Puerto Vallarta Pier
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Travel Guide to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Mexico is a beach paradise where the pacific ocean meets the Sierra Madre mountains to create a place where visitors keep coming back year after year. Puerto Vallarta is known as one of the top beach destinations in Mexico. From the hospitality from the locals, the exquisite cuisine and the seemingly endless activities available the magic of all this city has to offer awaits you. 

Puerto Vallarta Pier

Puerto Vallarta Activities

Puerto Vallarta is home to both jungle and beach, which means there is no shortage of natural beauty to explore. Whether it’s exploring the jungle and deserted beaches, sailing into the sunset, or tasting the local culture through its unique cuisine and nightlife there is no shortage of fun. 

The Malecon

The centerpiece of Puerto Vallarta is the Malecon. Bustling with activity all hours of the day this boardwalk connects multiple areas of the city. Walking the Malecon is often the best way to become acquainted with Puerto Vallarta. Here you’ll find artists, sculptures, restaurants, shops all while watching the waves crash into the rocks. 

Experience local street food, watch an outdoor performance at the Los Arcos amphitheater,  grab a cocktail at one of the many local restaurants, or simply have a free front-row seat to the stunning Puerto Vallarta sunsets. After sunset, the Malecon changes into a gathering spot for locals and visitors alike who are ready to enjoy the nightlife. 

El Centro

Behind the Malecon, you’ll find the historic streets of El Centro or the central part of Puerto Vallarta. Cobblestone streets and a beautiful Cathedral create a dreamy backdrop. Exploring this area enjoy delicious local restaurants like Cafe des Artistes or No Se Nada. There is no shortage of local boutiques with handmade items so you can take home a piece of Puerto Vallarta with you.

Catch the best view of Puerto Vallarta by hiking to Mirador La Cruz del Cerro which is behind the Malecon.

Zona Romantica

Over the river, Cuale where the Malecon pier is is a lively neighborhood where many visitors feel right at home and never leave. Known as the LGBTQ neighborhood, there are rainbow flags, cafes, restaurants, and activities day and night to enjoy.

Colorful buildings, local street art, and the Lazaro Cardenas Park where benches are intricately designed with tile are a centerpiece of this neighborhood. Music, open art galleries, and farmers markets frequent this area making visitors feel like it’s a second home.

Yelapa 

Yelapa is a small fishing town next to Puerto Vallarta that many people neglect to visit as it’s easy to get caught up in all the big city has to offer. A quick boat ride can whisk visitors away from the busy Los Muertos beach to a place that feels like it’s in another world. 

Explore deserted beaches, sip on a fresh passion fruit margarita or search for a jungle waterfall. Have a horseback ride on the beach with a local guide who can share their culture and experiences, or sit by the beach and enjoy locally caught seafood and enjoy the view.

Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Right down the road from Puerto Vallarta is a local gem that is hidden away in the mountains. Upon arrival at the botanical gardens, there is an immediate feeling of tranquility. Simply walk around and admire the countless foliage, flowers, hiking trails, and wildlife that occupy this area. 

Take a break from exploring and enjoy the incredible meals at the restaurant. The staff is warm and welcoming, and the food is an incredible way to experience the local cuisine. 

Isla Cuale

The Rio Cuale separates El Centro and Zona Romantica and lining the river is an area known for art galleries, restaurants, local markets, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy it all. The cultural center hosts workshops on dance, music, drama, painting, and yoga.

Tours in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is not just a beach town. Its location allows for a variety of activities on the water to adventures in the jungle. There are so many choices it’s hard to choose! 

Whale watching 

One of the most popular tours from November to March is whale watching. During this time whales are abundant in the area. If you have a balcony with a view of the beach, there is a very good chance you’ll spot a whale or two during your stay. Whale watching is the perfect way to connect with local wildlife and learn about them from locals. 

Isla Marietas tour 

Isla Marietas are a group of islands with a famous “hidden beach”. Tours allow visitors to snorkel through a cave and onto the secret beach for pictures. This area is so special because of the unique wildlife that lives here. This tour is an adventurous way to spend a day on the open sea learning about the island’s importance and why it is heavily protected by the Mexican government today. 

Food Tour

The best way to learn about local culture is through food. Take a journey around Puerto Vallarta and discover the top dishes and restaurants that are serving up local cuisine. Local guides are passionate about educating visitors on the meaning behind the cuisine and how the town’s history has shaped its gastronomy today.

Pirate Ship Tour

The open sea awaits. Take a classic pirate ship out to surrounding islands for water activities, food, entertainment, and more on this exciting tour! There is a day tour option as well as a sunset dinner cruise that closes out with fireworks in front of the Malecon.

Sailing

boats
Marina, Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta has multiple options for water tours, but why not enjoy a slow pace with drinks out on the beautiful waters around Puerto Vallarta and end the day with the perfect sunset view. Locals also offer catamaran tours that include an open bar and meals. 

Hiking

The good news for nature lovers, there is no shortage of options for local hiking. From Cerro de la Cruz lookout that boasts some of the best sunrise or sunset views in the city to the trail that starts at Boca de Tomatlan that ends at Playa Colomitos with ocean views, walks through various beaches, and a front-row seat to the jungle. 

