The 37 Best Things To Do In Puerto Vallarta 2023 + Top Tours

Welcome to my ultimate guide on the 37 best things to do in Puerto Vallarta. In this article, I divulge all of the town’s most well-known highlights as well as some of the locals’ favorites.

Read on to find everything from the best free things to do in Puerto Vallarta, to the most unique, adventurous, and family-friendly.

Plus, I offer some insight into the best neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta and the best time to visit this sensational Mexican city. So grab a drink, settle in, and enjoy the read.

Puerto Vallarta at a Glance

Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s most popular travel destinations, and for good reasons. Despite becoming one of the most visited places in Mexico, the town retains its authentic feel and is rich in culture.

From its artsy Malecon (beach promenade) to underwater adventures, delicious food, great shopping, hiking trails, and much more to explore, Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite places to spend an active vacation.

Of course, you will also find great All-Inclusive boutique hotels where to get pampered and relax but you can definitely enjoy the best of both worlds.

In this post, I am going to help you find the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta in 2023 that suit your needs.

But first, let me help you get acquainted by telling you a little bit about the city layout and what are the best areas where to stay and hang out.

Puerto Vallarta church
Puerto Vallarta historical center

Interactive Map of Puerto Vallarta

From hotels to vegan restaurants and from beaches to transportation, this interactive map shows you the best places to eat and stay, and the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta Map
Click on the image to open the interactive map

Free things to do in Puerto Vallarta

There are many things to do in Puerto Vallarta that don’t cost a thing and yet give you the opportunity to explore this pretty city. I have listed them here below.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon

1. Walk along the Malecón

This promenade starts in Downtown Puerto Vallarta, also called Old Vallarta, and stretches all the way to Zona Romantica.

Touring el Malecón, whether you do it on a bike or on foot, is one of the best things to do when you arrive in Puerto Vallarta since its energy captures the fervent soul of the town.

There are a lot of shops, restaurants, street vendors, bars, etc. along this walkway. You can take pictures of the beautiful sculptures along the promenade.

There are also plenty of street performers doing fun plays and free concerts. Also, if you’re here between November and April, there’s a free sculpture walking tour that starts at 9:30 AM every Tuesday and lasts for 2 hours.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon is a popular place for early morning power walks or dog walks and beautiful sunset watching in the evening.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon

2. Visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

While you’re taking a walk around the Malecón, take a detour along the narrow cobblestone alleys, and you’ll spot this 100-year-old church, one of Puerto Vallarta’s most recognizable landmarks.

3. Explore Zona Romantica

As I mentioned before, you cannot visit PV without visiting the Romantic Zone. No matter which area you’re staying in, even if it’s the North Zone, make sure to visit here at least once and spend the day. That said, Zona Romantica is considered one of the best and most popular areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta for first-time visitors.

There are many good reasons why this area is one of the best places for expats and people who love to visit PV again and again.

It’s a bit crowded, especially during high season, but definitely worth exploring.

You will find great restaurants and coffee shops, and delicious street food, lots of art galleries, and green areas, such as Cuale River Island, that you can reach through swinging bridges.

Puerto vallarta zona romantica plaza
Puerto Vallarta Zona romantica

4. Join a food tour

One of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for foodies is(of course) a food tour. What better way to experience of the town and region’s rich and flavorful food scene? They are organized by the tourist office (that you can find right beside the Guadalupe church) and they are free.

You will get a taste of the best food truck around the city. Vegan options are available too, although the majority of street food is made with seafood and meat.

👉 You can also book a privately organized food tour which comes at a cost but is all worth the money.

5. Play on Puerto Vallarta’s beaches

Puerto Vallarta playa de los muertos - puerto vallarta things to do
Puerto Vallarta Playa de Los Muertos aerial view

This is a no-brainer, I know but I had to include it. Puerto Vallarta is up there when it comes to being the top beach town in Mexico because of its amazing beaches.

And despite being on the pacific coast, they are all swimmable, and it won’t cost you anything to be here and enjoy your time.

Los Muertos Beach (Playa de los Muertos) is perhaps one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta. You’ll happen to walk across it while you’re taking a walk down the Malecón, but you should spend at least a day here.

You can also take a short hike along the coast from Los Muertos Beach heading south to Conchas China.

