Puerto Vallarta has the most picturesque backdrop. Sparkling blue water surrounded by lush mountains, its one of our favorite coast lines. On the Pacific side of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful destination that keeps travelers coming back again and again. Believe it or not, there is way more to Puerto Vallarta than just the beaches. From strolling the beaches, to shooping, to walking the old neighborhoods, there are plenty of things to do in Puerto Vallarta for all ages.
We love Puerto Vallarta and we never get bored. We espeically love old town Puerto Vallarta. It’s full of picturesque colonial and whitewashed buidlings, cobblestone streets, and red Spanish tile roofs. Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by lush vegetation, mountains and the beautiful coastline. As we’ve been to Puerto Vallarta a couple times now, were made a huge list of all the awesome things to do in Puerto Vallarta (including 6 free things), where to eat, and also where to stay in Puerto Vallarta!
Things to do in Puerto Vallarta
Join a food tour
This is one of our favorite ways to learn about a new city and also find some delicious places to eat at! We loved our time with Vallarta Food Tours, the tours are always informative and the food is delicious! We recommend doing a food tour early in your stay, as it is an awesome way to get an idea of your surroundings. We loved our tours with Vallarta Food Tours.
Watch our video from the downtown food tour here:
Los arcos marine park
Travel a little south to the islands of Los arcos marine park. Los arcos are small granite islands protuding out of the water, which are now protected as a national marine park. You can swim, snorkel or kayak under the arches. At Los Arcos youll find caves, arches, and a beautiful reef. The water surrounding the islands is some of the deepest in the Banderas Bay. There are plenty of fish, rays and even sea turtles, and the water is crystal clear, so we highly recommend snorkeling to enjoy the sights.
Rhythms of the night
This is one of the most popular things to do in Puerto Vallarta. Rhythms of the night is the perfect romantic night as you cruise across the Banderas Bay under the sunset. Once you arrive to Las Caletas youll follow a tourch lit path to your privte candlelit table on the beach. After dinner is a theatric native show where you can dance under the stars.
Do a tequila tasting
Learn all about Mexico’s signature beverage, tequila. The state of Jalisco is the tequila capital of the world, so Puerto Vallarta is the perfect location to try tequila.
Go scuba diving
Puerto Vallarta has some amazing scuba diving for beginners and certifed divers. The Pacific Coast has diverse ecology which makes for a beautiful and exhiliarting dive. If youre looking for some great scuba diving while in Puerto Vallarta, check out Silent World Divers.
Check out these tips for how to choose the best snorkel gear
Boca de Tomatlan
A quaint fishing village only 11 miles south of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Getting to Boca is easy, as you can get there by land or sea. The bus will get you there also. Boca de Tomatlan is the most popular bay for the water taxis to take you to the other isolate beaches on the south part of the bay. There are small palapas along the beach, open for food and drink from 10am-6pm. You can take the water taxi from Los Muertos Pier. The local bus runs to Boca every day.
A tiny beach haven on the southern part of Banderas Bay, only reachable by boat. You can take a water taxi from Los Muertos beach or Boca de Tomatlan. The beach is wide and long, and still pretty undiscovered. There aren’t any chain hotels or restaurants. If you want to take the water taxi, here is the schedule.
Isla Marietas islands national park
Isla Marietas is a small, uninhabited archipelago recognized by UNESCO as a vital breeding and shelter site for marine birds. The main attraction is the hidden beach, located in a man-made crater. There is a limited number of visitors allowed per day, so guests need to book a tour.
Rio Cuale island
located in the middle of the city, but is actually an island set upon an inlet of the Banderas Bay. The cuale river divides the town into the downtown area north of the river and the Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta) to the south. A peaceful area that has tons of shops and restaurants right along the river. Cross over along the swinging suspension bridge.
Mismaloya is famous for the movie by John Huston, “The night of the Iguana”. Mismaloya is a small fishing town with a great beach, right between Puerto Vallarta and Boca De Tomatlan. Nearby is a tequila factory, and the Puerto Vallarta Zoo. Also a great starting point if you’re wanting to head out to Los Arcos National Park.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Puerto Vallarta’s parish Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a city icon, and is one of the most popular landmarks of the city. It’s pretty hard to miss it, as it soars above most other buildings. Located in downtown, dont miss the beautiful icon when youre in puerto Vallarta.
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Sayulita is famous for the beaches, surfing and the luxury hotels. Sayulita is rated one of the top surfing places. Located only 30 miles north of Puerto Vallarta airport, it’s easily accessible. Its a quick day trip or a great place to spend a couple days.
Take a hike
With the lush mountains nearby, there are tons of hikes to do in and around Puerto Vallarta. Some of the most popular are hiking from Boca de Tomatlan to Los animas, the Yelapa waterfall, and Cerro de la Cruz.
Vallarta botanical gardens
The botanical gardens are located 30 minutes south of downtown Puerto Vallarta is 20 acres of land with over 3000 different plant species. Covered in beautiful greenery, you can hike, see birds and butterflies, go for a swim in the river, or purchase local products at the gift shop. The cost to get in is 200 pesos/person ($10 USD). The gardens are open 9am-6pm every day except from April-November where they are closed on Mondays.
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Each winter, the humpbacks migrate from the arctic to breed and raise their young in the sheltered coasts of Banderas Bay. One of the best ways to see the whales is with a tour, where you can see the whales up close. Tours are available from December to mid-March in Banderas Bay.
Sail on the water
So many different water activites to do out on the Banderas Bay, like snorkeling, paddleboarding, or even sailing. Being out on the water is an incredible way to see the beautiful views and mountains surrounding the bay. Hire a boat and enjoy the beautiful bay.
