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Spanish in Puerto Vallarta

How to Spend Your Downtime in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta beach

Nestled into the glistening Bahía de los Banderos with a history full to the brim with stories of pirate dens, deep sea adventure and the sparkling pearls under the water and around the neck of some of cinemas's leading ladies, Puerto Vallarta is the city of adventures. Bordered by some of the prettiest coastline in all of Mexico and yet only a short trip away from the lush jungle and clear running waterfall of the Sierra Madre. As a place to learn Spanish, you couldn't get much better. Not only will you be kept busy during the day learning new Spanish language skills, but you will also soon discover you are spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do when school's let out, not to mention the time you will spend chatting to some of Mexico's friendliest locals.

The first thing to do when you get to Puerto Vallarta, as with pretty much any city, is to head out for a wander around and explore your new surroundings. Puerto Vallarta has a modern American city feel to a large part of it, but if you stick to the 'Zona Centro' or old part of the town, found north of the River Cuale, or the Zona Romantica to the south of the river, then you will still be able to feel as if you are truly in Mexico and not walking down a main street in California.

In the centre of the old town you will find the Plaza de Armas, right beside the sea. Close-by you will see Los Arcos, which have become a sort of landmark sculpture in the city. There is also the iconic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Guadalupe nearby. This building is a key feature on many Puerto Vallarta postcards and a symbol of the religion successfully introduced in the Americas by the Spanish colonists. Down towards the sea you will find the refurbished boardwalk known as the Malecon. It stretches along the seafront and is dotted with shops, hotels and restaurants for a refreshing drink with a pleasant view.

Why not feed your inner star gazer and head up towards 'Casa Kimberley', the house that Richard Burton bought for Elizabeth Taylor and where they spent a lot of their time for a period of over a decade following the filming of The Night of the Iguana here in 1963. They bought the house across the road as well and the two are joined by a pink bridge crossing over the road. Taylor sold them both with all of their contents in 1990. The surrounding area has been nicknamed 'Gringo Gulch' and is now home to any rich and famous, mostly American, that make the move to Puerto Vallarta.

Playa muertos

One thing that attracts people to Puerto Vallerta is its proximity and ease of access to the beach. There are two beaches in the city and endless amounts outside it. In the city, La Playa de los Muertos, literally Deadman's Beach, named so because of the pirate raids that took place there in days gone by, is probably the most popular and is surrounded by restaurants serving up decent fayre to recharge your batteries after a refreshing swim in the sea. Outside of the city centre, in the north you can choose from beached such as Playa de Oro, Playa las Glorias and Playa el Salado, whilst in the south you will find Playa Estacas, Playa Conchas Chinas and Playa Punta Negra, amongst others. Further afield Playa de las Ánimas is a bit more isolated but is located beside a quaint fishing village and there is fresh seafood aplenty. Further away still you will find Las Caletas, a beach filled with adventure sports, once home to the director of The Night of the Iguana, John Huston and Yelapa, a popular cruise ship stop and pretty cove all in one.

If all this beach talk sounds just great, but you are less of a beach bum and more of an adrenaline seeker, then fear not. At nearly all of these beaches and their surrounding areas there are activities galore, whether your thing is scuba diving or snorkelling, fishing or kitesurfing, zip lining or yoga, whale watching or turtle rehabilitating, jet skiing or horse riding, there is something for you in Puerto Vallarta. When it comes to diving and snorkelling, there are some spectacular scenes to be seen, particularly in the areas known as Los Arcos and the Islas Marietas at the bay entrance. All have tropical fish and impressive reefs to be enjoyed and they are no stranger to a friendly dolphin or two. If you happen to be in Puerto Vallarta in the season between December and April then a popular activity to be enjoyed is whale watching and if you are lucky you will catch a glimpse of a humpback whale and almost certainly some dolphins.

If you are fatigued and drained even reading about all this possible action then you won't have to go far to refuel. Puerta Vallada boast a huge range of gastronomic delights for you to get stuck into, from the quintessential Mexican taco to proper New York home cooked meatloaf (maybe not what you came to Mexico for, but worth a try nonetheless) via vegetarian molé and Spanish Gazpacho, and all at very reasonable prices too. If you are in town during November be sure to check out (to be honest it will be hard to avoid it) the International Gourmet Festival when over 20,000 people arrive in town to see top International chefs serve up elaborate delicacies at a number of different restaurants over a period of ten days. There are also food markets and wine and tequila tasting and just a general foodie atmosphere to be enjoyed. As for something to quench your thirst, check out one of the only lighthouses I know that also serves up cocktails. The Puerto Vallarta lighthouse provides a truly magical and romantic setting with panoramic views of the bay and of course delicious cocktails to be savoured while you are at it. There is literally something for all tastes and all budgets. This is a town that takes its cuisine seriously and you will have no problem finding what you want, be it something typically Mexican and traditional or a little bit of what you miss from home.