Port of Call: Puerto Vallarta
One of Mexico’s most popular beach destinations, tropical Puerto Vallarta gained its claim to fame from the 1964 Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor film “Night of the Iguana.” Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, this port caters to many different vacation styles.
Located a few miles off the coast of Mexico, the Marieta Islands are a group of uninhabited, rocky islands that are government protected. Tourists visit the island on a daily basis, however, since May 2016, no one can legally step foot on them. Because of this, they have become a thriving eco-system for marine life and are popular snorkeling and scuba diving destinations. Sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, octopuses, and even humpback whales have been spotted here, as well as the thousands of tropical fish and birds that call these islands home.
Bahía de Banderas
This 62-mile (100-km) horseshoe-shaped bay is one of largest in Mexico and one of the deepest in the world with recorded depths of more than 3,000 feet (1 kilometer), making this an excellent spot to view marine life of all kinds. Its picturesque views can include humpback whales raising their young and huge leatherback turtles during their migration. Banderas Bay is also a great location for sport fishing thanks to the wide variety of fish in the waters. If you take a charter, be sure to ask your captain for local restaurants that will prepare your catch for you.
Once a private beach owned by film director John Huston, Las Caletas is located in a nature preserve on the south side of Banderas Bay and has become an adventure destination. The area is only accessible by boat, but boasts amenities such as a hilltop spa, cooking classes, dance performances, jungle hikes, zip lining, and water activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.
Los Arcos and El Malecon Boardwalk
One of the most iconic landmarks in Puerto Vallarta is Los Arcos, a row of stone arches standing in the oceanfront square of Plaza Morelos. The arches run along El Malecon boardwalk. The arches beautifully frame the sunset over the ocean and act as a backdrop to the bustling boardwalk filled with art, sand sculptures, and cultural performances.