33 Wonderful Places to Visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico
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.
Outside Puerto Vallarta:
– Playa Conchas Chinas– just south of Puerto Vallarta this is a lovely beach with a series of little coves that’s not too crowded. It’s a lovely spot to escape the city for the day.
Playa las Gemelas- A large stretch of palm-fringed golden sand and clear water on the way south towards Mismaloya.
La Garza Blanca– Located very close to the Arcos de Misamaloya, this beach is a lovely small cove with clear water and golden sand.
Playa las Animas– reachable by boat ride from Puerto Vallarta pier or by hiking in from Boca de Tomatlan, this is one of the best beach day trips to make when in Puerto Vallarta. There are no big buildings and resorts here, just a few restaurants where you can relax and have lunch. Get here early in the day before the crowds, roll out your towel, grab a cold beer and make the most of paradise.
Want to spend the day getting to know the best hidden beaches in Puerto Vallarta? Without crowds, condos, or resorts nearby? We spent the day discovering these secret, almost-deserted, beautiful beaches and I can’t wait to share these with you.
The first beach you’ll come to is the stunning Playa Colomitos- the smallest beach in Mexico. It’s just magical. Then keep following the coastal path and you’ll pass many other unrated secret beaches like Playa Escondida, and Playa Caballo until you get to Playa las Animas.
From here you can relax and then take a boat taxi from the pier back to Puerto Vallarta or Boca de Tomatlan or continue south to discover more beaches. It’s one of the best days out from Puerto Vallarta to discover new pockets of paradise, a world away from the bustle of Puerto Vallarta.
If you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta during Humpback Whale watching season then don’t miss the chance to get up close to these gentle giants. The whale watching season runs from December to March and this is the best time to spot some of the whales that have migrated here seeking warmer waters to give birth and raise their calves. Seeing the whales is easily one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
The chances of seeing whales here are pretty high and the boat captains always seem to know where they are. They can also get quite active too so if you’re lucky you might even see them breaching and playing. Generally adults, males especially are the most active in December as they put on shows to attract females. In February and March, you might have the opportunity to spot calves before most whales leave at the end of March or the beginning of April.
Occasionally you can also see the Humpback whales from the shore- not so much from Puerto Vallarta itself but from Boca de Tomatlan and Playa las Animas it’s not uncommon to spot them jumping on the horizon. We saw them quite a few times!
When it comes to booking a whale-watching tour make sure to go for the most sustainable option you can find. Boat captains should turn off the boat engine when near the whales in order not to scare them. They shouldn’t try to get too close either and the boat sizes should be as small as possible.
I recommend this tour which is one of the most sustainable and eco-conscious ones I could find. You’ll head out on the water with a biologist who will not only give you so much information on the whales, and you’ll also have the opportunity to listen to their songs. Find out more here.
If after a few days, Puerto Vallarta is getting a little too touristy and you’re earning for a local experience, make sure to head to this local neighborhood. This is one of the most authentic neighborhoods in the city where you won’t find many other tourists.
The best thing to do here is to just walk around and explore as well as get talking to the local people who you’ll find deep in conversation on street corners or outside shops. Here is where you’ll find San Miguel Arcangel Church as well as a variety of good local restaurants like Mariscos Tino’s Pitillal and Mariscos Oyster.
Walk up to Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz
For one of the best views of Puerto Vallarta from a very privileged vantage point, make sure to head up to Cerro de la Cruz. It is quite a bit of a workout to get to the top, and the only way is walking but there’s no better way to get in that daily movement.
From the abandoned concrete structures at the top of the viewpoint, you have a panoramic, 180-degree view of Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific Ocean. Glancing the other way the Mismaloya Jungle and the Sierra Madre Mountains spread over the horizon. It’s a really stunning view of the city with views over the entire Banderas Bay and a great vantage point for photos.
To get up to the Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint start your walk here and keep following the road up until you get there.
Experience the Water by Chartering a boat/yacht
If you’re with a large group of friends or family, one of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico is the ocean on your own chartered yacht. Hiring a luxury yacht and a captain for a day is the perfect way to get around and spend the day on the water.
