When traveling to sites where one has previously visited, although it may have been many years previously, it is vital to prepare oneself for the inevitable—change and progress! Just this past summer, we were afforded the opportunity to vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MEXICO, my wife for the 1st time and the 3rd or 4th for me.
Prior to the summer of 2001, our point of destination on the Mexican Riviera has, and continues to be the site of choice, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, MEXICO. Nonetheless, I tried to view Vallarta with an open mind.
The first visit that I made there was prior to all the new construction, prior to the grand hotels, such as La Jolla de Mismaloya and the primo site (s) for North American tourists were hotels such as the Fiesta Americana or such. Incidentally, that is exactly where we lodged for 8 nights and 7 days!
Being an aficionado of older, black and white films, I waited with fearful anticipation to view the beach and movie set where “The Night of the Iguana” (starring Richard Burton and Lana Turner and others) was originally filmed—the beach south of P.V.—Mismaloya.
Most certainly, time had changed what I remembered: gone was the secluded beach where a young Lolita tried to woo a disheveled Burton, as he played a defrocked minister leading a group of Baptist spinsters on their tour of Mexico. Gone was the naiveté and innocence of the people of P.V.—tourism had and has arrived in a grand scale!
Nonetheless, it is still quite worth the effort to ride the bus or take a taxi to visit Mismaloya; you might even enjoy a cocktail, a snack, or a swim at the new grand hotel—La Jolla de Mismaloya which now overshadows all in the area.
Small Mexican vendors and their huts sell their beer and snacks in make shift restaurants and cantinas on the old beach site—so quaint that I was reminded of many spots in Guatemala or Honduras—quaint or primitive—the word to truly describe is yours for the choosing!
Back in P.V., I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised that all the changes had not destroyed the essence of what Vallarta is and was—a wonderful site for a getaway from the US of A!
The people seemed prosperous and friendly, the restaurants far exceeded those found in Mazatlan, and the prices were higher, yet tolerable. All in all, I highly recommend Puerto Vallarta for an escape to the sun and surf—ah, but there is the rub! THERE IS NO SURF STILL! You see P.V. lies on Banderas Bay and thus, the waves are non-existent! It is like a large lake. At times, the water was murky, so much so that we did not venture into the ocean for swimming, a rarity for me.
One must see the old two story hotels where John Huston drank following filming and following purchasing retirement property in Vallarta. It is vital to climb the hills to Gringo Gulch to see the homes that connect where Burton and Liz Taylor sought refuge from Hollywood.
The malecon (sea wall) is shorter, narrower and of less stature than what one finds in Mazatlan, yet it is worth the walk for the fresh air, the evenings’ festivities, and the artwork! Even “Hooters” a la mexicana was a pleasant surprise—more quality waitresses than found in the USA and quite good beer and snacks.
Truly, Vallarta has grown tremendously, yet it is still a site to mark with a red pen for visiting when desiring an escape to the sunny Mexican Riviera. A rental car would have been nice, yet it was most relaxing to travel by bus and taxi.
And all quality and local restaurants are worth the visit: La Dolce Vita, Cuetos, Ricardos,And others all offer a variety of cuisines and excellent vistas and seafood!
Would I return? Yes, without a doubt, but I would still stay at Hotel Fiesta Americana and, when you do, ask for Guillermo and send a digital photo greeting card to the folks back home, all courtesy of the Fiesta Americana. Go, you will have a good time!
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Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Dec - Feb