Hello again, I hope you and your are well and staying safe.
Puerto Vallarta is known for at least two things: It’s a popular stop for cruise ships—thanks in part to its starring role on the long-running television series The Love Boat—and it was the location for John Huston’s 1964 film The Night of the Iguana, which has been mentioned in every story ever written about PV (there, I said it). The film’s all-star cast included Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Richard Burton, who shacked up in town with his
soon-to-be wife, Elizabeth Taylor, for whom he bought a house called Casa Kimberley.
Long neglected, Casa Kimberley has been reduced to rubble and slated for redevelopment, but the rest of Puerto Vallarta is a bustling mid-size Mexican city with beautiful beaches, glorious mountains that spill into the Bay of Banderas, and wonderfully quirky architecture and fabulous food at every turn. Like most of the rest of Mexico, its tourism industry has suffered from the drug violence that has besieged the country, but in truth PV is much safer than many large American cities, and has a lot to offer beyond the din of the musicians performing for tourists along the seaside malecón.
San Sebastián del Oeste
I’m not the type of guy who likes to take group tours—too many fanny packs for me—but for my excursion to San Sebastián del Oeste, a former silver-mining town high up in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains, I decided to leave the driving to Vallarta Adventures. It turns out the drive is a manageable—and staggeringly pretty—90 minutes, a vast improvement over what not so recently was a day-long trip (paved roads and an all-important bridge have shaved hours off the travel time). On the way we stopped at a small organic coffee plantation and toured the Hacienda Jalisco, where silver was mined in the late 1700s, contributing to the town’s enormous wealth. In its heyday San Sebastián had 30,000 inhabitants, its own branch of the New York Life Insurance Company, and Mexico’s first indoor toilet. After the last silver mine closed, in 1920, it became a virtual ghost town, which in some ways probably helped to preserve its whitewashed, cedar-scented plaza and gorgeous cathedral. Don’t miss the tiny, whimsical, fascinating “museum” run by the bubbly Maria Concepción del Carmen Encarnación Aguilera, a descendant of one of the town’s founders.
Part 2 following shortly. Stay indoors.