Puerto Vallarta was not originally created for modern tourism. Puerto Vallarta enjoys a definite history of its own. The original population, as recent discoveries and archeological studies show, was of various tribes of Aztec Indians. They developed cultural and commercial relations along the Pacific coast. Puerto Vallarta was part of the pre-Columbian indigenous kingdom of Xalisco. The ancient people took advantage of the fertile lands of the Valley of Banderas. The sea was overlooked as the main resource. Even today, Puerto Vallarta is not a bustling shipping port. Puerto Vallarta's port facilities serve only cruise ships and recreational craft.
The Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Banderas) and the Valle de Banderas (Valley of Banderas) were named by the Spanish when Hernan Cortez's nephew was traveling in this area. He encountered several native warriors with banners and outfits made of colorful bird feathers. The Spaniards had flags with the Spanish Herald and the Virgin Mary apparently shone the metal with the sunlight and the reflection drove them off. The town that is now Puerto Vallarta first began when the enterprising Guadalupe Sanchez established a trading post on the banks of Rio Cuale to supply salt to the gold and silver mines in the mountains toward Guadalajara. The ore was loaded into ships waiting in the bay. The three offshore rock formations south of town were navigational landmarks from earlier times. The original name of the early municipality was Puerto de las Peñas, named for the prominent rocks. Puerto Vallarta was named after Don Ignacio Luis Vallarta a well-known governor of the State of Jalisco.
The Spanish expeditions started in the beginning of the 15th Century in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains that surround the Valley of Banderas. They discovered mines that were exploited later in the century. The mineral was moved by mules and donkeys ashore, to be transported to Spain. The town began to grow peacefully; the people started fishing as a way of living. Slowly the area changed from a small ranch to a small very attractive town.
In 1918, a U.S. company, The Montgomery Corporation, was established in the north of Vallarta with a big banana plantation mainly for exportation. The area grew very quickly. The Company produced pre-built houses and a railroad to easily bring the product from the farm to the coast. Punta Mita, the northern point of the Bay, was known for its oysters and pearls found in that area.
Puerto Vallarta has been somewhat isolated by the surrounding Sierra Madre mountains and the lack of bridges over the rivers. There were no direct roads leading to the town until 1966 when the land around was leveled for building an international airport. By 1970 Puerto Vallarta was fully accessible by land, sea and air and Puerto Vallarta began to shape into a leading tourism destination.
Today Vallarta has grown as a modern city with more than 15,000 occupations. It has been modernized but at the same time has kept the old Mexican flavor intact. Natural beauty is well preserved and there are many projects going on to maintain the beauty of the surroundings. Puerto Vallarta has many attractive things to offer. You will find mountains, forests, rivers, and history, but the best thing is the warmth and kindness of the people.
Puerto Vallarta was known as "Puerto Las Peñas" from 1851 until 1918 when it was designated as a municipality and received the official name of "Puerto Vallarta". This was the name chosen in honor of Don Ignacio L. Vallarta, a reputable representative of the State of Jalisco at the time. For 30 years this small village remained a fishing village.
International attention was first drawn to Puerto Vallarta after American director John Houston discovered the natural beauties of the town by reading written descriptions from travelers. This prompted Mr. Houston to visit Puerto Vallarta and the result was the filming of the movie "Night of the Iguana" in nearby Mismaloya. The film featured Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Puerto Vallarta has experienced massive growth in the northern part of town, including the Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta areas. Tennis courts, health clubs, golf courses and a large marina with up-to-date facilities make Puerto Vallarta a truly world class destination.
As Mexico's largest bay, Puerto Vallarta is perfectly positioned in its center and is one of the most beautiful bays in the world. We've certainly come a long way from a sleepy little fishing village. Puerto Vallarta was destined to become a highly desirable international resort with some 3,700,000 tourists visiting last year alone.