The region that now comprises Puerto Vallarta was discovered in 1541 by Don Pedro de Alvarado. Not long after Alvarado first touched ground in this area, that bay was practically forgotten for almost 300 years.
Puerto Vallarta was known as "Puerto Las Peñas" from 1851 until 1918 when it was designated as a municipally and received the official name of "Puerto Vallarta", in honor of Don Ignacio L. Vallarta, a reputable representative of the State of Jalisco at the time. For the next 20 years it remained a small fishing village.
In the 1930s, Puerto Vallarta started to become a more popular tourist destination. However, it was in 1964 that Puerto Vallarta became famous, with the release of John Huston's movie version of Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana.
The movie showcased the beauty of Mismaloya Beach while the paparazzi publicized the adulterous affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This publicity helped to attract foreign investors in the 1970s, which brought about the massive expansion of Puerto Vallarta.
After this (along with the increased accessibility by airplane and the construction of first-class hotels), agriculture and fishing took second place to tourism, which remains the main industry of the area today.