Once a quiet fishing village, the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta found its way into the spotlight when director John Huston used it as the stage for his 1964 film Night of the Iguana. A glut of Hollywood A-listers arrived soon thereafter inspired, in part, by the scandalous romance between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who set up his and hers pieds-à-terre above the cobbled streets of Viejo Vallarta.
Through the years, Puerto Vallarta has assumed multiple personas — from glamorous celebrity getaway to Love Boat port-of-call to spring break stomping ground. These days, the colorful city may just be Mexico’s ultimate seaside destination. Tucked into the emerald horseshoe of Banderas Bay and surrounded by the rugged Sierra Madre, Puerto Vallarta offers the perfect blend of colonial-era charm and modern Latin American flair, with a thriving LGBTQ community, dynamic cultural and culinary offerings, and abundant natural beauty.
Here’s our guide to getting the most out of your time in this vibrant coastal hub.
Things to Do
On the Town
Several distinct neighborhoods make up Puerto Vallarta, but most visitors focus their time in bustling El Centro and charming Viejo Vallarta, a.k.a. The Romantic Zone. You can certainly wander the city’s seaside promenade or quaint cobblestone streets on your own, but tapping into the knowledge of a Vallarta local offers a deeper dive into PV’s history and culture.
One of those is Mexico City native Memo Lira, who moved to Puerto Vallarta eight years ago. Upon falling in love with his new hometown, Memo launched Vallarta 101 to share his passion for the city. Exploring with Memo is more like taking a walk with a friend than participating in a guided tour — you’ll come away well-acclimated to Puerto Vallarta’s geography and well-versed in its past and present stories. What’s more? Memo does not charge for these experiences — guests are invited to pay what they want at the end if they enjoyed themselves, which they always do.