Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- International carriers serving Puerto Vallarta include Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522 in the U.S., or 01-800/252-7522 in Mexico), American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300 in the U.S., or 01-800/904-6000 in Mexico), US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322 in the U.S., or 01-800/428-4322 in Mexico), Continental (tel. 800/523-3273 in the U.S., or 01-800/900-5000 in Mexico), Delta (tel. 800/241-4141 in the U.S., or 01-800/123-4710 in Mexico), Frontier (tel. 800/432-1359 in the U.S.), and United (tel. 800/538-2929 in the U.S., or 01-800/003-0777 in Mexico).
Aeroméxico (tel. 800/237-6639 in the U.S., or 01-800/021-4000 in Mexico) flies from Los Angeles, San Diego, Aguascalientes, Guadalajara, La Paz, León, Mexico City, Morelia, and Tijuana.
Major car-rental agencies at the airport, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar/Thrifty, and National, are open after flight arrivals. After registering, they will send a shuttle to take you to the nearby car-rental lots. Daily rates start at about $40.
By Car -- The coastal Hwy. 200 is the only choice from Mazatlán (6 hr. north) or Manzanillo (3 1/2-4 hr. south). Hwy. 15 from Guadalajara to Tepic takes 6 hours; to save as much as 2 hours, take Hwy. 15A from Chapalilla to Compostela, bypassing Tepic, and then continue south on Hwy. 200 to Puerto Vallarta. Expect a number of official checkpoints on these highways.
By Bus -- The bus station, Central Camionera de Puerto Vallarta, is just north of the airport, approximately 11km (6 3/4 miles) from downtown. It offers overnight guarded parking and baggage storage. Most major first-class bus lines operate from here, including Estrella Blanca, ETN, TAP, Pacifico, Futura, Turistar, Elite, and Primera Plus, with transportation to points throughout Mexico, including Mazatlán (390 pesos), Manzanillo (230 pesos), Guadalajara (350 pesos), Barra de Navidad (185 pesos), and Mexico City (900 pesos). Taxis into town cost approximately $10 and are readily available; public buses operate from 7am to 11pm and regularly stop in front of the arrivals hall.
Arriving by Plane -- The airport is close to the north end of town near the Marina Vallarta, about 10km (6 1/4 miles) from downtown. Transportes Terrestres Puerto Vallarta minivans and Aeromovil taxis make the trip. They use a zone pricing system, with fares clearly posted at the ticket booths. Fares start at $16 for a ride to Marina Vallarta and go up to $28 for the south shore hotels. Federally licensed airport taxis exclusively provide transportation from the airport, and their fares are more than three times as high as city (yellow) taxi fares. A trip to downtown Puerto Vallarta costs between 200 and 250 pesos, whereas a return trip using a city taxi costs only 120 pesos. Only airport cabs may pick up passengers leaving the airport. You can also buy a ticket for a colectivo (a shuttle van that goes every 30 min.) at the official taxi stand which, at only 120 pesos to downtown, is the cheapest option.
Vistor Information -- Prior to arrival, a useful source of information and publicity is the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board (tel. 888/384-6822 in the U.S., or 322/224-1175 in Mexico; www.visitpuertovallarta.com). The office is located in the Hotel Canto del Sol in the Zona Comercial Las Glorias. It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 7pm. If you have questions after you arrive, visit the downtown Dirección de Turismo (municipal tourism office) in the corner of the white City Hall building at Juárez and Independencia (tel. 322/226-8080, ext. 230), just off the main square. In addition to offering a listing of current events and promotional brochures, the employees can assist with specific questions -- there's usually an English speaker on staff. It's open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 8pm, Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
In Marina Vallarta, the State Tourism Office, Plaza Marina L 144, 2nd Floor (tel. 322/221-2676, -2677, -2678), also offers brochures and can assist with specific questions about Puerto Vallarta and other points in the state of Jalisco, including Guadalajara, Costa Alegre, the town of Tequila, and the program that promotes stays in authentic rural haciendas. It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.
City Layout -- The seaside promenade, the malecón, is a common reference point for giving directions. It's next to Paseo Díaz Ordaz and runs north-south through the central downtown area. From the waterfront, the town stretches back into the hills a half-dozen blocks. The areas bordering the Río Cuale are the oldest parts of town -- the original Puerto Vallarta. The area immediately south of the river, called Olas Altas after its main street (and sometimes Los Muertos after the beach of the same name), is home to a growing selection of sidewalk cafes, fine restaurants, espresso bars, and hip nightclubs. In the center of town, nearly everything is within walking distance both north and south of the river. Bridges on Insurgentes (northbound traffic) and Ignacio Vallarta (southbound traffic) link the two sections of downtown.
Beyond downtown, Puerto Vallarta has grown along the beach to the north and south. Linking downtown to the airport is Avenida Francisco Medina Ascencio, home of many high-rise hotels (in an area called the Zona Hotelera, or Hotel Zone), plus several shopping centers with a variety of dining options.
Marina Vallarta, a resort city within a city, lies at the northern edge of the Hotel Zone, just a few minutes from the airport. It boasts excellent hotels, condominiums, and homes; a huge marina with 450 yacht slips; a golf course; restaurants and bars; and several shopping plazas. Because it was originally a swamp, the beaches are somewhat less desirable, with darker sand and seasonal inflows of cobblestones. The Marina Vallarta peninsula faces the bay and looks south to the town of Puerto Vallarta.
Nuevo Vallarta is a planned resort north of the airport, across the Ameca River in the state of Nayarit (about 13km/8 miles north of downtown). It houses a number of all-inclusive hotels, condominiums, and timeshares, and a yacht marina, with a selection of restaurants and shopping. Most hotels here cater to families, with some of the finest beaches in the bay, but guests usually travel into Puerto Vallarta (about $25 a cab ride) for anything other than poolside or beach action. Regularly scheduled public bus service costs about $2 and runs until 10pm.
Bucerías, a small beachside village of cobblestone streets, villas, excellent seafood restaurants, and just a few art galleries and small hotels, sits farther north along Banderas Bay, 30km (19 miles) beyond the airport. Past Bucerías, following the curved coastline of Banderas Bay, you'll find La Cruz de Huanaxcle, a new mega marina project, but still an authentic, colorful seaside town. Continue to the end of the road and you'll reach Punta Mita. Once a rustic fishing village, it has been artfully developed as an exclusive luxury destination. Although the fishing village still exists, it has been all but eclipsed by the large gated community of Punta Mita that houses private villas, a few world-class resorts, and two championship golf courses. The site of an ancient celestial observatory, it is an exquisite setting, with white-sand beaches and clear waters. The northern shore of Banderas Bay is emerging as the area's most exclusive address for luxury villas and accommodations, and most of greater Puerto Vallarta's growth is in this direction.
The southern coastal highway stretches south from downtown Vallarta in the direction of Manzanillo and the Costa Alegre. Immediately south of town lies the exclusive residential and rental district of Conchas Chinas. Ten kilometers (6 1/4 miles) south, on Playa Mismaloya (where Night of the Iguana was filmed), lies the Barceló La Jolla de Mismaloya resort. There's no road on the southern shoreline of Banderas Bay, but three small coastal villages are popular attractions for visitors to Puerto Vallarta: Las Animas, Quimixto, and Yelapa, all accessible only by boat. The tiny, pristine cove of Caletas, site of John Huston's former home, is a popular day- or nighttime excursion. Dreams Resort also lies south of town at Playa Las Estacas.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.