Interesting Facts about Banderas Bay

Banderas Bay is one of the most stunning and desirable vacation spots in Mexico, and there is no doubt that Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit provides the best base from which to sample all the delights of this region. If you read on you’ll find out some really interesting facts about Banderas Bay with which to impress your friends when you get together again.

Los Muertos Beach

Los Muertos beach is one of the most beloved beaches around Banderas Bay, but many people are a little put off when they realise that the name translates, literally, to The Beach of the Dead. Legend has it that, centuries ago, locals fought off a pirate raid on this beach, and did so with such ferocity that many pirates died on the sands. If you talk to locals in the bars they’ll happily tell you about how many skeletons were found when the first hotels were being built on the beach! Nonetheless, any party you have here is sure to be lively so don’t give Los Muertos the swerve!

Banderas Bay

Banderas Bay is the biggest bay in Mexico, but it’s also one of the deepest and largest bays in the world as a whole! Sitting at over 900 meters it is practically fathomless, and at 42 kilometres wide it is in amongst the 10 largest in the world. The name Banderas, too, has significance as it is based on the Spanish word for flag! It is said that the Spanish Conquistadores, upon arrival, faced 20,000 armed natives with feathered flags, ready to defend their territory!

Las Peñas

The town of Puerto Vallarta, that sites at the heart of Banderas Bay, used to be called Las Peñas, in the 1800s, but was renamed after state governor Ignacio Vallarta in the 1900s.

Source of Income

Today, Puerto Vallarta’s 9 billion peso economy is based most upon tourism and the service industry, but before it became such a hotspot the town was a fishing centre. In those days the main source of revenue for Puerto Vallarta was the export of Corn, Coconuts, Beans, and Bananas to the USA (and, of course, feeding the local market).

The Movie Industry

Many famous faces have graced the shores of Banderas Bay for business and pleasure, and Puerto Vallarta, arguably, became what it is today because of one special movie. The Night of the Iguana, starring Richard Burton, put Puerto Vallarta on the map and the romance of Burton and Elizabeth Taylor made it infamous! This is, arguably, why so many big budget films (like 2011’s Limitless) have been filmed here since. These sands have seen the likes of Robert De Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger!


In the 1880s Puerto Vallarta had a population of around 1,500 people; today there are over 300, 000 inhabitants in Puerto Vallarta. The population boom was sudden and exponential. In the last 20 years the population has grown by a staggering average of 7.5% each year!

Mariachi Music

If you’ve been to Mexico before you’ll know that this is a culture which loves to party, and mariachi music is a key part of this! The state of Jalisco, where you can find Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta, is the epicentre of mariachi and in Puerto Vallarta alone you will find dozens of talented groups. There’s even a kids mariachi band in the city!

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Montgomery Fruit Company arrival

Montgomery Fruit Company in Banderas Bay

When you think about making a place your second home, you may be interested in knowing a little about its background and history. Banderas Bay has been one of Mexico’s favorite places, where many foreigners have settled and treated it as their home away from home. Many don’t know that this very scenic place has its share of history to tell with many mysterious twists and turns that has influenced much of what it is today. Below you will find some insight into how the Montgomery Fruit Company contributed to Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay’s development, thanks to information provided by Facebook group: el Viejo Vallarta, lugar de los Patasaladas (Old Vallarta, place of the salty feet people).

The Arrival of the Montgomery Fruit Company

Montgomery Fruit Company arrival
The Montgomery Fruit Company arrival to Puerto Vallarta (Archive)

It all started when the Montgomery Fruit Company’s representatives arrived to Banderas Bay in 1923 and bought a vast area of land in Ixtapa, which is a town right next to Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. The land measured a staggering 45 thousand hectares and was the Ixtapa Hacienda, then owned by an affluent German resident, Don Alberto Beach. The international company used these lands as an extension of their base in Quito and Guayaquil in Ecuador, bringing their knowledge in the banana cultivation industry.

Bananas For a Living in Ixtapa

The Montgomery Fruit Company began to plant bananas and soon experienced a flourishing economy with abundant harvests during their first two years from 1923 to 1925. However, it was short-lived as a devastating cyclone hit the place causing havoc on the banana plantation. This has forced them to look somewhere and leave the area temporarily until they returned in 1926 with new American investors, which marked a turning point for the region. According to historian, Carlos Munguia Fregoso, at this time, Ixtapa’s economy and infrastructure was much stronger than that of Puerto Vallarta.

An economic boom

Puerto Vallarta

With such rich investment and successful harvests, the Ixtapa town soon became a boom for employment opportunities, commerce and other factors, all of which contributed to a fast economic surge. Soon, there was widespread construction of comfortable wooden houses, irrigation canals and a big hotel to house workers coming from far places like Mexico City and from the mountains that surround Banderas Bay. The Mascota River was the site of a newly installed steel bridge and a new railway was constructed, which efficiently transported the harvested bananas from Ixtapa to Boca de Tomate, from where the harvests would be taken by ship and marketed to faraway places.

Migrants arrive to Banderas Bay

These movements changed the way of life for those living and working in Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta. The arrival of workers and migrants of the Montgomery Fruit Company from such towns like de El Cuale, San Sebastian, Mascota and Talpa after the faltering silver industry and Mexican Revolution, brought much progress to the areas. What was most interesting was that the migrants who came to settle in Ixtapa and Puerto Vallarta shared similar cultural backgrounds and customs, and many were already friends or acquaintances. This meant that a sense of community grew up very quickly as people created their new home away from hom.

Corn, Tobacco, Beans and Coconut Oil

Thereafter, the area began to harvest a whole range of regional products, such as corn, tobacco, beans, chilis and coconut oil, all of which were exported by sea, even to Mexican destinations as there were no reliable highways at this time.

The decline of the Montgomery Fruit Company

Come 1931, the Montgomery Fruit Company’s success began to decline, its operation badly affected by the Mexican government’s decision to enforce the “ejido” program. Under this program, local Mexican workers were granted the land upon which they could make their living.

What were once parcels of land owned by the legitimate foreign company were divided and shared among local custodians known as “ejidos”. This eventually forced the company to close.

The Montgomery Fruit Company’s short, but successful stretch greatly affected Puerto Vallarta’s demographics and stature in a very positive way. Its reputation as a proficient port area was then established and its total influence of what Puerto Vallarta today is still felt around the region. It left a legacy that will forever be etched and will have its own place in Puerto Vallarta’s rich history.

CACHITOS DE HISTORIA By Yolanda Pita McCullough; Facebook Groups