Mismaloya: The Fishing Village That Transformed Puerto Vallarta Forever

How Mismaloya Changed Puerto Vallarta Forever

First, let’s briefly talk about Mismaloya’s history.

Mismaloya is a small town located in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. It is situated on the Pacific coast, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) south of Puerto Vallarta if you’re coming from Centro – so it’s easily accessible by car, bus, taxi etc. The town is known for its beautiful beaches, lush jungle, and bohemian atmosphere. But it was first inhabited many years before any of us knew about it!

Mismaloya Beach
Mismaloya Beach

Here are some facts and history about Mismaloya, Jalisco:

  • The name Mismaloya comes from the Nahuatl word “miztli,” meaning “jaguar,” and “malaya,” meaning “place of rest.”
  • The town was originally inhabited by the Huichol people. The Huichol people, also known as the Wixáritari, are an indigenous group that resides primarily in the mountainous regions of the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas, and Durango in Mexico. They have a rich cultural heritage and maintain strong ties to their traditional way of life.
  • The Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mismaloya in the 16th century.

Mismaloya was once a small fishing village, known for its abundant seafood and beautiful natural surroundings. If you know where to look, you can find fresh lobster, crab, octopus, and shrimp in the water – just with a simple snorkeling mask and spear/net. With excellent rocks that graze the edges of it’s beaches, Mismaloya has excellent snorkeling condition, and has been some of my favorite moments in the water here on Mexico’s west coast.

Huichol man
Huichol man stands in front of his artwork

How Mismaloya Changed Puerto Vallarta Forever

In the early 1960s, the town gained international fame when it was featured in the film “The Night of the Iguana,” starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner. Why was this so important, well it was monumental for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, the movie showcased the breathtaking natural beauty of Puerto Vallarta. The film was shot on location in Mismaloya, and it highlighted the area’s picturesque landscapes, pristine beaches, and lush jungles. The film’s visuals captivated audiences worldwide and put Puerto Vallarta on the map as a stunning tropical destination.

Atrium in Casa Kimberly
Atrium in Casa Kimberly

Second, celebrity presence. The film starred several high-profile actors of the time, including Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr. Their involvement in the movie generated immense media attention, drawing further interest in the film and its filming location. The presence of such renowned stars in Puerto Vallarta brought international exposure and glamour to the city.

Notably, the widely publicized romantic affair between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor played a pivotal role in changing the destiny of Puerto Vallarta. The couple fell in love with the city during the filming of ‘The Night of the Iguana’ and were so enamored that they decided to make it their home away from home. They went on to construct two iconic homes in what is now known as Gringo Gulch, a charming area just up the hill from Puerto Vallarta’s most famous landmark, the Cathedral de Guadalupe.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

The presence of Burton and Taylor in Puerto Vallarta sparked a wave of interest from other celebrities, who were drawn to the city’s unique charm and stunning views of the bay. This led to the development of prized real estate in the area, making Gringo Gulch a coveted neighborhood for those seeking an exclusive and picturesque setting.

One of the notable features of Burton and Taylor’s homes was the small white bridge that connected them (now called Casa Kimberly). This whimsical and romantic touch became an iconic symbol of their love and is still visible today as you stroll along the cobblestone streets of Gringo Gulch. For those interested in getting a closer look, it is possible to tour these historic homes and even walk across the bridge, offering a glimpse into the glamorous past and the enduring allure of Puerto Vallarta.

white bridge of love
The famous white bridge of love

Embarking on a tour of these homes and experiencing the bridge firsthand are two incredible opportunities that allow you to delve into the captivating history and charm of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a chance to connect with the legacy of Burton and Taylor while immersing yourself in the beauty and allure of this enchanting coastal city. The best way to view this place is:

  1. Stay at the boutique hotel which was once Elizabeth Taylor’s (3 suites available). It runs an average of $1,000 a night depending on the time of year, so this price can range slightly up or down. This allows you access to the grounds and to do a walkthrough of the property while basking in the sunset ocean views from your own private hot tub jacuzzi on the terrace.
  2. This is the second best way to view the property. When you dine at “The Iguana,” one of Vallarta’s fine dining restaurants, you wont have as much access to the homes – but you get to soak up the night time ambiance of this historic home – now restaurant. Every Tuesday and Friday night a mariachi band plays in the atrium next to do fountain – a wonderful experience for all diners.

Casa Kimberly Vallarta

Now, lets get back to the reasons Mismaloya changed the course of Puerto Vallarta’s history forever.

