When I first visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in February 1979, I stayed at the Molino de Agua Hotel, which at that time was a tropical jungle getaway complete with monkeys and macaws. After landing in the quaint airport, we were all shuffled into a bus and driven to the terminal which was itty bitty but wildly impressive since at the entranceway mariachi broke into music greeting us to their city. Senoritas handed out key chains which were attached with a miniature sombrero and bottle of tequila [real!]. This tropical lure led me to learn about the national residents and visiting travelers from all over the world. Life was vastly different from the United States which was a major part of the draw, to a way of life dissimilar to what I had become accustomed.
Immediately I knew that Puerto Vallarta was a special and spiritual place where I would have many wonderful experiences alone and with friends, new and old. The cobblestone ‘highway’ south to Río Cuale bumped my body with joy. ‘Gracias’ brought smiles to the beautiful faces. Shopkeepers were eager and happy to please me, and the souvenirs mounted. “Want to buy my cheap Mexican junk?”
The town grew larger, become a metropolitan area stretching along the Pacific Ocean and the Bahía de Banderas. Condominium complexes replaced hotels as the desired structures to construct. Along Francisco Medina Ascencio in the early eighties there were The Holiday Inn, The Sheraton and The Rosita. Enormous acreages lay weed-filled with million dollar views. Soon that would start to change and investors flocked to our community. I viewed these events as progress. Once it becomes known as a desirable location, growth occurs.
Coming from San Francisco, California, I moved here after many yearly visits, which grew from three to five month stays. I traveled with eyes wide open to nearby towns such as Rincon de Guayabitos to Yelapa and Tehuamixtle to San Sebastián del Oeste and Talpa.
In the early visits, our dining choices were few and well-chosen. Taco stands were not sanitary, as many have become now. ‘Gourmet’ did not exist. One early visit highlighted a new restaurant on the river called Le Bistro. It was a black tiled jazz club serving quality food in creations unknown to us. I traveled with my restaurant working friends so dining was of top importance. New places seemed to spring up overnight with the fine Café des Artistes providing top culinary works to worldwide praise. Gradually, visitors who happened to be chefs back home started taking up residence in this area resulting in the food selections growing with an International flavor.
The allurement of the people, culture, flora and fauna, food, live entertainment, simpler way of life, happiness and love brought people here once, then again and again. Puerto Vallarta possesses a healthy addiction we must never lose.
By Gary R. Beck