20 AMAZING Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta + Travel Guide

Looking for the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

You’re in luck because there’s really no shortage of fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta — and we’re going to explore them all right here! Keep scrolling to find out everything from the best places to snorkel and shop, to the cutest cafes and best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, and much more.

This amazing coastal city, located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico in the state of Jalisco, welcomes millions of visitors each year. In fact, Puerto Vallarta is among the most visited and best beach towns in Mexico. It is also one of the most popular LGBTQ+ Mexico destinations.

Jalisco state is known as one of Mexico’s cultural capitals. Puerto Vallarta, unlike many other popular touristic beach destinations in Mexico, still has strong ties to the people who inhabited the land in centuries past. In short, Puerto Vallarta gives visitors a nice taste of fun, culture, beaches and more!

Ready to discover the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta? Let’s get to it — and after you discover these Top 20 unmissable Puerto Vallarta experiences, don’t miss the Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide and FAQ at the end of the article.

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Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

1. Stroll the Malecon

Contributed by Isabella of Let’s Travel to Mexico

I had the good fortune of spending two months as a house-sitter in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I was in a beautiful colonial home, right in the heart of Viejo Vallarta (Old Town), one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

Viejo Vallarta is known for its vintage feel, great restaurants and art galleries, but best of all, its vicinity to Malecon. The two-mile-long Malecon, sometimes referred to as the Boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta, is a paved walkway along Banderas Bay.

The Malecon promenade stretches all along the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta — beginning at one of the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta, Hotel Villa Premiere in Viejo Vallarta (Old Town). It ends at Playa de los Muertos beach in Zona Romantica (Romantic Zone).

All along the Malecon, you’ll find great bars and restaurants and numerous beautiful statues. Don’t miss the Boy on the Seahorse sculpture, made by Francisco Rafael Zamarripa and located by the large, colorful Puerto Vallarta letters sign — one of the most instagrammable Puerto Vallarta photo spots.

FREE things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

2. Free Walking Tour of Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica/Viejo Vallarta (Romantic Zone/Old Town) and Centro (Downtown Puerto Vallarta), are great places to just wander around. However, those wanting a more structured way to learn about Puerto Vallarta culture, history, and architecture, can join a guided walking tour.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 9am and 12pm, and Saturdays at 9am, head to the Municipal Tourism Office, located in the Old City Hall Building in Zona Romantica (Romantic Zone) to join on one of their free tours. Additional info here.

Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat, as the tour lasts about two hours. Reservations aren’t required, but try to show up 10 minutes before departure.

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

FREE things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

3. Malecon Sculpture Art Walk

If you’re looking for free things to do, Puerto Vallarta has some great options — including this Sculpture Walk, where you’ll learn about the famous sculptures on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta!

Tours take place Tuesday mornings at 9:30am, from mid-November through mid-April, and depart from the north end of the Malecon in front of the Millennium sculpture next to Hotel Rosita. Reservations are not required.

On the tour, you’ll visit about 15 sculptures before ending the walk at the Galeria Pacifico art gallery. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and your hat, for this two hour walking tour. Additional info here.

🤑 Pro Tip: With ant free tour, it is customary to tip your guide a gratuity of about $100+ pesos ($5+ USD) per person at the end of the tour.

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 15 sculptures on the Malecon.
free things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

4. Puerto Vallarta Art Walk

Love art? There are more art galleries in Puerto Vallarta than any other Mexican coastal city. In fact, Puerto Vallarta and the state of Jalisco are well known for several unique styles of art, including huichol, a traditional bead art that originated in this part of Mexico.

During the Free Puerto Vallarta Art Walk, 15 galleries and art shops open their doors to the public to see a mix of contemporary and local Mexican folk art. Check it out if you’re visiting from late-October through late-May, on Wednesday evenings from 6pm-10pm. Additional info here.

🎨 Want to learn about Puerto Vallarta street art? Book the Vallarta Street Art Stroll & City Info!

Best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

5. Visit Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Contributed by Caroline of Pictures and Words

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, or Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is one of the most iconic buildings in Puerto Vallarta, and its bells, one of the most recognizable sounds in the city. The beautiful building dominates the downtown skyline, and has become one of the symbols of the city.

