Puerto Vallarta is a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, known for its beaches, water sports and robust nightlife scene. Its historic, cobblestoned center is home to the ornate church Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, boutiques and a wide range of restaurants and bars. El Malecón, a beachside promenade with contemporary sculptures, as well as bars, lounges and nightclubs, becomes lively in the evenings.
Puerto Vallarta lies on a narrow coastal plain at the foot of the Sierras Cuale and San Sebastián, parts of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The plain widens to the North, reaching its widest point along the Ameca river. Three rivers flow from the Sierra through the area. From South to North they are the Cuale, the Pitillal, and the Ameca. A number of arroyos also run from the Sierra to the coastal plain. Many of the valleys of these rivers and arroyos are inhabited. Also development has to some extent spread up the hillsides from the coastal plain.
The city proper comprises four main areas: the hotel zone along the shore to the North, Olas Altas – Col Zapata to the South of the Cuale river (recently named Zona Romantica in some tourist brochures), the Centro along the shore between these two areas, and a number of residential areas to the East of the hotel zone. The oldest section of the town is the area of Col. Centro near the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, especially Hidalgo street.
Puerto Vallarta was once named as La ciudad más amigable del mundo (The Friendliest City in the World), as the sign reads when entering from Nayarit. Today, the presence of numerous sidewalk touts selling time-shares and tequila render the city’s atmosphere more akin to tourist-heavy resorts like Cancun and Acapulco, but overall the city’s reputation remains relatively undiminished.
Tourism in Puerto Vallarta has increased steadily over the years and makes up for 50% of the city’s economic activity. The high season for international tourism in Puerto Vallarta extends from late November through March (or later depending on the timing of the college Spring Break period in the USA.) The city is especially popular with US residents from the West Coast because of the sheer number of direct flights between Puerto Vallarta and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Phoenix. The city is also popular with tourists from western Canada with a number of direct scheduled and charter flights from western Canadian cities.
Puerto Vallarta is also a highly popular vacation spot for domestic tourists. It is a popular weekend destination for residents of Guadalajara (tapatíos), and a popular national destination for vacations such as Semana Santa (the week preceding Easter) and Christmas.
Puerto Vallarta has become a popular retirement destination for US and Canadian retirees. This trend has spawned a condominium development boom in the city.
Rapid growth in tourist volume in Puerto Vallarta has given rise to rapid growth in hotel and rental apartment construction. This growth has spilled over from the city limits into Nuevo Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit. The area is one of the fastest growing regions in the Americas.