18 Best Things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Nestled on the Pacific Coast is the vibrant city of Puerto Vallarta, a gem in the state of Jalisco, renowned for its sandy beaches, rich culture, and thrilling adventures. It’s a destination brimming with charm and a myriad of activities that cater to every traveler’s desires. From indulging in delectable cuisine to scaling the cliffs in search of panoramic vistas, Puerto Vallarta promises an exquisite mix of relaxation and excitement. If you are looking for your next dream vacation, Puerto Vallarta has a treasure trove of experiences waiting for you. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the 12 best things you can’t afford to miss in this coastal paradise.

Beach Activities

While it’s quite the touristy suggestion, the beaches in Puerto Vallarta are a quintessential part of what makes this destination so attractive. It’s not just about sunbathing, though—it’s the golden sands and azure waters that are inviting you to partake in a range of invigorating activities.

Snorkeling in the Clear Waters

The bay of Puerto Vallarta is home to vast marine life and stretches of coral reefs, making it a haven for snorkelers. Set out on a boat and dip beneath the waves to discover the vibrant underwater world. “Los Arcos” is a marine park and a fantastic site for snorkeling with its clear waters teeming with tropical fish and sea creatures.

Sun-Kissed Beach Hopping

With a coastline that stretches for miles, Puerto Vallarta offers a variety of beaches, each with its unique charms. The action-packed Playa de los Muertos is popular for its water sports and bustling beachfront. For a quieter experience, the serene blue waters of Conchas Chinas are perfect for a peaceful swim or relaxing read under the sun.

Cultural Experiences

Immerse yourself in the authentic Mexican culture and history that echoes through Puerto Vallarta’s cobbled streets and colonial architecture.

Galleries Galore in the Romantic Zone

In the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town, the Romantic Zone, also known as Zona Romantica, is a haven for art lovers. The area is adorned with numerous art galleries showcasing a diverse range of Mexican art. Wander through the cobblestone streets and vibrant alleyways to discover the perfect piece for your home or simply to admire the local talent.

Explore Old Town’s Hidden Gems

Old Town Vallarta, or El Centro, is a living postcard of Mexico’s rich heritage. This historical district offers picturesque cobblestone streets lined with traditional white-washed houses and red-tiled roofs. The crown jewel is the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an iconic symbol of the city. Don’t miss out on strolling along the Malecon, a seaside promenade that comes alive with art installations and street performances.

Festivals and Celebrations

Puerto Vallarta is a city that loves to celebrate, and its calendar is filled with events that display its magical spirit. From the Festival Gourmet International, which showcases exquisite culinary creations, to the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities, visitors can partake in a host of colorful and meaningful celebrations.

Outdoor Adventures

For those with an adventurous spirit, Puerto Vallarta’s natural landscape offers an array of thrilling activities that will get your adrenaline pumping.

Zip-lining through the Treetops

Nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains are numerous zip-line parks that provide an exhilarating experience. Feel the rush as you zoom over the lush jungle canopies. Some tours also include a tequila tasting and a visit to a traditional Mexican village to add cultural elements to your high-flying adventure.

Hiking in the Sierra Madre Mountains

The mountains of Vallarta offer a respite from the beach with their cool, fresh air and scenic vistas. Hiking opportunities are abundant, from the challenging trails of the “Cuale River” and “Boca de Tomates,” to the more accessible paths like “El Eden” and “Los Arcos.” Whichever you choose, make sure to pack your camera for some breathtaking shots of Puerto Vallarta’s verdant landscapes.

ATV Tours

Hit the unseen paths on an ATV adventure and explore the untamed wilderness of Puerto Vallarta’s lush jungles. Climb rugged terrain, teeter across streams, and splash through mud puddles while taking in the region’s natural wonders. ATV tours are an excellent way to add some rough-and-tumble action to your beach vacation.