While one may think that the church has stood in the city for hundreds of years, it is a relatively new addition to the city, at less than a century old. It is still one of the most important icons of Mexican heritage in the city. The history of the church mirrors that of the city itself — from its beginnings as a small village to a bustling resort town.

You will likely be amazed by the beautiful facade of the church, built in a mix of architectural styles, with a Neoclassical main building and Renaissance-style towers, topped with an impressive crown. It is one of the most recognizable buildings in Puerto Vallarta.

📸 Pro Tip: It’s ok to take photos inside the church if there’s no service going on; just remember to be quiet and respectful.

It is free to enter and visit the inside of the church as well. The interior is also stunning, filled with carved confessionals, a beautiful marble altar with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and images of various saints painted on wooden panels.

There is always going on around the church, in the square outside, to the side streets surrounding it. It is a popular gathering place in the city. It is especially lively on the weekends, when there are lots of street vendors, and people dancing in the streets to traditional Mexican music.

One of the best times to visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is during the Feast of Guadalupe festival, which takes place every year in December. The atmosphere is especially lively during this time, with candlelight processions, colorful parades, music, dancing, and more.

FREE things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

6. Climb Mirador Cerro de la Cruz

Looking for the best views of Puerto Vallarta? Head to the top of the Mirador Cerro de La Cruz lookout point.

This observation tower offers 360° panoramic views of the Bay of Banderas in front of you and the Sierra Madre mountains behind you.

It is most popular during sunrise and sunset, though the views are amazing all day long.

Depending on your fitness level, this climb can be a challenge. Below you’ll find options for getting there and directions to Mirador Cerro de La Cruz.

mirador cerro la cruz three story structure for looking over the town and nice city views | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
Climb to the top of the Mirador Cerro de La Cruz, one of the best travel photography spots in Puerto Vallarta.

how to get to mirador cerro la cruz

• Walk to Mirador Cerro de la Cruz: Start on the Malecon and Calle Mina, at the Triton and Mermaid statue, and walk east towards the mountains. After a few blocks, turn left on Calle Emilio Carranza and then turn right onto Calle Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez. Here, you’ll start seeing hand-written signs directing you to the Mirador.

This is a pretty steep climb to the entrance, and then you’ll still have the climb to the top of the lookout, so the other option is to take a taxi to the bottom of the stairs.

• Taxi to Mirador Cerro de la Cruz: Grab a cab and ask them to drive you to the entrance of the Mirador. There’s not a physical address, but all the locals know where it is. From the Zona Romantica or Centro, this should cost no more than $$100 pesos ($5USD).

Once you arrive either by walking or by car, you’ll then climb the 100 or so stairs to the top. Once you get to the top and see the views, you’ll realize why the trek was worth it.

🌮 Prefer a guide up to the lookout (and a delicious meal afterwards)? Book the Urban Hike & Local Meal Tour!

FREE things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

7. Shop at Isla Rio Cuale Market

This outdoor mercado (market) has the best shopping in Puerto Vallarta to buy souvenirs and gifts to bring home.

The Río Cuale (Cuale River) runs down the center of town, and separates the Zona Romantica from Centro near the Malecon. From the Malecon, head to Restaurant Oscar, and then walk over the bridge to the little island.

This charming tree-lined area has a few food truck cafes, a small museum, cultural center and a colorful mercado with vendors selling everything from art to sundresses.

isla rio cuale outdoor shopping market to buy mexico souvenirs | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
The fun and funky Isla Rio Cuale Market is the best place to shop in Puerto Vallarta. (Photo: Ted McGrath)

adventurous things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

Adventure Travel in Puerto Vallarta

8. Puerto Vallarta Skydiving

Contributed by Bailey from Destinationless Travel

Skydiving in Puerto Vallarta is the most thrilling activity that you can do. Not only is skydiving a bucket-list experience, but doing it over one of the world’s most gorgeous coastline only adds to the overall experience.

Head to Skydive Vallarta, in the Zona Hotelera Norte (North Hotel Zone), to jump with this company’s experienced instructors who have tens of thousands of jumps under their belt.

You won’t need to worry about safety standards, as Skydive Vallarta follows the United States Parachute Association (USPA) standards. This means they operate under the same safety standards as U.S. skydiving companies.

