what do to in puerto vallarta

Spotlight :: Puerto Vallarta

[trip style = all-inclusive + beach + urban + sightseeing]

{Editor's Note: Nolitours recently sent me down the coast to Puerto Vallarta to test drive noliZONE, their new all-inclusive program which promotes the resort as a base camp for around-town exploration, meals out, cooking classes, fiestas, etc... I wrote about the deets on Friday and wanted to round-out the coverage with my top PV picks and pics!}

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton put Puerto Vallarta on the jetset's map when they descended upon the remote fishing town in the early 1960s for the film The Night of the Iguana, the screen version of a Tennessee Williams Broadway play. Surprisingly, Mrs. Taylor wasn't even in the film. Much to celeb gossip columnists' delight, she came down as Mr. Burton's famed mistress/+1. Puerto Vallarta was her quiet, romantic hideaway where she could roam unrecognized and free, for a time...

Now their separate, time-worn residences---connected by a Venice-like pink bridge towering above a cobblestone street---hint at a local fishing village transformed by the earliest and flashiest flash mob around. The Hollywood heyday couple may have ignited Puerto Vallarta's early fame, but the town's history, warmth, vibrancy and safety have maintained its A-List status with a steady influx of international visitors, as well as the largest community of foreigners in the country.

Eat The Cool Spot - La Leche When I walked into La Leche I wanted to break out in song because the whitewashed interior was more than a "blanc" palette. Look close enough and every detail from life-sized chalkboard menu to the shiny marble floors were high design. The cuisine matched the interior's ingenuity and taste. Every colorful dish---intended to be the art in the stark space---surprised and delighted my palate. Leaving 'no course unturned', even the starter salad came with a syringe of balsamic reduction dressing. PS - the chef studied cuisine in Vancouver, Canada! *La Leche offers a $30 prix fixe menu to all noliZONE guests.

The Splurge - Cafe des Artistes En vogue and whimsical, Cafe Des Artistes oozes posh. The restaurant itself is a lavish work of art and the food takes it up a notch with artful renditions of coastal Mexican fare. *Cafe Des Artists does not have a noliZONE prix fixe menu, but it's 100% worth a visit.

Do Take A Stroll

Puerto Vallarta rises from 40 miles of coastline toward the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Don your walking shoes because it's worth the uphill stroll on Liz and Richard's former cobblestone side streets on which you'll find their crumbling abodes. Back at the sea, a 6000-foot pedestrian Malecón stretches between the ocean and the town's shops and restaurants.

Take A Cooking Class - Cookin' Vallarta

Set in an open-air kitchen beside a rectangular pool {it's Mexico after all}, I learned to make proper: guac, salsa, hand-pressed tortillas, tortilla soup and mole chicken. As the sous chef I might be slightly biased, but it was the best-in-class Mexican I'd ever tasted, and I left with recipes for each dish! Don't even ask me how many times I've sliced, diced and devoured guac since I've returned home. *This cooking class is offered as part of the noliZONE. At the time of my travel the cost had not yet been determined, but I got the idea it would be between $20 - 40 cdn.

[photos by @tripstyler---except cafe des artistes & la leche---shot while a guest of Air Transat in PV]