With so many attractions and things to do in Puerto Vallarta, choosing the right activities may seem a bit overwhelming.
That’s why I’ve selected some of the best attractions to give you a better sense of what’s out here.
Puerto Vallarta lies next to the Sierra Madre mountain. Therefore, it offers stunning landscapes like mountains, rivers, beaches, and city life.
For this reason, I always recommend people rent a car.
As it will allow you to explore many nearby towns and beaches, you wouldn’t have the time to do otherwise.
Now, let’s look closely at the 12 best activities you must do while visiting this exciting beach town.
Where is Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta is in the middle of the Mexican Pacific coast, a privileged area in Jalisco.
There are several ways to get to Puerto Vallarta, depending on where you are starting from.
Traveling from abroad, you can fly into the International Airport. Several domestic airlines offer daily flights to Puerto Vallarta from cities within Mexico.
What is the best way to get around Puerto Vallarta?
Like any other major tourist city, there are several options for getting around Puerto Vallarta. Let’s see what they are:
Walking: Walking is a great option for getting around if you’re staying in the downtown area (zona romantica). The boardwalk, shops, bars, Cuale Island, and restaurants are all within walking distance of each other.
Taxis: Cabs are plentiful in Puerto Vallarta and can be easily hailed on the street. Be sure to negotiate the fare with the driver before getting in.
Public Transportation: Puerto Vallarta’s local bus system is cheap and convenient.
There are two types of buses: local and regional buses. The local buses operate within the city, while the regional buses run between Puerto Vallarta and other towns and cities.
Is there Uber in Puerto Vallarta?
Yes! Uber is available in Puerto Vallarta and can be a good option for getting around, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
If you want to get an Uber at the Puerto Vallarta Airport, watch the video above.
Rental Cars: If you want to explore the surrounding areas outside of Puerto Vallarta, renting a car is the best option.
However, be aware that driving in Mexico can be challenging, and you should be prepared for narrow roads and aggressive drivers.
Ultimately, the best way to get around Puerto Vallarta depends on your preferences and where you want to go.
Walking is a great option for exploring the downtown area, while taxis and public transportation can take you further afield.
12 Best things to do in and around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
1. Visit the Marietas Islands
The first thing you must do in Puerto Vallarta is to visit the famous natural attraction called Islas Marietas (Two uninhabited islands of volcanic origin), located northwest of Puerto Vallarta Jalisco.
On one side of the islands, you will find the famous “Playa del Amor,” better known as the Hidden Beach of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
This is an open cavern at the top where you can see the sky, white sand, and crystal clear water of the Pacific Ocean, located at the northern tip of Banderas Bay.
But it can only be accessed at low tide and through a tunnel about two meters above the water level, easily crossed by swimming or kayaking.
Keep in mind that this is one of the tourist sites that are protected.
Although it is open to the public, local authorities try to preserve it and avoid minimum damage by its visitors.
2. Boca de Tomatlan
A cool place to visit near Vallarta is this picturesque and small traditional fishing village called Boca de Tomatlan.
It is 25 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta between the mountains and the mouth of the small Horcones River, known as “Boca.”
On the one hand, you will marvel at the green landscapes it offers, where you can take the hiking trail that mainly borders the sea, starting in Boca and ending in Quimixto.
It is also ideal for water sports such as snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, or diving.
And for the less adventurous, you will find palapa restaurants that offer typical dishes by the beach.
Another attraction of Boca de Tomatlan is its function as a port, where you can get a water taxi every hour starting at 8 am.
3. Take a short road trip to Mascota and Talpa Jalisco
One of its main attractions is the Parish of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Unfinished Temple of the Precious Blood of Christ.
It also has interesting museums like the Museo Arqueológico Mascota and Museo el Pedregal.
But the main attraction is the archaeological site, El Pantano.
At El Pantano, you can appreciate photographs, petroglyphs, elements of tombs, and about 600 archaeological pieces from 800 BC and 300 AD found in the region.
Talpa de Allende
This charming valley is about 3 hours from Puerto Vallarta, where churches and chapels abound.
It has become famous for its religious customs and traditions that influenced it to be declared a Magical Town in 2015.
To begin, Talpa de Allende will greet you at the entrance with a monumental arch to find the building “La Mexicana.”
It formerly served as a deposit of minerals and silver extracted from the Bramador, Desmoronado, and Cualé mines.
But the significant number of religious constructions characterizes it the most, as I have already mentioned.
You will truly enjoy some lovely moments here.
4. “Los Muertos,” the main beach of Puerto Vallarta
One of the most touristy attractions of Puerto Vallarta that gets more visitors each year is this soft sand beach with gentle waves.
It is on the south side of the Malecon in the famous Romantic Zone of Old Vallarta.
About the activities you can do on the beach, one that you have to do in Puerto Vallarta and that I recommend is the parachute flight.
