Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
Like most boardwalks, Puerto Vallarta’s promenade, known as El Malecon, is dotted with sightseeing opportunities, cafes, shops, galleries, and performers. Overlooking the Bay of Banderas, the mile-long stretch offers scenic views during the day. And in the evening, the waterfront nightclubs and discos open their doors to party-seeking locals and visitors.
The small, uninhabited Marietas Islands (Islas Marietas) are located in the Bay of Banderas off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Making up a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve, the islands are famous for their abundant wildlife and provide a chance to escape the crowds of many Mexican beach resorts, hop on a boat, and explore the islands’ natural delights.
At Los Arcos National Marine Park in Puerto Vallarta there are islands to visit, reefs to dive, tunnels to swim through, and caves to explore, providing plenty of the arches that give Los Arcos (the Arches) its name. This protected area is famous for its abundant wildlife, both above and below the ocean’s surface, and is a popular snorkeling spot.
Located near Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Banderas Bay (Bahía de Banderas) is famous for its 42-mile (68-kilometer) stretch of picturesque coast. Jungle, sandy beaches, and rich aquatic life define this area, which is ideal for watersports and land adventures alike.
The 13,045-foot (3,976-meter) Acatenango volcano towers over the colonial city of Antigua. While many travelers opt for the more-gentle ascent of the Pacaya Volcano, this twin-peaked volcano offers incredible views of its nearest volcanic neighbor, Fuego, which regularly spits out plumes of gas, ash, and hot lava.
Puerto Vallarta's Romantic Zone (Zona Romantica)—also called the Old Town, South Side, or Old Vallarta—sits away from the hotel zone and just steps from Los Muertos Beach. With artisan shops, streetside taco stands, and lively cantinas, this area of winding cobblestone streets maintains a more traditional, laid-back feel than the rest of the city.
Puerto Vallarta’s Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe was built over the course of several decades in the first half of the 20th century. Built in rustic pink stone, to a neo-baroque design, one of the prettiest details is the crown that tops the church bell tower.
The liveliest time to visit the church is December 1 to 12, when crowds celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with street processions, festive food and mariachi music. The festival coincides with the anniversary of the founding of Puerto Vallarta, so locals have even more reason to celebrate.
One of the major attractions in Puerto Vallarta, Marina Vallarta is a self-contained stretch of boardwalk, white sand and retail outlets that has become so well-known for its beauty and success that it was a model for its sister cities of Cabo, Mazatlan, Ixtapa and Cancun. Easily identifiable by its large, 450-slip marina and lush 18-hole golf course, Marina Vallarta’s main attraction is its beautiful promenade, whereupon you’ll find numerous boutique beachfront shops and restaurants, including a lighthouse that makes for great viewing of the bay.
For an authentic and lively Puerto Vallarta beach experience, Los Muertos Beach (Playa Los Muertos) can’t be beat. Located just south of Olas Altas Beach in the Romantic Zone, this gay-friendly stretch of sand fronts a pier and is lined with bars and restaurants. Locals and families also love this beach and its diverse crowd.
Lush tropical foliage, hummingbird-watching hot spots, and orchid sanctuaries are just three of the attractions you’ll find at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens (Jardín Botánico de Vallarta). A rich and diverse array of flora and fauna—mostly native—dominates the 20-acre (8-hectare) expanse of jungle. Follow jungle paths, wander curated gardens, and marvel at the koi pond as part of a scenic Puerto Vallarta day trip.
More Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
Antique, charming, historic—all of these have been used to describe this quaint little neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta. Known as the site where the first settlers decided to live, Gringo Gulch offers spectacular views of downtown Puerto Vallarta and the Rio Cuale. A steep, staircase-slung hillside dotted with white-washed villas, this is one of the most romantic and captivating neighborhoods in this 500-year-old town, and it also served as the site of Richard Burton’s filmNight of the Iguana, starring Elizabeth Taylor. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this neighborhood, see its numerous beautiful mansions and experience some of the best views in Puerto Vallarta.
