HomeCraftSpotlightMoviemaking in Mexico: Why Puerto Vallarta is the place to be

Moviemaking in Mexico: Why Puerto Vallarta is the place to be

Filmmakers have taken advantage of the natural locations and architecture in Puerto Vallarta for decades. If you have to film, why not film in paradise?

Moviemaking in Mexico: Why Puerto Vallarta is the place to be

Puerto Vallarta has long been a location favored by the Hollywood elite. It all started back in 1964 with John Huston’s legendary Night of the Iguana

Over the years, the celebrity fascination with the Riviera Nayarit and Jalisco coast that began with Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor has continued to thrive with A-listers such as the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lawrence, Joe Jonas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Eva Longoria, Christina Aguilera, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones taking their vacations in the picturesque locations. 

To celebrate the newest season of Bachelor in Paradise, we thought it was high time to talk Puerto Vallarta on film & TV.

Filming in Mexico is very similar to filming in Canada, except of course for the weather, language, culture, weather, landmarks, architecture, weather, and weather. While filmmakers have fled to the Great White North and many U.S. cities away from Tinseltown to take advantage of tax incentives and production-friendly locations, a significant number have headed south to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

TV shows and filmmakers have taken advantage of the natural locations and modern architecture in the area. After all, if you have to film, why not film in paradise?

Limitless (2011)

Directed by Neil Burger (Divergent) and starring Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, A Star is Born) and Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents, Taxi Driver), Limitless tells the story of how a struggling writer is able to become a financial wizard with the help of a mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100% of his brain abilities. 

Like all magic pills, the smart drug also introduces him to a new world with plenty of danger and intrigue. 

Puerto Vallarta is shown when a Maserati dives off a cliff on the Marietas Islands, a resort in Punta Mita. Many of the scenes were filmed in Old Town Vallarta, where tourists and locals were able to watch as the city’s main avenue, Avenida Paseo Diaz Ordaz, was closed to traffic for a car chase scene.

Other Banderas Bay area filming locations included Colonia Conchas Chinas on the southern shores of Puerto Vallarta, Casa China Blanca, North Shore Puerto Vallarta, and Las Islas Marietas & Punta Mita across the border in the neighboring state of Nayarit, with a local villa playing a featured role.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008) 

While on vacation in Mexico, ritzy Beverly Hills Chihuahua Chloe finds herself lost and in need of assistance in order to get back home. The film stars Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Freaky Friday) and Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly). 

Beverly Hills Chihuahua features key locations in and around Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara in Jalisco, near Hermosillo in the Sonora Desert up north, and in Mexico City. Several Beverly Hills locations – including the interior and backyard of Aunt Viv’s mansion and an upscale lunch spot – were actually filmed on location in Puerto Vallarta.

Predator (1987)

A team of commandos on a mission to a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior. Predator stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator, Total Recall) and Carl Weathers (Happy Gilmore, Rocky), and much of the movie was filmed in the jungles south of Puerto Vallarta at what is now known as El Edén. 

A few initial shots when the cadre arrives at the start of the movie were filmed at the charming beach town of Boca de Tomatlán. The Predator might be a murderous space alien, but he had fabulous taste in vacation spots.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

The cryptozoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, three-headed King Ghidorah. 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel, The Conjuring) and Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) and saw the sci-fi monster battle “ancient super species”. The film’s producer Alex Garcia said filming in Mexico City would “not only have an economic impact, but will also attract the world’s attention”. Mayor Mancera hoped the film would recreate the positive impact that the James Bond film Spectre had. 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters’s opening scene saw the spy take part in a Day of the Dead parade in the city’s Zócalo square. The fictional scene proved so popular that Mexico City authorities decided to organize a parade inspired by the film and, after it drew large numbers of tourists, have made it an annual event.

Bachelor in Paradise (2014 – )

Contestants from previous seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have another chance to fall in love in Bachelor in Paradise. Filming of Bachelor in Paradise season 2 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico took place for six weeks between May and June, and Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit helped its production with logistics, filming locations, and rooms for cast and crew in the area.

Last year, The Bachelor Canada also filmed a single episode in Nuevo Vallarta, just north of Puerto Vallarta. The Riviera Nayarit Tourism Director said Bachelor in Paradise would imagine an entire season of The Bachelor filmed on location in the area. After all, Bachelor spinoffs involve beautiful people crying in beautiful locations, and it’s fitting that Bachelor in Paradise would be shot in an actual paradise.

Feeling inspired to take your vacation in Puerto Vallarta this season? Here’s our quick guide to traveling like a celebrity in Western Mexico.

Where to stay

Rivera del Rio

This charming and decadently decorated hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the charmingly named Puerto Vallarta Romantic Zone (Zona Romántica). A little bird told us that the likes of Raquel Welsh and Hulk Hogan have called the hotel their temporary home. Complete with an epic riverside view of the charming Río Cuale, rooftop pool and hot tub, and the friendliest staff in the city, it’s a holiday home you won’t want to leave.

Casa Kimberly

Add a touch of luxury to your holiday at Casa Kimberly. Not only is the Casa a stunning establishment, but it also has an amazing restaurant and tequila bar. The hotel is Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s former homes combined to create nine suites, a spa, and a pool. 

Standing high above the Bay of Banderas, ignite the passion between Taylor and Burton into your holiday. You will see the beauty of Puerto Vallarta and be transported to a whole new world.

Where to eat

Full disclosure: Puerto Vallarta is a mecca for foodies and you can’t go wrong by heading to a neighborhood taco stand – look for Javi’s in Romántica for their cabeza tacos – or a popular comida corrida (quick meal bistro). However, if you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, these restaurants come highly recommended by locals.

La Leche

Blvd. Francisco Medina Ascencio Km 2.5
Zona Hotelera Norte

This hip white-on-white eatery features fascinating food combos and immaculate service, all while maintaining a certain laid-back vibe. Enjoy daily menus of Mexican and world fusion that manage to balance delicious flavors, unusual combinations, and creative presentation. Given its reasonable prices for the quality, La Leche is a must-visit for any foodie.

Thai Siam

Francisco I. Madero 271
Zona Romántica

A beautiful Thai restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, Thai Siam’s mission is to bring the taste of Thailand to Mexico. Situated in the Old Town, the restaurant is a must for anyone who loves Thai food and sophisticated dining. 

Features a variety of tasty traditional Southeast Asian cuisine, made with fresh local produce and friendly service, with a range of cocktails. They even offer a takeout option for when you’re tending your sunburn back at the hotel.

River Café

#4 Isla Río Cuale
Centro

River Café is famous for its reasonably priced Sunday brunch which features delicious food in an incredible atmosphere right on the riverbank. For lunch or dinner the spot is incredible for a great romantic meal.

Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana

Hidalgo 335
Proyecto escola
Centro

Its forgettable name doesn’t do this great restaurant justice. The charming, intimate eatery does delicious deep Mexican flavors with a wonderfully authentic ambience just a few steps from the Guadalupe cathedral, right in the center of town. Best carnitas in Vallarta and the cutest pet birds, too.

El Arrayán

Allende 344
Centro

El Arrayán is a traditional Mexican restaurant with an intimate atmosphere situated in the heart of Downtown Puerto Vallarta just a few steps off the Malecón (boardwalk). The restaurant offers a variety of delicious, authentic Mexican dishes made with homemade sauces and moles. 

El Arrayán’s comfortable dining room features Mexican art set against beautiful traditional furniture. The dining happens in a beautiful traditional courtyard, which gathers around a picturesque arrayán tree.

La Dolce Vita

Paseo Díaz Ordaz 674
Centro

Good Italian food, stunning views, reasonable prices. What’s not to love? 

La Tostadería

Iturbide 236
Proyecto escola
Centro

Despite its reasonable prices, La Tostadería is not a comida corrida spot – all their food is made fresh to order. Dine for breakfast or lunch with friendly service (often by the charming owner himself) and an unbeatable ocean view just footsteps from the Malecón for the price of a fancy coffee back home. (Speaking of which: you’ll need to bring your own milk!)

Merida Grill

Venustiano Carranza 210
Emiliano Zapata

Enjoy stunning Yucatán cuisine with fresh and carefully selected ingredients in a colorful setting. Try the duck carnitas for a rich and rare treat.

Fei Long

Calle San Salvador 378
5 de Diciembre

When you get tired of great Mexican food, take a break with some good Chinese at Fei Long. No need to change your beach trunks though – the casual local atmosphere will 

La Palapa

Los Muertos Beach
Pulpito 105-3
Emiliano Zapata

A good choice among the several directly on the beach in the Zona Romántica: tasty tropical Mexican cuisine in a more formal setting.

Café Des Artistes

Guadalupe Sánchez 740
Centro

This Vallarta landmark was the first to serve haute cuisine when the resort was a mere glorified fishing village. Great live music, a gorgeous ambience, and immaculate service accompany French-inflected fusion dining that likely once saw better days. For the price, we recommend La Leche more.

Fredy’s Tucan

Basilio Badillo 245
Emiliano Zapata

Every town has that one breakfast place that is simply the best: great service, fun ambience, great menu variety, awesome grub. For Puerto Vallarta, Fredy’s Tucan is undoubtedly the breakfast diner. Their motto is “We love to make you happy” and they certainly deliver. (They serve lunch, too.) Tip: sit inside on the right tucked in under the ACs on a hot day.

Where to get coffee

Miscelánea Vallarta

Calle Juárez 728A
Centro

This adorable coffee shop and AirBnB is run by a group of fierce women. Its design is Instagram-friendly and locally sourced coffee, chocolate, and juices are perfect for keeping you refreshed.

Choco Museo

Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez 128
Centro

In addition to its fun chocolate-working classes (great for home chefs and kids), shop, and informative (and incredibly great-smelling) mini-museum, Choco Museo has an adorable café on its top floor overlooking Banderas Bay. 

Must-tries include: delicious cold-brew coffee with gourmet cacao nibs; the best classic (European-style) hot chocolate you’ll ever drink; and a sinful pastry creation called the Choco Delirio – a dark, dark chocolate ganache cake slice that’s just enough for four.

Where to work out

davannayoga

Calle Matamoros #542
El Cerro

If you’re looking to get centered and prefer your yoga with a view, davannayoga has two epic yoga spaces for you to enjoy. The main studio space has a view to the ocean and the incredible rooftop space has a 360º view from ocean to mountain tops. 

Davannayoga is pretty much the OG of yoga in Puerto Vallarta. They’re famous for their teacher training school and friendly community classes. All this, and it sits next to the Old Hollywood hangout Los Cuatro Vientos, which was a favorite of Peter O’Toole.

Best beach clubs

Puerto Vallarta is spoiled by the sheer number of beach clubs and beach bars, where you can get free seats with a view all for the price of a beer. 

Mantamar Beach Club Bar & Grill

Malecon 169
Zona Romántica

If you’re looking for the party, you’ll want to head to Mantamar on the weekend. This queer venue is the place to be for (beautiful) people-watching, house music, and good vibes. It boasts an infinity pool, international DJ’s, and an in-house mixologist. Good times at Mantamar don’t come cheap; if you’re looking to rent a private cabana or space, expect to pay for it.

Sapphire Ocean Club

Malecón 1
Zona Romántica
Amapas

Sapphire Ocean Club sits next door to Mantamar and mixes high-end design with luxury amenities. There’s a saltwater pool, high-quality beach chairs, towels, and waiter service. You’ll find a more sedate crowd here, but if you visit on the weekend expect to hear the bass from Mantamar.

Swell Beach Bar

Amapas 182
Zona Romántica
Amapas

The self-proclaimed “best beach bar in Puerto Vallarta” specializes in delicious local cuisine and offers great service.

Best place to cowork

Natureza CoWork 

Mérida 75d
La Vena

We’re sorry if you have to work on your vacation – but if you must, at least do so in style. Natureza offers high-speed internet, an on-site cafe, discounts on their sister business (a gourmet restaurant), and a comfy, stylish atmosphere. The offices and coffee shop are also incredibly Instagram-friendly. Available for professionals looking for exceptional work spaces and need easy access to a barista.

Share With:

Daisy Franklin is an adventuress, rabblerouser, and all-around snarky bon viveur. She worked in the music business for ten years and it made her absolutely miserable. Now she works as a freelance writer and is working on her first book, 'Live to Fail Another Day'.

daisy@filmdaily.co