In addition to living an experience full of adrenaline, you will have a unique landscape of the place.
If you prefer something quieter, water activities such as scuba diving, kayaking, sailing, water skiing, surfing, and sport fishing will delight you.
5. Marina Vallarta
This is one of the places you must visit in Puerto Vallarta, where yachts, boats, cruise ships, luxury hotels, and resorts abound.
As well as a championship golf course designed by Joe Finger.
Although it is a more exclusive area and a little more expensive than other places in Puerto Vallarta, it is still worth visiting the stores and restaurants on the boardwalk.
6. The Boardwalk of Puerto Vallarta
One of the first places to visit in Vallarta is the Malecon, a mile-long boardwalk lined with palm trees and sculptures.
Here you will find practically everything from stores and restaurants to open-air shows.
To begin with, the best place to start the tour along the Malecon is on the south side, where you will find two of the main attractions in Puerto Vallarta: Los Arcos and the color letters.
Then, you will come across a famous open-air art gallery where works by several renowned artists are exhibited.
For example, the “Caballito” is a bronze sculpture by Rafael Zamarripa, and the “Rotonda del Mar” by Alejandro Colunga, to mention a few.
7. Relax in Conchas Chinas
This is where you’ll find most tourist spots, hotels, restaurants, and fancy villas.
Conchas Chinas has a privileged location between the Sierra Madre jungle and the crystalline Pacific coast.
It is also one of the places to visit in Puerto Vallarta for a romantic getaway.
Its location gives Conchas Chinas a romantic vibe, and the spectacular sunsets always complement it.
Also, there is a variety of birds, and on the shore of the beach, there are natural “pools” where you can find fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, to mention a few species.
8. El Salado Estuary of Puerto Vallarta
When people think of Puerto Vallarta, they imagine the sun and the beach.
Still, surprisingly one of the activities in Puerto Vallarta less known by some is to explore the Estero el Salado, located between the hotel zone and the airport.
It is an urban oasis covering 126 hectares of marshes where you can connect with the environment because the noise you can hear is the species that inhabit it.
You can also take guided tours by expert biologists, where you can directly contact nature.
Furthermore, you will also observe river crocodiles, boas, iguanas, and various birds while touring the place.
9. Explore the Vallarta Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden is a popular activity in Puerto Vallarta to enjoy with the family.
Although it is a bit far from downtown (45 minutes), it is worth visiting its 26 hectares and having lunch at its unique restaurant, La Hacienda de Oro.
On the one hand, you will be surrounded by different types of trees, flowers, and jungle, experiencing nature from another perspective.
It offers trails, the Holstein Orchid and Vanilla Conservatory, and the Aquatic Plant Pond.
You get terrific pictures at the Galeana Family Cactus Garden and hanging bridge.
You can enjoy typical food reasonably priced in the La Hacienda de Oro restaurant.
10. Snorkel in Los Arcos Vallarta Marine Park
In Puerto Vallarta, tourist places like Los Arcos are only found in Banderas Bay, Mexico, where you can swim, dive, and snorkel.
Its name comes from the enormous gray granite islands that emerge from the ocean as an arch.
They are located between Las Gemelas and Mismaloya Beach, forming part of a Protected National Park called Los Arcos Marine Park.
Founded in 1984. These islands can be seen from downtown Puerto Vallarta, so they are not so far away.
Also, you will find caves, deep tunnels, colorful coral reefs, and animals such as stingrays, trumpet fish, turtles, and eels.
Los Arcos is a unique ecosystem that has remained intact.
11. Visit the Tequila Museum and Naval Museum
The Tequila Museum is an experience to get to know this famous Mexican drink.
During the tour, you will learn about its elaboration, history, and evolution it has had throughout the years.
It is located inside the Vallarta Theater, where you also get a tasting to identify white, reposado, aged, and extra-aged tequila and learn about important brands.
You may want to read: Tequila vs Mezcal: A Complete Guide to Agave Spirits
On the other hand, the Naval Museum, on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta, is one of the most visited places where the maritime history of Mexico is kept, from the Conquest to the present.
Thanks to its 14 rooms, different scale models are shown, with the intention that visitors can learn about the evolution of naval history.
The Tequila Museum and the Naval Museum are places where Mexico’s history, treachery, and culture remain alive.
12. Fall in love in the Romantic Zone
The Romantic Zone is located in Old Vallarta and is very popular for being picturesque.
It has art galleries, restaurants, hotels, cafes, and handicraft stores. The famous Playa Los Muertos is located here.
Another popular beach in the Romantic Zone is Las Amapas.
Although smaller than the previous one, resting and swimming without worry is amicable and quiet.
Now you’re ready to come to Puerto Vallarta and let yourself be pampered by its charms and the natural beauty it possesses.