vallarta easily accessible both by air and ground transportation for the first time. Finally, in 1968 the municipality was elevated to the status of a City. The change in status reflected the renewed interest shown by the federal and state government in developing the city as an international resort destination.

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