Puerto Vallarta is an oceanfront city on the west coast of Mexico. The area began as a collection of sleepy fishing and pearl-diving villages. Today, the city and surrounding parts of the Bay of Banderas (Bahía de Banderas) are popular with tourists as a resort destination. You will find a range of outdoor family activities here, from water sports to secluded beaches and botanical gardens.
The Bay of Banderas is a 62-mile (100-kilometer) stretch of beach with rocky outcrops, white sand and clear water. Puerto Vallarta is the largest community here, and is home to the elegant Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Snorkel or scuba dive off the coast and see manta rays, sea bass and dolphins.
Las Caletas is a small, private beach accessible only by water. Take the Vallarta Adventures catamaran to go on hikes in the jungle, visit a small zoo and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch. The beach is the former private residence of Hollywood director John Huston.
Take an evening stroll along the Malecon, the pedestrian promenade that lines the Puerto Vallarta coast. The area is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists and is lined with restaurants, street performers and food vendors. Enjoy a cool tejuino, a local drink made with fermented corn, or buy grilled fish by the skewer.
The Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens give insight into the local wildlife and vegetation. The gardens include conservation areas dedicated to the blue agave plant, used in tequila production, as well as native vanilla orchids.
Puerto Vallarta is particularly popular between January and March. Gostavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport is a short bus trip from the city center. Get around the city on foot or by local buses, which are cheap and run frequently. Try taco stands for cheap street food, or the cafés and restaurants in the old town for sit-down meals.