On the main strip of beaches in Zona Romantica, there are plenty of facilities here, from food to beach chairs, and the water is perfect for swimming.

If you’re like me and aren’t fond of the crowds, you can go up to the North Zone or down to the South Zone to find some of the best beaches with fewer tourists.

Puerto Vallarta beach at sunset

6. Join a free Downtown walking tour

I’ve mentioned that Downtown Puerto Vallarta is a goldmine for people who are into architecture, art, and history. But even if you aren’t into those popular things, there are still plenty of fun and exciting things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Whether you’re staying downtown or not, I highly recommend you take a walk in the gorgeous cobblestone streets and go on an original downtown tour for sightseeing.

Also, don’t forget to see the peaceful oasis in the middle of Old Vallarta called Isla Cuale, because no trip to PV is complete without a day spent lingering here.

The island, which is connected to the mainland by swinging bridges, is also a sort of Sanctuary for street cats, well-taken care of by locals.

Here you can also find a couple of lovely restaurants and a flea market with interesting souvenirs made by local artisans and artists.

You can definitely walk around on your own, but the tourist office also organizes free walking tours. Check the schedule in the office close to the Guadalupe church.

Down Town Puerto vallarta
Puerto Vallarta down town

7. Spot the Puerto Vallarta street art

There are a ton of talented street artists in the city, and you can find exquisitely drawn pieces of street art on sidewalks and buildings across PV.

It might not sound very exciting, but wait until you see the street art here; it’s absolutely beautiful.

You’ll happen across a few while taking a walking tour, make sure to snap a few pics with them.

Puerto Vallarta Aerial View - things to do in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta aerial view


Adventurous things to do in Puerto Vallarta

The city has plenty to offer for those of you who are looking to spice up your vacation through adventures. I’ve already covered beaches, so I’m not going to include them here.

There are local tour operators that organize amazing day trip tours to explore the area and take you on an adventure.

So without further adieu, let me introduce you to the top adventurous things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

8. Brave the Puerto Vallarta zipline

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The zip line in Puerto Vallarta is one of the most appreciated tours among adventure seekers and definitely one of the most adrenaline-pumping things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

I am not particularly fond of it, just because I am scared to fall but that’s just me!

If you want to check out the spectacular nature of the lush Sierra Madre mountain range embracing Puerto Vallarta, and if you are an adrenaline seeker this canopy tour is the best way to do it.

👉 Book your Zip Line tour in Puerto Vallarta in advance here!

9. Drive an ATV through the Sierra Madre

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An ATV adventure that’ll take you through the countryside around the Sierra Madre mountains. On the 3 hour-long tours, you’ll drive through rivers, mud, small villages, jungles, and more, to fully experience the countryside.

👉 Book your ATV adventure tour here

10. Horseback Riding in Puerto Vallarta

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can also take a horseback riding tour which will take you from the Sierra Madre to tropical rainforest and then to a beautiful yet uncrowded beach, making it the perfect way to end your thrilling ride.

This is a very common tour in Puerto Vallarta and more eco-friendly than the ATV, which is why it’s more my kind of jam.

👉 Book your horseback riding tour here

11. Book a yoga retreat in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta has become a very common destination for yoga retreats due to the peaceful and soothing sceneries and the tropical jungle vibes — perfect for healing or energizing.

Here below I am sharing one of the companies that I recommend to find the perfect retreat for you.

Click on the banner below and check out the options available in your travel dates.

12. Go snorkeling/ scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta

Are you a fan of swimming and marine life? If you answered yes, then this one will be quite a treat for you.

Snorkeling is one of my favorite things to do in Puerto Vallarta, and you will find plenty of snorkeling sites where local tours can take you.

You can book tours to go snorkeling or scuba diving in the open ocean around Puerto Vallarta and swim with whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, and many more.

You can see all the marine life up close (though don’t get too close), and have the adventure of your lifetime.


And yes the dolphin tour available is completely in the wild, which means that you are not 100% guaranteed to see them. However, the boat captain knows more or less where they like to swim and so you have a very good chance to swim with them.

But you’ll do it with complete respect for nature, without supporting animal exploitation.

Another awesome spot for snorkeling is Los Arcos National Marine Park, right in front of Puerto Vallarta where many boat tours will take you.

This dolphin tour I am recommending has 335 5-star Reviews! Check it out!

