Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

Puerto Vallarta Itinerary: How to Spend 3, 4 or 5 Days in PV

Planning to visit beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

You’re in for an amazing vacay because there’s so many unforgettable and fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta, a world-class beach destination in Jalisco, Mexico. This Puerto Vallarta itinerary article covers it all — from laying on a hidden beach, to zip lining through jungle, to of course, tacos! 

Located on Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta has amazing beaches, water activities and boat tours to other stunning beach towns. Behind the beaches to the west, you’re in the Sierra Madre mountains, and just north of Puerto Vallarta there’s the Sayulita pueblo magico (magic town).

Editor’s Pick: Best Puerto Vallarta Tour
Marietas Islands Tour to the Hidden Beach

If you’re wondering, How many days do I need in Puerto Vallarta? Know that you can have a great trip with any amount of travel time. This article offers options for 3 day, 4 day and 5 day trips, but even if you’re spending 2 days in Puerto Vallarta, you can still use this info to plan an epic trip.

After you discover all the amazing Puerto Vallarta excursions, experiences and must-see sites, there’s a thorough Puerto Vallarta Travel Planning Guide & FAQ that follows. It will explain how to get to town, which airport to fly into, best time of year to visit, what to pack, and much more.

With so many unique things to do in Puerto Vallarta, sites to see and tacos to eat in this well-known Mexico beach town, let’s get to this Puerto Vallarta itinerary already 😎 Ready to plan the trip of your dreams? Let’s dive in!

Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

3 Days in Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

DAY 1: Beaches of  Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is one of the best beach towns in Mexico, so you’re likely going to want to check out all the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta right away! Day 1 is also the ideal time to get your bearings and acclimate to the town.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon Art Walk

The Malecon Sculpture Art Walk with Gary Thompson, an expert in Puerto Vallarta culture and art, is one of the best free things to do in Puerto Vallarta. On this beachfront walk, you’ll get to see the 15 large sculptures along the Puerto Vallarta Malecon, and learn about the talented artists who made them.

🚴‍♀️ Prefer a bike tour? Book the More Than A Bike Tour in the Malecon!

In addition to beaches, Puerto Vallarta is known as a very artsy city. In fact, some say it has more art galleries than any other Mexican beach destination. Joining the free tour of the Malecon (basically a Boardwalk) is the perfect way to see the beaches and art together.

The Malecon Sculpture Art Walk departs from the Millennium sculpture next to Hotel Rosita at 9:30am; but you should arrive at 9:15am. Reservations are not required, but tips of about $100 pesos ($5USD) per person are customary at the end of the tour.

Note: If you don’t want to join the group tour, you can always just walk the Malecon yourself to check out the art galleries, sculptures, shops, cafes, and bars. As the Malecon is Puerto Vallarta’s main pedestrian walkway, you’ll want to get an idea of what’s there.

boy on the seahorse sculpture on the malecon walkway | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
Boy on the Seahorse sculpture by Francisco Rafael Zamarripa, just one of the 15 Malecon sculptures.

Puerto Vallarta Brunch at La Tostaderia

The Malecon Art Walk ends near Galeria Pacifico Art Gallery, which is owned by the tour guide, Gary Thompson. This is right near La Tostaderia, a picturesque outdoor cafe that has the best brunch in Puerto Vallarta. (🍽 Puerto Vallarta travel tip: Try the chilaquiles!)

World-Famous Playa los Muertos Beach

After eating, walk about 10 minutes over to Playa los Muertos beach. This is known as the best Puerto Vallarta beach, located right next to the Sail Dock and the Pier. Playa los Muertos has a high-energy atmosphere, with beach clubs, bars, food vendors, beachfront massages and more.

If you want to check out some of the best Puerto Vallarta beach clubs, they are all right here — like El Dorado Beach Club and Sapphire Ocean Club. If you’re for a party, head to Mantamar Beach Club to dance, swim and drink the day away.

The Sail Dock and Playa los Muertos Pier, both located on Playa los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta.