Choose to simply do a tandem jump, or if you dare, take the skydiving course to learn how to jump on your own! This is a longer process though, and you’ll need several days to dedicate to a solo jump program.

skydiving or paragliding back down to the beach | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
Landing on the beach after a skydive in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

For those looking to jump with a professional, a one-time tandem jump with an experienced instructor will cost you about $5,000 pesos ($250USD), depending on the season and day/time of week you book. 

When you do your skydive you will likely land on the beach. Puerto Vallarta skydives offer epic views the whole way down! This is not always the case in all places with skydiving drop zones, so take advantage of the amazing views a Puerto Vallarta skydiving adventure offers.

For those with an open schedule, opt for a sunset skydive, when the colors of the sky are most beautiful, for a truly a once in a lifetime experience.

🪂 Parasailing more up your alley? Book a Puerto Vallarta Parasailing Tour now!

adventurous things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

9. Waterfall Hiking in Puerto Vallarta

Want to go chasing waterfalls!? (Sorry, I had to 🥸) Though Puerto Vallarta is known mostly as a beach town, that’s only half the story. While you have the beach on one side, the other side of the city is full of rainforests, jungles and waterfalls.

One of the most popular and best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is head up to the Sierra Madre mountains, for a nice escape from the city out into nature. This majestic range is known for its beautiful hikes, hot springs, and of course, waterfalls.

Nearby Yelepa, Mexico, has one of the best waterfalls to see in the area. The Yelapa Waterfall is not hard to get to, and a Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta day trip is popular to also explore the beaches in this virtually-untouched pueblo (small town).

💦 Head to the best waterfall near Puerto Vallarta on the Yelapa Jungle Waterfall Boat Whales Tour!

🐎 Love horseback riding? The Yelapa Horseback Waterfall & Whales Tour is for you!

yelapa waterfall in the jungle of yelapa, mexico | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
Yelapa waterfall near Puerto Vallarta. (Photo: Andrew Gibson)

adventurous things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

11. Snorkeling at Los Arcos

Los Arcos (The Arches) is a famous rock formation in Banderas Bay, and one of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

It is very popular with boat tours and photographers alike, and known for having the best snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.

There are many Puerto Vallarta snorkeling tours that take you to Los Arcos National Park at all times of the day, though the sunrise or sunset trip is an exceptionally beautiful experience.

On this Bioluminescent Eco-Experience Tour, you’ll usually have the water all to yourself to enjoy the beautiful nature — and often, see some bioluminescence in Puerto Vallarta.

Book a Puerto Vallarta Los Arcos Tour

adventurous things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

12. Puerto Vallarta Zipline & Rappelling

Contributed by Jordan from The Homebody Tourist

Although most people visit Puerto Vallarta with the hopes of relaxing by the pool with a piña colada in hand, you will most definitely want to venture off the beaten path for a day to experience some adventure.

The company I used has the best zipline tours in Puerto Vallarta. They also offer experiences to swim with dolphins, scuba dive, snorkel, ATV tours, and canopy/zipline adventures. Although it may be tough to choose, I highly recommend the Zip Lines & River Fun Tour with Transport.

At about $100, this is an adventure you do not want to miss. You’ll begin with a speedboat ride, passing Los Arcos, and maybe even seeing some dolphins and whales. Then, enjoy two-miles (3.2 km) of ziplines through the jungle — with 15 of the longest, highest, fastest and safest platforms in Puerto Vallarta.

After that, there’s lunch and even a tequila tasting, before a swim in natural river pools. Next, you’ll go down the water slides, where kayaks and water toys will be waiting for you, and also visit an animal sanctuary to see marmosets, squirrel monkeys, toucans, iguanas and more.

Puerto Vallarta Zipline Tours

Best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

Best Puerto Vallarta Restaurants

13. Eat the Best Tacos in Puerto Vallarta

Contributed by Ruth of Tanama Tales

Looking for the best food in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico? For many, that means tacos! When searching for the best tacos, Puerto Vallarta has so many amazing choices that it’s hard to pick just one favorite taqueria!

Start your Mexico taco journey in the Zona Romantica, where you can decide on a single place or hop from eatery to eatery until full. The food in the area is affordable, and portions are generous, so if you’re ready, here are five recommendations.

Pancho’s Takos is a local favorite — and considered by some to have the best Mexican food in Puerto Vallarta. In fact, you might want to consider arriving when they open, as the line gets long.

