Puerto Vallarta Offers Haven for Newlyweds

Williford is a Times copy editor.

We stood on our eighth-floor terrace, scanning the miles of beach wrapped around Banderas Bay. Directly below us, around the Fiesta Americana hotel pool, lay bathers sunning themselves like lazy iguanas. We relaxed, held each other's hand and thought: This is the place.

Puerto Vallarta proved that it is the place-- for couples, for honeymooners, for families, for peace-loving singles; for boat trips, for parasailing, for evening strolls along El Malacon.

As honeymooners, it is doubtful that my wife, Corliss, and I could have chosen a more delightful Mexican place to do what we had hoped to do on our perfect honeymoon--nothing. Like any sensible newlyweds, we spent much of our time in the room, waking late every day with few plans and fewer responsibilities. Mornings, we'd draw back the curtains on our tropical haven and drowsily watch the sunbathers below, browning slowly like plump chickens on a rotisserie.

Colonial Charm After a sometimes too-heavy lunch we'd join the sunbathers, sweating in the blazing sunshine and quaffing soft drinks and ice water to cool off.

Like any other resort worth its sunburns, PV has its beaches, its tours, its shopping, its sights to see; as a tropical town, it has a fine colonial charm, with low, white buildings and knotty cobblestone streets.

These, for us, were adequate attractions. We had planned our honeymoon around a foreign place with modern accommodations and had purposely avoided the exotic or sybaritic resorts where most vacationers seem on a desperate search for something different. We only sought good weather and good food in a quiet place far from home. We found that and more in Puerto Vallarta.

It was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who helped establish Puerto Vallarta when they carried on a well-publicized love affair while Burton was filming "The Night of the Iguana" at nearby Mismaloya Beach 20 years ago. The town has enjoyed a romantic reputation ever since.

Part of the charm of PV for honeymooners is its relatively isolated locale. You don't have to go far to see the kind of primitive village it must have been 30 years ago. A trip to nearby Yelapa (we took a two-hour boat ride) takes you back in time: no running water, no electricity, women washing their laundry in streams, pigs, iguanas, thatch-roof cabanas along the beach that give the area the look of Capt. Cook's South Pacific.

Inevitable Expansion Puerto Vallarta, however, is a lively honeymoon destination, what with the requisite discos and night life. Today it is experiencing the inevitable expansion in both hotel rooms and condos.

Friends and travel advisers had cautioned us about the long lines at restaurants, and we'd heard how hotels had a habit of overbooking their rooms, but we had no such problems. But then we were traveling in the off-season, considerably before the main tourist season and well into the rainy season. The rains hardly affected us.

In our good fortune, we arrived just after a major storm with hurricane warnings had passed through. During the week of our stay it seemed to rain in brief periods, mainly at those times when we were already inside. Sunshine was the order of every day.

Because Puerto Vallarta is linked to the United States and other Mexican cities by six airlines and is a regular and important stopover for some cruise ships from California, it is a prime destination for honeymooners--of all ages.

Next year, perhaps, we'll try Yelapa, the laid-back resort down the coast a few miles, with its out-of-touch sense of timelessness. The perfect spot for a first anniversary. . . .

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