by Peter Wells Scott

If you are sitting in a hot stuffy office in the middle of Manhattan or Washington, D.C., and someone says, "Let's go to the beach," it's just not that easy. The Hamptons are at least two hours away, and Rehobeth, Del. and Ocean City, Maryland, are more like three or four from the nation's capital. Getting back is even worse. Folks have to get back to work on Monday morning, so if you are making a weekend excursion, the backup of traffic can be hours of agonizing sitting in traffic.

Not so in Puerto Vallarta or around the Bay of Banderas. A short ten-minute drive from almost anywhere can land you at the beach of your choice:

  • Playa Los Muertos on the south end near to the pier has been a perennial favorite of locals and tourists. Fisherman fashion homemade "poles" made out of an empty soda bottle, a "fishing line" with a hook and bait attached. Locals are always proud to show off their catch, be it Sierra, Pargo or Torito. The beach is lined with restaurants galore, from a more fancy Daiquiri Dick's to an inexpensive fish on a stick or 12 oysters on a plate. The beach is never dull, as vendors weave their way hoping for that "first sale of the day." Whereas you may tire of their unending explanation of "almost free", one nevertheless can find bargains not available in retail establishments. Los Muertos extends for a mile south of the Rio Cuale, and many expensive condos overlook the beach. Gentle waves make this beach safe for wading and a swim beyond the breakers.
  • About a mile south of Playa Los Muertos is Playa Conchas Chinas, a great place to spend the day exploring sandy coves that are dotted with tide pools. Multicolored tropical fish, crabs, mollusks, and oysters abound, and the water is sufficiently clear for snorkeling. Be sure to bring your own gear.
  • Further south there are beaches named El Gato, Los Venados, Los Carrizos, Punta Negra, Garza Blanca, and Playa Gemelas. All can be reached by an in-town bus marked "Boca" or "Mismaloya."
  • The beach at Mismaloya resembles Los Muertos with its continual activity, both from the native population and from people that own condominiums. One reaches the beach by walking down the dirt road adjacent to the Mismaloya River. There are quaint restaurants lining the road. Once at the ocean, looking to your left, you can get a glimpse of Vallarta's history, because it is there that filming of " Night of the Iguana," took place. Climbing a few stairs will bring you to the John Huston Restaurant "El Set de la Noche de la Iguana".
  • Boca de Tomatlan is a bit farther to the south. It is a small colorful beach, known for its pangas, and excursions to Las Animas, Quimixto, and Yelapa.
  • Offshore from Mismaloya is Los Arcos, a marine national park comprised of two large rocky outcrops about 100 yards offshore. The coral attracts parrotfish, angelfish, and triggerfish, which makes it a preferred spot for snorkeling.

All beaches are federally owned or belong to the public, however, you want to look at it. Every hotel has its own beach, and most have security to protect their pools.

  • Yelapa is home to 100 local families and a group of artists that find Vallarta "too busy". Since it is only accessible by water, folks walk or ride horses. A hiking tour of the village and surrounding jungle and a waterfall is a favorite passtime.
  • One can get a feeling of the bustle of the city by spending some time at the beach at Bay View Grand. On any Sunday there are at least ten LearJets that take the priviledged back to northern reality.
  • A quick 10 miles up the road to Bucerias, north of the airport, finds one of the favorite "walking beaches."
  • Heading north on the road to Punta de Mita is the Destiladeras Beach. The sand is white and comfortable, making it a perfect spot to spend a day of relaxation and sunning.
  • Back to the main road and heading north you come to Sayulita, 3 kms from Ruta 200. The beach at Sayulita is a mecca for surfers. Over the hill to the graveyard is another "Los Muertos." The sandy cove is a perfect place to take the mate of your dreams.

Whether you are looking for a secluded stretch of sand or a day of palapa hopping, the Bay of Banderas offers a complete smorgasboard. The most romantic has to be the beaches at El Camino Real, Punta Negra, and Sayulita. The best for walking is Bucerias, the best for action is Los Muertos or Mismaloya, the best for sightseeing is Yelapa, or Quimixto.

Whatever the selection, one need not suffer the commute from New York or Washington, D.C.

Real Estate, The most profitable Investment

From Homes & Living Magazine

Currently, when investments offer low rates of return and the stock market is unstable, the real estate market distinguishes itself as a safe investment that pays good dividends to investors.

Investment yields in terms of more than a year

The possibility exists of acquiring real estate on credit, which would pay for itself by renting it out, due to the high demand for houses or apartments in zones located on the beach such as Vallarta because it offers the buyer more comfort and privacy.

