Along this captivating stretch of Pacific coast, where the jungle meets the sea, a global village of surfers, cowboys, expats and celebrities gather in a laidback paradise.
Author Jordan Heller Photography Kevin J. Miyazaki
TAKE A LEISURELY DRIVE down the lush Mexican Riviera, a stretch of coastline dotted with small fishing villages and surf towns, and anchored by the bustling metropolis of Puerto Vallarta, and you’ll notice some curious sights. Cacti and palm trees share the same ecosystem with crocs, raccoon-like tejons, sea turtles and iguanas; and Mexican ranchers and farmers share pristine beach space and barstools with gringo expats, hippies and surf rats from points near and far northeast. Here, the jungle and the sea coexist in perfect harmony.
Historically, this part of Mexico consisted mostly of remote villages, but after John Huston filmed 1964’s The Night of the Iguana with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner here, it became a destination. San Francisco bohemians and the Hollywood glitterati began turning up seeking a respite from the rat race, and soon afterward cruise ships started to regularly port in Puerto Vallarta—including the fictitious Pacific Princess from The Love Boat.
Seldom has there been a better time to visit. Great deals abound, the beaches are pristine and uncrowded, and the natives welcome visitors with open arms—or at least a “Jalisco Jiveshake” (see sidebar). In this part of Mexico, where the locals leave their doors unlocked and their hearts open, the blazing sun is all you’ll need protection from. And for that, some sunscreen, a pair of shades and a classic Mexican straw fedora will do just fine.