Sundrenched beaches, vibrant cultural festivals and menus of exotic cocktails allure 2 million visitors a year to Puerto Vallarta from around the world.
Flanked by the lush and imposing Sierra Madre mountains, this is the brightest jewel along the scintillating Bay of Banderas on Mexico`s Pacific coast and a popular stopping point for cruise liners, who deliver regular sunseekers to enjoy a traditional Mexican experience against a backdrop of cool colonial charm.
Puerto Vallarta was not always the premier holiday resort we see today. It was initially chosen by Spanish seamen in the early 16th century as the ideal location to provide shelter from the ocean and its marauding pirates. Although it then remained out of the spotlight for centuries, it played a role in shipbuilding and was a focal point for the loading and unloading of silver and salt for local mines.
However, people did not settle here until the mid-nineteenth century, when the village was known as Las Penas. Tragedy struck in 1888 when a fire, that began in a tiny pot of grease, spread rapidly to engulf half the town. The name of the settlement was changed to Puerto Vallarta in 1918, just before tourism began to grow. But the town still remained relatively unknown until the 1960s when it gained celluloid immortality as the setting for the film `The night of the Iguana`. As the A-listers of the time began to flock to its shores, so its reputation as a fashionable holiday getaway was established. Today, the town`s old cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and terracotta roofs still bear witness to its colourful colonial history.