Most tours include snorkeling, and swimming and you’ll also have the chance to watch the water for whales. Bring a cooler full of beers and snacks and you’re all set for a fun day out.
Check out this yacht charter here for a fun day out. Otherwise, head to Marina Vallarta where you can also arrange a trip directly.
Explore Nuevo Vallarta
Just north of the airport and over the state border into Nayarit, you’ll find Nuevo Vallarta, an exclusive village-like area full of exclusive resorts, hotels, golf courses and country clubs, a marina, malls, and some great restaurants. It’s quite a large and spread out area so it helps to have a car or bicycle to explore.
There’s actually quite a lot to do in Nuevo Vallarta. You can walk around and browse the shops and boutiques, grab a bite or do some shopping at the Riviera Farmer’s Market, stroll around the marina, relax on the beach, play golf on a perfectly manicured golf course, or grab a smoothie bowl from Organik (who also have a branch in Sayulita). You can also visit the sea turtle sanctuary on Vidanta Beach.
Nuevo Vallarta also has some great all-inclusive luxury resorts too such as The Grand Mayan, Paradise Village Beach Resort, and further north, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit in case you want to stay in the area. Nuevo Vallarta offers a much more relaxed, quiet, and contained vacation option to nearby Puerto Vallarta.
So Yelapa might not be in Puerto Vallarta but it is one of the best places to visit in the Puerto Vallarta Mexico area. For those looking for a quiet and secluded beach escape, this is it. Yelapa is a stunning small village located south of Puerto Vallarta. It’s inaccessible by road- just by boat and this is probably why it feels like you’re stepping back in time.
This postcard-perfect place with its beautiful beach, turquoise water and friendly locals make it one of the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta. The village had a very tight community feel to it and while you visit you’ll have the opportunity to learn about its history and significance before spending hours on the beach.
There are many things to do in Yelapa too apart from relaxing on the beach. Make sure to stop by the Yelapa Museum which tells you all about the very interesting history and growth of the village. There are also two lovely waterfalls you can walk to as well as exploring the village.
While Yelapa can be visited as a day trip from Puerto Vallarta, I highly recommend staying just one night to really capture the essence of this magical place.
For our full guide to Yelapa and how to get there read: Best Things to Do in Yelapa Mexico
Vallarta Botanical Garden
Located 30km south of Puerto Vallarta, just past Boca de Tomatlán is the fabulous Vallarta Botanical Gardens. The botanical garden is a beautiful space to learn about and connect with Mexico’s vibrant biodiversity. You’ll be able to see and learn about all the flora and fauna that thrive in this area of Mexico as well as learning a little more about the garden’s role in protecting endangered species.
Vallarta Botanical Garden also have an on-site restaurant where you can have a local meal or refreshing drink surrounded by nature. It’s also really popular for breakfast before it gets too hot.
Puerto Cafe to sample the best Mexican Coffee
Mexico makes some seriously good coffee, sadly really good speciality coffee shops are a little hard to come by in Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Cafe is the exception however. Located in the heart of the center the baristas here really know their stuff and you’ll find them serving coffee from multiple origins.
Grab a coffee and head to the back for comfortable seating or just chill at the bar.
The vibrant little surf town of Sayulita just up the coast from Puerto Vallarta is another great spot to visit. Sayulita is a world away from the beach-front mega-resorts and the Malecón bars. It’s a lovely little town full of gorgeous little beaches and sandy coves, great surf, modern cafes, and so many incredible boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants. It really is the perfect place to spend a few days or even a few weeks or months.
There are so many things to do in Sayulita like exploring the town, going surfing and shopping, and checking out the beaches. While visiting Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta is very much do-able in one day, I highly recommend staying at least one night to make the most of your time here.
