Geography and Location
Puerto Vallarta is a city of 250,000 at the center of the Banderas Bay (the Bay of Flags), on the West Coast of mainland Mexico. It’s a 1-hour flight from Mexico City, a 2 1/2-hour flight from Los Angeles, and 4 1/2-hours from Toronto.
The city rises quickly from the bay into hills and mountains covered in dense jungle and vegetation, ringing the city in a ribbon of green. Houses, villas, condos and resorts are sprinkled throughout the hills, giving the city a Mediterranean feel. Along the central part of the city lies the Malecón (boardwalk). Vallarta’s Malecón was completely rebuilt in 2010/2011.
The river Rio Cuale splits the city in two: north of the Cuale lies El Centro and its hills, the Hotel Zone, Marina, airport and the beaches along the bay to its northern tip at Punta Mita. To the south lie Colonia Zapata, Los Muertos Beach, Olas Altos and the beaches to the south to Boca de Tomatlan.
El Centro is the oldest section of town, which runs immediately north of the Rio Cuale, and includes the city’s oldest landmark, Our Lady of Guadalupe church and the primary part of the Malecón. El Centro’s hills include a wide variety of both Mexican and residences, small Ex-pat hotels/B&B’s, restaurants, art galleries, bodegas, bars and shops. Bordering El Centro on the east, along the northern bank of the Rio Cuale, is Gringo Gulch, named for the Americans settling into PV in the early 60s. It’s also where Richard Burton and Liz Taylor had their homes.