This small restaurant specializes in tacos al pastor (marinated pork cooked on a vertical rotating spit) and volcanes (toasted tortillas topped with melted cheese and roasted marinated pork). Still hungry? Try Pancho’s quesadillas, fajitas, and guacamole, garnished with different types of salsas, limes and roasted onions.

tacos al pastor on traditional mexican plate with green salsa on the side | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
Tacos al pastor (pork) at Pancho’s Takos! Arrive early, as the line gets long at what some consider the best restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. (Photo: Ruth from Tanama Tales)

If you want to continue hitting the taco trail, Taqueria Hormiga should be your next stop. This taco stand is known for its tacos al pastor, the classic Mexico taco. You can have tacos de cabeza (head) and tortas (sandwiches) as well.  This place is ideal for a late-night snack!

Birria Chanfay serves birria (goat), the most famous taco in Jalisco state. They also have shredded beef, and pork tacos, which you can order as dorados (crispy tacos) so you can dip them better in the consome (thick meat broth) that comes with your order.

Since Puerto Vallarta is a coastal city, you cannot leave without trying some seafood!

Mariscos Cisneros serves amazing fried fish, shrimp, and smoked marlin tacos. Marisma is another seafood lover’s choice. Do not miss their fried fish, spicy squid, and crab tacos — truly some of the best seafood in Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta Taco Tours

best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

14. Go Vegetarian at Planeta Vegetariano

Contributed by Gabrijela of Under Flowery Sky

Open since 1995, and named one of the Best Vegetarian Restaurants in the World by Bon Appetit Magazine, Planeta Vegetariano is a true Puerto Vallarta hidden gem!

Though the name says vegetarian, this is also one of the best vegan restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, with a largely vegan menu.

Nestled on the lovely, hilly street decorated with flower arrangements, head to Planeta Vegetariano for a buffet style restaurant in Centro (Downtown).

This cozy, colorful place is a feast for the eyes as well, with its artistic appearance with painted wall murals depicting joyous stories.

planeta vegetarian outside of colorful vegan restaurant | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
The best vegan food in Puerto Vallarta is at Planeta Vegetariano! (Photo: Tom)

The buffet menu changes daily, so the chefs can cook whatever’s freshest and in season. There are two menus offered, a breakfast buffet and a lunch/dinner buffet. Both have a large selection of choices, with everything from chilaquiles made with soy meat, to red beet salad, chili paprika potatoes and desserts.

Head to Planeta Vegetariano for a vegan breakfast from opening until noon, for $95 pesos ($4.75USD). Lunch/dinner runs from noon to closing, at around 5pm, and costs $145 pesos ($7USD).

🌱 Looking to explore the vegetarian side of Puerto Vallarta? Book the Vegetarian Taco Walk Tour now!

best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

15. Try an Acai Bowl at Ono’s

Contributed by Maria from A World of Destinations

Puerto Vallarta is, well, hot! It is very important to stay well-nourished and hydrated with water and superfoods, like acai berries, one of the Earth’s most nutritious foods.

Looking for vegetarian food and healthy places to eat in Puerto Vallarta?

Head to Ono Smoothie Bowls, a cute little walk-up cafe on Basilio Badillo street in Zona Romantica. They specialize in açaí bowls and smoothie bowls that are too good to be true. Besides a variety of superfood bowls, they also serve healthy toasts, local coffee and yummy matcha drinks.

There’s a woman working behind the counter that will take your order as you walk up, and then freshly prepare your meal. Grab one of the tables in front of the cafe to sit down and enjoy your bowl.

If you arrive at a busy time, you might have to wait a bit for a seat — but the wait is worth it. The service is flawless, and the owner and her staff are sweethearts that make you feel very welcome.

Ono Smoothie Bowls also makes one of the best breakfasts in Puerto Vallarta, so head here to start your day with local tropical fresh fruits, oatmeal, chia and other healthy favorites.

After eating, walk down to Playa de los Muertos to spend the day at the best beach in Puerto Vallarta. There’s also some really cute shops nearby, and the whole area is perfect for a lovely stroll.

RELATED BLOG 🧁 Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear

best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

16. Take a Puerto Vallarta Cooking Class

Jalisco state, where Puerto Vallarta is located, is fast becoming one of Mexico’s foodie destinations.

Something not everyone knows about Mexico is just how regional the cuisine is — and that it’s not all about tacos in every Mexican state.

