Located on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. With an average daily temperature of 80 degrees all year round, any time of year is a good time to visit.
The Puerto Vallarta beaches, stunning landscape, and captivating culture are known worldwide as some of the best. With tourism being its number one source of income, anything you want to do – there’s a tour for that. There’s so much to see, taste, and explore that you’ll never run out of things to do in Puerto Vallarta!
Aside from the sights, the people make this place spectacular. Travel + Leisure magazine even voted Puerto Vallarta as the Friendliest City in the World. As one of our favorite destinations, we agree, and it is our pleasure to present you with 25 of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
In This Article…
- Getting in the Zones
- 25 of the Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
- 1. El Malecon (The Boardwalk)
- 2. Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe)
- 3. The Marietas Islands
- 4. Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Banderas)
- 5. Playa Los Muertos (Los Muertos Beach)
- 6. Vallarta Jardin Botanico (Vallarta Botanical Garden)
- 7. Hike to Cascadas Palo Maria
- 8. Hike the Boca de Tomatlan to Quimixto Trail
- 9. Quimixto
- 10. Winter Whale Watching Tours
- 11. Walking Tour of Downtown
- 12. Playa Mismaloya (Mismaloya Beach)
- 13. Ziplining Adventures
- 14. Exploring the Jungle on an ATV Tour
- 15. Tour of San Sebastian del Oeste
- 16. Deep Sea Fishing Adventure
- 17. Tequila Tasting
- 18. Historical and Heritage Tour
- 19. The Mariagalante Pirate Ship
- 20. Bike Tours
- 21. World Class Golf Courses
- 22. Shopping
- 23. Yelapa
- 24. Rhythms of the Night
- 25. Isla Rio Cuale (Cuale River Island)
- Cruise Port Information
Getting in the Zones
Puerto Vallarta is the Mexican state of Jalisco’s fifth-largest city, with a population of just over 300,000. The city is sectioned into what’s referred to as “zones,” with each zone offering a unique experience.
The Downtown Zone
The cobblestone streets of this zone are lined with restaurants, bars, art galleries, and fashionable storefronts. Take a stroll and drink in the history and mystery – or some fine tequila.
The Hotel Zone
This zone is one of the most popular parts of Puerto Vallarta. If this is your first time visiting these lovely shores, the Hotel Zone is the perfect place to be. Its central location gives you easy access to many of the other zones, some within walking distance.
The Marina Vallarta
Another popular area for vacationers, this zone occupies the northwest piece of Puerto Vallarta. A world-class golf course, dozens of restaurants, cafes, and boutiques will keep you as busy as you want to be here.
The North Zone
Located in the northeast tip of Puerto Vallarta, this zone starts on the northwest side of the bay at Punta Mita and runs south along the coast, ending in Bucerias. The timeless look and laid-back feeling give this zone a rustic charm that beckons the weary traveler.
The Romantic Zone
As its name suggests, this zone offers an intimate experience, trading the resort accommodations of Marina Vallarta for boutique-style inns and cabanas. If you’re looking for a little nightlife, it’s got that too! Many bars and restaurants are within walking distance of any of the accommodations in this area.
The South Zone
This zone is mainly residential, so you won’t find many of the tourist attractions available in other areas. But if you’re looking to just relax and enjoy the beautiful weather, there are still a few resorts that boast their own beaches in this area.
Now that we’ve laid out the framework for your personalized experience, it’s time for our list of things to do in Puerto Vallarta!
25 of the Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
Whether you’re a mountain biker, a street biker, a mountain climber, a zip-liner, or are just looking to lay out and catch some sun, there is something for you here in Puerto Vallarta.
Our list is numbered for organization only. We love all of these amazing Puerto Vallarta attractions equally, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy experiencing them in any order that you choose.
1. El Malecon (The Boardwalk)
If anyone you know has ever been to Puerto Vallarta, you’ll have heard them rave about the legendary El Malecon. Stretching for about a mile, this legendary boardwalk gives you the ocean on one side and a fun line-up of shops and restaurants on the other.
