Your First Visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
After living in Puerto Vallarta since 1983, I am amazed to still meet so many visitors who are surprised by Puerto Vallarta, believe it or not even Mexican visitors. However to be honest my very first visit to Mexico I expected it to be all desert with a sleeping Mexican wearing a serape and a big Sombreros leaning against a cactus. This is almost the complete opposite of what you will see in Puerto Vallarta, as it is a tropic zone with lush rainforest /jungle covered Mountains in the background with the beach and the Pacific Ocean foreground.
From the media and my education I had always believed that Europe was romantic and full of culture and interesting architecture, but thought that Mexico was completely lacking in these details. To my surprise and the surprise of many first time visitors Puerto Vallarta compares well to Italy, Southern France as well as other parts of Europe for architecture and culture. The other aspect of Puerto Vallarta that makes it a special destination are the very friendly people and the sense of community. There are numerous charitable groups who raise funds to help everything from a Cleft palate surgery program for local children, old age homes to the planters full of flowers around town.
If you have never visited Puerto Vallarta here is the general information about the destinations.
LOCATION: West coast of Mexico on the same latitude as Hawaii, approx 2 hours and 15 minutes flying time from Los Angeles California and further south approx 30 minutes flying time from Cabo San Lucas and the tip of Baja California
CLIMATE: tropical humid with approx 300 sunny days per year, average temperatures of 28 Celsius or 82 Fahrenheit. Rainy season is starts in the end of June to mid-October; however the rains are usually late in the day or at night and only a few days per week.
FLORA & FAUNA: the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains are covered in lush tropical forests with wild orchids, iguanas and wild parrots. Just north of Puerto Vallarta before you get to Punta Mita, is a rich agricultural zone which grows everything from Mangos to Avocados.
NATURAL PARKS SANCTUARIES: there are 2 protected National Parks /Sanctuaries in the Bay of Banderas, Los Arcos Islands in the south bay and Las Marietta’s islands at the North Bay near Punta Mita. Las Marietta’s islands are the home of such rare species as the Blue Footed Booby only found in the Galapagos Islands and a few other parts of South America. Banderas Bay is a famous home of humpback whales in the winter along with dolphins and manta rays. In the summer, sea turtles a protected species come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand. There are many local habitats to assist the hatchling sea turtles when they emerge from the sand. The Marriot Hotel has a habitat where they are watched and protected from birds and other predators to get to the ocean.
POPULATION. Approx 350,000 persons
CURRENCY MONEY EXCHANGE: The legal currency is the Mexican Peso, shown as a “$2” or indicated as MN. However US and Canadian Dollars can are often accepted and can easily be exchanged at local banks or Money Exchanges. Most travelers use local Bank Machines to withdraw pesos from their bank accounts.
TIME ZONE: Puerto Vallarta is in the Central time zone, and also uses Daylight Savings time, however they rarely change at the same time as the US and Canada as it is a relatively new concept (approx 10 years) to Mexico. Just north of the Puerto Vallarta International airport is a different time zone at the Ameca River which is the border between the state of Jalisco and the state of Nayarit. However as the entire zone is considered one destination a few years ago they switched to the same time zone as Puerto Vallarta, Central.
CUSTOMS: while the world is becoming smaller all the time and there are many American businesses here: McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Costco, Office Depot and Wal-Mart to name a few, there are still customs that may surprise you. Siesta: many businesses still close from 2-5pm for lunch and a Siesta or nap. This is changing but don’t be surprised if the store you wanted to see is closed. Another interesting custom is that you have to request your bill in a restaurant, it is considered very rude to bring the bill before requested as if the waiter is rushing you out. Mexicans do not rush, and are a very gracious elegant culture.
WATER: the water company of Puerto Vallarta has won many awards for quality, however the aging infrastructure may affect the quality so we suggest you always drink bottled water unless you are staying in a luxury villa or resort hotel with ultra violet state of the art purification.
TRANSPORTATION: Puerto Vallarta has grown immensely in the past 20 years but still is a small town and you can walk to many of the best restaurants, shopping and nightlife if you are staying in town. If you are not the taxis are cheap, friendly and very user friendly. If you are an adventurous traveler try the local buses, they are a great value and a cultural experience as you might have various vendors on your bus, perhaps a traveling musician singing for tips, a Tamale sales person or other. Transportation from the airport is very organized and user-friendly , most rental agents will be happy to help you set up an Airport Transfer, or have the name and address of your rental villa or Resort Hotel printed on a piece of paper to show the taxi driver, costs are posted at the airport terminal.
Be Careful in Mexico of the time share sales people, they are very enthusiastic and you often make a commitment to see their promotion before you know it.