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Water Excursions

The deep blue waters off the coast of Puerto Vallarta beckon for exploration, and the city offers a variety of ways to get out on the ocean.

Whale Watching

Witness the majestic humpback whales in their natural habitat during their annual migration. From December to March, the Banderas Bay becomes a sanctuary for these gentle giants. Head out on a boat tour for a chance to see them breach and play in the open waters.

Boat Tours to Remote Beaches

There’s no shortage of pristine, uninhabited beaches along Puerto Vallarta’s coastline. Hop on a boat tour to explore places that are only accessible by sea. Some of the most popular destinations are “Las Caletas,” a secluded cove with an adventure park, and “Yelapa,” a bohemian beach town that feels a world away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Swimming in Hidden Beaches

A must-see is “Playa Escondida,” the famous hidden beach in the Marietas Islands. This secluded cove, formed by volcanic activity, can only be reached by swimming through a short tunnel. The beach’s azure waters and sun-dappled sands offer a surreal experience that feels straight out of a fantasy.

Dining and Cuisine

With a culinary scene that rivals its natural beauty, Puerto Vallarta’s dining options range from street-side taco stands to high-end fine dining restaurants.

Local Dishes and Street Eats

Indulge your taste buds with traditional dishes like “Pozole,” a hearty stew of hominy and meat, or “Ceviche,” a tangy seafood dish. Explore the bustling food scene by sampling street eats such as “tacos al pastor,” “tostadas,” and “churros.” For authentic flavors and budget-friendly options, Puerto Vallarta’s street food is a paradise for foodies.

Seafood and Oceanfront Restaurants

The city’s oceanfront restaurants offer spectacular views and a wide array of fresh seafood. Dine on the catch of the day, “pescado zarandeado” (grilled fish), or “camarones a la diabla” (spicy shrimp) while listening to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Puerto Vallarta’s dining scene is a testament to the city’s love for food and the ocean.

Nightlife and Entertainment

After the sun sets, Puerto Vallarta lights up with a vibrant nightlife. From traditional Mexican bars to high-energy nightclubs, there’s something for every night owl.

Signature Cocktails and Chilled Barrios

Enjoy the lively atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta’s bars, where the cocktail culture is as rich as the city’s history. Sip on a “Margarita” as mariachi bands serenade you at the “Cafe des Artistes Bar.” For a more laid-back vibe, the bars in El Malecon and Olas Altas are perfect for people-watching and soaking in the local scene.

Dance the Night Away

Puerto Vallarta’s nightclubs cater to a diverse crowd, where you can dance until dawn to the pulsating beats of international DJs. “La Santa” and “Mandala” are renowned for their energetic parties, while “La Noche” and “La Bodeguita del Medio” offer a more intimate setting with live music.

Cultural Shows

For a cultural immersion, don’t miss the vivid sound and light show at the “Rhythms of the Night,” an outdoor theater production that explores ancient indigenous rituals and beliefs. The performance, set against the backdrop of the remote “Las Caletas” beach, is a sensory feast that will leave you enchanted.


From vibrant local markets to upscale boutiques, Puerto Vallarta offers a wide range of shopping experiences.

Traditional Markets and Shopping Arcades

Spend your day browsing through the local goods at “Mercado de los Mariscos” for fresh seafood or the “Municipal Market” for artisanal crafts and souvenirs. The “Isla Rio Cuale” is a cultural shopping oasis, with its array of shops and stalls selling everything from traditional clothing to intricate Huichol artworks.

High-End Boutiques

For a more upscale experience, Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica is dotted with high-end boutiques and designer stores. Stroll along the Malecon to discover elegant fashion, jewelry, and local artwork, perfect for those looking for unique and sophisticated treasures.

Wellness and Relaxation

A vacation isn’t just about high-octane adventures. Puerto Vallarta also offers plenty of opportunities to unwind and rejuvenate.