Jalisco is known as the Mariachi Music Capital of Mexico. Many say Mariachi was born here, so you can bet you’ll run into a Mariachi band or two on your stroll down El Malecon.
If you happen to be around on any Tuesday from November through April, the Galeria Pacifico Art Gallery sponsors a Public Sculpture Walking Tour that starts at 9:30 a.m. The Tour is free of charge with no reservation needed!
Your scenic stroll down El Malecon will lead you to the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta, and our next pick for this list.
2. Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe)
This architectural masterpiece sees some of the heaviest tourist traffic in Puerto Vallarta. Its popularity is likely due, at least in part, to it being so recognizable as a symbol of the city. Its likeness can be found on everything from t-shirts, postcards, and tattoos.
With the groundbreaking in 1930 and the official opening of the doors in 1940, the Parish was an eagerly anticipated addition to Puerto Vallarta’s skyline. The Parish has seen its flow of visitors climb exponentially over the years and welcomes millions of people every year.
3. The Marietas Islands
The enchanting Marietas Islands are an hour by boat from Puerto Vallarta, but so worth the travel time. You’ll explore the mysteries of the caves and lagoons while you “ooh” and “aah” over the crystalline waters.
Whether you want to explore the Hidden Beach in a kayak or on a paddleboard, or check out the amazing marine life with a snorkel and mask, there’s guaranteed to be a tour for you.
4. Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Banderas)
Unfortunately for all the Antonio Banderas fans, this isn’t the bay of that Banderas. But we think it’s just as beautiful.
At about half a mile (900 meters) deep and 42 miles (68 kilometers) wide, this Bay ranks at the top of the list for its beauty and size. The Bay has about 50 miles of shoreline in total, with 30 of those miles being beach-goer friendly.
Any water activity you can think of can be found at the bay from banana boat rides to kayaking, snorkeling, and even surfing! So pack your sunscreen and beach gear and head over to the Bay for some sun and fun.
5. Playa Los Muertos (Los Muertos Beach)
Located in the Romantic Zone, Playa Los Muertos is a hot spot for beach activities like volleyball, surfing, and snorkeling. Or if you’re just looking to take it easy and enjoy the sun, there’s a spot for that.
Its name means “Deadman’s Beach” and there are lots of stories about why this beautiful beach was given such a gruesome name, from pirates to Indians to being a sacred cemetery of the natives. No matter which story they hear, the name doesn’t seem to bother anyone, because this lovely shore is one of the most popular parts of Puerto Vallarta.
If you didn’t already think you were in paradise and maybe need a little more proof, our next pick will put you over the top.
6. Vallarta Jardin Botanico (Vallarta Botanical Garden)
The Vallarta Jardin Botanico is about 14 miles south of downtown Puerto Vallarta and easily accessible by car, bus, or taxi. The Garden offers several different hosted tours, or you can wander through its dreamy paths at your leisure.
Take a dip in the Crystal or Emerald pools, but keep your triumphant yells to a minimum or you might be booted. The Garden strictly forbids any visitors from disturbing the peace of the natural surroundings.
Although no outside food or beverages are permitted, the Garden’s restaurant will keep your stomach as happy as you are.
Admission to the park is just 200 pesos (about $10 USD) and it’s open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Monday).
7. Hike to Cascadas Palo Maria
About 20 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta is the gateway to a whole other world. You’ll think you’ve woken up in the movie “Avatar” on this scenic hike.
This is considered an easy-moderate trek. It’s about 1.7 miles in and out but covers some rough terrain and lots of river, so if you’ve got water shoes, you’ll want to bring them.
8. Hike the Boca de Tomatlan to Quimixto Trail
Looking for a little more of a challenge? For our seasoned hikers that appreciate a sweet reward for their hard work, this trail starts at the Boca de Tomatlan and takes you through the sleepy town of Quimixto to its breathtaking waterfalls.
The total length of this hike (in and back) is 12 miles, but don’t worry that you’ll run out of water or sustenance, as there are plenty of restaurants and watering holes along the way. If you decide to stay a little later and don’t want to risk running into nightfall on the trail, there are also plenty of water taxis that can return you to your starting point.
The little village of Quimixto is located down the south coast of Puerto Vallarta between Playa Las Animas and Playa Majahuitas at the mouth of the La Puerta river.
The village is only accessible by boat or trail, so if you’re planning a day trip there, be sure to check out the options to and from its lovely shores.
10. Winter Whale Watching Tours
Even humpback whales love to vacation in Puerto Vallarta! Although they can be spotted anytime in the waters here, the official whale watching season in Puerto Vallarta runs from December to March. The middle months of January and February will give you the best chance of spotting these majestic creatures.
There are dozens of whale watching tours that will give you varying levels of service, from private tours with a marine biologist to more budget-friendly standard boat tours. Remember to bring your camera for a heart-stopping encounter with these beautiful animals.
11. Walking Tour of Downtown
Explore the mouth-watering smells and captivating culture of downtown Puerto Vallarta on foot. Whether you’re feeling like a taco and tequila tour or a look at the art galleries and cultural offerings, there is an abundance of choices for hosted tours, many of them free!
If you’d prefer to go solo with a self-guided stroll, you certainly can. In fact, here’s a link to a helpful map of downtown Puerto Vallarta.
12. Playa Mismaloya (Mismaloya Beach)
Head south down the coast from Puerto Vallerta to experience the mesmerizing beauty of Playa Mismaloya. Its roots as a fishing village are still in evidence, and the laid-back vibe will have you feeling like you should be on a relaxed vacation to Puerto Vallarta.
If you visit Playa Mismaloya, make it a day that includes the Los Arcos National Park, where you’ll be delighted by spottings of manta rays and turtles, and the Zoologico de Vallarta (Vallarta Zoo), where many of Mexico’s native plants and animals are kept safe but available to view and enjoy.
13. Ziplining Adventures
If your idea of a good time is flying over a canopy of greenery and feeling the wind on your face, then ziplining is the way to go. Vallarta Adventures offers the longest zip line path in Puerto Vallarta, and they’re one of the most reputable tour companies in the city. Plan for about 8 hours of total time spent, as this visitor favorite is an all-day excursion.
The adventure starts in a speed boat across the bay, before climbing aboard the famous yellow Unimog trucks that take you through the heart of the Sierra Madre. A steady trek on a sturdy mule will take you under the canopy of a sub-tropical paradise to the exhilarating starting point of this unforgettable zipline adventure.
14. Exploring the Jungle on an ATV Tour
Are you more of a take-the-wheel kind of explorer? Well, Puerto Vallarta has you covered. There are dozens of ATV tours that’ll take you through the various terrains of this beautiful vacation destination.
Although you can also rent an ATV on your own, if you’re not familiar with the area, we suggest a guided tour.
15. Tour of San Sebastian del Oeste
Green mountains and valleys surround the fairytale setting offered by pueblo San Sebastian del Oeste. Museums, tequila tastings, and vibrant culture await you in this magic city in the mountains.
Founded in 1605 as a mining town, San Sebastian del Oeste is located in the western part of Jalisco. Cattle, coffee, and corn plantations dot the landscape of the surrounding valley and paint a completely different picture than what you’ve seen in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. Tour old haciendas, some in ruins and some that have been lovingly preserved, and offer visitors a view into the past.
16. Deep Sea Fishing Adventure
If you’ve got deep-sea fishing on your bucket list, Puerto Vallarta can make that happen. Its waters are said to rank at the top of the world’s best deep-sea fishing spots.
Whether you’re looking for an intimate, privately chartered tour with a local captain, or a more inclusive group tour, there’s definitely one that will meet your needs and exceed your expectations.
17. Tequila Tasting
The earliest version of Tequila dates back to 1000 B.C. when it was made by the Aztecs and went by the name “pulque.” Today, Tequila is synonymous with Mexico and its culture.
