Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

A mere few decades past, sophisticated, expensive Puerto Vallarta was just a quaint little fishing hamlet on the glorious Bahia de las Banderas. Movies, however, changed all that. In the wake of the entrance of luminaries for example Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, and The NIght of the Iguana, villas and condominiums, timeshare, luxury hotels have given Puerto Vallarta a brand new perspective to life. Some of the old buildings in the first town have now been changed to become stylish eateries, art galleries and souvenir shops, while the sandy central beaches along the 150km (93-mile) shore of Bahia de las Banderas have become favourites for daily cruise trips.

On either side of the Rio Cuale, old Puerto Vallarta is the commercial heart of the pretty town. A wonderful malecon, or promenade, provides a focal point each evening for itinerant sellers and strollers. You can find shops, cafes, galleries and a little Museo Arqueologico. The shady Plaza de Armas is the main square or zocalo. Here the tourist office is housed by the Palacio Municipal, while a block to the east is the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe with its unusual tower. The annual fiesta of the Virgin of Guadalupe is especially riotous here, with more than ten days of celebrations. Other famous dates include the Semana Santa celebrations, the annual fishing tournament in November, and the biennial Regatta between the Marina del Rey and Puerto Vallerta. Get a lot more details about Mopa Cafe

Truly all music, mariachi, is big in Puerto Vallarta, and there are several local eateries where live mariachi music accompanies dinner. Catering to the diner who needs a touch of Mexican tradition with a buffet, the long-standing La Iguana offers nightly shows, as do many of the luxury hotels.

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