Real estate can be rented and represent an investment that, using interest rates as a gauge, is much better than what a bank pays for a traditional investment. And in case of an emergency liquidation, it can be mortgaged at relatively low cost.

Easy guide to buying property in Vallarta

We all dream of someday owning beach property inasmuch as it, without a doubt, offers a retreat for a weekend, a vacation, or a complete or occasional retirement after long, hard years of labor. Nevertheless, what you want to buy ( a house, an apartment), what your budget is if financing will be necessary, who will be the assessor, and finally, a number of relevant aspects that must be checked, are important. To acquire property, especially in the case of foreigners, it’s essential to know the laws in order to protect your investment.

For foreign investors

Mexican laws establish that the way to obtain the property rights is via a trusteeship that is drawn up through a national banking institution.

What is a Trusteeship?

It functions as a base in the drawing up of a buy-sell contract, selling a property, making investments, buying real estate or giving guarantees. The effect of a Trusteeship is to protect the rights of the trustor (national or foreigner), to acquire guarantee or administrative property rights. In the case of foreigners, the trusteeship is established because restrictions exist regarding the acquiring direct ownership of land inasmuch as foreigners can’t be direct owners of the property. In addition, it guarantees legal security in relation to possession of the real estate. It’s a requirement that the protocol of this contract must be done before a notary licensed by the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores.
A Trusteeship has a term of 50 years, a term which can be extended.

Fiscal Aspects of buying-selling of real estate property

When a taxpayer, resident of the country, sell a property it’s subject to income tax (Impuesto Sobre la Renta, I.S.R) according to the profit, which is the difference between the original purchase price and the selling price, a technical mechanism established to determine the correct tax. For the sale of houses used for habitation, there exists an extension for payment of this tax, provided it has been designated as a house used for habitation.

Property Title

It’s important to analyze this document, which is the proof that the person selling the house is actually the owner. It also contains the measurements of the lot and the description of the property from the public register.

Construction permit, lot plans and payment of taxes

It’s necessary to ask for the building permit, a lot plan and verify that the payment doesn’t have outstanding tax or service debts of any kind and is free of liens. Properties in the federal maritime land zone with pools, bedrooms, retaining walls, and walkways, should have a concession title that authorizes the construction or proof that the authorization has been obtained from the “procuraduria del medio ambiente”, to avoid fines, closures or demolition.

Steps for acquiring property in Vallarta

Currently, the acquiring of real estate property not only involves taking into account the style of the house but it also involves a crucial decision from a financing and investment perspective.

1.- It’s advisable that not only the seller but the buyer have an assessment done by a licensed lawyer who’s a specialist in real estate.

2.- Consult a real estate professional. Looking for the AMPI seal guarantees a more extensive legal review and saves a lot of headaches, making the transaction a relatively easy step where the time of closing of the sale is fundamental.

3.- Define the suitable type of property, depending on the budget.

4.- Analyze all the financing possibilities. Currently, there is short and medium term direct financing available for national and foreign buyers thus U.S. buyers have mortgage credit to acquire or construct vacation homes in Mexico. This type of traditional financing has been available since 1995 through companies like Collateral Mortgage, LTD that grants credit for up to 50% of the value of the real estate, beginning at $400,000 USD, for a term of 20 years to U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. who wish to construct, remodel or acquire vacation property in Mexico. Another way that foreign buyers obtain funds for the purchase of property in our country is by obtaining financing by using property or stocks in their country as collateral. The minimum down payment is 30%, annual interest rates start at 8.75%, the minimum credit amount is $100,000 USD and the maximum is $800,000 USD.

5.- Having Title Insurance, which guarantees the insured (property owner, trustee or mortgage holder) the validity and priority of his rights regarding the property. It’s also an indemnity between the insured and the company issuing the policy. In addition, the Title Insurance is a detailed analysis and evaluation of public and private documents, plans, and others relative to the property title.

When a loss or an adverse claim arises against the policy issued by a title company, it is obligated to: A) Indemnify the insured for the loss suffered, when said loss or reduction is not a result of a problem in granting of title that has been expressly excluded by the policy. B) Pay legal defense fees and defend the insured against whatever claim that questions the validity and preference of rights regarding the property. C) Eliminate or correct the defect or lien that affects the title in question.
The company Stewart Title Guaranty Company - Mexico division is the first in Mexico authorized by the government to issue title insurance in this country.