👉 I recommend you Book the dolphin tour here

Check out more snorkeling tours here

13. Check out Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Botanical garden – Photo © Isabella Biava

Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens is one of the most beautiful in Mexico. Located at only 30 minutes local bus ride from Puerto Vallarta, it makes a great day trip from the city.

The extensive park contains many flower species and plants.

You can take a beautiful walk around the park and then stop by their local restaurant while watching birds eating from fruit plants nearby.

You can get around on your own or take a local tour where they show you around and tell you about the history and the initiatives of the place.

Botanical gardens admission cost: 200 MXN ( 10 USD)

Opening hours: Open from 10-6 seven days a week. Between April 1st and November 1stit’s closed on Mondays. On Thursday mornings, they offer early morning birding at 8 am.

👉 Join a guided botanical gardens tour + Tequila testing on VIATOR

14. Go whale-watching in Puerto Vallarta

HUmpback whales
a humpback whale

If you happen to be here in whale season which is from December through March, a whale-watching tour is one of my most highly recommended things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

It is an incredible experience to see humpback whales jumping above the water in the most graceful way despite their bulky size.

And you will be very close without disturbing them or causing any harm.

👉 Read more about the whale-watching boat tour here

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta for Families

As a super family-friendly destination, many of my recommended things to do in Puerto Vallarta are suitable to families, but the ones I have chosen to list below are definitely the most exciting!

15. Learn to cook authentic Mexican food

Almost everyone likes Mexican food, and learning a few recipes ensures that you can enjoy it as a family even when you’re back home.

You’ll begin with a tour of the market to handpick the ingredients for the cooking session, then return to the home of an internationally renowned chef to learn a few recipes.

From the sound of it, the whole affair might not seem like it’s for kids, but children over 5 are welcome to join and it’s so much fun also for them.

Pick one of the below highly-rated food classes!

16. Tour Marietas Islands

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Marieta islands

Take a tour of the Islas Marietas National Park, which is a group of small islands in the open water near Bahía de Banderas.

The hour-long tour includes a visit to a breathtaking sea cave where you and the kids will have so much fun exploring.

👉 Book the top-rated tour to the Marietas Island

17. Tour Las Caletas Beach

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The only great way to experience Las Caletas Beach is to book a tour through Vallarta Adventures.

I highly recommend taking this tour because the beach is absolutely beautiful, and the tour offers a ton of fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta’s most beautiful coastal setting for both adults and kids.

There’s a kids’ adventure park, snorkeling, kayaking, cooking classes, and much more.

👉 Book your tour to Las Caletas beach here

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta at night

Night or day, you’ll never be short on things to do in Puerto Vallarta. Here are some night tours in Puerto Vallarta and the activities I recommend not missing out on during the night.

18. Watch Rhythms of the Night

Rhythms of the Night has been described as Puerto Vallarta’s #1 show, so you definitely don’t want to miss it when you’re here.

Designed and directed by none other than Gilles Ste-Croix, co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, Rhythms of the Night provides you with an experience that’s unparalleled not just in PV, but anywhere else in the world.

Those of you who are planning to get married in PV can even get married at Las Caletas, which is the venue of the Rhythms of the Night, for an unforgettable experience.

👉 Book your VIP Access to the Rhythms of the Night show

Puerto Vallarta Sunset

19. Book a luxury sunset cruise tour

Sunsets are absolutely magical in this city, especially from the beautiful beaches or the bay. By taking a sunset boat tour, you will get the best views of the sunset, the city, and the Sierra Madre mountains.

Oh, and there are plenty of delicious drinks and snacks on board, which doesn’t hurt, either.

👉 BOOK the sunset cruise on VIATOR

20. Walk along the Malecón

I know this promenade keeps coming up over and over again, but there’s a very good reason for that. The Malecón is one of the best things to do inPuerto Vallarta because it is alive no matter which time of the day you go here.

While in the late afternoon you will enjoy spectacular sunsets, at night, the atmosphere on the Malecon is very different and yet entertaining.

If you’re gonna go here only once, I recommend going during the weekend as it’s much more active; all year round, every weekend, the Los Arcos Amphitheatre hosts free entertainment featuring live music, plays, talent shows, and much more.