A small and charming Mexican town located just an hour’s drive from Puerto Vallarta, El Tuito draws visitors with its slow-paced, traditional vibe. With only one main road, you’ll find that most of this village’s attractions are centrally located and make for easy walking. The main plaza is home to the majority of the town’s activity, as well as the main church and El Tuito’s historical center.
Note the Spanish colonial homes with their unique orange glazing, try the local artisan cheeses for which the area is known, sample delicate pastries from the local bakery, note the murals at the city hall and stop by the Church of St Peter, which boasts a giant boulder as its main alter. El Tuito is a great day trip from Puerto Vallarta if you’re looking for an authentic dive into the true Mexican town experience.
Tucked into the corner of the Bahia de Banderas of the Pacific Ocean is the quiet fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan. A wonderful throwback to a simpler way of life, this charming seaside town is sandwiched between the Horcones River, Boca Bay and the mountains of Puerto Vallarta. Popular among divers and Caribbean escape artists alike, this little slice of tranquility lies just 10 miles south of downtown Puerto Vallarta and is the idyllic retreat for all who dream of tropical beaches, rich forest jungle, peace and quiet.
There’s no denying that one of the major draws to the resort town of Puerto Vallarta is the weather. And warm, beach-going weather also means great golfing weather, perfectly suited for a day at the Vista Vallarta Golf Club. Designed by famous golfers Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf, the Vista Vallarta Golf Club is routinely selected as not only one of Mexico’s best courses, but one of the most beautiful settings for a game of 18 holes in the world. Surrounded by tropical mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it’s hard to find anything not to like about this pinnacle of golf resorts.
With a host adrenaline-fueled activities both in and out of the water, swimming areas suitable for all ages, and a dolphin and sea lion park, there’s something for the whole family to get excited about at the Aquaventuras Park. Just minutes from the beach in Neuvo Vallarta, the park centers around a gigantic swimming area, equipped with 10 thrilling water slides and toboggans, a rafting river, and a children’s play zone with a pirate ship, paddling pools, and mini slides.
After making a splash at the aqua park, visitors can also tackle Mexico’s tallest climbing wall, pick up speed on the zip-line course, or take on the ‘Challenge’ obstacle course. Poolside sunbeds and lounge areas, plus a restaurant, cafe, and snack bar are also available.
Sail into the calm Bay of Banderas for a warm Mexican welcome in Puerto Vallarta, a former fishing community turned vacation destination. A popular stopping point on ships bound for the Caribbean, Puerto Vallarta Cruise Port—which has the capacity for three liners at any one time—is the gateway to Puerto Vallarta and the coast of Jalisco.
Step aboard the good ship Marigalante, and enter the fabulous world of pirates!
The meticulously constructed Spanish galleon Marigalante was built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Europe’s discovery of the Americas.
Set sail by day or evening for a day at sea, snorkeling, kayaking, playing on the beach – and not forgetting the pirate show with the rogue Dark Pearl!
The evening pirate show includes a shower of fireworks and pre-Hispanic show. Everything is included in this pirate extravaganza, from breakfast buffet to kids menus.
The private beach resort of Las Caletas is a day-trip destination like no other for spoiling the senses.
The former home of maverick movie director John Huston, this tropical beach haven is surrounded by protected rainforest and palms.
There’s everything you could possibly need for a relaxed, luxurious day at the beach. Chill-out in a hammock, de-stress with a soothing massage, take a guided diving or kayaking tour, snorkel with sea lions, learn to cook paella or stroll through the bird-filled orchid gardens.
Las Caletas can also be visited at night for a magical dinner under the stars and Mexican dance show.
The jungle-clad Sierra Madre mountains stretch along Mexico’s western coast from Santa Cruz to Arizona. In this wilderness escape you can trek through the forest, discover off-the-beaten-path villages, and experience outdoor adventures such as ziplining and rappelling.
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