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The Mexican Riviera

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Puerto Vallarta to Acapulco





Best Places to Visit  in The Mexican Riviera 

Puerto Vallarta to Acapulco

 The Cathedral of the Virgin of Guadeloupe in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta  in Jalisco, Mexico has a different feel than other towns along the Mexican Riviera.  Not only has it preserved its Old Town, but the area remains a functioning part of the city's life. Most of the tourist resorts (and associated development) can be found to the north of town in an area known as Marina Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta is considered one of the most  picturesque  cities on the Mexican Riviera.  Nestled around Banderas Bay, the largest bay in Mexico, the city seems to be a natural complement to enchanting coastline and is well-known for its pleasing beaches of which there are dozens. 

Aside from a beautiful location,  Puerto Vallarta is known for its sunbathing, water sports, fishing and golf.  In addition, its yearly Vallarta Gourmet Festival has gained an international following.

Viejo Vallarta is the downtown of Puerto Vallarta.  It is here that  you will find the most interesting parts of the city, spread across an area surrounding the Cuale River. Also called El Centro, this area includes the city's famous Cathedral of Guadalupe and other colonial-era attractions. 

           The sunsets, beaches and atmoshphere at Puerto Vallarta are spectacular

El Centros' curved, narrow streets contain a number of treasures, but are fun just  to walk and sightsee, although the area can be quite crowded at times. Look for Municipal Square (and its market) and you will be in the heart of the city. 

The famous seaside promenade in Puerto Vallarta, known as the Malecon, starts near the street named Allende and continues south to the Rio Cuale. It is a great place for shopping, people watching, or just plain sightseeing.

The Malecon (a boardwalk ) is open on the bay side and lined with restaurants and shops (look for jewelry, arts and crafts) on the land side.  There are a number of statues and artistic installations along the path and their presence adds to the atmosphere.  

The view along the shore in Puerto Vallarta includes many art installations.

It is, also, in the  El Centro area  that you will find the one of the city's famous flea markets located on the Isla Rio Cuale (surrounded by the Cuale River), as well as restaurants and shops that might be of interest to you

There are a number of beaches both north and south of El Centro and each of them has something unique to offer. Further south you will find Mismaloya Beach and the cove where "Night of the Iguana" was filmed. South of that you will find Playa Las Animas, a scenic beach running along a rugged, beautiful coast.

If you will be in the area between mid-December and mid-March, you might be interested in cruising Banderas Bay for a chance to see the migration of the Humpback Whales.  If so, see Vallarta Adventures, a company that has a spotter plane to help ensure you see whales on your photo safari (ThereArePlaces is not affiliated with Vallarta Adventures and this recommendation is not an advertisement).

Check what you consider to be authoritative sources on public safety before planning your visit to Puerto Vallarta or other ports on the Mexican Riviera.

For more information on Puerto Vallarta, visit the city's official website


By the way, starting at the north end of the Bay of Banderas, near Nuevo Vallarta, and running one hundred miles north to San Blas, is a string of beach towns now being called the Riviera Nayarit. 

Cashing in on the theme  "what the Mexican Riviera was like before all the development", many of these rustic towns with their beautiful, but relatively empty beaches have attracted the eyes of developers and the jet set.

Thought by many to be Mexico's next great place to visit, new hotels are under construction and many will open in the next few years. The Four Season Punta Mita (26 miles from Puerto Vallarta) was one of the first luxury hotels in the area and it is a lovely place for a restful vacation.

Ixtapa - Zihuatanejo, Guerrero

Ixtapa - Zihuatanejo are "twin" cities located in Guerrero state.  The length of coast between the two towns runs diagonally and is known the La Costa Grande (or the Grand Coast).

The coastline along the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo coast is a 17 mile mix of sandy beaches, lagoons, coves, bluffs and islands (Los Moros).  In other words, it looks remarkably like the French Riviera, displaced to the subtropics, except for the foothills covered with jungle.  The coastal mountains here are named the Sierra Madre del Sur.

Ixtapa is a modern resort approximately 4 miles north of Zihuatanejo.   Ixtapa is modern and purpose built to  focus on luxury and tourism.  The Hotel Zone of Ixtapa is about two-miles long and  runs along beautiful Palmar Beach.  As might be expected, golf, shopping, a marina and all the amenities of resort-life are available and top-notch in Ixtapa.

