Puerto Vallarta Mexico

City of beaches, hills and John Huston


Puerto Vallarta, México people have been living around the bay for over 2500 years. The Spanish began settling the area and soon conflicts between them and the existing people started. Hernán Cortés fought and took control of the valley in 1524. He renamed it Bahia de Banderas after the flags of the indigenous armies. The valley/port enjoyed a colorful past of smugglers, miners, farmers and pearl divers. Soon it became a small vacation area for the mining towns up north with some families staying full time. Everything needed was brought in by ship from other port cities on the coast or down the mountains from Guadalajara on a small dirt road. The city was officially renamed in 1918, Puerto Vallarta. Most of the city land at this time was company owned and later after the land revolutions reverted to an ejidos (community farms).

Puerto Vallarta never became the large tourist town a till the alignment of three things. The government built an airport large enough for jet planes. The land ownership was given a clear title out of the ejidos and allowing for the development of commercial and hotels. Then came American film producer John Huston and filming of ‘Night of the Iguana’.

John Huston loved Mexico and first visited the city in 1920’s on a sailing ship. Years later Hollywood decided to make Tennessee Williams' play ‘Night of the Iguana’ into a movie. They offered it to him because he had filmed in Mexico before and loved the country. The city already had a small expat population living south of in town in ‘gringo gulch’. From late September through early December in 1963 they filmed in Mismaloya Beach. The larger village of Puerto Vallarta was deluged with hundreds of media and paparazzi from around the world, eager to report on the off screen dramatics of Huston, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The city got great free press for months. Later Taylor, Burton, Huston all purchased homes south of the city, they are all gone but their homes and the legends still remain.

The city’s condo and hotels now expand into two states, Jalisco and Nuevo Vallarta in Nayarit. The most densely populated being old town with its churches; cobble stone streets and boutique hotels.

Puerto Vallarta is built on tourism 50% of its work force is employed in the tourism industry and half the city’s wealth is derived from it. Because of this many unemployed people from Mexico and other countries come here looking for work. Adding to the city’s poorer population. The bay along with the entire Jalisco coast is fighting with a pollution problem. The city, the state and the Federal government are taking measures to control it; time will tell.

Puerto Vallarta has one of the most beautiful bays in Mexico, the clear blue water contrast against the blue sky is amazing. It has been called the “Friendliest city in the world”. The native born and the local expat population are both extremely proud of this. It is also a LGBT friendly city for international guest and Mexican nationals alike, the first in Mexico.

A couple of other things about Puerto Vallarta. Americans and Canadians often call it PV and the nationals refer to it a just Vallarta. They do not have Uber in Puerto Vallarta, most hotels post taxi rates so you will be a little more informed about the prices.