With so many things to do in Puerto Vallarta, it is a city that’s much more than its all-inclusive resorts. With an energetic downtown positioned between the beaches of Banderas Bay and the trails of the Sierra Madre Mountains, travelers can find lots of ways to explore the city. As experienced travelers know, every good trip itinerary has a variety of “must-sees” and “hidden gems,” and lucky for anyone with a ticket booked for Puerto Vallarta, the city’s offers are abundant.
Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
Between sunny days on the beach and exciting nights on the town, here are the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
Walk the Malecon
Of all the the things to do in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll find yourself coming back most often to the Malecon, a lively boardwalk that draws visitors in to stretch their legs and explore. Along the busy edge of downtown, the Malecon has plenty of bars, restaurants, and shopping opportunities to scour. Not only is the Malecon a wonderful place to catch the sunset and hit the town, it’s also lined with unique and picture-perfect public art pieces, like the famous arches and the color-shifting sail on the Playa Los Muertos Pier.
SAVIA is a brand new show from Vallarta Adventures’ Rhythm of the Night that takes place in an outdoor jungle amphitheater. An incredible spectacle of acrobatics, contortion, and fire dancing, SAVIA is an artistic show sure to mesmerize audiences of all ages. The show is held on the private beach of Las Caletas and only accessible by ferry transfer, which is included in the price of your ticket. Also included is a candlelit dinner before or after the show and some time to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Las Caletas. It’s one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
Take a Taco Tour
If you want a local experience in Puerto Vallarta, there’s no quicker way to dive in than with a Taco Tour with Vallarta Food Tours. In just a few hours you’ll try some of the most delicious tacos in the city and leave feeling like an expert on Puerto Vallarta’s street food scene. As you follow your guide through the streets of the city center and catch the bus across town (an adventure in itself), not only will you taste the city’s best tacos, you’ll also experience a range of Mexican flavors that are sure to inspire your taste buds from the classic al pastor tacos to the smoked marlin.
Take a Cooking Class
Once you’ve got a taste for the street food, you’ll want to learn how to bring those flavors home with you. Luckily in such a large city, there are plenty of cooks ready to welcome you into their homes and share their recipes. There are many different cooking classes to whet your curiosity, from Miriam’s Mexican Kitchen, which offers classes for every skill level to the more experimental menus available with the Traveling Spoon.
Take a Day Trip
If you need a day off from the bustle of the city, there are great places you can visit on a day trip from Puerto Vallarta, like the sleepy town of San Sebastian del Oeste, one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos, or the Marietas Islands and Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach). You can take a day trip to the islands, however, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to land on the beach as the government only gives out a set number of permits per day and access is dependent on ocean conditions. Hedge your bets and look for a tour that offers the most of the day, like this offering from Vallarta Adventures, which includes snorkeling around the islands and whale watching on the return trip.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the Malecon, try your luck at La Isla shopping center—one of the newest offerings from this popular shopping mall chain, and the first with its own hotel. Here, you’ll find the comforts of a U.S. shopping mall, from Starbucks to Johnny Rockets, and plenty of Mexican brands too. It even has a movie theatre. This is a great place to bring small children who will love the turtle pond, jungle gym, and gondola rides.
Catch the Sunset
It’s not hard to find a good sunset spot in Puerto Vallarta. Whether you’re watching from the beach or from the comfort of your ocean-view hotel room, you’re bound to have a wonderful view. However, to catch Puerto Vallarta’s best sunset angle, you’ll have to do a little bit of hiking. At the top of the city, Mirador de La Cruz is a lookout point adored by locals. Far from the commercialized downtown, this vantage point is a special place for travelers looking for a special sunset moment. Make sure you leave early and give yourself plenty of time to climb the steep staircase to the top so you don’t miss it.
Getting out to Los Arcos is one of the most adventurous things to do in Puerto Vallarta. There are tons of ways to explore the city’s famous rock formations, which are located just south of downtown and very close to the beach. You can kayak, paddleboard, and even sign up for a snorkeling tour. Many hotels, such as the Costa Sur, supply equipment and are even situated close enough that you can actually set off for Los Arcos right from the beach of your hotel.
Explore the Romantic Zone
If you’re looking for a party in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll find it in the Romantic Zone, also known as the Old Town. As the city’s liveliest neighborhood, there are plenty of bars, restaurants, clubs, and theatres to explore, as well as some of the landmarks and homes of some of Puerto Vallarta’s most famous residents like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. The Romantic Zone is also the center of Puerto Vallarta’s LGBT community and especially festive when Vallarta Pride rolls around every June.
The scenic Puerto Vallarta Bay isn’t just a draw to the city’s many human visitors, it’s also a very popular vacation spot for humpback whales. During the winter, humpback whales migrate south to the warm waters off the coast to raise their young. This means visitors have plenty of opportunities to spot them flipping and splashing around, particularly between February and April. It’s not uncommon for people to spot the whales while standing on the beach, but the best way to spot them is by signing up for a whale watching cruise.
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More from SmarterTravel:
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- 10 Ways to Have an Authentic Trip to Mexico
- The 13 Safest Places in Mexico for Travelers
Jamie Ditaranto visited Puerto Vallarta as a guest of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.
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