Extreme Sports

ATVs, rappelling down a waterfall, or ziplining are all popular activities for visitors who are looking for an adrenaline rush and are looking to explore the diverse terrain that Puerto Vallarta has to offer.

Scuba Diving 

Why not head under the sea? Puerto Vallarta has shipwrecks, marine life, and coral reefs waiting to be explored. Whether you’re an experienced diver or are interested in getting certified Puerto Vallarta has plenty of options available for visitors to get started on a deep-sea adventure.

Jet Ski Rental

A very popular option for visitors is simply renting a Jet Ski and buzzing around the shoreline for hours! Options include a tour guide that can take visitors to local gems like the Los Arcos, or arches that are seen in the distance from Playa Los Muertos beach.

Top Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta

The true culture of Puerto Vallarta comes alive inside its food! Whether it’s a romantic sunset dinner, handcrafted cocktails with fresh local ingredients, or indulging in the many varieties of tacos the restaurants in Puerto Vallarta are waiting.

Tacos

A major staple for Mexico is tacos! In Puerto Vallarta, there are restaurants and street vendors that sell incredible tacos day and night. Maria Baja Tacos offers a fresh take on fish tacos. Options range from seared tuna tacos to the classic battered fish taco. No other restaurant in Puerto Vallarta serves the number of fresh salsa options that Maria Baja does. For a traditional family-run restaurant with incredible tacos, Tacos Sonorita Olas Altas is high on the list. The staff treats its guests like family and the food has massive portions with a fresh authentic Mexican flavor. 

Romantic Dinner

Puerto Vallarta’s beach is lined with restaurants, but which restaurant has the sophisticated cuisine and incredible view to create the perfect romantic setting. El Dorado on the Beach offers fresh ingredients, incredible staff, and of course the perfect view for a romantic sunset dinner. 

Another perfect romantic restaurant is Hacienda San Angel. Located in Centro this restaurant has breathtaking views of the cathedral, the town, and the ocean. Most nights local musicians serenade it’s audience with soothing and romantic music.

Breakfast

There is nothing like starting the day with an incredible breakfast. Puerto Vallarta has a couple of restaurants that stand out from all the others. Salud Super Food in Zona Romantica has the fresh and healthy breakfast you are looking for to start your day. Or, enjoy a mimosa with a full breakfast at Coco’s Kitchen.

Cocktails

Puerto Vallarta is known for its hand-crafted cocktails with fresh ingredients. Mezcal y Sal is an all-female-run restaurant and cocktail bar with some of the most exciting and creative cocktails around. No se Nada has a rooftop with an ocean view and incredible cocktails made with local fruits. The owners and staff give off a family vibe which makes visitors come back time and time again.

Seafood

Puerto Vallarta knows seafood. Add in a Mexican flare and El Barracuda has everything you’re looking for. Not to mention its incredible ocean views, friendly staff, and convenient location in the Cinco de Diciembre neighborhood. For lunch try Cafe de Olla for an incredible shrimp sandwich, it tastes like Mexican comfort food and it’s incredible.

Traditional Mexican Cuisine

Look no further, Merida Grill offers incredible traditional Yucatecan Cuisine. The staff takes time to explain the menu to its guests and offers incredible cocktails and wine options as well. Not to mention its restaurant has a beautiful tree growing right through it truly making it a one-of-a-kind experience. 

Top Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta’s seemingly never-ending coastline is home to a multitude of incredible beaches to explore. Its location on Banderas Bay creates a variety of options for sunbathing and water activities. 

Playa Los Muertos

The popular and busiest beach is of course the beach in the center of town. This beach has restaurants, bars, shops, and of course chairs and umbrellas you can use for the day, some of which are free with any purchase at the restaurant. Tour guides are available to help book trips for parasailing, jet skiing, local tours, massages, and more! 

If solitude is what you’re searching for, go to the end of Playa  Los Muertos beach and climb the stairs over the rocks, and on the other side is a smaller beach with a small cave that is usually quite empty aside from the locals cooking up fresh skewered shrimp and fish.

Playa Palmares 

A quick ride down the road and experience Playa Palmares. During the week it is deserted. The water is calm and there is one restaurant available. This restaurant has some of the freshest passion fruit margaritas around and incredible fish tacos. For a quiet beach day, this is a top choice.

Playa Quimixto

Around Yelapa is a quiet beach tucked away further down the coast past Puerto Vallarta. There are two beach restaurants here with incredibly fresh seafood and beverages. Tours come here daily or simply take a fast boat from Puerto Vallarta to enjoy solitude. Locals may offer horseback riding or a walk to the local waterfall. 

Puerto Vallarta Nightlife

Puerto Vallarta has a lively nightlife from clubs on the Malecon like Mandala or high-end clubs with bottle service and the potential for a celebrity on vacation to pop up like La Santa. Puerto Vallarta also has a very impressive LGBTQ nightlife from drag shows and high-end events at The Top Bar to dancing the night away at Mr. Flamingo which is one of the most popular LGBTQ bars in the city. 

The nightlife options are almost unlimited and a lot of clubs and bars stay open from 3-6 am. The streets are well lit and safe to walk at night or opt to take Uber or a taxi. No matter where the night takes you Puerto Vallarta is ready to open its arms to you and make a lasting impact that you won’t forget.

Words and photos by Samantha Ann Fulmer. Follow her on Instagram.