For those who like all things inclusive, Nuevo Vallarta is teeming with all-inclusive resorts right on Banderas Bay – the largest natural bay in Mexico. Not only are tourists drawn to this hub of Mexican culture, but hawksbills, leatherback turtles, and humpback whales hit up the shores every year too.
However, centuries before the tourist influx, the ever-intriguing history of Mexico tells us that Banderas Bay was discovered by the Spanish in the early 1500s. The name “Banderas” originated from the fact that conquered native groups would carry numerous flags and banners with them into battle.
Throughout the 16th century, adventurers, sailors and explorers used the area as a pit-stop on long voyages. The region around the bay also served as a convenient hideout for pirates. Farther inland the Spanish seized native lands and enslaved the hard-working indigenous people. Sadly, during the first 100 years of Spanish occupation approximately 90% of the native population was wiped out due disease.
As contemporary times began to roll around, a Municipality was formed in 1918, and the nearby port was renamed Puerto Vallarta in honor of the Governor of Jalisco, Ignacio L. Vallarta.
In response to the heavy demands of tourism, from 1965 to 1971, Francisco Medina Ascencio, governor of the state of Jalisco, moved forward with a vision to create the development and infrastructure needed to mold Puerto Vallarta and neighboring Nuevo Vallarta into a modern tourist destination. With firm backing by Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, the town received the financial resources it needed to build bridges, roads, and an international airport, as well as bring in electrical power and telephone service.
And today, Nuevo Vallarta has developed into a 3-mile long strip of sandy white Mexican beach lined with classy, upscale resorts. Besides being known as the best place to swim with dolphins, the waters are also perfect for dipping your toes in the water, getting some surfing lessons, sea kayak adventures, or just kicking back with a cocktail on the shore and soaking up that glorious vacation sun.