Puerto Vallarta. You probably know that Elizabeth Taylor started the whole thing. It was after she arrived in the 1960’s to be with Richard Burton, who was filming “Night of the Iguana” that the word got out. Puerto Vallarta became not just the scene of a movie, but the scene of a glamorous love affair. They built their own love nest, Casa Kimberly, and continued to return to spend time there
But all the credit can’t go to Miss Taylor. With travel to Mexico becoming easier, PV couldn’t have remained a “sleepy fishing village” for very long. It’s location alone makes it a jewel among beach towns. It sits on a deep, wide bay, protected from the raging surfs found a bit farther north of it and facing due west into the sunsets. As places go, it is a pretty perfect picture of paradise.
For many years it was our stop-off place between the airport and the water taxi to Yelapa, the small little beach a few miles south, that can still only be reached by boat. We discovered Yelapa by accident the first time we visited Puerto Vallarta, about 19 years ago. We took a day trip and missed the boat back. We ended up spending the night in a palapa topped beach hut and realized we had found a place we would return to many times.
Whenever we stayed in PV we always preferred to be on the south side of the river that divides the town, so that is where we wanted to go when we drove over for a couple of days and a night this past Monday.
There was so much new development that we saw as we drove in from the north side of town. It had been 13 years since we were there and a lot had changed. So many high rises, condos, and resort hotels. There was no sign of the three-story time share where we had stayed on our first visit.
I didn’t know what to expect as we crossed the River Cuale on our way to our familiar beach, Playa Los Muertos. I was happy to see that even though there are now condos that go all the way up the hills and to the end of the bay, that part of town seems to have changed the least.
We managed to get a pretty nice room in a dog-tolerant hotel right smack in the middle of the beach. Oceanfront view and king-sized bed….where we spent the morning. We spent our afternoons sitting right about where we used to sit all those years ago. Our favorite beach restaurant, La Palapa, hadn’t changed a lot. If anything, it’s gotten better. After our afternoon 2 x 1 Margaritas (it’s always Happy Hour in PV), we saw what might have been the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.
The beach itself was packed with people. By the way, this is not the beach where “the beautiful people” go. These are the middle-aged, middle-class vacationers happy to be escaping from the frozen north. There are families, gay couples (PV is the Ptown of Mexico), groups of friends, and quite a few Mexicans, who are having a little holiday in their own country. Everyone seems happy to be there–yes to guacamole, yes to Margaritas, yes to beach vendors (or “no, gracias), and yes to wearing as few clothes as possible and enjoying the sun on their less than beautiful bodies. As for the beautiful people, they are probably in the swell resorts at the north end of town, or farther south of the bay in more exclusive spots. That’s one thing I love about Playa Los Muertos…it is definitely not exclusive. Everyone is welcome.
They have built a new pier where the rickety one was where we used to catch the Yelapa Water Taxi. The new one is quite fancy with a crowning structure that looks like a spinnaker and lights up at night. A real landmark suitable for the growing city. I was comforted to see that the water taxi still leaves every morning…..and it looks exactly the same. And even though Miss Taylor’s Casa Kimberly is now a B&B and so much in this town has changed, I was glad that I can still see the magic in PV, even though I see it through much different eyes.