Around the Bay of Banderas
As a destination city, Puerto Vallarta is packed with all the services, food, and accommodations a quality resort can supply. What Puerto Vallarta sometimes cannot offer, however, is peace and quiet.
But an out exists. The diadem of tranquil retreats—fishing villages, beachfront resorts, and mountain villages ring the eastern and northwestern reaches of the Bay of Banderas and are ripe and ready to provide day-, week-, or month-long respites from the citified tourist rush.
The creamy northwestern beaches and plumy resorts of Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías, and Punta Mita beckon within sight of downtown Puerto Vallarta. At these mini-paradises, you could spend a month of Sundays surfing, swimmming, snorkeling and scuba diving, golfing, beachcombing, bird- and whale-watching, and sunning and snoozing under a shady beachfront palapa.
On the other hand, the Sierra Cuale offers unique opportunities for adventurous travelers. In and around the petite mountain-country towns of San Sebastián, Mascota, and Talpa you can explore old gold mines and picturesque hidden villages, camp or lodge at pine-shadowed lakes and streams, trek by foot or horseback through sylvan wildlife-rich mountain valleys by day and relax in comfortable small hotels and luxurious haciendas by night—all these await travelers who venture into Puerto Vallarta’s backyard mountains. (Please note that these northwestern destinations are in the state of Nayarit, which is on mountain time. Once you cross the Río Ameca coming from Puerto Vallarta, you'll need to set your watch back one hour.)
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition