Surely you’ve heard of Puerto Vallarta, but if you haven’t, it’s a beautiful beach town on the west coast of mainland Mexico. Although it’s known for its beaches, the difference between this town and most other tourist areas in Mexico is the mix of actual “pueblo” and beach. Meaning, here you can walk through a real Mexican town and have fun in the sun on beautiful beaches. Many other tourist areas in Mexico are strictly tourist beaches, here you’ll find that many locals frequent these beaches and the best part is you can enjoy some really amazing Mexican cuisine. There are MANY things to do in Puerto Vallarta, but you’ll fall in love with the beaches and amazing food!
First off, there is an airport very close within the city. That means if you find a cheap flight all you need is to open your Uber app and you’ll quickly be at your hotel/hostel. Taxis are expensive here and they will try to rip you off, especially from the airport. You can also take a bus which isn’t recommended if you have a lot of luggage, but if you’re traveling light it is only 8 Mexican pesos! Otherwise take an Uber, also fairly inexpensive. Just don’t book a shuttle or take a taxi, definitely not worth it.
Things to do
Chill on the beach. It doesn’t matter if you came only for the weekend or for two weeks. You can easily spend your whole time just relaxing on the beach. Even during the rainy season you’ll have most of the day available to relax as it only rains at night or sometimes very late afternoons.
You also have all the related beach activities available to do. There is great snorkeling around PV as well as scuba diving in the small islands not too distant from shore. On the beach, you’ll find people selling you activities such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, jetski, banana boat, and parasailing.
Want even more adventure? Not too far is Mexico’s longest zipline, the highest waterslide drop in Mexico, 4×4 off-roading, flyboarding, and powered snorkeling.
Looking for fun for the whole family? Look no further as you’ll be sure to keep everyone smiling at the dolphin adventures that let you pet and hang out with dolphins all day.
If you want to explore the real Mexico, a recommended stop just a few hours away is the beautiful pueblo of San Sebastian Del Oeste. An old mining town in the 1700s that is hidden in the valley between beautiful scenic mountains. The drive there is incredible. Other pueblos not too far that are worth a visit are Sayulita and San Pancho, and Talpa and Mascota.
Of course, you can also tour the town of Tequila which is about halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. The oldest distillery in the Americas is La Rojena, or ‘Hacienda Jose Cuervo’. But if Cuervo doesn’t interest you can find the distillery for whatever tequila is your favorite in the town of Tequila.
Back in Puerto Vallarta if you’re not looking to go to sleep there are many big nightclubs to small bars that should suit your fancy.
Places to stay
There is no shortage of great places to stay. From the super affordable to all inclusive right on the beach. Booking.com has 685 different properties listed! Pick whatever you like and enjoy the beautiful city. We decided to pick one of the cheapest properties there as we wanted to see the city during the day and would only need a bed at night. We chose El Sunset Hostel, and actually loved it. The owner Marco is a super friendly and helpful guy. He told of beaches to visit, places to eat, and things to see. It’s a great place two blocks from the beach with many great places to eat around. If you want something right on the beach there’s plenty of properties like that too. Personally I would stay a bit south of the city center as the beaches in PV center aren’t actually that great.
As most beaches in Mexico, be prepared to encounter the infamous Mexican beach venders. You’ll quickly recognize them dressed in all white selling you everything from hats to ice cream to watches.
Playa Camarones – this was the beach closest to our hostel, just a bit north of downtown. Marco advised us it’s not that great of a beach and truthfully it was alright. Nothing to write home about. During the morning the water is clear but warm but in the afternoons it gets murky. We didn’t return. During the dry season months (Dec-March) it’s usually best here as the sea is actually cool and refreshing. When we went (early September) it sometimes felt like being in a jacuzzi. Not what you want on a hot and humid day.
Playa Los Muertes – one of the recommended beaches by downtown. You’ll recognize it by the only pier in the water which pedestrians can walk on and enjoy. There are many restaurants and bars by the beach and many available umbrellas with drink service. The water improves the more south you go with the gay area known as being the best part of the ocean. It is a good place to go if you don’t want creepy old Mexican men staring at your girlfriend.
Playa Las Gemelas – Just south of the downtown area and not within walking distance are numerous beaches that IMO are much better than the PV center beaches. Playa Las Gemelas came highly recommended and with good reason. The water is crystal clear with white sand beaches that resemble the beaches from Mexico’s east coast. Plus a notable improvement is the water is actually cold and refreshing! They’re not as packed as the downtown beaches either. Just be sure to stop at an OXXO and grab some water and beers before you head there as there are no options for food or drinks other than the few venders on the beach.
Playa Palmares – the next day we wanted to visit a beach visible from the road to Las Gemelas. It’s the beach right past Playa Punta Negra. Both are super nice but we found a little area away from the resorts and almost hidden from some beach vendors as they seemed to turn around to do their loop right when they reached us. The water is crystal clear with white sand beaches and rocks in the water where if you bring some snorkel gear you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
How to get to the southern beaches: just two blocks from the last stop on the bus towards downtown you’ll find these orange buses “camión naranja” parked in front of an office building. The cost is only 8 Mexican pesos and will take you all the way to Boca de Tomatlan or anywhere between.
Places To Eat
Pancho’s Takos – without wasting any time, this is probably the best place to get food in Puerto Vallarta. If you want amazing Mexican food head to Pancho’s Takos. They are only open for dinner, from 6pm – 2am and closed on Sundays but oh so amazing. Authentic Mexican food that’s always busy. Get there before 8pm or expect to wait in line. They’re famous for their Tacos al Pastor but I actually enjoyed their chicken quesadilla more. IMO it was amazing, fully loaded with chicken. We liked it so much that we returned the next night and tried their stuffed avocados. They cut an avocado in half and top it with the meat of your choice (al pastor, beef, or chicken) or even mushrooms, and pair it with 4 small tortillas. Such a simple concept but so amazing. Definitely try it, or split one as an appetizer!
Tacos Mar Y Tierra – a great taco/quesadilla place that serves meat or fish tacos for 23 pesos and quesadillas for 40-50 pesos. Not as good as Pancho’s but if you’re staying by that part of town it’s a safe place to go for a great meal.
The thing to look for is “tortillas hecho a mano”, or tortillas made by hand. They’re usually tastier than store bought tortillas. You’ll know you found them because you’ll see them being made by hand to order. It’s fun seeing them take a ball of dough, press it down and stick it on a grill. So good!
If you don’t want tacos or Mexican food there’s no shortage of other cuisines available. For good burgers I recommend Heavy Taco Metal. It’s owned by a German who makes some mean burgers. They also have some live music some Saturday nights. The tacos are pretty good but what’s really killer are the burgers.
There are a number of cheap places to go shopping. For groceries you have Soriana, which is a huge chain supermarket (with a Mega Soriana right in town that is open 24 hours a day). There is a Walmart and Sam’s Club on the north end which you can access via bus. But for the most part OXXO, a convenience store chain should do the trick with very reasonable prices and great deals on drinks, beer, and snacks.
You’ll find no shortage of stores to go shopping in Puerto Vallarta. From souvenirs, to clothing, to big name brands and malls, it’s all there. In La Isla Shopping mall There’s H&M, Forever 21, Emporio Armani, surf shops, hat stores, and more.
With so many things to do in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll be able to find something you like. I hope this gets you excited and looking for your next flight! Skyscanner currently has a lot of cheap flights to PV depending on the dates you want.
If you’re looking for another take or simply more beaches to check out around Puerto Vallarta, be sure to visit AllTheRooms “Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta” article for a couple extra that will be sure to get you excited.