The cost of the process of obtaining title insurance is divided into two parts: the preliminary studies and the property title, and vary according to company, and based on if a previous study of the zone or building where the real estate is located has been done and those terms of the title insurance policy that change the function of the real estate: from 0.4 % for developments and from 1% for low range property.

We wish to thank Lic. Alejandro Flores Von Borstel, Bernardo Aceves and Silvia L. Elías-Pullen for their collaboration on this article. Originally on Homes & Living>>

by Peter Wells Scott

They say that paradise is a state of mind, but when all the ingredients are right, it can also be a place. Puerto Vallarta is such a place. When folks from Vancouver complain of 60 straight days of rain, and folks from Phoenix talk of plus 100 degrees of heat, and East coasters dig themselves out of snowbanks, the planes heading south are full carrying visitors to fulfill their dreams of a respite in paradise. And we are not talking about Florida. Humidity and people sitting on park benches awaiting their maker are not what we are about.

Puerto Vallarta offers amenities not readily available in any other part of the world, let alone a resort destination. Temperatures hover in the mid 80's throughout most of the year. The rainy season, from late June to the first week in October, offers a respite from the hotter weather of the summer months, and the streets and sidewalks delight in being clean. There are electrical storms that produce an orchestra of lightning that dances across the sky. Then, it's back to those glorious sunsets which produce "visitantes" on every rooftop across the town, counting down to see if there will be the proverbial "green flash" as the sun sinks beneath the surface of our beloved Bay of Banderas.

For those who choose to dance upon the surface of tourist attractions, there is an unending source of attractions, be it sailing, surfing or snorkeling, sportfishing, golf, a trip on a balloon to gain a strategic sight of the city above the madding crowds, and restaurants galore. There is the marina where the boats hang out and the Malecon where the gals stroll up and down on Sunday nights, brandishing their newly sewn dresses.

Marina Vallarta has come of age with its host of European owned hotels. It has been compared to the "Zona Hotelera" of Cancun, but unlike the latter, it is but a 15-minute drive to the busy Malecon. In Cancun, it requires a 45-minute drive to experience anything authentically Mexican.

The town of "P.V." is filled to the brim with authentic Mexico. From the airport south to Mismaloya, adventure abounds. It used to be that folks got off the plane, found their way to their hotel in the Marina or Zona Central, and never got to the south side. All that has changed. The "Romantic Zone" with restaurant row centered along Basilio Badillo has been discovered and rediscovered with every new restaurant added. The shops along Olas Altas, the homes reaching into Gringo Gulch, and the introduction of exquisite homes along Amapas and stretching into Conchas Chinas has made a bonanza of jeep renters.

Puerto Vallarta has the traditional marks of gringo progress. Walmarts, Sam's Club, Mac Donalds, even Home Depot has given rise to many a "double take." The roots of Vallarta, however, go much deeper than the surface trimmings. There is the family life that huddles around an outdoor taco stand, and Los Muertos Beach that fills with tents and sleeping bags during the ceremonial times of Semana Santa and Semana de Pascua.

Outlying trips to Sayulita and San Sebastian await the more curious. The streets there, mirroring Vallarta, are filled with natives who proudly display their culture. Just remember. The whales are not standing in line at MacDonalds, awaiting an order of a double cheeseburger and french fries (freedom fries).

By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY

Posted 1/15/2004 9:37 PM [Original Article>>]

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico — Up at Casa Kimberley, the vacation hideaway where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton drank and cavorted and fought and drank some more, life is good.

The famously fractious couple abandoned the villa ages ago, of course. But the curious still come, ushered in at $8 a head by the current owners who encourage them to make like Liz and Dick, posing for photos on the patio or relaxing in Liz's violet-hued bedroom.

There's a grandmotherly sort from Canada in there now. Egged on by others in her tour group, she reclines on the flowered bedspread, her tight gray curls tilted back, one knee bent coquettishly, one new white Ked arched and pointed.

"Nice, eh?" she asks, as the cameras click.

It's been 40 years since the release of The Night of the Iguana, the movie that put this then-remote Pacific coast fishing village of 12,500 souls on the map. Director John Huston had staked out a location south of town on a rocky outcropping accessible only by boat. Burton, the star of the movie, arrived with Taylor in tow (both were married to other people at the time). Co-stars Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon (the nymphet of Lolita fame) also were in residence. So were hundreds of paparazzi hoping to record the star-studded fireworks.

