Many think of Puerto Vallarta only as a popular stop for cruise ships sailing between California and Mexico—thanks to that old television show The Love Boat. While this onetime fishing and pearl-diving town on the Pacific coast’s Bahía de Banderas still attracts its share of ships and yachts, it now has thriving culinary and arts scenes that draw as many native Mexicans as tourists.
TAKE A STROLL
Los Muertos Pier reopened in 2013 after a $2.4 million renovation. The new port, designed by Mexican architect Jesús Torres Vega, has a striking waterfront promenade whose dramatic lighting is best seen during an evening walk. From Los Muertos beach, you can easily access Puerto Vallarta’s mile.long oceanfront boardwalk (malecon), lined with tourist shops. Among its public artworks are the 9-foot-tall Seahorse sculpture and the Friendship Fountain, a gift from the U.S. city of Santa Barbara. Most months there’s a Wednesday-evening ArtWalk through the Centro Histórico; about a dozen galleries participate.
COMMUNE WITH NATURE
It’s worth the 30-minute drive to experience the 20-acre Vallarta Botanical Gardens, whose highlights include a stunning orchid conservatory and a rose garden. Or take a horseback-riding tour with Vallarta Shorex, traversing the countryside to reach the cool waters of the Mascota River.
Every November, Puerto Vallarta hosts the Festival Gourmet International. During this 10-day culinary celebration, guest chefs team with local chefs to offer special dinners, cooking classes, demos, and wine and tequila tastings at restaurants all over the city. If you can’t make the festival, check out some of these top tables:
• Vista Grill offers expansive views of the bay from the Alta Vista Hills; the menu lists shrimp taquitos and ceviche.
• Café des Artistes also provides diners with a view—of the boardwalk in the heart of the city. Chef Thierry Blouet’s
menu includes a 3-course prix fixe option as well as an egalitarian wine list.
• La Leche, housed in a minimalist white building with a stylish interior to match, is considered a must-stop for foodies.
The menu is presented on a blackboard, and the wine list is often cited as the best in town.
Fans of street food should book a 3-hour walking tour with Vallarta Food Tours. You’ll visit a tortilla factory and a long-time coconut stand, and taste delicious ceviches, tacos and moles—Mexico’s dark, spicy, chocolatey sauces.
Historic Center ArtWalk: vallartaartwalk.com
Vallarta Botanical Gardens: Km 24 Carr. Puerto Vallarta a Barra de Navidad; +52.322.223.6182; vbgardens.org
Vallarta Shorex: +52.322.224.8026; vallartashorex.com
Festival Gourmet International: festivalgourmet.com
Vista Grill: 377 Púlpito, Col. Alta Vista; +52.322.222.3535; vistagrill.com
Café des Artistes: 740 Guadalupe Sánchez; +52.322.222.3228; cafedesartistes.com
La Leche: Km 2.5 Blvd. Francisco Medina Ascencio; +52.322.293.0900; lalecherestaurant.com
Vallarta Food Tours: 1.888.457.2210; puertovallartafoodtours.com