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Mexico: Puerto Vallarta

Before John Huston’s 1964 film, The Night of the Iguana, Puerto Vallarta was a just sleepy little fishing village on the Pacific Coast with approximately 10,000 residents.  The movie and the publicity buzz surrounding Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s torrid love affair put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map. Today, over 3 million tourists visit the city annually where tourism makes up 50% of the city’s economic activity. The Puerto Vallarta region is actually several destinations rolled into one, each with its own character and charm.

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The town is divided into North and South by the Cuale River. The south side of Puerto Vallarta is home to the quaint Romantic Zone with its golden sand beaches and countless bars. Further south you will encounter the seaside villages of Boca de Tomatlan and Mismaloya, where The Night of the Iguana was filmed. North of the river, Old Town with its cobblestone streets snakes uphill to Gringo Gulch.  Puerto Vallarta’s renowned Malecon seaside promenade runs from the Romantic Zone to the edge of the Hotel Zone. Further north are the Hotel Zone and Marina where many resorts and restaurants are located.

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Sharing the same latitude as the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Vallarta is renowned for its almost perfect climate. It reigns as one of Mexico’s most popular winter destinations where visitors can enjoy the beaches, stroll the town, shop, browse the flea market in Old Town or just relax and sip tequila along the Malecon boardwalk.

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Unfortunately, the U.S. State Department issued a warning last updated on Nov 12, 2012 regarding the safety of travel to Puerto Vallarta:

“Jalisco: Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are major cities/travel destinations in Jalisco -see map to identify their exact locations: You should defer non-essential travel to areas of the state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas. You should also exercise caution when traveling at night outside of cities in the remaining portions of this state. There is no recommendation against travel to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. There is also no recommendation against travel on principal highways in Jalisco between Guadalajara including the portions that cross in to the southern portions of the state of Nayarit. The security situation along the Michoacán and Zacatecas borders continues to be unstable and gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur. Concerns include roadblocks placed by individuals posing as police or military personnel and recent gun battles between rival TCOs involving automatic weapons.”

Puerto Vallarta’s tourism board commissioned a study from the security consulting firm Thomas Dale and Associates. The firm found that “the number of negative events involving foreigners or non‐foreigners is fractional compared to the large ex‐pat resident population and the millions of visitors that come to vacation each year in Puerto Vallarta”

The study found that “visitors to the destination feel safe and continue to visit Puerto Vallarta numerous times through their lifetime and that the destination’s support services are well above the average standards and dedicated to serving the visiting public. In relations to the drug wars, TDA found that the limited land transit makes the smuggling of guns and drugs through Puerto Vallarta very difficult and thus a non‐issue in the destination.”

Therefore, the general consensus is that it is advisable for tourists to exercise the same cautions in Puerto Vallarta as they would in any U.S. city.

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The Official Puerto Vallarta Tourism Page: http://visitpuertovallarta.com/

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