here are actually two Vallartas hugging the shores of Mexico’s beautiful Banderas Bay. The old city of Puerto Vallarta began its life in the 19th Century simply as a convenient site for the loading and unloading of supplies and materials for the companies that worked the silver mines in Cuale and San Sebastian, and it grew into an agricultural area important for the raising of crops and cattle. At that time the area was known as Las Peñas.
A couple of hundred years later, the Mexican government chose a spot north of the airport— and across the Jalisco border in the state of Nayarit— to build a new tourism infrastructure and named it ‘Nuevo’, or ‘New’, Vallarta, lying at the southern edge of the famed Riviera Nayarit. Nuevo Vallarta starts about 15 miles north of the airport, where the channel juts into the bay.
If you include the new Marina Vallarta area between the two, you could even say there are three Vallartas.
No matter which one of the Vallartas you choose for your base, the others are within such easy reach that they seem like one wonderful vacation destination, and many simply refer to them as: Vallarta, or PV.
Vallarta is located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico on Banderas Bay (the Bay of Flags), one of the largest bays in the world. With about 100 total miles (60 kilometers) of shoreline, the northernmost limit of the bay is at Punta Mita (which is the end of the Sierra de Vallejo mountains) and its southernmost end is at Cabo Corrientes, part of the foothills of the Sierra del Cuale range. As you can see from the photo at left, it is no longer a “sleepy fishing village”.
Tourism in the region began in about 1930, when a few national and foreign tourists began to come to Puerto Vallarta to spend their vacations enjoying the tranquility and great natural beauty of the port. Slowly word began to spread and each year more tourists came. But the event that made it famous and destroyed forever its exquisite isolation was the filming of the movie “Night of the Iguana” in Mismaloya, a small town just south of Puerto Vallarta.
As word got out about the romance between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (Liz was not in the movie, by the way) thousands of visitors flocked to the picturesque little town, anxious to see the places that appeared in the movie and hopeful of catching a glimpse of some of the movie stars. Of course, now that the place is famous and busy, few big movie stars actually ever go there any more unless they’re actually filming a movie. (There is a famous statue of Dick and Liz near the Cuale River in Puerto Vallarta, but it doesn’t look much like either of them.)
From then on, thanks to the publicity the movie gave Puerto Vallarta and improved transportation into the area, the town grew by leaps and bounds. Now easily accessible by road and by air, tourists from all over the world began to discover the charm and beauty of Puerto Vallarta. Agriculture (not fishing!), which until then had been the principal source of income, took a back seat to tourism and today Puerto Vallarta has everything and then some that makes a resort destination great.
The population has leaped from 12,500 in 1964 to around 255,725 in 2010. There is a large foreign colony, primarily Americans and Canadians, who live there on a permanent or semi-permanent basis and who are active participants in community life.
Nuevo Vallarta consists of a 1,150 acre site with 2.9 miles of beachfront. There are many homes that have been built along its winding canals and its beautiful beachfront. Elegant villas and estates line the channels, each with its own docking pier and manicured gardens. Yet the ecology of Nuevo Vallarta is well preserved. The residential dream homes give way to a five mile stretch of tropical lagoon and estuary frontage for home sites with private docks. South, the channels weave their way through impenetrable tropical foliage.
In the last couple of decades or so major hotels and resorts have been constructed along the expansive beaches of Nuevo Vallarta and north along the Riviera Nayarit. One of the most notable is Flamingos, pictured above left, a mega-development known for the full spectrum of resorts, private homes and condominiums it has to offer, including golf courses and marinas.
So what do you want to do while you’re there? Eat your way through the Vallartas? There are dining opportunities ranging from taco stands to gourmet restaurants– and plenty of them; better plan on staying a lifetime to try them all. Activities? Horseback riding, swimming, fishing, boating, hot air balloons, golf, tennis, jungle tours, birding, parasailing, dancing– you name it, you got it. Relax? There’s no better place for it, with beaches, pools, luxurious spas that will pamper you till you wilt. Shopping? Whoa! Better up your credit card limit, because there is no end to the things you’ll want to take home with you.
One popular place to stay in Nuevo Vallarta is at the luxury Interval International-affiliated Villa del Palmar Flamingos Resort & Spa, a resort destination in its own right, conveniently located to all of the Vallartas. The Villa del Palmar Flamingos is located along the north coast of Banderas Bay at Nuevo Vallarta’s Flamingos Beach, along the famed Riviera Nayarit. A 1.25-mile walk up the beach or 4.5-mile drive away, the friendly town of Bucerias greets visitors with its quaint main plaza brimming with seafood restaurants and seaside clubs.
This all-suite, all ocean view family hotel, is built in the traditional Mexican style to provide optimum comfort and privacy and features 275 ocean view suites overlooking Banderas Bay and the Pacific Hacienda-style private entryways. Deluxe studio suites feature a kitchenette equipped with refrigerator, electric stovetop, microwave, toaster, blender, coffee maker, dishes, cookware and utensils. Larger suites include a complete kitchen with full-size refrigerator, dishwasher and laundry room with full-size washer and dryer.
In-suite amenities include individually-controlled air conditioning, ceiling fans, flat screen televisions, direct dial telephone with voice mail, high-speed internet access, electronic safe, hair dryer, iron with ironing board, clock radio, laundry room with full-size washer and dryer, wet bar on balcony, daily maid service, turndown service (on request) and in-room dining.
This resort was built with family fun in mind. The wide expanse of white sand beach and gentle waters provides plenty of room to play and relax. The resort is a haven for adults and children alike with activities and water sports certain to refresh the spirit. Amenities include a multi-level, lagoon-style pool featuring splashing waterfalls, platforms for lounge chairs and a special section for children; a 17,000 sq. ft. Flamingos Spa; state-of-the-art fitness center; two championship tennis courts; a cyber Cafe; an international deli; a Kid’s Club; and access to the adjacent 18-hole Flamingos Golf Course and Vista Vallarta and Marina Vallarta golf courses in Puerto Vallarta.
There is something about Vallarta that grabs people. Perhaps it’s the cobbled streets of old town, with its red tile-roofed houses marching up the hillsides; perhaps the array of activities and sights; perhaps the beauty of the bay and its beaches; perhaps the friendly good will of its people…
Whatever the source of its mystique, you must visit at least once. But once will probably not be enough.
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.villagroupresorts.com/ –The Villa Group’s website
- http://www.villadelpalmar-flamingos.com/–Specific to the Flamingos resort
- http://virtualvallarta.com/ –The go-to website for the entire “Costa Vallarta”
- http://visitpuertovallarta.com/ –The “Official” Puerto Vallarta travel guide
- http://vallartainfo.com/–An insiders’ guide from someone who lives there
- http://www.allaboutpuertovallarta.com/–Another complete guide
“On the Road” is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of “On the Road” is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. Select quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out— enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
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