Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Shopping in Puerto Vallarta is a mixed bag. There are lots of touristy trinkety shops that pretty much sell all the same stuff: cheap silver jewelry, pottery and glassware. Most are centered on the streets surrounding the town's main plaza. Highlights--if you're interested in more distinctive buys--include Cachet (Morelos 664-A Centro) for gorgeous Mexican household furnishings, Sucesos (Libertad 233) for handpainted, one-of-a-kind cotton fashions, and Sergio Bustamante Galeria (Paseo Diaz Ordaz) for funky sculptures. Other cool finds include Hecho o Mano (Zaragoza 160), which sells beautiful crafty home-oriented merchandise, from candles to wrought-iron sculptures, and Cotton Club Boutique (Ignacio L. Vallarta 12050) and Gueros (Zaragoza 160) for pretty cotton fashions.
Staying in Touch
El Kiosko, located at the Marina at Plaza Marisol, offers high-speed Internet service for a very reasonable price, and has international telephones available.
Internet B@r (Plaza Neptuna E-1 at the Marina) serves coffee, breakfast, and sandwiches as well as high-speed Internet connections.
NetStop, downtown (Morelos 671), offers both an Internet center and international phone calls, plus fax, printing, and scanner services.
Eclipse CyberCafe (several locations in El Centro) has Internet service, color printers, and scanners, free coffee, and video games.
Where to Eat and Drink
For an ultra-casual, ultra-local experience, check out Cocina Economica (Mercado Municipal) at the Rio Cuale Bazaar. The restaurant serves simple Mexican fare in the center of the busy market (try the chicken tacos).
For meals with a view, try the River Cafe (Isla Rio Cuale 4) or Oscar's Bar & Grill (the beach at the Rio Cuale). For vegetarian fare, locals love 3 Papaya (Calle Abusolo 169). Tequila's, located across from the Malecon with a view of the water and sculptures, has tables out on a second-floor patio and reasonably priced lunches.
Just for fun try No Name Cafe, (Morelos 460) located at the north end of the Malecon. Acclaimed for having the best ribs in Vallarta, even better, it's air-conditioned.
Mariscos 8 Tostadas (Quilla y Proa Local 28-29) is only open from 11am to 6pm because it only brings in enough fresh seafood to last during those hours. A favorite with locals, it's often crowded, but the seafood tostadas and other freshly created specialties are worth the wait.
Las Palomas Doradas (inside the Small Boat Marina) is the place to lunch when you want a romantic, unhurried experience. The restaurant offers local specialties with a French flair.
La Ribera, (Paseo de la Marina Norte 2058205) at the Velas Vallarta Grand Suite Resort, is a beachside terrace restaurant featuring steaks, lobster, and traditional Mexican cuisine in a resort setting. It's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The sunsets, beach, and small-boat vistas are stunning.
What to See and Do
Beach bumming at one of the resorts that line the Hotel Zone. Among the nicer options are the Fiesta Americana and Sheraton Bouganvilas but all are pleasant, accessible, and offer bars and restaurants.
The Malecon, the restored walkway that rings the bay is known for its sculptures, including a nine-foot bronze sea horse.
Every first-time visitor should pay homage to the flick "The Night of the Iguana", an all-star effort starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr. The movie was filmed here and Burton bought Casa Kimberly (Calle Zaragoza 44205) for Taylor, then purchased the house across the narrow cobbled street and connected the two by a precious pink bridge that arches over the lane. You can tour part of Casa Kimberly.
El Centro, or downtown Puerto Vallarta, is filled with colonial architecture, a main square (Plaza de Armas) near the Malecon that often has bands playing, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe (located at Calle Hidalgo), the religious anchor of the city.
Taxis are plentiful and line up around the docks as the ships start disgorging passengers. They are regulated, but have no meters and the prices aren't posted. Negotiate before you get in; a trip to town in a taxi from the Marina Vallarta area should cost no more than $205 U.S. The yellow taxis, located outside of the port gates, are less expensive than those of the drivers walking around inside; the latter drive Federal Zone cabs, which cost more.
Buses in Puerto Vallarta are great fun, and very reasonably priced for a trip. They can be found on the main road into the city (Av. Francisco Medina Ascencio) and make several stops along the Hotel Zone before arriving into the center of Puerto Vallarta.
Rental cars are plentiful and quite reasonable, especially the ubiquitous VW Beetles seen everywhere. Be sure to check before you make a rental arrangement whether your insurance will cover you while driving in Mexico. Many companies do not.
Where You're Docked
Ships dock at the Marina Vallarta Maritime Terminal, about three miles north of downtown. The number of ships calling at Puerto Vallarta has increased beyond the capacity of the docks, though, and many ships are on a rotating tender schedule. Check your cruise itinerary to verify whether you will dock or tender into port.
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