Read our full guide to Sayulita: 26 Things to Do in Sayulita Mexico: The Complete Travel Guide
Make the most of your Resort
Puerto Vallarta is one of the best places in Mexico when it comes to all-inclusive resorts. With resorts available for all budgets, from the family all-inclusives to more wellness-focused adults-only resorts, if you do end up opting for one you’ll probably want to make the most of its facilities. Most of the best resorts have amazing spa and wellness facilities, great restaurants, tours and activities, sports, and gyms that might just keep you busy for a while.
Most of the best resorts in Puerto Vallarta sit towards the north of town, in Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. My personal favorites are The Westin Resort & Spa and Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. If you’re looking for the best luxury resorts in the area, pop over to Punta Mita for the most exclusive options.
Puerto Vallarta’s best street food stalls and restaurants
There’s no denying that Mexican food is full of flavor, character and an abundance of fresh ingredients. Puerto Vallarta is full of amazing restaurants, street food stalls, and local eateries to try the best local foods. One of the best ways to find them is by going on a food tour.
A local guide will take you to all the best-known places to try the most flavourful Mexican foods in the area. This Downtown Puerto Vallarta Food Tour allows you to try many local foods while also learning more about the city.
For those that prefer to add mixology to the mix, opt for this Mixology and Food Tour.
A Day Spa for Serious Relaxation
For those in need of some serious relaxation and me time when in Puerto Vallarta, heading to a day spa is another great thing to do in Puerto Vallarta. Relax with a deep tissue massage or hydrating facial or perhaps something like reflexology and even stem cell therapy.
There aren’t too many high-quality local spas outside of the mayor resorts. One of the best however is Holistic Bio Spa which has a range of medical and non-medical treatments such as immune boost and detox therapies, intravenous vitamin C therapies and even injury treatments.
Alternatively, check out the ABJA Spa at Casa Velas Resort. It’s one of the best in Puerto Vallarta and has a number of treatments and therapies combining international treatments and Mexican traditions. Find out more about treatments and packages here.
ART VallARTa for the best Local Art
Just a few blocks from Playa de Los Muertos Pier you’ll find ART VallARTa, a beautiful art center and space for visual arts. This is one of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta for creatives and fans of art galleries. The art center is full of visual art; painting, photography, ceramics, and more all by local artists.
A visit here is really inspiring and eye-opening to see what local artists are creating.
Watch the sunset
Perhaps more of an experience than a place, but it’s impossible not to commit at least one evening to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Puerto Vallarta has some of the most epic sunsets I’ve ever seen so make sure to prepare yourself for mother nature putting on a show.
You’ll be able to see the sunset from just about any beach in Puerto Vallarta, or from your resort suite if it faces out onto the ocean. One of the best things to do is to pack a small beach picnic with snacks and cold beers and head to the beach for that epic sunset.
If you prefer to opt for dinner or drinks for sunset, head to Playa los Muertos and have dinner at La Palapa or El Dorado, just by the pier. These two restaurants have a great menu and delicious food to enjoy while the sun goes down.
Los Arcos National Marine Park
Make sure not to miss Los Arcos National Marine Park. Just north of Mismaloya, you’ll find a few sea stacks just off the coast. These free-standing rocks form the Los Arcos National Marine Park, one of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico for snorkeling and scuba diving. Here you’ll be able to see an abundance of marine life including many different species of tropical fish, sea turtles, rays and more. It’s the ideal spot for nature lovers and anyone looking for an excuse to get into the water.
To visit, it’s best to organize a tour that can arrange boat transport and snorkeling or diving gear. Check out this Small Group Snorkeling Tour for a great day out on the water.
Located just to the north of Isla Cuale, Gringo Gulch is a very small area with some of the most gorgeous homes, luxurious architecture and villas and Puerto Vallarta. This is the first area that international expats settled in when they arrived in Puerto Vallarta.
The neighborhood has a really romantic feel. Today it’s full of boutique hotels with cobblestone streets and hanging bougainvillea. Some of the highlights include Casa Kimberley, the former residence of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Casa Caracol, and Casa Tabachin. One of the best things to do here is to just go for a stroll and explore.
San Pancho (San Francisco) Nayarit
Another amazing day trip from Puerto Vallarta, especially for those wanting to get the most out of the local area, is to San Pancho.
