Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide
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ATTRACTIONS

Downtown
In the downtown area, overhead wires are being cabled underground, to the delight of photographers and strollers, that now will be able to enjoy Puerto Vallarta's architecture where white walls are interrupted only by flowerpots blooming with bougainvillea, geranium, hibiscus, copa de oro and splendid ferns. The city streets have always been paved in cobbled stones, but now, these river rocks have been set in concrete to create a much smoother and durable surface.

Square
Relax and eat an ice-cream on the main plaza in Vallarta, watch people stroll by on the malecón or feed the pigeons that live in large amounts around the square. Rest on the benches or take your photo with the green "Kiosko" in the middle of the square, which is normally used for Sunday music.

Beaches
Though downtown Puerto Vallarta has its attractions, this resort's prime raison d'être is the sandy stuff sprinkled along the edges of the adjacent Bahía de Banderas. The beautiful local beaches begin in town, south of the Río Cuale, in the guise of the towel-swept Playa Olas Atlas ('Beach of the Big Waves', though to be honest there's nary a big wave to be seen here) and next door at Playa de los Muertos ('Beach of the Dead', a name which apparently harks back to some long-forgotten seaside battle and is more than likely the bane of the local tourist authorities).

North of town, in the aptly titled Zona Hotelera, is a string of beaches dominated by the multi-storey shadows of five-star hotels. Heading up towards the Marina Vallarta, you'll pass Playa Camarones, Las Glorias, Los Tules, Las Palmas and Playa de Oro, while just past where the luxury sloops gather is Playa El Salado. To the south of Puerto Vallarta is another string of pearls: Playa Conchas Chinas, Estacas, Los Venados, Punta Negra, Garza Blanca and Gemelas.

Playa de los Muertos
Some may be frightened by the name Beach of the Dead, but it is really a beautiful beach to spend some time sunning. Rough waters surround the area and water activities are not recommended here. (The exception to this advice being jet skis and windsurfing.) These fun activities can get a little spendy, so bring plenty of cash along. Try some land sports such as beach volleyball for a less expensive change of pace. A famous section of this beach is called the Blue Chair and is Puerto Vallarta's most popular gay beach.

Bahía de Banderas
The Bay of Flags plunges to around 1800m (5900ft), has 160km (100mi) of sensational shoreline (bar the enormous hotel complexes crowding onto parts of the beach) and comfortably makes it into the list of the 10 biggest bays in the world (it's number seven). Ostensibly the submerged crater of a long-extinguished volcano, Bahía de Banderas is an environmental wonderland populated by giant manta rays, dolphins and (during their birthing season from November through March) humpback whales. It's also inhabited by activity-crazy humans, occupying themselves by diving, fishing, water skiing and generally dipping their collective big toe in the bay's waters.

Malecón
One of the most enjoyable attractions in Puerto Vallarta, here you'll experience the beautiful view of the emerald colored bay, stroll on the beachfront side and you'll enjoy a view of the beach and sea plus an unobstructed view of the breathtaking Vallarta sunsets. Walk on the other side and you'll enjoy the shops, bars and restaurants along the Malecón. Extends some 10 blocks from Hotel Rosita to the Zócalo (main square).

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Church
The Church, called, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, on calle Hidalgo, one block from the Zócalo (main square). A beautiful church that more than any other symbol represents Puerto Vallarta. A beautiful crown tops the tower.

Los Arcos
An eco-preserve is a place where the environment is Number One. All things natural are protected here at this popular destination. This is a federal underwater park that offers people the opportunity to snorkel and scuba dive in a rare environment. Go underwater and investigate the brightly colored fish and steep rock walls that protect this marine area. If you aren't comfortable being in the water, try a glass-bottom boat tour. You will see many of the same species from that view as you would by swimming below the surface.

Marigalante
Get ready for a fantastic fun-filled frolick aboard this sea cruise complete with crew bedecked in pirate garb. Your cruise begins at 9am with a workout session on deck, followed by a Mexican-style breakfast buffet. A game of Bingo keeps you occupied while cruising toward local dive spots. By noon, you will arrive offshore Marieta Island, where you receive snorkel gear in order to explore the crystal-clear waters. After you have had your fill of sunbathing and snorkeling, a barbecue feast is served for lunch. Spend the rest of the afternoon however you wish, but don't miss the boat back.

Mismaloya
Lizards are not generally noted for their star-pulling power, but when John Huston's 1963 flick The Night of the Iguana was slated to be shot at the then-deserted cove of Mismaloya, 12km (7.5mi) south of Puerto Vallarta, Hollywood-nurtured egos like Richard Burton and Ava Gardner couldn't resist an invitation. Since that fateful shoot, which first put Puerto Vallarta into the tunnel vision of international holidaymakers, Mismaloya has been overtaken by condominiums and a couple of gigantic hotels.

Sayulita
The small, relaxed beachside village of Sayulita, 35km (22mi) north of Puntas Arenas and just around the rocky claw of Punta (Point) Villeta from Bahía de Banderas, is the place sought out by sand-dwellers and surfers once the exuberant gloss of resort life has rubbed a bit thin. An unobtrusive town on a magnificent shade-soaked beach backed by iconic coconut palms, Sayulita balances out its dearth of city ruckus with a laidback feel and an oversupply of outdoor activities.

Yelapa
On the far southern shore of Bahía de Banderas and accessible only by a highly popular two-hour cruise from Puerto Vallarta is the teensy cove of Yelapa, which has a beachload of bright sand (whiter than the teeth of Haight-Ashbury panhandlers) that you may occasionally spot amidst the sprawled bodies of foreign guests. Yelapa also has a number of casual palapa (thatched-roof) restaurants by the bayside and a burgeoning parasailing industry. To the east of Yelapa and also requiring a short boat ride is Quimixto, which has a picturesque waterfall, and Playa de las Animas ('Beach of the Spirits'), arguably the most beautiful beach on the bay. There are regular organised sailings from Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa which take you there and back in one long, leisurely day.

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