It’s difficult to know whether to start on the beaches or the restaurants with holidays to Puerto Vallarta. Both are as good as each other.
The publicity around Elizabeth Taylor’s affair with Richard Burton while filming in Banderas Bay put Puerto Vallarta on the map in 1963. Not one to let a golden opportunity slip through its fingers, it’s since developed in to a big-name resort city. Running from the marina in the north to Mismaloya to the south, it’s got just about everything you can think of. The buttery beaches come with a supporting cast of bars, curio shops, markets, and as many watersports as there are days of the month. Plus, there are hundreds of terrific places to eat, from starry restaurants to streetside taco stands.
Beaches for everyone
Banderas Bay wheels out 42 kilometres of sandy coastline. You’ve got the full works when it gets to Puerto Vallarta. At Conchas Chinas to the south, there are leave-me-alone tropical sands and tide pools lassoed by rocks. To the north, there’s Playa de Oro – tiny but with a giant watersports portfolio and surfers’ waves. In the middle, Los Muertos is the city’s most-visited beach. It’s packed with palapas and restaurant-bars. Entertainment comes from the mariachi bands that wander the golden sands.
Stroll along the malecon
The pedestrianised malecon is the heart and soul of the city. It’s where musicians and street artists play to an audience out for an evening paseo, and where stall vendors vie with bars and restaurants for passing trade. There’s even free Wi-Fi. The promenade starts by the fishermen's market and continues south to an amphitheatre where there are nightly folk dances and clown shows. On the way, you’ll pass amazing sand sculptures and bronze statues, such as seahorses and cloaked figures climbing the ladder to heaven.
You can get a taste of long-standing customs by visiting the ceramic tile factories and shops along the malecon that put on glass-blowing demos. There are also family-owned tequila distilleries in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains. You’ll get a walk-through of the cooking, fermenting, distilling and ageing process of their tequilas from the agave plant to the bottle, and samples of the end product.