Malecon at night
Sunset at the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta

21. Visit the Puerto Vallarta Cigar Factory

You might look at the name and wonder, “I don’t smoke. What will I do at a cigar factory?” Yes, there’s a cigar shop here, but there’s also a famous restaurant, a chocolate factory, a bakery, and a gourmet coffee shop.

Quite a lot to experience, and the food is delicious. No need to worry about cigar smoke, there’s no smoking allowed indoors.

22. Attend the Wednesday evening art walks

Those of you who are into art are in luck! This event is hosted by the city every Wednesday night making it another one of the free things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

From 6 pm to 10 pm, you’ll visit the various art galleries in Zona Romantica and admire different paintings, sculptures, pottery, and more, while getting a chance to sample some delicious wine.

You must check it out with the tourist office, located right by the old church!

Puerto Vallarta Los Muertos beach bridge

23. See panoramic views of Puerto Vallarta

There are many panoramic viewpoints throughout PV that’ll let you catch a spectacular view of the city and the sunset. But perhaps the best, and most famous, is Cerro de la Cruz lookout (mirador).

It’s situated at only a 20-30 minutes walk from the Romantic Zone, and, once you’re here, you’ll see why this sis one of my favourite places to go and things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Because it is a very secluded area, it can be unsafe at times. Therefore I suggest you go either with a group of people or on a weekend when more people are flocking to watch the sunset and you won’t be alone.

Read my post on Safety in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Sunset
Puerto Vallarta Sunset


Unique tours from Puerto Vallarta

There are so many cool places to see and things to do in Puerto Vallarta that you could easily spend your whole stay simply exploring the city. However, I recommend you also take the opportunity to make some memories with these unique tours from Puerto Vallarta.

24. Bikes and Bites: Taco Bicycle tour in Puerto Vallarta

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This unique tour in Puerto Vallarta is especially suitable for first-timers. It gives you the opportunity to ride among the highlights of the city while stopping at the top local eateries with a local guide. Max number of participants is 6.

👉 Bikes and Bites: Taco Bicycle tour in Puerto Vallarta BOOK NOW

25. Yelapa and Majahuitas Snorkeling tour from Puerto Vallarta

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Although you can get to Yalapa on your own, this unique tour snorkeling tour from Puerto Vallarta will give you chance to enjoy multiple activities and see many places in one day. Definitely one of the most recommended tours if you love to be in the water.

👉 Yelapa and Majahuitas Snorkeling tour from Puerto Vallarta BOOK IT HERE

26. Hiking Jorullo Bridge from Puerto Vallarta

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This is a very unique tour for nature lovers. There are many hikes around Puerto Vallarta but you need to know where to go.

This tour led by a local guide will take you on a nice walk among parrots, macaws, orchids, and other elements of the local flora and fauna in the Sierra Madre Occidental.

👉 Hiking Jorullo Bridge at Sierra Madre Occidental from Puerto Vallarta BOOK IT HERE

27. Surf lessons in Punta De Mita

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Although in Puerto Vallarta the beaches are very swimmable, you will find great surfing spots for all kinds of surfers of all levels if you move a few km north.

There is no better place to learn surfing even if you have never tried it before. Join this surfing class while exploring a new beach near Puerto Vallarta.


28. Puerto Vallarta Butterfly Sanctuary guided tour

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Nature lovers can explore Puerto Vallarta Butterfly Sanctuary and learn about the life cycles of the delicate winged creatures and get a chance to release newly hatched butterflies. Guided visits focus on the diversity of the flora and fauna within Banderas Bay.


29. Bean to Bar Chocolate Workshop in Puerto Vallarta

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Learn all about the sacred drink from the ancient pre-hispanic civilizations and how to transform raw cacao beans into delicious chocolate!


30. All-terrain Safari from Puerto Vallarta

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A fun way to explore the rainforest of the Sierra Madre Occidental on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta in a Polaris vehicle.


31. Puerto Vallarta Colomitos and Hiking

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A beautiful 1-hour hike in the tropical forest to reach the smallest beach in Puerto Vallarta. You can decide if you want to go back either on foot or by boat (additional cost) –



Day trips from Puerto Vallarta

Why not make the most of your time in this wonderful region and take a few day trips to properly appreciate the beauty of this part of Mexico’s Pacific Coast. There are so many things to do in Puerto Vallarta’s coastal region, but here are five-day trips I recommend taking.

