What You Need To Know
Puerto Vallarta is a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, in Jalisco state. It is known for its beaches, water sports and nightlife scene. Its cobblestone center is home to the ornate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, boutique shops and a range of restaurants and bars. El Malecón is a beachside promenade with contemporary sculptures, as well as bars, lounges and nightclubs. Puerto Vallarta is named after Ignacio Vallarta, a former governor of Jalisco. In Spanish, Puerto Vallarta is frequently shortened to “Vallarta”, while English speakers call the city P.V. for short. In internet shorthand the city is often referred to as PVR, after the International Air Transport Association airport code for its Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport.
Municipality Area: 1,300.7 km2
Puerto Vallarta’s climate is typical Tropical wet and dry (Köppen climate classification Aw). The average daily high temperature is 86 °F (30 °C); average daily low temperature is 70 °F (21 °C); average daily humidity is 75%. The rainy season extends from mid June through mid October, with most of the rain between July and September. August is the city’s wettest month, with an average of 14 days with significant precipitation. Even during the rainy season precipitation tends to be concentrated in large rainstorms. Occasional tropical storms will bring thunderstorms to the city in November, though the month is typically dry. There is a marked dry season in the winter. February, March and April are the months with the least cloud cover.
Spanish is the primary language spoken, but many people especially those who work in the tourist zone speak English.
Nearly 50% of the workforce is employed in tourist related industries: hotels, restaurants, personal services, and transportation. The municipality does however continue to have strong agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors.
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 western U.S. because of the sheer number of direct flights between Puerto Vallarta and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver Phoenix, and Chicago. The city is also popular with tourists from western Canada with a number of direct scheduled and charter flights from western Canadian cities.
Poverty remains a problem in Puerto Vallarta, fueled by the constant influx of persons seeking employment. Many areas of the city are still poorly served by roads and sewers. For example, Colonia Ramblases is served by roads in generally poor condition only 10% of which are paved, and Ramblases has been a populated neighborhood since the 1940s.
The Municipality of Puerto Vallarta comprises about 45,000 regular dwellings. Of those, 10% do not have a potable water supply (carrying their water from a public tap), 8% do not have connections to a sewer system or septic system (using instead crude septic pits or dumping sewage directly into waterways), and 4% do not have electricity. One reason for this is the difficulty the city has enforcing building regulations.
Many of the jobs available in Puerto Vallarta are classed as inferior by the Secretariat for Social Development, and even jobs that are generally well paying tend to be seasonal, so for example, waiters depend heavily on tips to supplement incomes that can be as low as 47 pesos a day – the applicable minimum wage in Jalisco. There have recently (2005 to 2007) been improvements like the new IMSS facilities in Col. Versalles, improvements to several recreation facilities, improved communal beach access policies, etc. Still efforts seem to aim more at quick and visible infrastructure improvements than at solving the more pressing and enduring problem of insufficient infrastructure for basic services.
One positive result of recent growth has been that in relative terms a smaller percentage of the population lives in older and poorly served neighborhoods. A growing number of residents live in housing projects and low income housing developments which provide at least adequate basic services. So perhaps having stemmed the growth of the problem with the new developments, the city will eventually be able to devote its resources to improving existing neighborhoods.
Puerto Vallarta has schools for all levels from kindergarten to university education both private and public.
Puerto Vallarta has a campus from one of the best known universities in Mexico, the University of Guadalajara. But it also has many other lesser known public and private university options such as the UNIVA university and the Instituto Tecnologico de Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta Technological Institute). Some of these universities also offer High school level education.
Arts and cuisine
- Huachinango Sarandeado – red snapper marinated in a birria paste (roast peppers, garlic and spices) and grilled.
- Grilled Mahi-mahi – served on the beaches and at some taco stands – the meat is skewered and cooked over coals then served with hot sauce and lime.
- Ceviche – raw fish, scallops, or shrimp, with onions, chiles such as serranos or jalepenos, and lime juice. The lime juice cures the fish, turning the flesh opaque and giving it a chewy texture. The ceviche is usually served with tortilla chips or on a whole tostada, and quite frequently accompanied by guacamole.
Puerto Vallarta is said to be a very safe area with an unusually low crime rate. The area makes most of its living through tourism, so there is a definite interest in keeping tourists (and residents) safe and secure. There are even special “ tourist police,” who wear white safari-esque outfits with black shoulder pads, are bi-lingual and will offer directions and assistance to those who need it, in addition to general security. Additionally, most hotels and resorts have their own security.
One thing to be careful of Puerto Vallarta is crossing the street, as drivers here tend to be on the aggressive side. However, some street crossings in the center of town are also manned by police.
Some people are concerned about kidnappings in Mexico, and this is a growing problem. However, tourists are not targeted by anti-government sentiment, and foreigners are not the targets of these kidnappings. Many people say they feel safer walking in Puerto Vallarta at night than they do in their home cities.
The best way to get around Puerto Vallarta is on a bus — there are plenty of stops and the fare is cheap. If you’re looking for a less bumpy ride (though not by much) you can also take a taxi. The bus is also the best means of getting from PV’s Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR) to the hotel zones. Renting a car is also an option, but you’ll pay hefty fees for the privilege.
Rental cars offer easy access to all of the main attractions throughout Puerto Vallarta, but rates can be expensive and driving through the city’s steep bumpy streets can be terrifying. If you’re going to rent a car, book online before your arrival. And remember to always lock your valuables in the trunk out of plain sight.
Taxis are an excellent, inexpensive way to get around the city — you just need some street smarts. Fare is charged by zone, not meter, so ask the driver for a rate sheet to keep track. The minimum fare is usually around 40 pesos, but rides from the airport to most hotels will cost around $10 USD. Purchase a map and consult it yourself, so that you can ensure you’re getting where you need to go quickly (and cheaply). And keep in mind that tipping isn’t necessary unless the driver helps with your bags.
If you’re not in the mood to argue over fare with a cabbie, this makes for a great alternative. PV buses service the downtown area, as well as the Hotel Zone and Marina Vallarta, and they’re pretty cheap. Hold on tight to your ticket, literally. An inspector might come by at any time to check, not to mention that drivers tend to zip and race through the streets. Take the green buses around town, and look for a gray bus if you’re interested in road trips to the small beach town of Bucerías or going even farther out (to places like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Mazatlán). There are no transfers with tickets, so if you plan on taking two buses to reach your destination, be sure to buy two tickets.