More Puerto Vallarta Beaches: Playa Conchas Chinas & Playa Palmares

If you’re looking for a calmer beach, drive your rental car or take an Uber to Playa Conchas Chinas, a beautiful beach about 15 minutes away. This beach is named after the conchas chinas, meaning “curly shells,” a beautiful spiral-shaped shell you’ll find along the shore.

At Conchas Chinas Beach, you can just lay your towel in the sand and jump right in the water. You can also opt for a day pass to Grand Fiesta Americana or Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, so you’ll have access to their amenities like the pools, beach chairs, umbrellas and restrooms. 

A bit further down the road, there’s Playa Palmares, where locals go to truly escape the crowds. Here, you can get a day pass to the gorgeous Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa, and even enjoy a nice massage or relaxing spa treatment. 

Note: With day passes, you’ll pay an entrance fee, but that amount will go towards your food and drink tab. While it’s paid at your entrance, it’s actually the hotel’s “minimum spend” amount, so the entrance cost is going to be applied toward food and drinks.

tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor at Pancho’s Takos, among the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta Tacos for Dinner: Pancho’s Takos

Besides the beaches, most people who come to Mexico want to eat their fill of tacos! In Puerto Vallarta, Pancho’s Takos is a must-try for some authentic tacos al pastor. The king of Mexican tacos, tacos al pastor is made with marinated pork that’s slow cooked on a spit.

🌱 Not a meat eater? You’ll love Planeta Vegetariano, a Puerto Vallarta vegan and vegetarian institution since 1995.

This locals’ favorite is popular with visitors as well — so there might be a wait, though it’s worth it and it often moves relatively quickly. Pancho’s is known to have the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta, and some even say the overall best Mexican food in Puerto Vallarta. 


After-Dinner Drinks in Puerto Vallarta

The Zona Romantica neighborhood (where Pancho’s is located) has plenty of options. Check out El Colibrí, among the best bars in Puerto Vallarta for cocktails, as well as Los Muertos Brewing, for locally-brewed beer, and Bar Morelos, for an all-night dance party.

🥂 Venture off the beaten path on the Secret Bars in Puerto Vallarta Tour with a local as your guide to show you the coolest bars in town.

Wondering where to stay in Puerto Vallarta? Colorful Zona Romantica has some of the best Puerto Vallarta hotels.
Puerto Vallarta Itinerary: 2 Days

DAY 2: Los Arcos, Shopping & A Pirate Ship 🏴‍☠️

Start Day 2 in Puerto Vallarta with a morning tour to snorkel, kayak and stand up paddle board at Los Arcos. For true early risers, there’s even sunrise SUP tours to go paddle boarding without the crowds.

Los Arcos, or The Arches, is a well-known arched rock formation in Banderas Bay. It is among top excursions because it has the best Puerto Vallarta snorkeling reefs. The calm waters around these rock arches also make this the perfect place to kayak, swim and stand up paddle board.

Tour of Los Arcos Puerto Vallarta

Brunch/Lunch at Ono Smoothie Bowls

After working up an appetite on your Los Arcos tour, head to locals’ favorite, Ono Smoothie Bowls for brunch or lunch. This cute cafe is known for smoothies, acai bowls, and light, healthy fare, in a prized location on lively Calle Basilio Badillo Street in the Zona Romantica.

Check out Zona Romantica & Viejo Vallarta

The Romantic Zone (Romantic Zone) and Viejo Vallarta (Old Town) are the two best neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta. In these two areas, located right next to one another, you’ll find all the charming, colorful vintage buildings you’ve likely seen in photos of the town.

After eating, spend some time strolling Zona Romantica with a stop at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe for photos. This is the part of town famed actress Elizabeth Taylor once lived after filming The Night of the Iguana — You can even stay in her former home, now the Casa Kimberly Boutique Hotel.

🎥 Discover Puerto Vallarta’s glamorous history on the Old Town Hollywood Story Tour!