32. San Sebastian del Oeaste

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Designated as a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism, this mining town turned tourist hub is situated only an hour’s drive away, making it one of the perfect day trips from Puerto Vallarta.

With only a population of around 5500 people, mostly consisting of farmers, this rustic place is situated high in the Sierra Madre mountains.

There is a lot of history here, including 18th-century buildings that’ll be a treat for those of you who love old architecture. The streets here are very idyllic and the whole town is surrounded by a ton of natural beauty.


33. Sayulita

Sayulita is a small, coastal town that’s situated about an hour’s drive from Puerto Vallarta. If you’re a surfing fan, you should definitely visit because the beaches here are the ideal place for surfers, but not restricted to it.

In fact, it is a quaint little town that in reality attracts all sorts of travelers, from families to beach lovers, yogis, and bohemian travelers in search of peace and tranquillity, or a party.

In Sayulita, you can find a little bit of all worlds.

Even if you’re not into surfing, you can relax and unwind on the nearby picturesque beaches here and enjoy the delicious food.

Sayulita main beach
Sayulita main beach

34. San Pancho

San Pancho is a tranquil laid back town only 5 km north of Sayulita, an easy day tour from Puerto Vallarta. It is definitely more peaceful and has a quaint community of locals and expatriates that work together to keep it safe and enjoyable, looking after the natural resources and helping each other out.

The result is that it is much safer than any other place on the Riviera Nayarit. Here you will find great food and coffee shops, a beautiful beach (better than Sayulita), hiking trails, and lots of outdoor activities. More about it soon.

San Pancho main street
San Pancho sunset

35. Punta Mita

Punta Mita is the upscale destination on the Riviera Nayarit, home to some of the most exclusive resorts and houses, and fancy shops. A luxurious place to take a day trip from Puerto Vallarta or even stay for a few days.

Golf lovers will enjoy some of the most incredible world-class golf courses designed by top architects.

Regardless, you will love driving around the area and stopping by some of the most beautiful beaches nearby. Those are public.

36. Quimixto

Quimixto beach from the boat
Quimixto Beach from the boat

Quimixto is one of my favorite beaches that you can only reach by boat either from Boca de Tomatlan or from Playa Muertos in Puerto Vallarta. So, if you’re looking for somewhere to escape the crowds, this day trip from Puerto Vallarta is the one for you.

Once you arrive you can first take a short hike to see a beautiful waterfall and then you can just relax on the beautiful deserted beach and have an amazing lunch in the only restaurant available. It’s a real paradise.

37. Yelapa

yelapa beach overview from one side
Yelapa Beach

Yelapa is another beach in the same bay as Quimixto, located further south and much more popular than Qumixto. However, I wasn’t really impressed. The beach was full of empty restaurants with tons of chairs and beach beds laid out.

The sea was dirty when I went probably because of the excess of boats hanging around.

You can have a nice walk to a waterfall as well which was nice, but not as nice as the one in Qumixto. If you just want to check it out for yourself it makes an interesting trip but if you have limited time I would suggest you head to Quimixto instead.


When is the best time to travel to Puerto Vallarta

Now that you know all about Puerto Vallarta and the amazing things to do, you might be wondering when you should schedule your vacation here.

There are three things you should factor into your decision when considering when to travel to Puerto Vallarta: your budget (most important), how much sunshine is ideal for you, and what kind of activities you are planning.

There are mainly 3 seasons for tourism in PV: low season, high season, and shoulder season. Let’s cover them one by one.

Puerto Vallarta Marina
Puerto Vallarta Marina

Visiting Puerto Vallarta in the low season (September to November)

This is the most pocket-friendly time of the year, and perfect for those of you who are visiting on a budget.

You can find accommodations at an affordable price and tickets to bring the prices down even further.

However, be ready for the weather to be hot and sticky because it rains a lot and it’s humid.

Also, there aren’t as many activities available because many local businesses take a break from catering to the tourists.

Don’t worry, though; there’s still plenty to enjoy in the city. On the plus side, the city isn’t very crowded during these months; those of you who aren’t fond of the crowds during the high season can enjoy PV in relative peace.

Puerto Vallarta the arches
The Arches Puerto Vallarta

Visiting Puerto Vallarta in high season (December to April)

Expect prices to be at their highest during this season. Both hotels and airlines hike up their prices considerably during the high season.

