Many longtime lovers of the tropics know Puerto Vallarta as much more than a beautiful beach: It’s simply one of the loveliest spots in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta lies at the inner recess of the Bay of Banderas  and the lanes of old town run right up to the vine-hung foothills of the Sierra Cuale.
Yes, old town — longtime visitors know Puerto Vallarta is really two towns. The Puerto Vallarta seen first by most visitors is the plush north-end Hotel Zone and Marina districts. But if you continue south along the shoreline, you’ll discover the heart of Puerto Vallarta: the stucco-and-tile old town nestled on the banks of Puerto Vallarta’s petite river, the Río Cuale.
In the middle of the river is a long, lovely island, the Isla Río Cuale. Decorated with a shady grove of stately higuera (wild fig) trees and a sprinkling of handicrafts stalls and tranquil riverside restaurants, the Isla Río Cuale is the focus of the best and loveliest of Puerto Vallarta.
Old town is filled with delights: its quaintly cobbled streets, its vine-covered walkways, and hidden corners that lovers know. Equally charming is old town’s diverse host of shops, from boutique crafts and art galleries, to modest shoe repairs, papelerias, and panaderias. At Playa los Muertos , gulls and frigate birds soar above the billows, children drop fishing lines from the New Pier, beginners surf the waves, and the strand seems to extend a hundred miles.
Puerto Vallarta's vibrant north-of-Cuale business district is rich with arts and crafts galleries, good restaurants, and nightclubs that regularly brim with music and partygoers until the early-morning hours. At night, particularly weekends, a new diversion awaits around nearly every corner, especially along the Malecón  (seafront walkway). Clowns entertain the crowd, spray-can artists create their spacey art, and vendors seem to offer everything, from juicy mangos on a stick to savory steaming sweet corn.
Puerto Vallarta’s appeal overflows the town limits. For those willing to stray an hour or two, the delights are manifold: blossoming tropical forests, idyllic palm-shaded beach villages, half-forgotten mountain hamlets, hidden jungle cascades, and wildlife-rich mangrove wetlands. The choices seem endless and more and more visitors are opting to stay at out-of-town hotels and small resorts and return to Puerto Vallarta to enjoy its good shopping, fine food, and lively nightlife.
In short, the Puerto Vallarta region is a tropical refuge with something to offer nearly every traveler from luxurious exclusive resorts, to drowsy local hideaways, to tranquil retreats for RVers who linger for a week or a season on palm-dotted pearly strands where the fishing is good and the living easy.