Puerto Vallarta Feature

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Top Attractions in Puerto Vallarta

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is dedicated to the patron saint of Mexico and of Puerto Vallarta. The holy mother's image, by Ignacio Ramírez, is the centerpiece of the cathedral's slender marble altarpiece. The brick bell tower is topped by a lacy-looking crown that replicates the one worn by Carlota, short-lived empress of Mexico. The wrought-iron crown toppled during an earthquake that shook this area of the Pacific Coast in October 1995 but was soon replaced with a fiberglass version, supported, as was the original, by a squadron of stone angels. This was replaced with a newer and larger rendition in October 2009. Calle Hidalgo between Iturbide and Zaragoza, Centro, Puerto Vallarta, 48330. No phone. 7:30 am–8 pm daily.

Museo Arqueológico

Pre-Columbian figures and Indian artifacts are on display at the Archaeological Museum. There's a general explanation of Western Pacific cultures and shaft tombs and abbreviated but attractive exhibits of Aztatlán and Purépecha cultures and the Spanish conquest. Western tip of Isla Río Cuale, Centro, Puerto Vallarta, 48330. No phone. By donation. Mon.–Sat. 10–6.

Jardín Botánico de Puerto Vallarta

On 20 acres of land 19 km (12 mi) south of town, the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens features more than 3,000 species of plants. Set within the tropical dry forest at 1,300 feet above sea level, its trails lead to a stream where you can swim; palm, agave, and rose gardens; a tree fern grotto; an orchid house; and displays of Mexican wildflowers and carnivorous plants. There are free parking and a free guided tour daily at 1 pm December through Easter. The lovely, open-sided Hacienda de Oro restaurant serves an array of starters as well as pizza and Mexican dishes. Beverages include wine and a full bar. Go to its Web site to arrange a four-hour birding (via ATV) or hiking tour, with lunch, for $85 per person. A taxi here will cost about $20, but for less than a dollar, you can take the "El Tuito" bus from the corner of Aguacate and Venustiano Carranza streets. Another tip: Slather on insect repellent before you go, and take some with you. This is the jungle, and jejenes (no-see-ums), mosquitoes, and other biting bugs can be counted on to attack. Carretera a Barra de Navidad Km 24, Las Juntas y Los Veranos, Puerto Vallarta, 48447. 322/223–6182. www.vallartabotanicalgardensac.org. $3. Mon.–Sat. 10–6.

La Tobara

Turtles sunning themselves on logs, crocodiles masquerading as logs, water-loving birds, and exotic orchids make the maze of green-brown canals that is La Tobara an out-of-town must for nature lovers. Launches putter along these waterways from El Conchal Bridge, at the outskirts of San Blas, about a three-hour drive from Marina Vallarta, or from the nearby village of Matanchén. After cruising along for about 45 minutes—during which you'll have taken way too many photos of the mangrove roots that protrude from the water and the turtles—you arrive at spring-fed freshwater pools for which the area is named. You can hang out at the restaurant overlooking the pool or play Tarzan and Jane on the rope swing. Most folks take the optional trip to a crocodile farm on the way back, stretching a two-hour tour into three hours. El Conchal Bridge, entrance to/exit from San Blas, San Blas, 63744. 323/108–4174 (cell). $9 per person; $28 for the whole boat. Daily 10–5.

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