These are the driest and, temperature-wise, coolest months in the city throughout the year. The city is full of tourists and there are a ton of available activities, but perhaps the most popular is whale-watching.

The priciest and most crowded time of the year is Easter week.

Visiting Puerto Vallarta in the shoulder season (May to August)

May is a very popular month for honeymooners and couples. The prices come down from the high season, except for the last week of May, which hosts the Vallarta Pride Fest.

Rains usually start from the middle of June, but thankfully aren’t very frequent until July so they won’t interfere with your plans. This is a great time for snorkeling and scuba diving as the water is delightfully warm and clear.


The best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta

The town of Puerto Vallarta is divided into 6 main zones, each one a popular destination on its own.

I’ll name them one by one starting from the north part of the city and circling down to the south so that you can learn about the best area to stay and hang out in Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta old town
Puerto Vallarta old Town

Nuevo Vallarta

Nuevo Vallarta is the newest and northernmost part of Puerto Vallarta that’s built specifically for tourism providing a great experience to its visitors and maximum comfort.

This is a great area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for families, as well as anyone who loves peace and tranquillity and doesn’t mind spending a little extra.

In fact here you will find the top luxury hotels and apartments for the most exclusive vacation.

Marina Vallarta

Marina Vallarta is where the city of Puerto Vallarta properly starts. Just like Nuevo Vallarta, this area is home to many resorts, especially all-inclusive. The fancy bars and restaurants located around the Marina are the perfect place to eat a delicious dinner while looking at spectacular yachts. There’s no better area to stay in Puerto Vallarta if you want to experience its exclusive side.

Here is also the meeting point for many boat tours.

If you are looking for public beaches this is not your place as it’s difficult to access the beach unless you are staying in one of the hotels.

Since the marina is here, you can rent boats to take tours into the bay. There’s also a golf course here which was designed by the famous American architect, Joe Finger.

Puerto Vallarta crowded beach
Puerto Vallarta’s crowded beach

Hotel Zone

The Hotel Zone starts at Sam’s Club in Puerto Vallarta. Speaking of which, you might have noticed that all the zones I’ve covered offer little to no shopping opportunities.

That changes in the Hotel Zone. There are plenty of shops and malls in the Hotel Zone, probably the most famous of which is La Isla Puerto Vallarta Shopping Village.

Hotel is in the name so you’ll find hotels and resorts ranging from 2-star all the way to 5-star. Budget accommodations can be found easily, and if you visit in the low season you go deal hunting to bring the cost down even further.

Given that this area is made for tourism, you’ll have access to almost all the facilities you could need, making it one of the most convenient areas to stay in puerto Vallarta. There are malls, food and restaurants, banks, cinemas, and more. Hotel Zone is also very close to the Downtown so you can also walk there if you want.

Cuale island
Cuale River Island Puerto Vallarta

Old Town (or el Centro) Puerto Vallarta

This is the area to stay in Puerto Vallarta if you love to be surrounded by a more authentic feel and a vibrant atmosphere, for the beautiful colonial buildings, art places, and cozy coffee shops and restaurants.

Being the oldest part of the city the downtown area is rich in those. For the very same reason, the area was recently declared a Cultural Heritage Site by the State of Jalisco.

Even if you’re not staying here, I highly recommend putting this area on your list of things to do in Puerto Vallarta to experience the best of what this city has to offer.

There’s just so much to see here and I am going to tell you all about it further down in this article.

The Malecón is vibrant throughout the day, and you’ll find plenty of things to do. During the day, you can take a walk (or bike) through the promenade and see how the residents of the city live.

The sculptures and statues on the walkway are beautiful and will give you many chances to take unforgettable photos.

The promenade has many shops, restaurants, and cafes, and there are street performances multiple times a day during the high season. It also really comes alive at night because of nightclubs with open bars.

I also recommend visiting the Gringo Gulch. The area was named so after many American expats who settled here in the 1950s and 60s. While you’re here, make sure to visit Casa Kimberly; it’s a stunning boutique hotel today, but it was once gifted to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton.

View in Puerto Vallarta from one of the luxury hotels in the old town

Romantic Zone (Zona Romantica)

Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica is very popular with expats and tourists who are looking for an authentic Mexican experience during their stay.

This area is also very LGBT-friendly and has been named as one of the most LGBT-welcoming destinations in all of Mexico.