The fun and funky Isla Rio Cuale Market is the best place for shopping in Puerto Vallarta. (Photo: Ted McGrath/Flickr)

Shop the Rio Cuale Market

If shopping is one of your must do in Puerto Vallarta activities, continue your walk along the Río Cuale (Cuale River) to the Isla Rio Cuale Market. This fun outdoor market is the best place to shop for souvenirs and artisan crafts to bring home with you.

Be on the lookout for some huichol art so you can take a unique piece of Puerto Vallarta home with you. Pronounced wee-chole, this is a colorful bead art made locally by the native Huichol people, and an emblematic symbol of both Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco state.

Pirate Ship Dinner Cruise in Puerto Vallarta

Ahoy, mateys! (Sorry, I had to 🤣) In the evening, you won’t want to miss one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta — the Pirate Ship Cruise & Dinner Show.

There are a few companies offering tours on the pirate ships, and you can check out your options for below ⤵ Keep in mind you’ll want to book early, as these do often sell out in advance, especially on weekends, as this is the premier booze cruise Puerto Vallarta has.

Mirador Cerro de la Cruz

For a more low key evening, catch the sunset at Mirador Cerro de la Cruz before dinner. This lookout tower offers the best view of Puerto Vallarta, with 360° vistas of the entire town, the Bay of Banderas and the Sierra Madres mountain range.

If you’re looking for the best place to take beautiful Puerto Vallarta photos, the Mirador, meaning Lookout, is just the place. To visit, follow the instructions on how to get to Mirador Cerro de la Cruz in this article.

Climb to the top of the Mirador Cerro de La Cruz, one of the best travel photography spots in Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta Itinerary: 3 Days

DAY 3: Mexico Hidden Beach Tour or Puerto Vallarta Zipline Tour

Did you know there’s a secret beach in Mexico?! That’s right — the Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach), on one of the Marietas Islands, is a true Mexico bucket list experience. 

A once in a lifetime experience, this hidden beach in Mexico is one of the most unforgettable things to see in Puerto Vallarta!

Puerto Vallarta Tours to Islas Marietas

There are two types of tours to the Marietas Islands. One tour takes you near the hidden beach to snorkel around the other islands, which average about $75USD. The other tour (seen below ⤵) allows you to actually explore the Hidden Beach; these average $150-175USD, but are well worth the extra money.

As this Mexico hidden gem has grown in popularity thanks to social media and YouTube, the government now limits the number of daily visitors on the hidden beach to preserve it. As only about 125 people may visit per day, do book your tour in advance if you want to go.

Day Trips to Ride ATVs & Zipline

While many visit Puerto Vallarta to lay on the beach and relax by the pool, those wanting to have an adrenaline rush, will also find it on a tour here.

There are several types of these tours, some that combine rappelling off a cliff and ziplining above the jungle canopy. Some tour companies also take guests through the jungles and Sierra Madre mountains on ATVs (all terrain vehicles).

The ATV tours are not only fun, but since you go off-road through the Sierra Madre mountains, you get to see a side of Puerto Vallarta many won’t. Some tours also make stops at natural swimming pools, hidden waterfalls, and other beautiful places only locals know about.

Best Puerto Vallarta Restaurants for a Farewell Dinner

Whichever tour you choose of the options listed above, you’re going to work up an appetite.

If this is your last night in Puerto Vallarta, you want to get very fancy! In that case, check out the restaurant options in the Four Seasons Punta Mita or St. Regis Punta Mita. These two luxury hotels are located in the upscale Punta Mita area, about one hour west of Puerto Vallarta.

If you’re not looking to leave Puerto Vallarta, but want to have a fancy dinner, Cafe des Artistes and La Leche fit the bill. At a more mid-range price, there’s two great beachfront options, El Dorado Restaurant and Blue Shrimp Puerto Vallarta.

