Puerto Vallarta is located on the Pacific Coast on one of the largest bays in the world. Banderas Bay measures 42 kilometers from north to south. The northernmost limit of the bay is at Punta Mita which is the end of the Sierra de Vallejo mountains and, to the south, the bay ends in Cabo Corrientes, part of the foothills of the Sierra del Cuale range.
The bay has been known since the XVI Century when Spanish soldiers, during the expeditions to Lower California (or island of pearls, as they called it) , landed on the bay’s beaches in order to supply their ships with water, firewood and fresh food. There are many chronicles from that time that mention the beauty of the coastline, the fertility of the land and the safe harbors that the bay offered ships.
During the XVI Century, safe harbors all along the Pacific Coast were a vital necessity so that ships returning from the Philippines would have a place to find refuge in case of attack by pirates.
These harbors were also necessary during the long journeys, to and from the Orient so that ships could be repaired if necessary and crews could take on provisions.
One of the first to propose a settlement on Banderas Bay was Captain Pedro de Unamuno after the trip he made in 1587 from the Philippines.
Famous navigators like Sebastian Vizcaino, Lopez de Vicuna and Gonzalo de Francia more than once landed on these beaches and also proposed the establishment of a colony, but their petitions never received any attention.
It is known that a shipyard was built on the bay in 1644 (probably where Mismaloya is located today) and two ships were built for Bernardo Bernal de Pinadero that would be used in the colonization of Lower California.
In document and in ships logs dating from the XVIII Centuries, constant references are made to whaling ships and fishing boast that harbored in the bay. At the time, Banderas Bay was also known as Humpback Bay (Bahia de los Jorobados) because of the number humpback whales that were seen in the bay.
In the XIX Century, the site that is today Puerto Vallarta was used for the loading and unloading of supplies and materials for the mining companies that worked the mines in Cuale and San Sebastian. At that time the site was known as Las Peñas.
Around the middle of the XIX Century, Don Guadalupe Sánchez Torres, originally from Cihuatlán, Jalisco, began to make regular deliveries of salt in his small boat since the mines required large quantities for refining the silver. Don Guadalupe and his men built a small lean-to from tree trunks and palm leaves so that they would have a place to rest that was out of the sun while the sale was being loaded onto donkeys for transport to the mines.
Towards the end of 1851, Don Guadalupe decided to bring his family to Las Peñas de Santa Maria de Guadalupe because he arrived early in the morning hours of December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
With the arrival of new families, the village grew bit by bit and its economy began to change. While some families brought in salt, others began to devote themselves to agriculture or cattle raising.
It is also known that periodically French and German ships entered the bay in search of brazil wood, a very hard wood that was processed in Europe to obtain dyes. In Admiral George Dewey’s report to the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office, he says "on the mouth of a small river called the Rio Real (Royal River) is located a small town called Las Peñas where the boats come to take on wood for dyes.
This same admiral, in 1874, aboard the ship Narragansett, made astronomical observations at Punta Mita, Tabo and at a place close to Los Muertos beach in order to establish the exact geographical position of each of these sites and to make a map of the coast.
In 1880, Las Peñas had a population of 1,500 inhabitants. New families from Cuale and San Sebastian came to settle in the port.
Five years later, on July 14, 1885, the port was opened to national maritime traffic and officially given the name of Las Peñas. On the 23rd of July, a Maritime Customs Office was established.
The following year on October 31, 1886 the town was given official political and judicial standing when decree No. 210 was passed by the State Congress.
During the last decade of the XIX Century and the first of XX Century, Las Peñas gradually progressed thanks to the combined efforts of the people and the enthusiasm of Don Guadalupe.
The inhabitants also suffered occasional setbacks in the growth of their town. According geographer Brand, a tidal wave struck Banderas Bay in March 1893, but nobody in town recalls having heard any mention of this event. On the 6th of May, 1888, a pot of grease which was being heated over a charcoal fire in a Palapa restaurant, burst into flame setting fire to the structure. The fire spread northwards destroying more than half the houses in the town. According to local tradition, the fire would not have done nearly so much damage if half the town’s male population had not been attending a cock fight. In 1911, a waterspout left the almost 100 people homeless and 1922 an epidemic of yellow fever hit Vallarta causing 150 deaths.