San Francisco or San Pancho as it’s more commonly known is a small town just north of Sayulita in Nayarit state. While over the last few years, Sayulita has developed at an alarming pace and become more and more commercial, San Pancho still has a very grassroots, community air about it.
San Pancho is a place for slow travel and conscious connection, both with others and the environment. People here are passionate about nature and conserving the very unique and raw culture of this town. If you’re looking for somewhere to travel slow and to connect to the local people and life by the sea then San Pancho is the place for you.
There are so many local boutiques and businesses to explore here as well as some incredible restaurants. San Pancho’s beach is also beautiful so it’s worth coming here for a day, or two, or even three, to soak up the sun and the unique atmosphere. San Pancho is definitely one of my favorite places in Mexico and one of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.
Los Voladores De Papantla
Along the Malecon at certain times of the day, generally towards the evening, you’ll find the Voladores de Papantla. This is a ritual ceremony that has been practiced for centuries throughout certain regions of Mexico and was created to ask the Gods for rain during droughts.
It involves 5 people, generally men who climb up a high 30-foot pole. One remains at the top playing the drum and a flute while the other four, ankles attached to ropes, spin around the pole, upside down slowly descending towards the ground.
The ceremony has been given Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO which means the government has to do what they can to preserve the practice.
It’s a very unique and intriguing performance to watch and worth looking out for when walking the Malecon.
A Former Palm Tree Plantation
The Westin Resort & Spa is one of the top wellness-focused hotels in Puerto Vallarta. it’s located in Marina Vallarta, most of which was once a huge palm tree plantation. The hotel which spreads across some 14 acres has over 600 palm trees on it as well as beach access.
Checking into the Westin is my top recommendation, generally due to their resort-wide focus on wellness. You’ll find a state-of-the-art fitness center, top healthy food options, a destination spa, and resort pools. Check rates and availability for your trip here.
Visit an Art Gallery
There are so many places in Puerto Vallarta to shop for authentic, local art. With many private galleries distributed around the city, there’s no shortage of popping in and seeing what’s on offer. Some of my favorite galleries we encountered are Arte94, Galería Uno and Galería Corsica.
Mundo de Azulejos
Directly translated as World of Titles, that’s exactly what this stunning title shop is. It’s rare to find such a lovely store devoted to producing the most intricately designed terracotta titles.
The upstairs-downstairs establishment has really lovely staff that happily advise about tile design and installation. Downstairs you’ll find the store and upstairs, the workshop where in-house artists slowly paint each design. Each item is uniquely hand-crafted and no two tiles are exactly the same.
If you’re thinking about redecorating or picking up a unique ceramic item this is the place to go- don’t miss this unique and beautiful store.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is quite a big city with many different accommodation options and areas in which to stay. Most travelers stay in the southern part of the city, in the Centro or Zona Romantica. Other areas also include the hotel zone, Vallarta Marina, and Nuevo Vallarta towards the north of the city.
Here are some of our favorite stays, both resorts and small boutique hotels to consider when planning your trip.
Casa Kimberly Vallarta– Probably the best boutique hotel in the center of Puerto Vallarta and Gringo Gulch. With just 9 suites, this stunning property is filled with art, intimate corners, and beautiful architecture. The hotel combines the former homes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. On-site, you’ll find a spa, pool, tequila bar, and open-air restaurant. Check rates and availability here.
Hacienda San Angel– For a true Mexican escape in the center of Puerto Vallarta, Hacienda San Angel is our top pick for the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta. With swoon-worthy, traditional architecture and decor this hacienda is a real escape. It’s the perfect place to wake up slowly and take a real vacation. The staff here will spoil you and you’ll never want to leave. Check rates and availability here.
Xinalani Hotel Boutique – Located on the stunning coast south of Boca de Tomatlan, this place is a true escape and a space to relax and retreat. Suites are private and rustic with palapa roofs, the cuisine is local, fresh, and healthy and there’s a private beach, pool, and yoga shala. Xinalani also organizes yoga retreats throughout the year too. Check rates and availability here.