Sayulita, Mexico, located on a beautiful strip of beach called the Riviera Nayarit.
Puerto Vallarta Itinerary: 4 Days

4 Days in Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

DAY 4: Visit the Bohemian Beach Town of Sayulita, Mexico

Jump in an Uber, your rental car, or even join a group tour for one of the most popular day trips from Puerto Vallarta! On Day 4, you’ll be heading to the pueblo magico, or magic town, of Sayulita, Mexico, in Nayarit state. This is the neighboring state to Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is located.

What is a pueblo mágico?

The Mexico Tourism Secretary has designated about 135 pueblos, or small towns, in the country as “magical.” The Mexico pueblos magicos all have natural beauty, unique local customs, interesting folklore and other similar attributes.

The colorful beach town of Sayulita is located only about one hour west of Puerto Vallarta. It makes for a great day trip to check out the town, relax on its much more low-key beaches, like Playa de los Muertos. and take a surfing lesson, as its one of the best Mexico surf towns.

Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita Tours

Sayulita Beaches: Playa de los Muertos

Though it shares a name with the popular Puerto Vallarta beach, this is a totally different, unique experience. Located behind this beach, you’ll find a small cemetery decorated in the festive style of many Mexican cemeteries; hence its name, playa de los muertos, or beach of the dead.

Sayulita Beaches: Playa Sayulita

On Playa Sayulita, the town’s main beach, you’ll find surf schools offer surfing lessons for beginners and first-timers. The waves just off of Playa Sayulita are on the smaller side, so many people visit Sayulita to learn how to surf.

woman smiling on a colorful street in Sayulita, one of the Best Mexican Beach Towns
When in doubt on what to do in Puerto Vallarta, you can always head over to Sayulita, the neighboring beach town.

Visit Downtown Sayulita 

In its small downtown, Sayulita’s streets have colorful papel picado (confetti paper flags) hung year-round. These traditional Mexican folk art flags are used throughout the country during festivals and holidays, but they stay up all year in Sayulita.

Stroll downtown for some great photos, and check out all the cool boutique shops and art galleries, like Evoke the Spirit, located on the same street as Sayulita Plaza. This is the center of town, and the most Instagram worthy spot for photos in downtown Sayulita.

There are some restaurants in Sayulita Plaza, perfect for eating, drinking and people-watching. If you want to head a bit off the main tourist area, Tacos al Pastor Tal Ivan, Yeikame Restaurant or El Itacate Restaurant, are some of the best restaurants in Sayulita.

Final Dinner in Puerto Vallarta

If this will be your last night in Puerto Vallarta, head here for some great restaurant options for a farewell dinner. For some nightcap drinks afterwards, head here to see your options.

Yelapa Waterfall in Yelapa, Jalisco, located about an hour from Puerto Vallarta by boat. (Photo: Andrew Gibson/Flickr)
Puerto Vallarta Itinerary: 5 Days

5 Days in Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

DAY 5: Yelapa & Majahuitas Beach

For a relaxing last day, the small town of Yelapa, Mexico, and beautiful Majahuitas beach, are the perfect ending to your 5 days in Puerto Vallarta. To easily visit them both, book one of the tours below ⤵ 

Yelapa Day Trip from Puerto Vallarta 

Yelapa is a small fishing village near Puerto Vallarta, and a very popular day trip. It is only accessible by panga, or water taxi, on a one-hour boat ride. You can catch a panga from Playa de los Muertos Pier, for about $25USD round trip. Boats run from about 9am-5pm daily.

Once arriving in Yelapa, you can spend the day relaxing on its relatively people-free beach and in a very natural setting. There’s a small downtown area in town, and a few restaurants and beach bars on the main Yelapa beach, though there’s little else here.

Beyond the beach, you can take a short hike to Yelapa Waterfall. There are other waterfalls and hot spring pools deeper in the mountains, but you may want to hire a local guide to venture off the beaten path in Yelapa.

majahuitas, mexico tropical beach cove with blue waters and palm trees | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
The Pirate Sailing Cruise, which stops at Majahuitas for snorkeling, is one of the most unique and best Puerto Vallarta boat tours to go on!