But in the end, the image that endured was that of this coconut-palm-fringed setting on sweeping Banderas Bay where the rugged Sierra Madre tumble to the brink of the Pacific Ocean. And today, that vision remains, albeit in altered form.

After the filming, the Taylor-Burtons stayed on. (He had bought her Casa Kimberley for $57,000 as a 32nd birthday gift.) Other glitterati followed. And by the late '60s, Puerto Vallarta was taking off as a tourist hot spot.

Naturally, a lot has changed since then. Wildfire growth has spread north. First in the 1980s with the construction of a marina, now the locale for sprawling brand-name resorts. Then to Nuevo Vallarta, a separate community farther up the bay. And finally, to Punta Mita at the northern tip, 35 miles from downtown, where luxury homes and a Four Seasons resort have taken root.

Despite the development, Puerto Vallarta's historic heart remains pure. Or as pure as a beach town with a population of 250,000 and an annual visitor count of 5 million can be. And that heart is the key to its longevity. Newer Mexican resort developments such as Cancun, Los Cabos, and Ixtapa may be more fashionable or more popular, but they're the creations of government planners and land speculators. Puerto Vallarta evolved.

"What Puerto Vallarta has is history," says hotelier and tourist bureau president Gabriel Igartua. "It was a quaint village before it was a tourist destination."

At its traditional core is a pleasant plaza where kids chase pigeons and shoeshine stands do a brisk business. At one end, the oceanfront walkway (newly refurbished after 2002's Hurricane Kenna), attracts sandcastle artists, jugglers, and musicians. On the other, the crowned tower of Our Lady of Guadalupe church rises like a beacon. Narrow, cobblestone streets snake up into the hills where red-tiled rooftops peek from a lush tangle of tropical foliage.

This is Old Vallarta, where a lively dining and arts scene (with 22 commercial galleries at last count) has developed. Here, you can listen to jazz at a riverside restaurant, attend a Pilates class or order Dom Perignon by the $50 glass. A short stroll to the south side of the Rio Cuale, which bisects the old town, leads to what's known as the Romantic Zone. It houses an eclectic mix of establishments that cater to both local needs and tourist tastes.

Regular and special events give visitors an opportunity to mix with the community. In high season, twice-monthly after-hours art gallery tours attract a local crowd. Twice-weekly tours of private homes raise money for charity. A culinary festival each November draws acclaimed chefs. And this year it will overlap with the first Puerto Vallarta Film Festival of the Americas, Nov. 6-14.

"Vallarta isn't contrived. It's a living town," says the city's cultural director, Maria Jose Zorrilla. "We do live on tourism, but we produce our own art."

Old Vallarta's charms

The old town is better regarded for its art, history, and scenery than the quality of its beaches. Still, the cognoscenti gravitate to Old Vallarta. Decades-long regulars convene for bridge and backgammon at their usual spots under thatched umbrellas on Los Muertos Beach. Among them is Jack Rolfs, a retired ad executive from San Francisco and one of a large American contingent of part-time residents. He discovered the place in 1957 back when a horse-drawn cart ferried sunbathers from the sole hotel to this beach.

These days, upscale restaurants set out linen-clad tables for candlelight dinners on the sand. Nelly Barquet is eating lunch under the soaring thatched roof of one of them, El Dorado, which she opened in 1960. The restaurant scene has become increasingly sophisticated, she says.

"There were no (schooled) chefs here 43 years ago. Now I can't count them all," she says. "If you don't have a chef, you're kaput."

Barquet is the matriarch of one of the First Families of Vallarta's resort era. She arrived in 1957, "when there were about 15 tourists." It was her former husband, the late Guillermo Wulff, who led Huston to Mismaloya, where much of The Night of the Iguana was shot. He also built the hotel and other buildings that served as the set.

No other film made here has created the buzz that Iguana did. But a group of organizers hopes to keep the memory alive with the film festival, which invokes the names of Huston, Burton, Taylor, and others associated with the movie.

Robert Roessel, president of the fledgling event, is driving south along the winding coast road that leads to the film location, narrating as he goes. He weaves past the walled villas of Conchas Chinas, Vallarta's old-money neighborhood. "That's Mrs. Fields' — of the cookies — house. And they shot For Love or Money over there," he says.

He passes the turnoff to the film site of Predator, where a giant roadside sign features a ripped, machine-gun-wielding future governor of California. And finally, Roessel arrives at the rocky cliffs of Mismaloya, where a namesake restaurant of the movie that would forever change the tiny fishing village occupies the former set. Other than cement skeletons, however, little else from the original set remains. No matter, he says.

