885km (549 miles) NW of Mexico City; 339km (210 miles) W of Guadalajara; 285km (177 miles) NW of Manzanillo; 447km (277 miles) SE of Mazatlán; 239km (148 miles) SW of Tepic
Puerto Vallarta remains my favorite part of this colorful country, for its unrivaled combination of Mexican warmth, international diversity, and artistic charm. Beyond the cobblestone streets, graceful cathedral, bustling malecón (boardwalk), and festive zócalo (town square), Puerto Vallarta's welcoming atmosphere is complemented by its wealth of natural beauty and man-made pleasures, including hotels of all classes and prices, more than 250 restaurants, and a sizzling nightlife. Cool breezes flow down from the mountains along the Río Cuale, which runs through the city center. Fanciful public sculptures enhance the extensive contemporary arts scene, with the finest galleries in all of Mexico clustered together along a few small and charming blocks. As the most gay-friendly city in Mexico, Vallarta is as open-minded as it is laid-back, and folks from Mexico and the world over have relocated here, in part, for its cosmopolitan and open orientation.
Galleries, boutique shops, and outdoor markets blanket the town's cobblestone streets. You can walk everywhere, pausing along the way at a beachside cafe or on a boardwalk bench. Life here revolves around the ocean, with activities including deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, long-board surfing, and swimming with dolphins. Ecotourism activities abound -- sign up for a jungle canopy tour, visit a protected island preserve, or test your sight at bird-watching. Ease yourself into an ocean kayak, watch whales migrating, or put on your scuba gear and dive with giant mantas in Banderas Bay. The range of activities in this earthly heaven is astounding.
Some folks come to Puerto Vallarta for its healing effects. Yoga retreats and fine spas have sprung up all over in recent years. There's something spiritual about a stroll along the malecón with its ocean breezes, multihued sunsets, and moonlit views of the bay. Peaceful scenic drives extend north and south of the city along oceanside cliffs and through winding jungle terrain. Those here to rest, read, and relax can choose from 26 miles of beaches, many in pristine coves accessible only by boat and framed by the majestic Sierra Madre mountains.
Dining here is delightful. The fresh fish, locally raised meats, and seasonal ingredients inspire Vallarta's many outstanding chefs, boosting the restaurant scene into one of the country's best. Creative Mexican and international dishes explode with flavor, and service is consistently gracious and warm. Wander through downtown Vallarta for fine sidewalk dining as diverse as the city itself. In Viejo Vallarta, you can enjoy a delicious Mexican meal at a casual eatery steps away from an acclaimed international seafood restaurant. You'll find French, Italian, German, and Asian venues tucked between galleries just on the other side of the Río Cuale.
Nighttime entertainment transforms the malecón into a modern Mexican party, where hipsters pack fashionable clubs, dancers swing to salsa, midnight revelers chase back tequila, and celebrations spill into the streets. A number of more chilled-out bars cater to the wine and margarita crowd. Even snowbirds jam to oldies not far from the hottest clubs. The old town is filled with fun-loving gay and gay-friendly bars. As with every aspect of this lively and lovely city, there is something for everyone.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.