Majahuitas Day Trip from Puerto Vallarta

Majahuitas, like Yelapa, is one of the beaches of Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco. It’s main beach cove is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, perfect for those who want to spend a day in nature on a near-virgin beach.

There’s not much besides the beach, which is why many tours and visitors combine it with their trip to Yelapa. You can access Majahuitas via the same panga (water taxi) you’ll take to Yelapa — which will make stops at several beach towns, like Las Ánimas, Quimixto and Las Caletas. 

Final Dinner in Puerto Vallarta

As this will be your last night in Puerto Vallarta, head here for some great restaurant options for a farewell dinner. For some nightcap drinks afterwards, head here to see your options.

Sunset in Viejo Vallarta (Old Town), where you’ll find some great Puerto Vallarta resorts.
Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide & FAQ

Is it safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta?

Short answer: Yes!

Longer answer: Yes, and no. In reality, safety is a complex subject, and there’s no definitive answer to the Is Mexico safe? question. For a deep dive into the topic of Mexico travel safety, head to this article, Is Mexico Safe? 25 Tips to Stay Safe in Mexico.

However, in general, Puerto Vallarta is safe and so are the nearby beaches of Riviera Nayarit, like Sayulita, San Pancho and Punta Mita. Now, just because Puerto Vallarta is safe, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down! The key to safe travel in Mexico is to make your own safety your highest priority.

For some general travel safety tips, check out the Mexico podcast below, which is all about safe travel in Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

Where is Puerto Vallarta located?

Puerto Vallarta is located in Jalisco state, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, about 200 miles west of Guadalajara, the second biggest city in Mexico. The city is situated between the Bay of Banderas and Sierra Madre Mountains.

How do I get to Puerto Vallarta?

Wondering about airports in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico? Puerto Vallarta International Airport (Code: PVR) airport is located just 20-30 minutes from the main areas of Downtown and the Zona Romantica. You can easily find direct flights and cheap tickets to Puerto Vallarta from many major cities in the U.S.

Flights to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Airport Transfers

Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

What’s the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta?

As with all Mexico beach towns, the best time of year to visit Puerto Vallarta is cooler fall and winter months. During these months, you’ll have cooler weather, and virtually no humidity or mosquitoes.

If you’re looking for a more festive, party atmosphere, the best time to go to Puerto Vallarta is either December, the busiest month for tourism, or March-April, during Spring Break. For those hoping to see the whales migrating, Puerto Vallarta’s whale watching season runs from December-March.

Puerto Vallarta Weather

What do I pack for Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico has a tropical climate. As you can see by the weather chart above, this part of Mexico is hot, and also humid 😥, for most of the year, so definitely pack a Water-To-Go Bottle. This will both keep you hydrated, and also filter your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico.

Mosquitoes are also an issue, so don’t forget your eco-friendly bug spray, and bring reef-safe sunscreen so you practice responsible tourism in Mexico. If you’re planning to drink a lot, these Anti-Hangover Pills need to be on your What to bring to Puerto Vallarta list.

🧳 Need more Puerto Vallarta packing tips? Head to this article, Packing List for Mexico: Outfit Ideas & FREE Printable Download.

Final Thoughts: Puerto Vallarta Itinerary

Is Puerto Vallarta worth visiting?

In a word: YES! Puerto Vallarta is one of the top beach towns in Mexico. However, there is so much more to it that makes Puerto Vallarta 100% worth visiting.

Besides beautiful beaches, Puerto Vallarta has a lot of old world charm — famously immortalized in the 1964 film, The Night of The Iguana, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. You can even stay in the home the two lovebirds owned, now the Casa Kimberly Boutique Hotel.

With beaches along with the Bahía Banderas (Bay of Banderas) to one side, and the Sierra Madre mountain range on the other, Puerto Vallarta appeals to beach goers and adrenaline junkies alike. To get your heart rate pumping on your trip, book one of these exhilarating ATV and Zipline Tours.

What on this Puerto Vallarta itinerary caught your eye?

Have additional questions about things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico? Please join the conversation in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to get you the info you need.

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