There is a good chance that Mexico’s state of Jalisco is better known for its parts than its whole. Jalisco is where vacationers flock to Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, and where city-lovers and business travelers descend on Guadalajara.
“Jalisco is a way of life — we work hard but we enjoy life,” said Aurelio Lopez Rocha, Jalisco’s Minister of Tourism. “Jalisco is the home of the mariachi. The Indian and Spanish culture blends in a potent, positive mix and, in my opinion, we have the best writers and painters in Mexico.”
Rocha continued, “Before the present [economic] crisis, Guadalajara was the best connected city in the country. Volaris [airlines] is doing a great job in connecting Guadalajara, as are Mexicana Airlines and Alaska Airlines.”
Low-cost carrier Volaris recently inaugurated nonstop flights from Oakland, Calif., to Guadalajara. At the same time, Volaris also added daily nonstops to Toluca, its hub (about a 45-minute cab ride from Mexico City). And a third route is planned from Oakland to Tijuana later this month.
“We haven’t done enough to show the many different tourism opportunities in Jalisco in addition to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta,” said Rocha. “We’re also looking for higher-spending tourists.”
Rocha pointed out that a great lure to Jalisco is Costa Careyes, where Italian artist and financier, Gian Franco Brignone developed 4,000 acres of beachfront south of Puerto Vallarta. The resort destination is attracting the well-heeled traveler in search of understated luxury far from the paparazzi. Fully-staffed villas start at $7,000 a night. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive south of Puerto Vallarta; guests can also fly in via small private charter airplanes operating between the Puerto Vallarta International Airport and a 4,000 feet grass landing strip near Careyes in Chamela.
Puerto Vallarta has seen substantial new investments in the historic downtown area, including, of, the malecon (boardwalk).
“The historic downtown area is unique, distinguishing Puerto Vallarta from other resort destinations in Mexico,” observes Rocha. “In the last three years, $9 million was invested in the streets, lighting and renovation of buildings.”
Four months ago, Puerto Vallarta received a new $50 million convention center, the Centro Internacional de Convenciones de Puerto Vallarta. The new venue is located near the protected El Salado Estuaryten, near the airport and marina. The center can host groups of up to 5,000 people, and its largest Grand Exhibit Hall measure 53,000 square feet. Nice touches are VIP salons with luxury dressing rooms, an on-site restaurant and free Wi-Fi throughout.
One of Mexico’s most engaging ideas in recent years is its Magic Towns program. Begun in 2001, Mexico’s Magic Towns run the gamut from small villages to fairly large cities. What they have in common is authentic Mexican appeal and locations that are slightly off the tourism track. The theory is that linking these towns through easy-to-drive tourism routes will encourage visitors to venture out on their own and explore these relatively undiscovered gems. Towns accepted into the program have access to federal funds for promotion and physical improvements. There are currently 23 of these towns, with one in almost every state; Jalisco has three of them.
“Our three Magic Towns are Tapalpa, Mazamitla and Tequila,” said Rocha. “We are currently looking for a fourth Magic Town. We want it to be close to Puerto Vallarta. Several towns are in the running.”www.visitmexico.com