The history of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico follows a tale similar to many other coastal regions in the Americas, one of discovery by the Spanish conquerors and growth from simple fishing village to glitzy travel hub over the course of several centuries.
In the 16th century following the defeat of more than 10,000 Indians at the hands of Spanish conquistadors under the leadership of colonizer Hernan Cortes, the bay was renamed “Banderas” after the colorful flags carried by the local warriors. PV, or “Vallarta” as it’s known in Spanish, has come a long way since the early 20th century, when it was an important center for mining in the Sierra towns, and later, an agricultural producer thanks to the rich soil in the neighboring lush Ameca River valley.
However it wasn’t until the 1950s when American beatnik writers and artists discovered the area that Puerto Vallarta began to grow in popularity with tourists seeking warmer climes. In the 1960s the Mexican federal government expanded highway infrastructure, making the beach getaway more accessible by land.
But perhaps the defining moments which boosted Vallarta into the limelight as an international tourist destination was in 1963 when U.S. movie director John Huston filmed “The Night of the Iguanas” in the tiny town of Mismaloya, just south of the town. The frenzy generated by media coverage of Elizabeth Taylor’s extramarital affair with co-star Richard Burton put Puerto Vallarta solidly on the map for Americans looking for a romantic beach holiday.