Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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Tucked away between the southern portion of the Sierra Madre Mountains and Banderas Bay, the second largest of its kind in the Americas, Puerto Vallarta is a non-stop flurry of cultural, historical and natural attractions. The perks of an escape to the Pacific side of Mexico are no more evident than in its surroundings, which allow you to kayak along its shores, spot humpback whales during the winter, try your hand at sportfishing and snorkel the waters around Los Arcos, visible from the coastline, or the Marietas Islands. On land, adventure options run from canopy tours for close-up views of hundreds of bird species and indigenous foliage to jeep rides along the foothills of the mountains. Beautiful hotels, including the new Now Amber offer easy access to any of these options as well as to a game of golf at one of the many lovely courses in the area.

Beach time is also easily penciled into the schedule from downtown Vallarta, thanks to a popular boardwalk, dotted by sculptures, that frames the city on one side. On the other side lies the heart of the city, where the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe looks over the main plaza and over many rooftops with its beautiful crown. Cupolas, cobblestoned streets and red tiles characterize this colonial urban vista, which holds treasures such as the Teatro Saucedo, which opened its doors in 1922 and still reminds us of Europe’s belle epoque.

Film, food and art events taking place throughout the year add to the city’s lively cultural scene. Among the most famous is an Art Walk that runs from October through April and offers evening access downtown Puerto Vallarta’s many galleries. This is a city of pleasures both man- and nature-made.