Puerto Vallarta - The Iguana no Longer Lives Here

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mexico  , Pacific Coast,
Sunday, January 4, 2009

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Mexico:  23 Destinations to Spend the Winter Months
Puerto Vallarta
No. 9 of 23 Destinations (this is not a ranking)
Puerto Vallarta - The Iguana No Longer Lives Here

When the American playwright, Tennessee Williams chose the title - "Night of the Iguana" for his play, he succeeded in placing the story squarely in Mexico. Next to the "burro" or "torro", the iguana has got to be the animal that is the most associated with Mexico. It is an exotic animal that for a lizard is beautiful and has an air of mystery because it is totally unknown by most people.

"Unknown" is also the word that could be applied to Puerto Vallarta previous to 1964.

In 1964, the stage play "Night of the Iguana", was turned into a movie directed by John Huston. A "steamy" play called for a "steamy" location and the small village of Mismaloya just south of Puerto Vallarta seemed to fit the bill.

The "steamy theme" continued as the cast of the movie included Richard Burton and Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon among others. With that many beautiful ladies around, Richard Burton's paramour - Elizabeth Taylor - had no choice but to protect her interest.  In this case that meant travelling to Puerto Vallarta to be with Richard. The whole scene was enough to draw hordes of "paparazzi" to Puerto Vallarta and to make it world famous.

Since then, Puerto Vallarta or "PV", as it is referred to, has grown in leaps and bounds and no longer needs the association with the "iguana" to make its case around the world.

Because it is a major tourist resort on the Pacific Coast I almost had difficulty taking it seriously as a place for a long-term stay during the winter months.

My thinking being that expats are generally of retirement age, therefore they are less likely to seek out a place that throbs with such activity. At certain times of the day, like in the evening, it does have some of the elements of "spring break" about it.

I slowly changed my way of thinking about the level of activity.  Some people, or maybe a lot of people, need some diversion in their life and one of the easiest forms of diversion is to have a lively scene around you.  I know whereof I speak from experience.

As I have repeated on several occasions in previous blogs, the city where I live - Prince George, British Columbia - is generally void of any such activity that could be described as diversion. This is particularly true at night when the central core of the city is almost totally deserted and generally considered unsafe for pedestrian traffic.

Three surprises we encountered in PV will lead me back to the point I just made above. Let me explain.

On our first and only night in PV we were walking along the crowded sidewalk in the downtown area just past the beautiful Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral.
To our surprise, right on the sidewalk, we encountered a donkey with a young lady on board.

Our second surprise was to see the donkey, along with the young lady, headed straight into the Andale Bar. Wow, that is something you don't see every day. In Canada, it would surely be against the health regulations and various by-laws to ride a donkey into a bar. We recognized that this might be a good photo opportunity so we followed the donkey's wake into the bar. I use the word "wake" because the donkey was literally separating the crowd of people in the bar.

That was a neat experience which led to our third surprise and that was finding the former mayor of Prince George sitting there on a bar stool sipping a tequila. Yes, even Prince George's former mayor, who had just retired from civic politics, took flight from Prince George to spend part of this winter in lively Puerto Vallarta. He must know a thing or two about Prince George as well as a thing or two about PV.

All that to say - you will not be bored in Puerto Vallarta. There will always be people around for the most interesting activity of all - people watching. How can it be otherwise when there is an overabundance of "gringos" out there having as much fun as can be packed into seven days?

When it comes to people watching there is no better place than the "main drag". The main drag in this case is not the main street that has bumper to bumper traffic but is indeed the famous "Malecon".

The "Malecon" is the beautiful walkway that also serves as a breakwater along Bandera Bay - Mexico's largest bay. It extends about a kilometres from Av. 31 Octubre, across the Cuale River into the historic Old Town.  The ten meter wide walkway is ideal for the evening "paseo" or evening stroll that is so characteristic of Latin cultures. This is the place to see and be seen. Admittedly this is not everybody's cup of tea but it is the tradition here in PV.


It doesn't take a lot of people watching in PV to realize that this is a very gay friendly city. In the tradition of places like San Francisco, Cape Cod and Key West much is done in PV to accommodate the gay traveller.


Getting back to the evening walk along the "Malecon", it is worth noting that one of the pleasures is to check out the sand sculptures along the beach.  We haven't seen anything like it since our visit to Knock-Heist, the Belgian North Sea resort in 2005. In addition there is also a good selection of regular stone sculptures along the Malecon and somewhere in PV there is even a sculpture of John Huston who made it all happen with his film.

A footnote should be added to my comments about the over-abundance of tourists and that would be that we were there during the busy holiday season. This may have resulted in a skewed impression since I am not overly crowd friendly. Talk to a local and they may tell you that tourism is down by 20% due to the economic crisis and that would be further diminished now by the recent swine flue scare which is hitting Mexico particularly hard (blog written: April 29, 2009).

As I write this blog, I realize more and more that there is a disjoint between what I am writing and what my photos show or do not show. The photos in the case of PV are subdued and do not capture the general vibe of the place. Maybe it was my initial negative attitude to PV as a place for an extended stay. Or was it our arrival in the dark or maybe the fact that we spent only one night there and headed out the next afternoon?

The end result is that I have only one blog for Puerto Vallarta. Compare that with four blogs for San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Ajijic. It is all a function of the emotions or enthusiasm that are elicited by a particular destination. In addition all those emotions or enthusiasm are passed through the filter of one's personality. That is all to say that someone else might visit PV and see things in an entirely different light.

The overabundance of real estate that is evident in PV proves the fact that despite my mitigated comments, a lot of people, and that would include expats, are voting with their feet by coming here and staying and buying or renting real estate.

It is after all a place where a person from "north of the border" or from Europe could come and live, with a minimum of cultural shock and feel almost at home. That sounds like a cosmopolitan place which makes Puerto Vallarta among the prime destinations on the Mexican Riviera.

If an abundance of bars, restaurants, chic boutiques, malls and big box stores are to your liking, all of the above are well represented here. It is hard to imagine anything that one associates with modern life that would not be available in Puerto Vallarta.

In addition, it is such an attractive destination that you would have no problem in getting relatives and friends to accept your invitation to visit you during the winter months. Air connections and low prices are available from all parts of the world to Puerto Vallarta. Even from Prince George, BC vacation packages to Puerto Vallarta are available with direct air connections. Come to think of it, this is the only vacation destination in the world with which we have a direct air connection.

One thing that struck us in Puerto Vallarta was that even on a January evening our hotel room was nearly unbearable due to high heat and heavy humidity.  Only a ceiling fan saved us from having a sleepless night. While we were travelling through the colonial cities of the Central Highlands we were chilled by the cool nights and the lack of heating in the hotel rooms. It seems here in PV we went from the frying pan into the fire - somehow, that doesn't sound right, but I will go with it.

In conclusion while my remarks about Puerto Vallarta may sound at times less than resounding, I have to admit it is an impressive place that appeals to a lot of tourists and expats alike.

Official website:

Moving to Puerto Vallarta

Good site for general info about real estate in Mexico

House Rentals - site also gives info on the various neighbourhoods of Puerto Vallarta


Good general site for expats

Thinking of Buying Real Estate in Mexico?

Read about Mexico's real estate laws restricting foreign ownership in any area that is 100 km from a border or 50 km from a coastline and how to get around them by means of the Fideicomiso Loophole.

Excellent site;

Legal Requirements for buying real estate also included in this site
Feedback:  travelswithlobo@yahoo.com
Coming Soon:

Barra de Navidad - Wow, Did We Like This Place!
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