Spas and Wellness Centers

Pamper yourself with a spa day at one of Puerto Vallarta’s luxurious wellness centers. With a diverse array of treatments that draw from ancient traditions, these spas offer a serene escape. Opt for a beach massage, a temazcal ritual, or a holistic healing session to achieve inner harmony.

Yoga Retreats and Meditation Classes

Join a yoga retreat or attend a meditation class to connect with the mind, body, and spirit. Many resorts and studios in Puerto Vallarta offer daily sessions with panoramic ocean views, providing a peaceful environment for self-reflection and relaxation.

Day Trips

There is plenty to explore beyond the borders of Puerto Vallarta. Take a day trip to nearby towns and discover more of Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

Sayulita and its Bohemian Vibe

Just an hour away from Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita is a surfers’ paradise and a hub for the arts. Its colorful streets and lively atmosphere are filled with surf shops, beachside cafes, and galleries showcasing local art. Spend a day strolling through the town, catching a wave, or simply basking in its relaxed, bohemian ethos.

San Sebastian Del Oeste

Steeped in history and charm, the former mining town of San Sebastian Del Oeste is a two-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta. Its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and bucolic setting make it a haven for tranquility. Explore the town’s silver mines, visit the centuries-old church, and savor a meal at a local eatery.


A short boat ride from Puerto Vallarta, the remote village of Yelapa provides an escape from the city. With no road access, Yelapa feels untouched by time. Explore the town’s lighthouse, hike to a majestic waterfall, or simply laze on the golden sands of its renowned beach.

Eco-Tourism and Conservation

For environmentally conscious travelers, Puerto Vallarta has a wealth of eco-friendly activities and opportunities to engage with local conservation efforts.

Turtle Sanctuaries and Eco-Conservation Centers

Puerto Vallarta is deeply committed to protecting its diverse ecosystem. Visit “Nuevo Vallarta Turtle Camp” or “El Salado Estuary and Lagoon” to learn about the importance of conservation and to participate in turtle release programs. The “Vallarta Botanical Gardens” is a nature lover’s paradise, boasting a collection of over 3000 species of plants, including agaves, trees, and colorful orchids.

Historical Sites

Discover Puerto Vallarta’s rich past through its well-preserved historical landmarks and museums.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The crown jewel of Puerto Vallarta’s skyline, this historic church with its distinctive crown is the city’s most recognizable landmark. A visit to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe offers a glimpse into its architectural significance and its role as a spiritual anchor for the local community.

Housed in the landmark Naval Historical Building on the Malecon, the Naval Museum showcases a collection of artifacts that tell the story of Mexico’s centuries-long relationship with the sea. From models of ancient canoes to contemporary Navy equipment, the museum offers an intriguing look into the country’s maritime heritage.

Local Tips and Recommendations

To make the most of your trip, consider these local insights and travel tips from Puerto Vallarta residents and seasoned visitors.

Insider Advice for Travelers

Engage with locals to get off the beaten path and explore hidden gems. They provide insider tips and recommendations that can transform your visit from a typical beach getaway into a personalized adventure.

Safety Tips

While Puerto Vallarta is generally safe, it’s always good to stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Stick to well-lit areas at night and avoid wandering into unfamiliar neighborhoods alone.

Must-Try Experiences

Be open to trying new things while you’re in Puerto Vallarta. Whether it’s savoring a street taco, zip-lining through the jungle, or partaking in a traditional festival, the city has a plethora of experiences awaiting your discovery.


From relaxing on the beach to scaling the heights of the Sierra Madre, Puerto Vallarta invites you to explore its diverse cultural, culinary, and natural riches. It is a city that seamlessly blends adventure with relaxation. Creating a perfect haven for both the intrepid traveler and those seeking a peaceful retreat. With its welcoming atmosphere and endless array of experiences. Puerto Vallarta is more than just a vacation spot—it’s a destination that leaves an indelible mark on your heart. Start planning your trip today and prepare to be captivated by the beauty and warmth of this enchanting Mexican haven.

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