There are many cheap accommodations in this part of town, and plenty of budget food available too. No matter which time of the day it is, there’s always something to do in this area.

Especially at night, the Zona Romantica has a very active nightlife scene.

In my opinion, a visit to Puerto Vallarta is not complete without visiting the Romantic Zone. Sure, the Hotel Zone is more luxurious and offers all-inclusive resorts, but this area is like the heart of PV.

I highly recommend spending at least a day exploring this beautiful and rustic part of the city and experiencing the sights, art, shops, delicious food (street side, bakeries, and restaurants), markets, and more. However, I think it’s a top area to stay in Puerto Vallarta too.

There’s a very good reason many people who frequent this town fall in love with this part of the city, and you’ll discover it when you visit here.

And if all of those places in the old town aren’t awe-inspiring enough, the interestingly-named Playa Los Muertos (which is Spanish for Beach of the Dead) will get you covered on that front.

Don’t let the name worry you, even though Los Muertos Beach sounds rather gloomy, the beach is one of the most vibrant in this zone (wait ‘till you see the Los Muertos Pier).

This is also where you will find water taxis to Yelapa, Las Animas, and Quimixto—one of the unique ways to get around in Mexico.

South Zone

If you’re tired of urban life and want to get away from it all (even more so than the North Zone), the South Zone is for you. Here, you’ll find some of the most peaceful and beautiful beaches the town has to offer.

And you can enjoy amazing views over Banderas Bay from luxury apartments and hotels. In the winter season, you may be able to watch whales passing by.

There are several luxury accommodations available here, including all-inclusive options.

This is an ideal area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for those of you who mostly just want to stay in your accommodation, get pampered, and maybe take a few trips outside.

Going to Downtown PV or Zona Romantica is definitely an option, and you can either catch a bus or call for a Uber. The latter option is definitely advisable for the night.

This area is also home to the popular beach of Conchas China which you can get to by hiking along the beach from Playa de Muertos.


How to get around in Puerto Vallarta

The truth is that the local buses work really well to move around the city and also to the nearby towns, making it easy to get around and enjoy all the incredible things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

However, I would suggest renting a car so that you can be more flexible and definitely more comfortable and get anywhere you want at the time you want without depending on bus schedules.

It is very safe to drive around the area and you can find cheap car rentals in Puerto Vallarta. Also, if you have any concerns you can check out the following posts about driving and renting a car in Mexico for further clarification.

Driving in Mexico: all you need to know
Renting a car in Mexico without getting scammed

Car rental

Discover Cars Mexico Review

Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.

I’ve always had great service from Discover Cars. They always respond quickly if there’s a problem of any kind…I would never use any other car rental company as my many experiences with have been 100% positive.


Puerto Vallarta FAQ

What is Puerto Vallarta best known for?

Puerto Vallarta is a popular vacation destination best known for its beautiful beaches, marine life, historical center, luxury resorts, and its safe and welcoming atmosphere that has attracted expats, digital nomads, and LGBTQ+ communities.

Is Puerto Vallarta worth visiting?

Receiving over two million visitors per year, Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Mexico. It offers all the perks of a city break including top restaurants, historical landmarks, and plenty of culture, and all the perks of a beach destination too.

Puerto Vallarta Aerial view
Puerto Vallarta aerial view

Is Puerto Vallarta a walkable city?

Puerto Vallarta is very walkable if you stay around the Historical Center and Zona Romantica, the city’s prettiest area. alternatively, stay in the Hotel Zone, a resort-style area where you can find everything you need for a fun yet relaxed beach holiday at your feet.

Is Puerto Vallarta better than Cancun?

While Puerto Vallarta is a more interesting and culture-rich city than Cancun, the latter promises more beautiful beaches with crystal-clear turquoise water. Read this article on Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun to discover which Mexican city calls to you the most.

I personally love Puerto Vallarta more for the historical walkable town, the local artist’s community and the small village vibe, despite being a big city.

Puerto Vallarta street
Puerto Vallarta street

Can you swim in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta’s coast (Banderas Bay) is warm, clean, and very swimmable. The most popular beach to swim from is Playa de Los Muertos, which is also a favored place to get breakfast or watch the sunset. Mismaloya and Concha’s Chinas are also popular for swimming.

More about Puerto Vallarta