"The whole story behind The Night of the Iguana is the torrid love affair (between Taylor and Burton) and the fact that it created this sensation," he says. "Puerto Vallarta has lost some of that. We're trying to get it back, to create a stir."

Banking on movie nostalgia

Back at Casa Kimberley, an arriving group is greeted by the sight of a blown-up photo of Taylor resplendent in a Cleopatra headdress. Inside, it's a Taylor-Burton love fest with movie posters, Passion perfume ads and old magazine covers displayed throughout. The tourists listen attentively as Maurice Mintzer holds forth on Burton's prodigious drinking, on the couple's quest for privacy, on their bickering.

His wife, Toy Holstein Mintzer, bought the place from Taylor in 1990, which included the house across the street and is linked by a pink aerial "love bridge." She says after Burton's death in 1984, the actress never returned. Left behind were furniture, books, clothing, cosmetics, even letters. The next year Mintzer opened the six-bar, nine-bedroom, 12-bathroom house to overnight guests. The public tours commenced a year later.

Sometimes the visitors stay late into the night, drinking on the terrace at the Richard Burton bar adorned with 16 hand-painted saints. Sometimes they make outrageous requests, such as the one from the woman who asked Mintzer to snap her photo sitting on Liz's toilet.

"I will never do that again," he declares. "There is class. And there is no class."

His wife recently put the house up for sale. The couple is in their 70s. There are too many stairs. Maybe even too many visitors.

As the tourists file back over the pink love bridge and down into the narrow street to their waiting van, they can hear Mintzer's booming voice starting the next tour. "When the house sold, it was the end of an era ... " he is saying.

The population of Puerto Vallarta managed to nearly double between 1980 and 1990 due, in large part, to a sudden devaluation of the peso at that point in time, this attracted to this harbor a large number of visitors from both Canada and the United States, when their purchase power increased considerably from one day to the next.

While observing this sudden growth in tourism, the Guitron Martinez brothers decided to start an important and visionary residential and business development the one we now know as the Marina Vallarta, where you would be able to buy and enjoy marinas, hotels, condos, houses, schools and top-level maritime amenities that could even welcome luxury cruises, and the largest marina in Mexico.


This luxury class development is located just 15 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta and only 5 minutes from the Puerto Vallarta International Airport Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.

The luxury of Marina Vallarta
The luxury of Marina Vallarta

If you wish to visit Marina Vallarta, there are plenty of options there, both activities as well as accommodation. There are Grand Tourism hotels all along the beach, such as Westin, Marriott, Velas Vallarta and other that offer the best restaurants and spas to relax and pleasure your senses, and, of course, there are also villas, condos and other hotels throughout the Marina area that cater to the specific tastes and needs of each visitor.

There is also the beautiful promenade of the Marina Vallarta which is suitable for a walk, a bike ride or to visit one of the shops or restaurants and enjoy a delicious meal. Of course, there are all kinds of water activities available in the area, but other than those you can also enjoy other landbound activities like tennis and golf which can be enjoyed in the now famous 18-hole course that covers a large part of the Marina area, with luxury condos and houses surrounding it.

In the Marina, you’ll also find a lighthouse, where you can enjoy the beautiful sunsets of Puerto Vallarta. This place has a restaurant at the top where you can sample delicious local and international dishes or maybe sip on a refreshing cocktail while delighting on the beautiful view of the Marina both during the day or at night. Some nights, the area also offers live music and various events, including theater.

For those traveling with youngsters, there is also fun for them here. Marina Vallarta has a large water park with slides and wave pool for children, so they can also spend a memorable vacation.

Another attraction for young and old is the bronze sculpture at the entrance to the Marina called "The whale and her calf." This sculpture was installed in 2000 as a tribute to the whales that visit the harbor and the Banderas Bay each year, according to the locals it is the largest bronze sculpture in the world.

The Marina also has a complete marina that adapts to all types of motorboats, sailboats, and yachts. It has over 500 slips, which can be rented for docking ships during long or short periods.

If you like sports fishing or boating, Marina Vallarta is one of the best places to carry out these activities and to find equipment or charter a fishing trip. If you prefer a cruise around the bay, this site also offers the opportunity to experience this enjoyable experience.

In short, if you just want to enjoy a holiday in luxury, visit the Marina in Puerto Vallarta, it is definitely one of the best options you can find in the area.

Versión en Español

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