Within Tapatío food, the cuisine of Jalisco and Puerto Vallarta, you will have birria (meat stew) tacos, but there’s so much more to sample.

Be on the lookout for pozole (hominy soup), tortas ahogadas (“drowned sandwiches,” similar to a French dip), sopes (thick masa tortillas), and much more.

man adding liquid broth to birria taco | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
You must try some birria tacos in Puerto Vallarta (if you eat meat of course!)

🌮 Book your spot to do some Mexican Cooking at Private Villa in Puerto Vallarta!

best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

Puerto Vallarta Boat Tours

17. Go Snorkeling at Los Arcos

Los Arcos (The Arches) are a series of large rocks in Banderas Bay.

As the name implies, one of the rocks has a large arc you can swim under. Of all the available boat tours and attractions in Puerto Vallarta, this one is the most popular.

The areas around Los Arcos are popular for snorkeling because there’s a beautiful reef under the water, but also for stand up paddle boarding.

The waters of Banderas Bay are calm year-round, making them the perfect place to try stand-up paddle boarding (or, SUP).

🐠🏄‍♀️ Try both stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling at Los Arcos! Book the Los Arcos Snorkel & Beach Private Boat Tour now.

best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

18. Visit the Mexico Hidden Beach at Islas Marietas

Yes, you read that right! There’s a “secret beach” near Puerto Vallarta on the Islas Marietas (Marieta Islands). This beach is actually named Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach), and it’s something straight out of a movie — and one of the most unique places in Mexico!

You have to access the islands by boat, and there’s two available tours. The first tour takes you to the areas around the islands, but you’re only able to do water activities like snorkeling and paddle boarding. On the other tour — which I did, and highly recommend — you get a change to swim onto the hidden beach.

In an effort to protect this natural treasure, the Mexican government restricts the amount of visitors to about 125 per day. If you’re planning to cross the hidden beach of Islas Marietas off your Mexico bucket list, book your tour well in advance.

Book an Islas Marietas Tour

best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

19. Yelapa and Majahuitas Tour

Submitted by Victoria of Guide Your Travel

Is Puerto Vallarta on your Mexico bucket list? If you’re planning to visit, don’t miss the amazing Yelapa and Majahuitas boat tours in Puerto Vallarta.

These popular and well known boat tours cost about $1,500 pesos ($75USD), though they are well worth the cost.

Tours usually last the entire day and even include an open bar on board and a delicious lunch. No need to bring your own snorkeling equipment; everything will be provided by the company when you do a Yelapa tour.

majahuitas, mexico tropical beach cove with blue waters and palm trees | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
Majahuitas cove and beach, one of the places many of the best boat tours in Puerto Vallarta go to.

So what can you see on this boat tour? You will get to see the Yelapa waterfall, which is one of the most famous ones in the area. Then there is the Majahuitas beach and cove, which is perfect for paddle boarding and snorkeling. If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins or whales in this area.

This tour is perfect for solo travelers in Mexico who want to explore the coast beyond just Puerto Vallarta. With plenty of things to see along the ride you’ll never get bored during your time on the boat.

Book a Majahuitas and YELAPA Tour

best things to do in puerto vallarta, mexico

Puerto Vallarta Day Trips: Sayulita & San Pancho

19. Learn to Surf in Sayulita

Contributed by Joseph of The Surf Atlas

Looking for the best beach towns near Puerto Vallarta? Look no further than Sayulita, Nayarit — one of Mexico’s 135 or so pueblos magicos (magic towns).

Really, no Best of Puerto Vallarta guide like this one would be complete without a mention of Sayulita, an Instafamous, laid back, boho beach town, located about one hour northwest.

To get from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita, head north up the coast and you’ll soon enter the lovely Riviera Nayarit. On the drive, you’ll be crossing over into Nayarit state; Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco state.

This long stretch of pristine Pacific shoreline boasts one of the most famous surf towns in Mexico — Sayulita.

Look for it between the groves of coconut trees and jungle-dressed hills, unfolding with its vibrant plazas and cobblestone streets, threaded with cantinas.

The surf in Sayulita is great for all levels. Beginners can make the most of the mellow sand break just in front of the town. There’s also a fun reef section for intermediates, and a medley of more hidden waves to challenge the pros as you move around the Punta Mita headland to the south.

woman in black bathing suit surfing in Sayulita, Mexico | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
Sayulita surfing on your agenda? This town has some of the best Mexico surf spots, for all levels.

