Hidden Gems of the Bay of Banderas

Most recently, new direct weekly Dreamliner flights have been announced to Puerto Vallarta from Gatwick and Manchester in the UK via Thomson Airways, while less mainstream packages are always available via specialty travel and tour providers, and British Airways offers convenient one-stop flights each week.

“Mexico’s Pacific Coast, and especially its northern stretches, has long been the playground of American tourists,” writes John Fisher for the Telegraph. “Now, we Britons can join them in the sand.”

Puerto Vallarta itself has become a very popular international resort town in recent years and is situated near some of Mexico’s most untouched coastline, surrounded by forested mountains, jungle, tropical lagoons and scenic villages. Here, visitors will discover an array of exquisite destinations with silky sand beaches offering colorful seaside cantinas breathtaking sunset vistas and fresh seafood.

Check out our summary of the most important essentials and interesting hidden treasures, all of which are awaiting discovery in and around Puerto Vallarta and the Bay of Banderas, as featured by the Telegraph:

Puerto Vallarta – Main Town

The city of Puerto Vallarta itself has a lively, unbridled resort-town air about it, with a colonial old town section that is complete with a main plaza that still boasts cobblestone streets and overlooks the ocean. There are actually two sides to Puerto Vallarta – a characteristic you will find in many Mexican towns that are undergoing development – one is a vibrant local scene complete with traditional fare and a small-town vibe, with the other offers a more touristy and high-energy atmosphere coupled with every amenity that goes with a modern, luxury lifestyle.

The Telegraph recommends staying at Casa Amorita in downtown Puerto Vallarta, but be sure to plan ahead because there are only five rooms available. Still, the private balconies, decorative tile floors and stunning Venetian tile pool, along with the rooftop bar and terrace that affords breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and downtown cathedral, will make this boutique hotel worth the wait.

If you want to experience all sides of the city and surrounding areas, including the hotel zone to the north and all around the Bahía de Banderas, or Bay of Banderas, which wraps around the city and its immediate environs, then be sure to check out as many different beaches as possible. Each area has its own unique attractions to offer, with the white-sand beaches of Nuevo Vallarta just north of downtown providing the opportunity for visitors to enjoy jungle zip-line tours, whale watching cruises and snorkeling. By contrast, the area around the main town of Puerto Vallarta is usually much quieter by day and offers a variety of museums to explore, along with the lush Isla Rió Cuale, a pedestrian-only garden and green space that spans a river that divides the city.

While visiting, don’t be afraid to check out some of the lesser-known beaches in the area, many of which can only be accessed by boat or by hiking through the jungle. For example, there is Mismaloya, which is famed for being the location where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once carried on a scandalous love affair, as well as the Marieta Islands. Located at the center of a large national marine park that boasts remarkable natural rock archways and mile after mile of intricate tunnels, the islands offer up plenty of remote private beaches that also happen to be ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

Before leaving Puerto Vallarta, the Telegraph recommends checking out the cuisine at Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, which offers bar and rooftop dining and is “best known for its fish and chips and chowders.” If upscale dining is what you prefer, opt for Café des Artistes, which features unique French-Mexican fusion that incorporates a variety of local seafood.

Finally, when it comes to other activities, the Telegraph recommends taking a guided walk through the city’s thriving art district in the historic center with Vallarta Art Walks, or testing your skill at surfing a bit to the north of downtown, where the Lunazul Surf School rents boards and offers beginner instruction.

Bucerías & Punta Mita – North of Town

Situated just north of Puerto Vallarta itself, these two smaller resort towns are located at the northern end of the Bay of Banderas near the Riviera Nayarit. Bucerías lies about 25 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta and boasts a laid-back shabby chic vibe that is hard to resist, with countless seaside restaurants serving up the day’s catch and fabulous views of the bay. Here, the entertaining shopping district offers a mind-boggling array of goodies in an indoor-outdoor flea market-style setting. By contrast, Punta Mita, which lies about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, has an ultra-exclusive vibe and stunning coral-sand beach that is lined with high-class resorts and luxury hotels.

While in the area near Bucerías, the Telegraph recommends spending a night or two at the posh, all-inclusive Casa Velas Boutique Hotel, which features a world-class spa and golf, along with an impressive list of other amenities, including 24-hour in-suite dining, premium liquor and wine, gourmet dining and fitness classes. If Punta Mita is your destination of choice, however, opt to stay at the Four Seasons, which the Telegraph states is “still the best resort in the area.” Here, guests enjoy access to tennis courts, three pools and two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses.

The Costalegre – South of Town

Stretching south of downtown Puerto Vallarta for more than 125 miles, the Costalegre boasts some of the least-developed, most pristine coastline that can be found anywhere along Mexico’s westernmost shores. Here, visitors will discover jungle-covered mountains, isolated beaches and small villages that seem to remain almost untouched by the hustle and bustle of modern life.

“The twin resort towns of Barra de Navidad and Melaque definitely are accessible,” writes the Telegraph. “Highlights elsewhere on the Costalegre include the Costa Careyes (“Turtle Coast”), a series of fine beaches ringed by glamorous villas. Nearby, Bahía Chamela offers another sweeping arc of superb beaches, only now starting to be developed.”

A popular weekend getaway destination for locals from nearby Guadalajara, Barra and Melaque are joined by a five-mile arc of soft golden sand and located about two hours and forty-five minutes south of Puerto Vallarta. A popular place for international travelers to stay in the region is Cuixmala, a 25,000-acre private beachfront estate located just 45 minutes north that is home to a variety of luxurious villas and homes, with much of the food grown on site and a vast beachfront.

Have you ever explored Mexico’s Pacific Coast? If so, share your stories with other readers in the comments below!

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