Reason number 3 – tourism boom: Following the film’s release, Puerto Vallarta experienced a significant surge in tourism. Travelers who had been enchanted by the movie’s portrayal of the area’s beauty flocked to the city to witness it for themselves. The influx of tourists brought economic growth, investments in infrastructure, and the development of hotels, restaurants, and other amenities to cater to the growing number of visitors.

This was the first time international eyes caught the sights of Puerto Vallarta, and because of the Night of the Iguana movie – Puerto Vallarta would never go back to its old ways of being a simple fishing village. It was now on the rise as a “must see” tropical getaway destination for Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.

Cultural Destination: Puerto Vallarta’s newfound fame as a filming location attracted not only tourists but also artists, writers, and filmmakers seeking inspiration and creative opportunities. The city’s vibrant art scene flourished as a result, with galleries, theaters, and cultural festivals emerging to celebrate and showcase the local and international artistic talent.

The increase in tourism prompted significant investments in infrastructure in Puerto Vallarta. New hotels, resorts, and restaurants were built to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The city’s infrastructure expanded to cater to the needs and expectations of international travelers, further enhancing the tourist experience.

The lasting legacy even decades after its release, “The Night of the Iguana” continues to be associated with Puerto Vallarta’s transformation. The film’s impact can still be felt in the city’s culture, tourism industry, and reputation as a top travel destination in Mexico.

South zone Vallarta

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Predator

Mismaloya also gained more fame in 1986/87 from the filming of “Predator” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since then, Mismaloya has become a popular destination for tourists, with its beautiful beaches, lush forests, and laid-back atmosphere.

Today, Mismaloya is home to a number of interesting attractions, including the Mismaloya Beach, the Mismaloya River, and the Mismaloya Waterfall, and Eden – a great place to relax and have a delicious lunch while taking in the sights of the jungle. Eden has some specific places you can visit where scenes of Predator were filmed in the jungle.

Mismaloya beach
Mismaloya beach in the summertime

Reason #4 is Mismaloya’s natural beauty.

The town along Mismaloya beach is also home to a number of small shops and restaurants, offering a variety of local crafts and cuisine. One of my favorite places to snorkel is around the rocks here at Mismaloya because of the variety of fish and clarity of the calm water. Some of the large blue spotted fish you see here up close are just incredible. Here I have seen turtles swimming around me, octopus, sting rays, and countless species of tropical fish.

When you’re tired of swimming, Mismaloya beach has plenty of restaurants right on the beach for you to quench any thirst or satisfy any hunger needs you may have.

mismaloya beach puerto vallarta
Home to lots of pelicans!

Reason # 5 of how Mismaloya changed Puerto Vallarta forever is its proximity to Los Arcos National Marine Park.

“Los Arcos” translates to “The Arches” in English, and it refers to a group of distinctive rock formations that rise out of the ocean, creating a unique and picturesque sight.

These rock formations are composed of granite and are known for their arch-like shapes, hence the name. The arches have been sculpted over time by the forces of nature, including waves and erosion. The surrounding waters are teeming with marine life, making it a popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, and other water activities.

Los Arcos
Los Arcos is close by

The Los Arcos Marine Natural Area is protected and designated as a national marine park. It is not only a popular attraction for tourists but also serves as an important habitat for a variety of marine species, including tropical fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and even humpback whales during the winter months. If you’re lucky you can spot the rare blue-footed booby bird. Los Arcos and the Marietas Islands are one of the only locations on Earth these interesting birds live.

blue footed booby
The interesting blue footed-booby

Visitors can explore Los Arcos by taking a boat tour or chartering a boat from nearby Puerto Vallarta. Many tour operators offer excursions that allow visitors to admire the beauty of the rock formations up close, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and observe the diverse marine life that inhabits the area. These tours and private yacht/boat charters through Palmara Yacht Charters will visit Los Arcos, and then venture to Mismaloya. This is mainly because Mismaloya is home to water activities such as kayaking, paddle-boarding, and jet-skiing.

Aside from the ocean and beach, many visitors of Mismaloya and the region will notice once you step inland away from the water, agave plantations are plentiful. Agave plants are used to produce tequila, a popular Mexican spirit. Visitors can learn about the tequila-making process and sample different varieties of tequila at local distilleries and haciendas.Local tours offer tequila tasting in Mismaloya and walk you through this history of tequila and the process behind Mexico’s most iconic drink.

For more information on Mismaloya, activities in the area, and booking a charter to see Los Arcos, contact us at Palmara.co anytime.

Mismaloya: The Jewel That Transformed Puerto Vallarta Forever
Reading and sunbathing aboard 62 ft 650 Prestige yacht


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