Whether you’re a connoisseur of cocktails or just a curious consumer, you’ll enjoy any of the many Tequila Tasting tours available in Puerto Vallarta.
18. Historical and Heritage Tour
The beauty of Puerto Vallarta is steeped in history and culture that can be experienced casually or as part of an official Historical and Heritage tour.
Plan for a full day of hitting some of the major highlights on the list of Puerto Vallarta attractions when you sign up for one of the many Historical and Heritage tours available.
19. The Mariagalante Pirate Ship
Seen as a subject of pride and joy for Puerto Vallarta, the Mariagalante pirate ship is a Spanish galleon replica modeled after the famous Santa Maria. Built in 1987, this beautiful vessel sails the waters around the Los Arcos rock formation.
The enthusiastic crew of the Mariagalante invites visitors to join them in a night of high seas shenanigans and swashbuckling swordplay aboard this water-bound work of art. Tours are available both day and night, 7 days a week.
20. Bike Tours
As you might guess by now, the natural wonders of Puerto Vallarta make it a haven for most outdoor activity enthusiasts, and that includes cyclists. There are many guided tours that will take you through the jungle or up the mountain, or even through the streets of downtown Puerto Vallarta.
If you’re an experienced cyclist just looking for some good cycling spots, Puerto Vallarta won’t let you down. Head over to bikemap.net for recommendations on cycling routes to and from Puerto Vallarta.
21. World Class Golf Courses
7 golf courses designed by the likes of golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, and Robert von Hagge attract golf enthusiasts year-round.
Get your golf pass and check out the world-class links of Puerto Vallarta.
Whether you’re looking for sunscreen, jewelry, a posh new outfit for a night out on the town, artwork, or fresh produce, Puerto Vallarta offers an eclectic mix of shopping options sprinkled throughout its borders. A convenient shopping guide is available through the official Visit Puerto Vallarta website.
The enchanting Yelapa Cove is 40 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta (by boat), nestled at the base of the impressive Sierra Madre mountain range. The tiny cove will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a tropical fairytale.
Lay out on its soft white sand or enjoy any of the ocean-bound activities offered in this hidden gem.
24. Rhythms of the Night
As the #1 dinner show in Puerto Vallarta, Rhythms of the Night is sure to satisfy your appetite for a gourmet meal and outstanding entertainment.
As you watch the sun set, your excitement will rise as soon as the performers enter the stage. Watch in awe as they execute hair-raising spins and twists, all put to music with a live band.
25. Isla Rio Cuale (Cuale River Island)
Closing out our list is the amazing Isla Rio Cuale, which is accessible by a bridge in Banderas Bay. Ride a bike or take a stroll to this lovely inlet island famous for its handmade crafts and flea market.
Satisfy your craving for delicious, authentic Mexican street food by visiting any of the many street food vendors along the path.
Cruise Port Information
2 terminals serve the city of Puerto Vallarta: the Marina Vallarta and the Cruise terminal, which is approximately 3 miles north of downtown Puerto Vallarta.
It’s a well-known fact that this port can only accommodate 3 ships at a time, so it’s unlikely that your ship will get put in the holding spot farther out, but if it is, no worries, accommodations for your transport will be handled by your ship’s crew.
A day won’t feel like enough in Puerto Vallarta, but you won’t want to miss the opportunity to explore. Many cruisers also choose to book day passes at nearby hotels to take advantage of their luxurious facilities, pool or beach-side services. Booking through the cruise line is always a good option too as you’ll be protected with any delays or cancellations.
We get this question a lot and the answer is it’s as safe as any busy vacation destination. In fact, Puerto Vallarta is considered one of the safest places to visit in Mexico.
Yes. The months from June to October are what’s considered Puerto Vallarta’s “rainy season,” but most of the rainfall is mild and won’t interfere with your vacation plans.
Puerto Vallarta has maintained a certificate of water purity for 17 consecutive years, so the answer is yes. The water is safe to drink.