The beaches in the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area offer a great variety.  Those that might interest you are Playa Quieta, Playa la Ropa (one of the best in Mexico), Playa Larga and Playa  las Gatas, known for snorkeling along its small reef.

Zihuatanejo (Zihua to locals) is a fishing port that has its own hotels and luxury resorts. The city is compact and its downtown full of shops, restaurant.  If you are looking for a traditional Mexican city, Zihua is a great place to hang out and it has some of the most scenic beaches on Mexico's west coast.

You may remember this city as the place where the characters of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman  from the Shawshank Redemption met up at the end of the movie.  Zihua has managed to retain its charms and is in stark contrast to the modern, somewhat sterile Ixtapa.  Yet, it is the juxtaposition of both towns and their cultures that makes this piece of the Mexican Riviera so special.

Visit the area's official website for more information on visiting.

for more information on visiting.

Acapulco, Guerrero

The cliff-divers at Acapulco are one of the leading attractionsOnce known for its nightlife and many attractions, we consider Acapulco to be a dangerous destination that is a dim reflection of its elegant past. 

The La Quebrada cliff divers still attract huge crowds when diving one-hundred feet into the twelve-foot Las Brisas gorge and the beautiful Sierra Madre mountains provide a stunning backdrop for one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  However, Acapulco is an acquired taste and not for everyone. 

Travel Caution

We do not recommend visiting Acapulco, as we believe that public safety cannot be guaranteed in this city. Recently, the situation seems to have reached new lows.  Distressing tourist-related crime lead us to strongly suggest you avoid visiting Acapulco.  Do not let the happenings in Acapulco dissuade you from visiting Mexico, as the trouble in one or two cities should not reflect on the entire country.

During the last ten years, the town has lost  its luster and, more recently drugs, the drug trade and turf battles between drug cartels have made several areas of the city unsafe for tourists, the locals and the police. Assassinations and gunfights related to the drug problem are common, and, in the last year,  violence related to a  local drug war has increased significantly.  

If you are determined to visit, even if you restrict your wanderings to the  tourist zone of the upscale Diamante district you may not be safe . If you visit  Acapulco while on a cruise, you could still encounter safety issues,  so be sure to follow the guidelines offered by your cruise line in respect to touring the city. 

Although we no longer recommend visiting Acapulco, you may feel differently and, if you do, here are the attractions to consider, if local safety conditions allow a visit.

Acapulco has an interesting colonial history and was one of the main ports used by the Spanish to run their world-wide empire.  At one time, Acapulco was the terminus of the Manila Convoy, linking the Philippines with Acapulco.  If you are interested in the history of this area, consider a visit the  Historical Museum of Acapulco. 

El Z㡬o and the town square are the focal point of Old Town Acapulco, which is a pleasant area with shops and  several fantastic restaurants.

Acapulco Bay is a beautiful sight

There is a scenic route in the area  that provides great views of the Acapulco Bay (Santa Lucia's Bay).  The city has many fine beaches including Revolcadero, Playa Hornos (family beach), Plays Hornitos (a working beach populated with local fishermen ), Playa Caleta and Playa Caletilla (both sunbathing areas) or Pie de la Cuesta for great sunsets and surfing (about 10 miles north). 

If you are interested in something more active you may want to visit La Roqueta Island for diving and its underwater statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Coyuca Lagoon, to the north, is a nature preserve with a large variety of flora and fauna.  There are a number of islands here for exploration, as well as a variety of water sports.

Acapulco has a frenetic nightlife scene and you can find cavernous nightclubs to dance the night away.  In addition, the city has a number of excellent restaurants.  If you do vacation here, try to stay close to the Hotel Zone and  along the shore.   For more information, try the city's official travel website.

Next - Guide to Cabo San Lucas

Or - Return to Ensenada to Mazatlan on the Mexican Riviera

Or - Return to Best Places to Visit in Mexico

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index  or Googling ThereArePlaces.

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Hurricane Season

The Northeast Pacific basin has a broad peak of hurricane activity with storms beginning in late May or early June and going until late October or early November.

Peak  storminess is usually  in late August to early September. The  United States National Hurricane Center's official Hurricane Season dates for this basin are from May 15th to November 30th.





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Where Next?

East Coast/ The Yucatan

Riviera Maya

West Coast

Mexican Riviera North

Cabo San Lucas

Return to The Best Places to Visit in Mexico




The Pacific Coast of Mexico can be a great place to see humpback whales on their annual migration.  Best dates are usually from mid- December to mid-March. 













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