Zip line tour in the mountains
Take a fun ride through the mountains on the canopy zip-line tour. Zip along 11 different lines through nature and wildlife, enjoying a more scenic view of Puerto Vallarta. Check out here for more information about zip-lining.
Take a Mexican cooking class
Learn about Mexican culinary traditions and bring the flavors of authentic Mexican cuisine to your home. Learn the proper cooking techniques, culture and history of local ingredients, as well as, Mexican culinary traditions. This tour is a traveler favorite.
Day trip to Las Animas
Las animas is a popular beach on the south side of the bay. It can only be reached by boat or by hikinng from Boca de Tomatlan. For this reason it is pretty quiet and secluded. You will find restaurants and bars along the beach. There are many beaches to visit surrounding Puerto Vallarta. Our suggestion is to hire a local for a boat tour for the day and theyll take you around to the beaches that you want. We did Los Arcos and Las Animas in only a few hours.
If you’re looking for someone when youre in Puerto Vallarta, call Freddy 322-142-7678 and he’ll hook you up on his “Panga el Pollito” (Little chicken boat).
Free things to do in Puerto Vallarta
Go to the beach
Los Muertos beach is right in Old town Vallarta, south of the malecon and the Rio Cuale. There is a new pier right along the beach, plenty of restaurants, bars and shops.
Walk the malecon
The malecon, an oceanfront promenade, runs for one mile. Talk a walk along here to see all the shops, restaurants, and bars. At night, the malecon is very busy with lots to see and do.
Vallarta Art Walk
Puerto Vallarta has a rich art culture, and the Vallarta Art Walk is the perfect way to experience the art. On Wednesdays from 6pm-10pm you can wander from gallery to gallery just looking at the art. You don’t need to buy but you can. Theyll even offer wine and refreshments. Only available from November to May.
Watch the sunset
Due to Puerto Vallarta’s location on the bay, you can watch the sunset from anyone along the malecon, or the beach, and the sunsets are just amazing! Our favorite spot to watch the sunset was La Palapa.
Take a free walking tour of the city
Take a 2 hour walking tour hosted by the Municipal Tourism Office. Along the tour youll stroll through the streets of Puerto Vallartas historic downtown. Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and noon. Saturdays at 9 a.m. No reservations are needed. Find out more informaiton here.
Take a free malecon sculpture walking tour
From mid-November through mid-April, a 2 hour tour begins on Tuesdays at 9:30am to see all the different sculptures around Puerto Vallarta. You will learn and examine many different sculptures around town. For more information head here.
Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta
From quaint airbnbs to luxurious all-inclusive resorts, Puerto Vallarta has it all. Pick your style and your budget. Click here to compare prices on Booking.com
If you haven’t used airbnb before, use this code and save $40 off your first booking
Where to eat and drink in Puerto Vallarta
Its obvious there is no shortage of delicous tacos in Puerto Vallarta. We definitely recommend the street tacos, as you really can’t go wrong! So many different types and styles. Some of our favorite street tacos were El Chulo, Memos Tacos, and El Cunado taco stand.
Drink Raicilla at El Patio
Raicilla is the Mexican moonshine. The lesser known Mexican alcoholic beverages, but the older brother of Tequila. Raicilla is distilled from the fermented juices of a maguey plant or agave. It has a harsh and unique taste, and should definitely be sipped, not shot! You can find raicilla at El Patio is located along the Rio Cuale.
This is our favorite spot along the beach in Puerto Vallarta. A contemporary mexican dishes set right along the beach, a perfect spot to watch the sunset. A romantic spot for a special occassion, a nice dinner, or also open for brunch. Make sure you get the spanish coffee, complete with an entire 5 minute presentation!
Monzon is the newest craft brewery to open in Puerto Vallarta. Cofounders Reid and Miranda are from Seattle, so they know a thing or two about great craft beer. Not only is it delicious craft beer, their food menu is amazing! The food is the perfect combination of mexican flavor and pubfare, including nachos, tater tots, and tacos. Our favorite part of Monzon brewing is that for every beer you buy, the donate 1 peso to different communities. While we were there, we got to choose between helping dogs get vet care, and saving the turtles. Such a great company, and super friendly people!
Opened in 1989, Gabys is a family owned restaurant specializing in quality Mexican cuisine. There is balcony seating available on two levels, plus a intimate patio seating, and an air-conditioned area ideal for private parties. Here you’ll want to try the different types of mole. Get a tasting of tequila served with its trusty chaser, Sangrita.
If you’re looking for a fancy place to eat, Le Kliff is perched up on the mountains, serving authentic specialities with local charm. On the pricey side, but worth the gorgeous views.
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Tuba by Concepcion
Made with coconut cream and apple vinegar, Tuba is a refeshing drink found along the malecon. Look for the man in all white with a white hat to try some Tuba.
Barracuda and Solar
Barracuda is right along the water, a great spot for sunset, specializing in seafood. Solar (located right next to Barracuda) is a great dive bar located on the beach. Try the cucumber/jalapeno mezcalita.
Things to know before visiting Puerto Vallarta
- It is super easy to get around Puerto Vallarta. You can pretty much walk everywhere! If you don’t have a car, the local bus is a great option as well as uber. Uber is new to Puerto Vallarta. It is super cheap and easy to use Uber to get around.
- Carry loose change with you just in case. If you plan on riding the bus, or you need to use the bathroom while your out, you will need that loose change.
- The summer is the hottest and most humid time to visit! The summer is also considered “low season” because it is humid and sometimes raining, because of this, you may find some stores and restaurants being closed.
There is so much to do in Puerto Vallarta, we guarantee you won’t run out of things to do on your trip. Here are just 33 things to do in Puerto Vallarta on your next visit. Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below if there is something we should add!