When you’re done on the surf breaks, you’ll want to hang around for an evening on the town. Sayulita might not have the big city vibes of Puerto Vallarta itself, but it’s got salt-washed beach bars and surf shacks galore.

Settle in for a cerveza at Don Pedro’s for the golden hour and you can watch the body-boarders doing their thing as the sun sets over the ocean. Alternatively, scramble over the hilltop to Playa de los Muertos to find a hidden cove washed by turquoise waters that lap by a couple of low-key tequila bars.

Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita Tours

20. Head to Colorful San Pancho

Sayulita is one of Mexico’s best off the beaten path destinations, but in the age of Instagram, more and more people want to visit this colorful town — and rightfully so — because Sayulia is amazing. For those who want the laid back, surfer town, good vibes, but with less crowds, head to San Pancho, Nayarit.

📍Pro Tip: The actual name of the town is San Francisco, though it’s commonly called San Pancho.

San Pancho, like Sayulita, is located in Nayarit state. In fact, the two towns are right next to one another, so it’s possible to check them both out on a Puerto Vallarta day trip. These towns are quite similar, but some say the San Pancho of today is like the Sayulita of 5-10 years ago… before it got Instafamous.

For a truly off the beaten path experience, take a Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho day trip, or head to Sayulita and San Pancho on the same day.

📸 Want to see both Sayulita and San Pancho? Book the San Pancho and Sayulita Tour now!

colorful buildings and cobble stone streets in beach town of San Pancho, Mexico | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
San Pancho, a beach town in Riviera Nayarit, is one of the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta.

PUERTO VALLARTA travel guide

Puerto Vallarta FAQs

Is Puerto Vallarta safe for travel?

Short answer: Yes!

Longer answer: Yes, and no. As this is clearly a complex subject, and there’s no definitive answer, head to this blog for 20 Safe Travel in Mexico Tips for Solo Female Travelers an in-depth analysis on the topic of Mexico travel safety.

However, as a general statement, Puerto Vallarta is safe and so are the nearby beaches of Riviera Nayarit, like Sayulita 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.

There are some general and Mexico travel safety tips below in the accordion menus that will explain how, as well as a Mexico podcast about travel safety.

🏝 Check out this first hand account of safe solo female travel in Puerto Vallarta from blogger Isabella, who safely traveled there solo!

Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?

Want an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling.

I’ll be honest, when I first started traveling solo, I wasn’t insured. However, after years of solo traveling, I wised up… now, I even have a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important!

If Mexico and Puerto Vallarta travel safety are on your mind, get your free quote below now!

10 General travel safety tips
  1. Always listen to your intuition — because your intuition is always right.
  2. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place asap. Don’t worry about making a kind, nice or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away fast.
  3. Don’t walk home alone at night.
  4. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  5. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  6. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  7. Speaking of bar neighbors… don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended.
  8. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  9. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  10. This should be a no brainer since you’re traveling during a pandemic, but get Travel Insurance!

Prefer podcasts? Check out the one below on Mexico solo travel safety.

Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the free STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

After you’ve registered, the U.S. Consular Agency in Puerto Vallarta can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.


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. As you can see on the Puerto Vallarta map below, the city site between the Bay of Banderas and Sierra Madre Mountains.

Also in the state, you’ll find several Jalisco pueblos magicos, Mexico’s magical towns. These unique towns all make great day trips from Puerto Vallarta: Tequila (where the infamous beverage is produced), Tlaquepaque, Lake Chapala in Ajijic and San Sebastian del Oeste.


How do I get to Puerto Vallarta?

Flights to Puerto Vallarta

Wondering about airports in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico? The Puerto Vallarta International Airport (Code: PVR) airport is only about 25 minutes from the main areas of Downtown and the Zona Romantica.

You can often find direct flights with inexpensive airfare to Puerto Vallarta. Head to Skyscaner to see what’s available!

There are several U.S. airlines that fly to Puerto Vallarta through major cities including Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, LA and many more.

If you can’t find a direct flight, you can connect via one of the airports near Puerto Vallarta, like Mexico City Airport (code: MEX) or Guadalajara Airport (code: GDL). You can also go the Cancun to Puerto Vallarta route through Cancun International Airport (code: CUN).

