"Night of the Iguana" -- Filmed almost entirely in and around Puerto Vallarta, this dramatic story of redemption, adapted from a Tennessee Williams play, put Puerto Vallarta on the map, so to speak. When Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and director John Huston arrived in 1963 to shoot the film, Puerto Vallarta was a tiny, undiscovered fishing village. Mismaloya, the beach featured in much of the footage, could be reached only by boat, presenting quite a challenge to the film crew, which had to ferry in all the lighting and film equipment. (Pre-teens and teens)
"Herbie Goes Bananas" -- This is one of the silliest, most madcap of the misadventures of Herbie the lovable VW bug; kids will appreciate its illogical wackiness. All Herbie's roadside adventures take place south of the border -- including great chase scenes -- with Puerto Vallarta featured prominently. (School-age kids and up)
Beverly Hills Chihuahua" -- With Drew Barrymore, Edward James Olmos and Jamie Lee Curtis voicing central characters, this very funny caper movie is a step up from most live-action family fare. Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area are a star attraction in this story of pampered Chloe, taken by an irresponsible dog-sitter on a weekend getaway to Mexico, who gets lost and embarks on a voyage of self-disovery south of the border. As the search for Chloe becomes more and more frantic, she sheds her L.A. breeding and rediscovers her Chihuahuan roots. (School-age kids and up)
Platanos Fritos -- A staple of tropical, coastal Mexican cuisine, fried plantains are easy for kids to like since they're just a step removed from a banana split. Fry sliced green plantains in oil, and serve topped with sourcream.
Tropical Fruit and Fruit Drinks -- Many American markets and specialty shops now carry mangos, papayas, and other types of tropical fruit when in season. And Mexican restaurants sometimes serve fruit drinks known as "agua frescas," which are made from a fruit concentrate mixed with water. Introduce your kids to "pina" (pineapple) or "tamarindo"(hibiscus) agua fresca the next time you go out to a Mexican restaurant, and serve a fresh pineapple, papaya or mango.
"Panic in Puerto Vallarta" by Susan Murray -- A clever mystery set in Puerto Vallarta, where "girl detective" Konstantina Cassandra ( K.C.) Flanagan witnesses a murder from the balcony of her hotel room. Not only is it an enjoyable preteen and teen read, the fast-moving story sneaks in little tidbits about Mexican culture and the history of Puerto Vallarta. (Ages 11-15)
"Carlos, Light the Farolito" by Jean Ciavonne and Donna Clair -- Like most towns and cities in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta celebrates Christmas with posadas, traditional holiday parties in which groups of neighbors walk from house to house acting out the journey of Joseph and Mary. This colorful picture book illustrates the tradition of the posada from a child's perspective, with lot of detail about Mexican food and culture. (Ages 3-8)
"Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles" by Karen Laskey -- Gorgeously illustrated, this ecological adventure story takes kids through the journey of a vanishing species, starting with the rescue of one young turtle. The beautiful photos take kids inside the world of migrating sea turtle, preparing them to understand and get excited about the sea turtle rescue efforts underway on beaches in Puerto Vallarta. (Ages 8-12)
"My First Spanish Word Book" -- Bright, zippy colored illustrations make each new word pop off the page in this classic illustrated dictionary, done with the usual Dorling-Kindersley finesse. The pictures, being actual photos, are easy to recognize, and kids can learn the names of common foods, animals, tools, household objects, vehicles and more. Useful as a vocabulary-builder for older kids leaning Spanish in school, too. (Ages 2-7)
Toilet Paper Roll Palm Tree -- Can also be made from a tin can; amusing when made from a can with a label for a related product, such as hearts of palm. Cut out five or six serrated leaves from green construction paper. For younger children, cut them out for them, or give them a paper pattern to follow. Use green pipecleaners as stems for each frond. Attach the fronds to the top of the "trunk" made from a toilet paper roll but cutting vertical slits in the cardboard about .5 inch from the top, and inserting the pipecleaner stems into the slits. If you're using a can, tape the stems to the inside of the can.
Paper Plate Turtle Craft -- Start with two paper plates, and paint the bottom side of each plate green or brown. (Turtles can be either, depending on which kind.) Use brown construction paper to cut out four legs (squares), a tail (triangle) and a head (circle). Staple them to the edge of one plate, pointing outwards. Tape the the two plates together with the painted sides out. Draw or paint eyes, or use glue-on google eyes. You can also put dried beans inside the body before you seal it with tape, to make a rattle.