The sixth largest city in Jalisco, Mexico, Puerto Vallarta was named after the former governor of the state Ignacio Vallarta. Some say that the Ava Gardner/Richard Burton film Night of the Iguana put PV on the map but it has grown in popularity for a variety of reasons. Luxury hotels built in the 1970s helped build tourism culminating in 1980 with the Hotel Sheraton Buganvilias Resort and Convention Center, where I had the opportunity to stay on my visit. Within walking distance of shops and the downtown area this safe and spacious boutique hotel offered butler service along with a spa, shops, restaurants and bars within the complex facing Banderas Bay.

Tino’s family owned restaurant provided lunch the first day on arrival known for its seafood such as their shrimp empanada or red snapper. Just feeling the warm breeze made me forget the temperamental Chicago weather.

Bernard Guth from Trio Restaurant brought a taste of Germany to town on the oldest street in Puerto Vallarta. His Mediterranean flavor cuisine is very popular among locals and adds to Restaurant Week every year.

The Teatro Vallarta is fairly new to the community and brings in such shows as Fandango, a musical journey with a variety of styles of dancing taking the audience through the history of Mexico.
El Arrayan, the restaurant named after the tree planted in the courtyard uses 100% locally produced ingredients. Carmen Porras and her partner run the business where the local market is the focus. The Conchinita Pibil is a must try from Yucatan. The boneless pork leg is served with a delicious habanero pepper relish. The Boom Boom martini made with Raicilla El Real Gold infused with spearmint sparked an explosion in my mouth. Raicilla is the local moonshine, a type of organic tequila. Arrayan provides cooking classes and was voted the Best Mexican Restaurant six years in a row. Crickets from Oaxaca are purchasable at the gift shop within the dining area for a crunchy treat.

For a private sandy beach try a boat tour with Yelapa & Majahuitas Tours. Snorkeling, swimming and kayaking in a private cove is what many visitors dream of but don’t forget the sunscreen.
Head out to El Eden’s Eco Park if you are a daredevil and want to fly over the jungle. This zip line tour with a Predator movie theme will reach out and scare you from the trees. The 1986 film was made there way before Schwarzenegger’s recent troubles. Video and photo shoots provided by the locals can make lasting memories as you zoom down 12 jumps on cables. Afterwards, have lunch there and swing on a rope in the local watering hole to relax after a sweaty climb on the hike. On the way out, make sure and stop by the Don Crispin Tequila Factory to sample the 100% blue agave spirit made the artisan way.

Zona Romantica is the LGBT area to cruise. Blue Chairs, “A resort by the sea,” includes a friendly place to visit the beach, enjoy happy hour and various themes each night in the bird’s eye level bar. Don’t forget such fun nightlife as La Noche or Wet with go-go boys. Paco’s Ranch had a fun drag show during the week. Who would have guessed that Toni Braxton and Gwen Stefani were down in Mexico? If you need a little hand holding, try gay tour guide Christian at Gay Vallarta Bar Hopping to show you around.

The Blanca Blue is one of the most captivating places to dine located in the Garza Blanca Resort. The view is breathtaking of the sunset and a live band playing only added the romance and contemporary European cuisine. Who doesn’t love an infinity pool?

Too bad the trip couldn’t last an infinite time as the week drew to a close. Many adventures await a traveler when visiting this magnificent part of Mexico that has something for everyone.

AeroMexico provides travel from Chicago to Puerto Vallarta and does not prefer carry-on bags so keep that in mind when flying.

For details on these hot spots, try Visit Puerto Vallarta in planning your trip.

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