Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Top attractions

Puerto Vallarta specializes in galleries and artisan shops, which sell, among other things, handcrafts made by the native mountain dwelling Huichol people. Some galleries exhibit exclusively popular art works from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Michocan. In the heart of its old town is Vallarta Vieja, a district filled with nicely decorated, white walled and red tiled buildings, creeping up the palm covered mountain side. The descending Rio Cuale splits the city into its northern and southern sectors, while the charming island on the river, with its restaurants, gardens and shops attracts daily visitors. The small Museo del Cuale, on the island, has a nice collection of clay figurines, pottery, grinding stones and other artifacts.

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Plaza Principal is home to the town hall and the open-air amphitheatre known as Los Arcos, frequently hosting concerts. The Melacon stretches out from the north of the plaza to south, bordered by stunning beaches, bars, shops and restaurants. Uphill from Los Arcos is the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, one of the most endearing landmarks of Puerto Vallarta. The church is topped by an elaborate crown sculpture that is said to have been designed to resemble one of Emperor Maximilian's mistress’s tiara.

Zona Hotelera, in the city’s northern area, is a disorderly strip of tall hotels. Many people come here to rent out equipment for diving and snorkeling among the colorful corals, stingrays and tropical fish of Banderas Bay. Further north is Marina Vallarta, an enclave of hotels and apartments surrounding a port, a popular yacht club and a golf course. Fishing tours and one day cruise trips depart from Maritime Terminal.

The Olas Atlas and Playa de los Muertos beaches, near the Rio Cuale, are very popular among tourists, locals and mango fruit vendors. The coastal road continues toward Playa Conchas Chinas and other white sand beaches hidden among the rocky gulfs.