Planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta and wondering what to do? Discover all the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico in our comprehensive, curated city guide.
As one of the most popular resort towns in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is a colorful, vibrant, and fun vacation destination. There are so many things to do in Puerto Vallarta, places to visit, and corners to discover. You might be thinking that’s is all resorts and nightclubs and while there is definitely a slightly tacky and commercialized side to the city, there are also some real gems waiting to be discovered.
Puerto Vallarta has some amazing hidden beaches, beautiful places to stay, delightful restaurants, and noteworthy experiences. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into and one week in the city is probably not even enough. Keep reading to find the top places to visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico along with our picks for where to stay and where to eat.
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Getting to Puerto Vallarta Mexico
Getting to Puerto Vallarta is easy. There are many direct flights from the US and abroad as well as bus connections from Guadalajara and other Mexican hubs.
Air- Puerto Vallarta’s international airport is located just north of town. There are direct flights available from most other Mexican cities as well as the US and Canada. There are direct flights from most major cities in Canada as well as such as cities in the US such as New York, Atlanta, Portland, Dallas, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles among others.
If you’re flying in from Europe or even further afield it’s best to connect in a US city or in Mexico City or even Cancun.
For the best flight options and deals my go-to is always Skyscanner or Kiwi. Use the form below to search for the best flight deals.
Bus– If you’re already in Mexico it’s possible to get to Puerto Vallarta by bus. There are many local bus companies that operate in and around Jalisco connecting Puerto Vallarta with Guadalajara (5 hours), Leon (7 hours), and Tepic (3 hrs).
I personally wouldn’t recommend going beyond Guadalajara by bus as journey times are extremely long, especially when domestic air travel in Mexico is very affordable with airlines like Volaris and Viva Aerobus.
Thinking about when to go? Don’t miss The Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta Mexico.
Top Places to Visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico
There are so many lovely places to visit in and around Puerto Vallarta. From the usual, must-see tourist haunts to more under-the-radar experiences. Here are all the top places you need to know about to plan the perfect few days in one of Jalisco’s most beautiful beach towns.
Walk the Malecon
While Puerto Vallarta isn’t the only Mexican city to have a malecon, or oceanside promenade, checking out Puerto Vallarta’s malecon is a must-do when in the city. It makes for a fabulous early morning run or a sunset stroll while people watching, interacting with locals and other travelers, and shopping.
On one side of the Malecon you’ll find the various Puerto Vallarta beaches and on the other, some of the city’s popular stores, nightclubs, and restaurants. You’ll find locals selling specialty drinks and snacks from the area, tourists taking photos, and other street food stalls selling corn, desserts, waffles, etc.
At some point during your time in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll find yourself on el Malecon- there really is no avoiding it. The best time to be here is for sunset or in the early morning.
Los Muertos Pier
Towards the end of the malecon, you’ll find Los Muertos Beach and Los Muertos Pier. This is the nicest beach in Puerto Vallarta town itself and it’s a great place to hang out for the afternoon. Los Muertos Pier is probably one of the most unique piers you’ll have ever seen. Designed in the shape of a sail, it’s perfectly fitting for this seaside town.
You can grab a nearby coffee, walk onto the pier, sit down, and watch the sun go down from it. From here you can also catch boat taxis to other beaches and towns in Banderas Bay such as Playa Las Animas and Boca de Tomatlan.
Mercado Río Cuale
Mercado Río Cuale is one of the best local markets for trinkets and souvenirs. For a chance to pick up some local arts and crafts, his rather large outdoor market is the place to begin. Here you can buy a wide range of products from leather goods, to beach clothing to fridge magnets. There really is a bit of everything.
While the market is quite big and varied, I personally thought it was a little too commercialized for my taste. There aren’t too many unique items to buy and everything seems a little factory-made. If you are looking for something a little more refined you have to check out some of the other boutiques in town or head for some much more unique shopping in nearby Sayulita.
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe) is Puerto Vallarta’s main church. While you won’t solely be visiting Puerto Vallarta for its religious architecture, this lovely church is definitely worth a stop when exploring the center of Puerto Vallarta.
Its unique, crowned tower dominates the city skyline along with its two side spires. The neo-Renaissance style architecture will transport you to small towns in Italy. It’s worth taking a look inside where you’ll find new, mint-green painted walls and a richly decorated altar.
The church is the center for many religious and cultural festivals in Puerto Vallarta including its own annual festival. It’s one of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico to find out more about the culture.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe isn’t the only noteworthy church in Puerto Vallarta. Make sure to also look out for Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Refugio and Iglesia de la Santa Cruz which are also worth a look if you’re closeby.
The Marietas Islands
The Marietas Islands are a stunning set of islands off the coast of Punta Mita in Banderas Bay. They are part of a National Park and are a UNESCO Heritage Site and home to countless sea bird species, fish species, manta rays, sea turtles, whales, and dolphins.
Due to regulations when it comes to fishing, this area is one of the best places to see underwater species as well as the unique islands themselves.
Unless you have your own boat, you’ll need to take a tour in order to visit the Marietas Islands. You also need a permit to access them but generally, when opting for a tour this is all organized for you ahead of time. You might want to double check however that this charge is included in your tour.
You’ll want to make sure your tour includes some whale watching, time for snorkeling and swimming, and also a trip to the Hidden Beach/Love Beach, a gorgeous hidden beach that’s only accessible through a cave.
There are countless tour operators who offer this tour but unfortunately, many of them are sub-par. Many of the tours are very commercialized and gimmicky, they can get very crowded and even tours that consider themselves to be ‘eco-friendly’ allow garbage and cigarette butts to fall into the water unnoticed.
If you prefer taking a tour that’s more focused on wildlife, nature, and the environment rather than a ‘party boat tour’ make sure to check out this one and this one as they seem to be the most responsible. Before signing up for any trip make sure to ask for an itinerary breakdown, tour group numbers, and environmental responsibility initiatives.
Los Arcos de Malecon
Los Arcos de Malecon or Malecon arches are a really nice photo spot right on the Malecon and you’ll no doubt see them when strolling around. Right next to them, you’ll find an outdoor amphitheater often used by local comedians in the evenings to put on a show for the public at around sundown.
If you want to take a good photograph with the Malecon arches, one of the best photo locations in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll want to get here really early in the morning as the Malecon receives quite a bit of foot traffic making it difficult to take a photo without anyone else in it. However, the light isn’t the best early in the morning.
Sunset is also a great time to take a photo but the downside is that there are a lot of people around at this time. It’s still, however, one of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.
Puerto Vallarta’s Beaches
Known internationally for its stunning beaches with their jungle backdrop, this area of Mexico really does have some top-quality spots to throw down your towel. There are so many beaches to choose from, both in and outside the city that you could easily just spend your entire trip discovering them.
Not all beaches are created equal in Puerto Vallarta and as it goes with many other spots around the world, you’ll find the best beaches outside Puerto Vallarta. Luckily you don’t need to go too far to uncover the best spots.
Over two months I committed myself to discovering the best beaches in the area so you don’t need to. Here are the top beaches in Puerto Vallarta, which you absolutely must visit.
In Puerto Vallarta itself:
–Playa Los Muertos – Probably the best strip of sand in Puerto Vallarta- this beach is a great spot for watching the sunset and going to a romantic beachside restaurant afterward.
–Playa Los Tules – A decent strip of sand where it’s possible to find a quiet spot.