🚐💨 Book your Puerto Vallarta Airport Transfer here!

Car rentals in Puerto Vallarta

If you’re looking for a car rental in Puerto Vallarta, the airport is the best and most convenient place to rent from. Discover Cars has several Puerto Vallarta airport car rental options at for your to choose from.

Is there Uber in Puerto Vallarta?

Yes, there is Uber in Puerto Vallarta!

This is the easiest way to get from the airport to your accommodations. However, there are also taxis and public transportation. However, I tend to recommend Uber to Puerto Vallarta travelers as a way to save time — the one commodity we never seem to have enough of while traveling.

In Mexico, Uber costs much less than it does in the U.S., and while rates of course vary, figure about $5USD for a 25 minute ride.

Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico?

No, U.S. passport holders don’t need a visa to travel to Mexico from the U.S. This is another reason why, in general, Mexico is one of the best travel destinations from the U.S.

When you arrive in Mexico and go through the Immigration line, you’ll receive a 180-day (6 month) FMM tourist card. This is a small piece of paper that you need to hold on to so you can give it back to Immigration at the airport when you leave the country. 

There is no charge for the FMM, but if you lose yours, there is a charge of about $600 pesos ($30USD) to replace it. You’d also need to get to the airport about an extra hour earlier than you’d normally have to in order to do the lost visa paperwork… the bottom line: Don’t lose your FMM!

Bus routes to Puerto Vallarta

You can also take a bus to Puerto Vallarta via ADO, Mexico’s largest bus company. There are routes from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta, which takes about six hours, and Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta, which takes about 12 hours.


What’s the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta?

As with most Mexico beach towns, the best time of year to visit Puerto Vallarta is fall/winter to get the best weather. It is also the busiest time to visit, with December the busiest month for tourism during the year.

If you’re looking for a more festive, party atmosphere, the best time to go to Puerto Vallarta is either December 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 LifeStraw Filterable Water 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 are a lifesaver (thank me later!).

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

FREE Printable Packing List for Mexico

Wondering exactly what to pack for Puerto Vallarta and all of Mexico? Download your FREE printable packing list for Mexico below! This multi-page Mexico packing checklist covers everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico.


Best Puerto Vallarta Neighborhoods?

Looking for the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta? This city has a few neighborhoods that offer great accommodations to all types of travelers.

The prettiest one of all is the Zona Romantica/Viejo Vallarta (Romantic Zone/Old Town), located just across the river from Centro (Downtown). For visitors who want to be where all the action is, these are the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta!

The final options, perfect for those seeking posh accommodations in 5 Star resorts in Puerto Vallarta, there’s Marina Vallarta and the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone).

colorful blue, orange and pink houses | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
The colorful homes of Zona Romantica/Old Town! Book your Puerto Vallarta hotel in these areas.

Romantic Zone & Old Town

If you’ve seen photos of the charming, colorful streets of Puerto Vallarta, those have likely been taken in the Zona Romantica (Romantic Zone) and Viejo Vallarta (Old Town).

These two Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods are among the oldest parts of the city — and still retain much of that vintage charm — as well as having some of the best options for hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

The Romantic Zone and Old Town/Centro (Downtown) are separated by the Río Cuale (Cuale River), and situated along the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta’s beachfront walkway. This whole area is incredibly walkable, and full of unique things to do and see, amazing beach clubs, shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, live music and more.

large all inclusive resort hotel on the beach with elaborate pool area surrounded by palm trees | things to do in puerto vallarta mexico
For the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta, head to the Zona Hotelera and Marina Vallarta.

Marina Vallarta & Zona Hotelera

Want to stay in the best resorts in Puerto Vallarta? Look no further than these two neighborhoods, both located right next to the airport, so they are easy to get to, and have all the best resorts in Puerto Vallarta.

Just a little further south, the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) is where you’ll find the bungalows, boutique hotels and the biggest resorts with all the amenities you could ever want. If you’re looking for the best all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta, this is the place you’re looking for.

Marina Vallarta, as the name might have cued you in on, is located on the marina. There are two places Puerto Vallarta boat tours leave from, Muertos Pier and this marina, which is also where the cruise ships dock.

🌴🏨 Book your Puerto Vallarta All Inclusive Resort here!

Final Thoughts: Puerto Vallarta Travel

Is Puerto Vallarta worth visiting?

