Skip to Content

31 Amazing Things To Do In Puerto Vallarta

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 o 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 that suit your needs.

However, before getting to the point, let me tell you a little bit about the city layout and what are the best areas where to stay and hang out.

Puerto Vallarta Zones Overview

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.

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 for families to stay in, but for 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, besides fancy bars and restaurants located around the Marina where you can have your delicious dinner while looking at spectacular yachts.

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.

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. 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.

Old Town (or el Centro) Puerto Vallarta

This is the area you’ll want to stay in 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 visiting this area 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, 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 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.

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.

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 area is perfect for those of you who mostly just want to stay in their accommodations and get pampered, 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.


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.

Take a walk along the Malecón

This promenade starts in Downtown PV and stretches all the way to Zona Romantica. Touring el Malecón, whether you do it on a bike or on foot, is the signature Puerto Vallarta experience.

There are a lot of shops, restaurants, street food 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.

Visit Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (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 a landmark in Puerto Vallarta.

Spend a day (or even stay) in 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.

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 Island that you can reach through swimming bridges.

Take a food tour

If you find the time, taking a food tour here will get you the best experience of Vallarta food tours. 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.

Enjoy the beautiful Puerto Vallarta beaches (duh)

Puerto Vallarta is up there when it comes to being the top beach town of Mexico because of its amazing beaches.

For good reason, they’re some of the best in all of Mexico. All of these beaches are public, it won’t cost you anything to be here and enjoy your time.

Los Muertos Beach is perhaps one of the most popular beaches in PV; you’ll happen 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 the 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 little to no crowds.

Go on a free walking tour of the Downtown

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’s still plenty to do (and see) here.

Whether you’re staying Downtown or not, I highly recommend you to 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 Downtown 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 of 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.


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. Let’s see what other activities Puerto Vallarta has to offer.

Fly over tree tops on the Zip line tour adventure

The zip line in Puerto Vallarta is one of the most appreciated tours among adventure seekers. I am not particularly fond of it, just because I am scared to fall. LOL! But don’t bother 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 tour is for you.

Read more about the Zip Line tour in Puerto Vallarta here.

Drive an ATV through Sierra Madre

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.

Read more about the ATV adventure tour here

Horseback Riding

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 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.

Go snorkeling or scuba diving

Are you a fan of swimming and marine life? If you answered yes, then this one will be quite a treat for 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% sure that you will see them but the boat captain knows more or less where they go and you have a very good chance to swim with them.

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

Go jet skiing

If you’re looking for adventuring opportunities in Puerto Vallarta, you’ve no doubt happened across water sports activities. Jet skiing is one of the most thrilling out of those, and the plus point is that you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the town and its bay from the water.

Go whale watching

If you happen to be in Puerto Vallarta in whale season, a whale watching tour is definitely due, if you love wildlife of course. It is an incredible experience to see the 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

Find the unique street art of Puerto Vallarta

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.

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta for Families

Puerto Vallarta is also a family-friendly destination and here are the activities that I recommend.

Learn to cook authentic Mexican food

Almost everyone likes Mexican food, and learning a few recipes ensures that you can enjoy it 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.

Touring the Marietas Islands

While you’re around the Bay of Banderas, you can also take a tour to the Islas Marietas National Park, which is a group of small islands in the open water near Bahía de Banderas. The hour-long tour will fill you up with excitement with breathtaking views of the sea cave.

Read more about the whale watching boat tour here

Go to the Aquaventuras Water Park

Aquaventuras Water Park, which is located in Nuevo Vallarta, is chock full of family fun for children of all ages. There are water slides, swimming pools, climbing walls, a mini pirate ship, and there’s even the option to swim with gentle dolphins! While you’re here, don’t forget to attend the dolphin and sea lion shows.

Book a tour of the Las Caletas Beach

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

Read more about the tour at 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.

Go to the Rhythms of the Night

This show 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

Book a luxury sunset cruise tour

Sunsets are absolutely magical in this city, especially from the beautiful beaches or the bay. Obviously 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.

Read more about the sunset cruise here

Take a walk through the Malecón

I know this promenade keeps coming over and over again, but there’s a very good reason for that. The Malecón is alive no matter which time of the day you go here. At night, the atmosphere here is very different.

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.

Visit the 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.

Attend an Art Walk Wednesday

Those of you who are into art are in luck! This event is hosted by the city every Wednesday night and is completely free to attend. 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.

Catch a panoramic view of the city

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 Mirador Cerro de la Cruz.

It’s situated at only a 20-30 minutes walk from the Romantic Zone, and, once you’re here, you’ll see why this spot is so famous.

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 also my post on Safety in Puerto Vallarta

Day trips from Puerto Vallarta

While you’re in the city, you might as well take a few day trips to properly appreciate the beauty of this part of Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Here are five-day trips I recommend taking from Puerto Vallarta.

San Sebastian

Designated as a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism, this mining town turned tourist hub is situated at only an hour’s drive from PV. 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.

Islas Marietas

The Marieta Islands spectacular islands are only accessible by boat, so you’ll have to book a tour with a tour provider. All these islands are completely uninhabited, so you’ll get quite a unique chance to observe wildlife.

In addition, you can even go diving to see marine life from up close. While you’re here, make sure you don’t miss Playa del Amor.

It’s a beautiful crater beach situated on these islands. But you’ll have to book your visit in advance because only 116 people are allowed here daily.

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 family to beach lovers, yogi and bohemian travelers in search of peace and tranquillity or 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.

San Pancho

San Pancho is a tranquil laid back town only 5 km north of Sayulita. 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.

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. 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.


CAR

Rent A Car in Mexico

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


Quimixto

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.

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.

Yelapa

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: 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.

Visiting Puerto Vallarta in low season (September to November)

This is the most pocket-friendly time in 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 the 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.

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 highest and most crowded time of the year is Easter week.

Visiting Puerto Vallarta in shoulder season (May to August)

May is a very popular month for honeymooners and couples. The prices come down from the high season, except 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.

Puerto Vallarta Map

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

I hope this guide helped you plan your perfect vacation to Puerto Vallarta. Happy vacationing!


More about Puerto Vallarta