In March 1914, the first post office was opened and in September of the same year a telegraph was installed.
On May 31, 1918, by Congressional decree No. 1889, the port was elevated to a municipality and the name was changed to Puerto Vallarta in memory of the illustrious lawyer and Governor of Jalisco, Don Ignacio L. Vallarta.
In 1925 when the Montgomery Fruit Company purchased about 70,000 acres in near-by Ixtapa, Vallarta began to boom due to the surplus of jobs available on the newly-opened banana plantations. They also built a railway to transport the bananas from Ixtapa to El Salado estuary where they were loaded onto ships to carry them to the United States.
This operation ended in 1935 when the Montgomery Fruit Company had to leave Mexico because of the new agrarian law that had just come into effect. Other products were raised in the area such as corn, beans, tobacco and small coconuts used for their oil, were shipped to the interior to be used in the national market.
In about 1930, a few national and foreign tourist began to come o Puerto Vallarta, returning year after year, to spend their vacation enjoying the tranquility and great natural beauty of the port. Slowly word began to spread and each year more tourists came.
In 1951, Puerto Vallarta became internationally known when it celebrated the centennial of its founding. Mexican warships were sent from Acapulco to celebrate the occasion with a 21-gun salute in the bay. A relic of the True Cross was brought to Vallarta as well on this occasion and Sra.. Margarita Mantecon de Garza wrote the first history of Puerto Vallarta.
The event that opened wide the doors to progress, popularity and fame was the filming of the movie "Night of the Iguana" in Puerto Vallarta. Thousands of visitors came, anxious to see the places that appeared in the movie and hopeful of catching a glimpse of some of the movie stars.
From then on, thanks to the publicity the movie gave Vallarta, and also to the improved means of transportation, the town grew by leaps and bounds. The town was now accessible by road and by air. First class hotels were built. Agriculture, which until now had been the principal source of income, took a back seat to tourism.
Things have changed since the first airplane landed here in 1931. Today Puerto Vallarta has hotels that range from small, economical inns to magnificent luxury hotels. Important national and international airline companies provide services that connect Vallarta to the principal cities of the U.S. and Europe. Luxury cruise ships dock here on a daily basis and a good highway connects the town to Tepic, Guadalajara and the rest of the country.
The population growth has been notable. It has gone from 12,500 in 1964 to 250,000 or more in 1988. There is a large foreign colony, primarily Americans and Canadians, that live here on a permanent or semi-permanent basis and that are active participants in community life.
Visitors to Puerto Vallarta will find the climate all year around. The average temperature in 80 degrees F., and except for the rainy season that lasts from the middle of June to the middle of September, the sun shines every day.
All around PV, just minutes from downtown, there are easily reached areas of great natural beauty, ideal for a day’s outing or a picnic. Some even have there own hotels where it is possible for a visitor to "get away from it all" for a few days. Some of the favorite spots are Bucerías, Mismaloya, Quimixto and Yelapa.
The Federal Government, in conjunction with the state governments of Jalisco and Nayarit as well as some private enterprises, have begun an important program for the development of tourism in the entire Banderas Bay area.
Puerto Vallartais the ideal place for anyone who likes water sports. Here one can skin dive, water ski, go deep sea fishing, wind surfing or even try the exciting parasailing.
One of the most important annual events in PV is the International Sailfish Tournament held during the first week of November. Ardent fishermen from all over Mexico and U.S. participate.
Vallarta is also the site of important conventions and business meetings. Undoubtedly one of the most important was the meeting of President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz with President Richard M. Nixon in august, 1970.
This same year, 1970 , two important public works were inaugurated: the maritime terminal and the new airport, both of which have been subsequently remodeled and enlarged in order to provide better service.
On May 31, 1968, the fiftieth anniversary of Puerto Vallarta’s elevation to a municipality, with Lic. Francisco Medina Ascencio, governor of Jalisco, and Sr. Jose Vazquez Galvan as mayor of Puerto Vallarta, the state government by means of decree No. 8366 elevated PV to the status of a city.
Today, Puerto Vallarta occupies an important position among the rest of the world’s international tourist resorts.