Puerto Vallarta is one of the top beach towns in Mexico. However, there is so much more to it that makes Puerto Vallarta 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 owned, now the Casa Kimberly Boutique Hotel, or visit it on the Old Town Hollywood Tour.

With the beaches along with the Bahía Banderas (Bay of Banderas) to one side, and the Sierra Madre mountain range on the other, this town will appeal to beach goers and adrenaline junkies alike. For some adventure travel in Puerto Vallarta, there are ATV Jungle Tours and Zip Line Excursions.

Cancun, Mexico
beautiful white homes with pink roofs and large white rock formations behind on the beach in cabo san lucas, one of the Best Mexican Beach Towns
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
beautiful blue water and homes on the beach in san jose del cabo, one of the Best Mexican Beach Towns
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta vs Los Cabos

Considering your options for a Mexico beach vacation: Cancun or Puerto Vallarta? Cabo or Puerto Vallarta? How do you choose?!

While the other two are amazing in their own right, and have some of the best beaches in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta has a more authentic, cultural feel. It is also unique as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly destinations on Earth.

The historic neighborhoods of Zona Romantica and Viejo Vallarta have retained the old world charm that has drawn in visitors for decades. For those who want the 5 Star luxury resorts in Puerto Vallarta and all inclusive beachfront hotels, there’s that too.

In short, Puerto Vallarta is a town that welcomes all types of visitors to its beautiful Pacific Coast shores.

Which things to do in Puerto Vallarta caught your eye?

Did we miss any amazing things to see in Puerto Vallarta? Please join the conversation in the comments down below!

Enjoy these related Mexico blogs!

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I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

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  1. Rachel-Jean Firchau

    This is the most comprehensive first-timer’s guide ever! I hope to go to Puerto Vallarta soon! and that drone video towards the top is STUNNING. thanks for sharing!

    • Shelley

      Hey Rachel: Thanks for checkin’ out the blog! I’m thrilled you found it useful.

  2. Taylor

    Wow! Puerto Vallarta looks absolutely incredible! You’re so lucky you get to explore all of these beautiful gems in Mexico. I just added PV to my bucket list. 🙂

  3. galatia savva

    This looks like its right up my alley! im very inspired with your Mexican Travels – I was discouraged from going 2 years ago because of ”safety” – reading all your articles i realize there is soooo much more to Mexico than the odd incident! thank you for sharing!

    • Shelley

      Hi Galatia: While Mexico does have its share of “bad” parts (like all countries), after living & traveling solo here for the last 2.5 years, I feel a lot of that might be sensationalized… I think if you are following some general travel safety measures, you’re as safe in Mexico as a traveler as you are in most countries in the world. I hope you get to visit one day! It’s an amazing, diverse, culturally-rich country 🇲🇽

  4. Rachel

    Great post! Love all the detail, so useful when I’m planning my trip to Mexico next year!

  5. Megan

    I love how colorful the houses are in Zona Romantico! I didn’t realize there was so much more to do than just hit the beach; what a fun town!

    • Shelley

      Hi Megan: Thanks for checking out the blog! Yes, there really is so much to do…. and actually, when I visited, I spent pretty little time on the actual beach lol!!

  6. Michelle

    I usually spend time in the Yucatan Peninsula as I’m a sucker for Caribbean beaches, but you’ve definitely inspired me to check out Puerto Vallarta the next chance I get! Thanks for such a great list of ideas 🙂

    • Shelley

      Michelle: Glad you seem to love Mexico overall! PV is a unique experience, in my opinion, because there’s so much fun to have in the mountains just behind the beaches… also I love the food of Jaliso state so much 🤤🌮

  7. Marika

    What I wouldn’t give to be soaking up the sun in Mexico right now. These are great ideas. I really want to visit Puerto Vallarta now.

  8. Krista

    I used to go here when I was a kid with my parents! I obviously don’t remember much though, so I would love to go back and check out some of the things on your list.

    • Shelley

      Hi Marika: I’m sure it has changed a lot over the years, but to me, Puerto Vallarta still had so much old school charm…. More than any other Mexico beach town I’ve visited, in fact!!

  9. Ashlee Fechino

    Mexico is one of my favorite countries! We had plans to go to Cozumel this year but canceled. Have yet to visit PV. Fun photos! Saved to Pinterest for planning our next trip to Mexico.


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