Officially United Mexican States, republic (1995 est. pop. 93,986,000), 753,665 sq mi (1,952,500 sq km), S North America. It borders on the United States in the north, on the Gulf of Mexico (including its arm, the Bay of Campeche) and the Caribbean Sea in the east, on Belize and Guatemala in the southeast, and on the Pacific Ocean in the south and west. Mexico is divided into 31 states and the Federal District, which includes most of the country's capital and largest city, Mexico City.
Most of Mexico is highland or mountainous and less than 15% of the land is arable; about 25% of the country is forested. Most of the Yucatán peninsula and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the southeast is lowland, and there are low-lying strips of land along the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of California
In the south the deserts yield to the broad, shallow lakes of a region, comprising the Valley of Mexico, known as the Anáhuac and famous for its rich cultural heritage. South of the Anáhuac, which includes Mexico City, is a chain of extinct volcanoes, including Citlaltépetl , or Orizaba (18,700 ft/5,700 m, the highest point in Mexico), Popocatépetl , and Iztaccihuatl . To the south are jumbled masses of mountains and the Sierra Madre del Sur.
The great majority of the population are of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent and speak Spanish, the official language, as their first language. Various Mayan dialects are also spoken. Since 1920 the population of Mexico has had a very high rate of growth, almost entirely the result of natural increase; from 1940 to 1990 the population grew from 19.6 million to 81.1 million.
Puerto Vallarta lies along Banderas Bay, the second largest bay in the Western Hemisphere. It is located 352 kilometers (219 miles) from Guadalajara, the state capital of Jalisco, and it is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range. The region has many forests, rivers and waterfalls, with an average temperature of 27° C (80° F).
Of its many attractions we recommend Playa Mismaloya, which gained fame after director John Huston filmed “The Night of the Iguana” (starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton) there in 1963. This beach is a popular celebrity hangout. The impressive rock formations of Los Arcos emerge from the bay’s crystalline waters, which are great for diving and discovering incredible underwater mountains and steeps. The city hall has murals painted by Manuel Lepe, and the Malecon (sea wall) is adorned with romantic bronze sculptures. What’s more, the streets of downtown offer shops and galleries that sell local paintings and sculptures of local artists. The city, known for its top-notch services, also has golf courses, boutiques and a marina, comprising of sail boats and yachts.
In Puerto Vallarta you can enjoy the services of the Boutique and Gran Turismo hotels, the exquisite regional cuisine of Jalisco that so many people have come to love, and the terraces of open-air restaurants. You can also watch cruise ships roll in as you take in an incredible sunset.
Sportfishing is just one of many activities you can do during your stay in Puerto Vallarta. Each year, during the month of November, the International Sailfish Fishing Tournament takes place. Because of that and so much more, Vallarta is the ideal place for a relaxing and enjoyable stay.
*Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2003.