Puerto Vallarta is a resort town on the Mexican Pacific in the Bahia de Banderas. While it has been transformed from a quaint seaside resort to a world-famous resort city with huge luxury hotels, ‘real’ Puerto Vallarta is very livable and a place where you can stay awhile.
It is made up of two very distinct neighborhoods separated by the Rio Cuale—Old Town Vallarta and Zona Romantica. Old Town Vallarta is the traditional downtown and Zona Romantica is a newer, funkier neighborhood extending back from the Playa los Muertos, the popular beach.
‘Real’ Puerto Vallarta is a place where many women would feel comfortable staying on their own. Here are some of the reasons this is a great destination:
– Many international airlines have direct flights there so it’s easy to get to
– It’s gringo friendly with lots of English-speaking tourists and expats
– It’s a beach town that is quaint and easy to explore on foot
– It has a romantic history: actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, married to others at the time, bought homes across the street from one another with a connecting bridge when filming the movie Night of the Iguana in 1964
– The Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende operates a campus there and offers courses in painting, drawing, watercolor, ceramics, textiles, jewelry making, and Spanish
– The University of Guadalajara offers Spanish language courses and cultural activities under the slogan “Learn Spanish in paradise”
– The shopping opportunities are outstanding with a wide range of high quality arts and crafts, folk art, ceramics, wrought iron and carved wood
– There are more than a dozen art galleries and weekly tours of artists’ studios; artists have been moving there since the early 70s for it has beautiful light
– The International Friendship Club offers weekly tours of beautiful homes with the proceeds going to charity
There are a number of affordable hotels in Zona Romantica, which is my favourite part of town. Everything is within easy walking distance including the beach, good restaurants, Internet cafes, and shops.
An interesting side trip, requiring at least an overnight stay, is Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. While there consider visiting Tlaquepaque, a trendy centre of arts and crafts, and Ajijic, a retirement community for expats near Lake Chapala. Doing this circuit by local bus is very straightforward.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2010