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 McDonalds, awaiting an order of a double cheeseburger and french fries (freedom fries).