Puerto Vallarta is situated in the Bahia de Banderas, a 14-mile (22km) long bay lined with long stretches of sandy beaches. It is the second largest holiday resort on the Pacific coast after Acapulco, but despite its resort status it has managed to maintain its own unique character. Puerto Vallarta's charm is due to its blend of first-world cosmopolitan city and the colonial features of its historic old town. The graceful centre is embellished with quaint cobblestone streets that are lined with delightful white adobe houses, flower-filled wrought-iron balconies and red tiled roofs, making this one of Mexico's most picturesque coastal cities.
Puerto Vallarta's luxury hotels, restaurants, bars, and shopping centres have spread out along the coast on either side of the original town, allowing Puerto Vallarta to grow as a holiday destination without sacrificing its colonial charms. With more than 250 restaurants, visitors to Puerto Vallarta are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in this charming city. In Puerto Vallarta tourists will find a cosmopolitan hub which nevertheless boasts the simple pleasures of a Mexican village. Outdoor recreation is limitless in Puerto Vallarta, especially considering the diversity of watersports available, including scuba diving and snorkelling, while whales and dolphins inhabit the bay and can often be seen on organised boat trips.
Even serious shoppers won't be disappointed by the variety of shops in Puerto Vallarta, which line almost every downtown street and range from speciality stores and shopping centres to outdoor markets and art galleries. No other holiday resort destination in Mexico can offer a better shopping experience than Puerto Vallarta. It has developed a reputation as an art centre and there is an abundance of local arts and crafts, such as pottery, ceramics and hand blown glass. Boutiques stock an array of shoes, traditional Mexican sandals and clothing, while the main flea market is the place to bargain for inexpensive handicrafts, clothes and souvenirs.
As the culinary capital of Mexico, and host to the annual Gourmet Dining Festival every November, foodies will be in paradise while on holiday in Puerto Vallarta. It is home to some of the best restaurants in Mexico, and offers thousands of places to dine ranging from award-winning venues and family-run restaurants to coffee houses and relaxed beachside cafes. A wide range of international cuisine is available, from Italian to Japanese and French, with the eclectic Daiquiri Dick's coming out tops and La Ola Rica serving popular pizzas and coconut shrimp. For traditional local Mexican fare, visit El Arrayán in the centre of town.
The nightlife in Puerto Vallarta offers something for everyone. There are nightclubs and all night discos, strip bars, live music clubs, bars serving up sundowner cocktails, restaurants that bring on bands after the food has been cleared away, folkloric dancing and Mexican fiestas, and hotel bars where visitors and locals alike gather over a drink for a chat at the end of the day. The centre of the nightlife is the Malecon strip where the vibrant atmosphere suits the young and the young at heart. The South Side features a variety of alternative entertainment, including gay bars and strip shows.
Puerto Vallarta offers more holiday activities than anyone has time for. There are an array of watersports, including wind surfing, sailing, kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, snorkelling, and waterskiing. In addition there are opportunities for swimming with dolphins and whale watching cruises. Many hotels also organise excursions to secluded beaches, hiking and biking tours, canopy tours, and horse riding. Other activities include golf, deep-sea fishing, and bungee jumping.
During the warmer months of May to August insects and mosquitoes can become a problem in Puerto Vallarta so be sure to bring plenty of repellent with you.