6.9 Original Beach Town
  • Je ne sais quoi (How cool is it?) 6.2
  • Scenery 7.6
  • Water 7.0
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 7.5

Where is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Puerto Vallarta, located on the Bahía de Banderas on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, is a premier beach resort and vacation city. As of a 2010 census, the Puerto Vallarta beaches counted a population slightly more than a quarter million (255,725). Its border to the north is the Nayarit state, while to east one finds the municipality of Mascota and San Sebastián del Oeste. Finally, Talpa de Allende and Cabo Corriente are both found south of Puerto Vallarta.

The city was named after Ignacio Vallarta, a Mexican jurist and governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco (1872–1876). In the Reform War, Vallarta fought on the side of Benito Juárez, and later helped draft the 1857 Constitution of Mexico. Later he was an ally of Juarez and went into exile in the United States of America during the French Intervention, from 1864 to 1866. By 1871, Vallarta had been elected governor of Jalisco was responsible for rebuilding the Government Palace, passage of the Public Education Law of 1874, and finishing work on the state penitentiary. He declined re-election when his term ended in 1876.

Puerto Vallarta is frequently shortened to “Vallarta” in Spanish, English speakers call the city P.V. for short. Often the city is only referred to as PVR, after the airport code.

Where is Puerto Vallarta? 20°40′N 105°16′W

Mexico's Puerto Vallarta has been at the forefront of tourism for decades longer than most places

Beach Vacations to Puerto Vallarta

The beach city of Puerto Vallarta has a significantly more fascinating past, than other Mexican beach spots like Cozumel. This is mainly due to the location near the the agricultural valley of the Ameca River, the important mining centers in the Sierra, and of course the Bay of Banderas. Additionally, this tropical hot spot is certainly a lot more inviting than cold weather beach vacations to Estonia. Before transforming into a international tourist mecca, Puerto Vallarta and its beaches were a thriving Mexican village. Tourism naturally flourished due to the tropical beaches, ideal climate, gorgeous scenery and complimented by a rich cultural history.

In 1541, none other than Don Pedro de Alvarado “discovered” the area.  He is one of the most interesting and talented conquistadors, but neither history nor his contemporaries looked kindly at his wanton cruelty.  “Pedro de Alvarado was flamboyant and charismatic, and was both a brilliant military commander, and a cruel, hardened man. His hair and beard were blond, which earned him the name of Tonatiuh from the Aztecs, the name of one of their sun gods. He was handsome, and presented an affable appearance, but was volatile and quick to anger. He was ruthless in his dealings with the indigenous peoples he set out to conquer. Historians judge that his greed drove him to excessive cruelty, and his Spanish contemporaries denounced his extreme brutality during his lifetime. He was a poor governor of territories he had conquered, and restlessly sought out new adventures.”

From 1851 through 1918, Puerto Vallarta was known as the “Puerto Las Peñas”. This changed with the designation as a municipality. Puerto Vallarta continued as a small fishing village for the next 20 years.

The tourist invasion began in the 1930s. The flood gates were not opened until 1964 though with the movie release of Tennessee Williams’ play The Night of the Iguana. The Puerto Vallarta beach, in particular Mismaloya Beach were showcased. An immense amount of paparazzi followed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, which in turn brought investment to PVR in the 70s. At this time, the economy shifted from agriculture and fishing to mass tourism.

Mexico's Puerto Vallarta beach town

Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

  • Playa Camarones or Shrimp Beach- is the northernmost public beach in Puerto Vallarta. The beach has been named for the shrimp fishermen that used to offload their catch onto the beach.
  • Playa Olas Altas or High Waves Beach – From the fishing pier to the Cuale River South. Ironically, the waves offshore are not especially high, and the beach is a popular place to swim, especially for locals and national tourists. Many restaurants are found in this location. 
  • Playa Los Muertos – Beach of the Dead – Playa Los Muertos is the biggest public beach in Puerto Vallarta. It is rumored (falsely) that the beach is named after a pitched battle between pirates and minors. Supposedly the beach was covered in dead bodies after. Its not true and the city wants to rebrand this Playa del Sol.
  • Playa Boca de Tomates -Mouth of Tomatoes- this rocky beach lcan be found near the mouth of the Ameca River. Because of the rocks that wash ashore in summer, the beach is not popular. There are also crocodiles to worry about. Sounds like a beach spot, we can laugh about.

I would like to thank my friend Jenny D from Sea Girt for the pictures. Amazingly, I have known Jenny since I was 5 years old. She is based out of the city and a star in the online media world.

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About Author

This project, Beach Spot, has been a lingering thought for nearly 20 years. It started on a crazy offshore Venezuelan island, Isla Margarita, during the first dot com craze. The idea evolved while life continually got in the way. A decade was spent on a Mediterranean island as well as a number of years chasing the sun in the USVI.

Back living stateside in San Diego, this project will hopefully be an enjoyable look at a number of beach towns.

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