Tom and I first started going to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) in the mid/late 70's.
For about 20 years we went yearly. OMG the changes!
The airport Oh my gosh! The airport itself is really nice, but trying to depart the area is an obstacle course of vendors. Do Not make eye contact, walk rapidly through them all until you get outside the airport, then get your cab. You pay a premium to use the airport taxis. Tom and I are fairly light packers so we departed the airport and walked out to the road and down a short way and got a regular taxi and paid 120mxp to get from the airport to the Conchas Chinas area where our friends were staying. If we had opted for an airport cab the rate listed was 260mxp.
We have always stayed South of the Rio Cuale. We always, well almost always, ate at small cocina economicas or small food stands. We were budget travellers. Not anymore, and good thing, because PVR is expensive!!
We could get week long packages for air and hotel for just a few hundred dollars each. ONCE, we stayed at an all inclusive in what was then a newly developing area to the North (Blue Bay Getaway) not even as far as the marina. And even the all inclusive was only about 500USD each ... We ate breakfast on the grounds then took off, we tried to utilize their grounds but they were all about loud music, tequila shots, and group pool dances,... eeeeshkkkk!
Puerto Vallarta used to be called exactly that - Pueto Vallarta - Now, due to ever increasing expansion, there is Viejo Vallarta, Marina Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, WhoKnowsWhatsNext Vallarta - so now it's just called 'Vallarta'.
Vallarta is all about Tourists! Vendors are thick everywhere you go, and aggressive, and insistent, and annoying, and will make me think twice before going back.
English is widely spoken.
The Beach was PACKED! It was really crowded.
The beach, which I believe is Public Domain, is none the less segmented into private Domains; and you can tell as you move between domains, it is that obvious. Inside each domain a restaurant/hotel/whatever has set up their umbrellas, seats, tables, kingdom. That's ok, I do like beach service! Drinks are expensive, food is expensive, but hey, you're at the beach.
There are 'Special' Beach Domains set up for 'Gays'. It's odd to me that there are notices stating that this beach is a 'Gay' beach. There is even a Gay AND Lesbian Domain. Are Gays not allowed at the other areas? Am I not allowed in the Gay area, or is it a warning? Although I must admit it must be nice to be able to openly affectionate with your loved one - Something I as a straight person take for granted! The ability to walk hand in hand, or with your arms around each other, or to share a kiss. To ALL my gay friends - I am SO sorry you need to be gaurded with your affections. So sorry!
Shopping - I was looking for some little remembrances to bring back for friends - I couldn't find anything there that I can't find at the beach areas here around Merida, and for less Money! A friend there, who buys beautiful large scale silver and stones jewelry had been looking at pieces in Vallarta, and then on a day trip to Bucerias found same/similar pieces for, in some cases, 100USD less. I bought a candle at the grocery, and a pullover cotton jacket because I was so cold.
The food options - and oh there were/are options. It's one thing we do miss here in Merida are food options. Things are changing here in Merida, and more exciting food options are evolving, but at a price. We did take advantage of the options in Vallarta, we ate alot and often. Even staying in a condo with a kitchen we almost exclusively ate out. Now I can be conservative when eating at home, but for whatever reason when I go out, it is no holds barred, I eat, I eat a lot, and I eat it all....
Mountains! Vallarta sits against a mountain, and is built upon and expanding up the mountain. Oh the vistas, the altitude, the weather changes, it really was lovely. Although the 10 days we were there the temperatures were quite low! Only got my feet in the water, and even then, brrrr!
Buses, bus transportaion in Vallarta is an 'E' ride. Tickets within Vallarta are 6.5pesos each, no transfers, each entry requires payment. Buses to outlying areas are more depending on where you awe going. Buses have assigned stops, but will pick you up sometimes in between stops. They will pick up as many people as are willing to squeeze into the aisle. If the bus you need is coming in your direction you need to wave, or stick up your hand to let them know you want them to stop, else they keep going. Do not expect them to let you get seated before they start going again.
Taxis are quite reasonable. You get/agree on a price BEFORE you get going. The price is for the taxi, not per person. There are Zones, with fixed rates; unfortunately only the cabbies seem to have access to this info!
Just some random observances I wanted to share, of course being with friends makes everything seem ok.