Puerto Vallarta: The Ultimate Travel Guide

You’ve been dreaming of the perfect beach vacation – somewhere with stunning blue waters, endless sandy shores, and vibrant local culture. Well, we’ve got just the spot for you. Welcome to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s Pacific paradise! Nestled along Banderas Bay, this coastal city has everything you need for an unforgettable getaway. From whale watching and water sports to tequila tastings and taco tours, PV offers plenty of adventures on land and sea. In this travel guide, we’ll cover all the must-see sights, the best places to eat, where to stay, and how to get around. With info on nearby towns like Sayulita and Punta Mita, you’ll have insider tips to make the most of your time here. So get ready to soak up some rays and say “hola” to the Mexican beach vacation of your dreams!

Introducing Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta is a lively beach town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, in the state of Jalisco. With its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and palm-fringed beaches, Vallarta has been a popular tourist destination for decades.

Beaches Galore

Some of the most stunning beaches in Mexico are found right here, from secluded coves to buzzing social scenes. Playa Los Muertos is the heart of it all, lined with restaurants, bars, and nightlife. For a more relaxed vibe, head to Playa Conchas Chinas with gentle waves and private beach clubs. Playa Gemelas, only accessible by boat, offers a pristine hidden paradise. No matter your mood, there’s a perfect beach for you.

Delicious Food

The food in Vallarta is as vibrant as the town itself. You’ll find everything from gourmet cuisine to street eats. Be sure to try the fresh seafood, especially the red snapper and shrimp. Tacos de pescado (fish tacos) are a must, with fresh mahi-mahi or tuna. And don’t miss the salsas and guacamole, bursting with local chiles and spices. Wash it all down with a michelada beer or a tequila cocktail.

Adventure and Activities

In Vallarta, the fun happens both in and out of the water. Go whale watching or snorkeling with sea turtles. Zip line through the jungle canopy or ride horses on the beach. Take a food tour and learn to cook authentic Mexican fare. When the sun goes down, the nightlife heats up with music venues, cabarets, and beach parties going until dawn.

With endless adventures, natural beauty, and welcoming people, Puerto Vallarta offers an experience like no other. Once you visit, you’ll discover why so many return again and again. This little slice of paradise awaits!

Getting to Puerto Vallarta: Flights, Transportation and Weather

By Air

The easiest way to get to Puerto Vallarta is by plane. There are direct flights available from several airlines, including major US carriers like American Airlines, Delta, and United. Flight time is around 3 to 5 hours depending on your departure city. Once you land at Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport, you can get into town via taxi, Uber, or bus.

Ground Transportation

Taxis and rideshares are readily available at the airport to take you into Puerto Vallarta, about a 15-minute drive away. Fares will run you $10 to $20. There are also bus services for a few dollars that can drop you off in the city center. Another budget-friendly option is to walk out to the main highway and flag down a local bus. Once in town, the easiest ways to get around are on foot, by taxi or Uber.

Weather and When to Go

Puerto Vallarta enjoys a tropical savanna climate with warm weather for most of the year. The dry season runs from December to April, making it the high season for tourism. Expect little chance of rain, low humidity and daytime highs around 82 F. The rainy or “green” season is from May to November. You’ll get occasional tropical downpours and thunderstorms, though mornings and nights remain pleasant. Fewer crowds and lower hotel rates make the summer appealing for budget travelers.

Top Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta: Beaches, Activities and Attractions

Relax on the Beautiful Beaches

With over 25 miles of coastline, Puerto Vallarta offers some of the best beaches in Mexico. Head to Playa los Muertos, the most popular beach right in the heart of the city, or take a water taxi to some of the more secluded beaches like Yelapa or Las Animas. No trip is complete without watching the sunset while sipping a margarita at one of the beachside bars or restaurants.

Experience an Adventure

If you’re looking for some adventure, Puerto Vallarta has you covered. Go zip lining through the jungle canopy, take an ATV tour through the Sierra Madre mountains, or go whale watching and swim with dolphins. For thrill seekers, take a sunset parasailing flight 800 feet above the bay or go bungee jumping at the highest jump site in Mexico.

Explore the Romantic Zone

The Romantic Zone, also known as Old Town, is filled with art galleries, shops, restaurants and nightlife. Walk along the cobblestone streets, dine al fresco at a traditional Mexican restaurant, or grab a drink at one of the many bars and clubs along the popular strip. Check out the historic church, stroll through Lazaro Cardenas Park, or catch a show at Teatro Vallarta. The Romantic Zone comes alive at night, so it’s the perfect place to experience the city’s vibrant nightlife.

Take a Day Trip to Nearby Towns

If you want to venture outside the city, there are some charming towns just a short distance away. Bucerías, about 15 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, offers a more laid-back beach vibe with cobblestone streets and beachfront dining. Further up the coast, Sayulita and San Pancho are popular surf towns with a bohemian flair. Or head south to Mismaloya, the set location for The Night of the Iguana, to spot wildlife on a jungle canopy tour.

Puerto Vallarta has endless options for adventure, culture, food and natural beauty. With all it has to offer, you’ll find yourself wanting to come back again and again. Disfruta tu viaje! (Enjoy your trip!)

Puerto Vallarta’s Food Scene: Local Cuisine, Restaurants and Markets

Local Cuisine

The local cuisine in Puerto Vallarta is delicious. Some dishes you have to try are tortilla soup, ceviche, tamales, and chiles en nogada. Tortilla soup is a spicy soup topped with fried tortilla strips, cheese, avocado, and sour cream. Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lime juice and spices. Tamales are corn dough stuffed with meats and vegetables, wrapped in banana leaves. Chiles en nogada are poblano peppers stuffed with meat and fruit, covered in a walnut cream sauce. Be sure to also try tequila, margaritas, and Mexican beer like Pacífico or Corona.

Must-Visit Restaurants

There are so many amazing restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll want to pace yourself! Some recommendations are Café des Artistes for upscale Mexican-fusion with amazing views, La Palapa for beachfront seafood and cocktails, and Tacos Revolucion for delicious street-style tacos. If you’re craving Italian, check out Daiquiri Dick’s or Barrio Bistro. For brunch, head to Lazy Susans or Oleo. Don’t miss the food stalls at the Isla Cuale market for cheap, authentic eats.

Farmers Markets and Food Markets

To experience the local culture, visit one of Puerto Vallarta’s many food markets. The Isla Cuale market on the island in the Cuale River is open daily, selling everything from produce and spices to handmade goods. On Saturdays, check out the huge farmers market in Pitillal, a suburb of PV. You’ll find mounds of fresh produce, meat, seafood and prepared foods from local vendors. The organic farmers market on Fridays in Bucerías also has amazing finds like fresh coconut milk, mango preserves and homemade tortillas.

Puerto Vallarta is a food lover’s paradise. The local cuisine, restaurants and food markets offer tastes of authentic Mexico you won’t find anywhere else. Come with an empty stomach and a sense of adventure – you’re sure to discover some new favorite foods!

Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is home to some of the most stunning beaches along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Whether you’re looking to swim, sunbathe, or surf, PV has a beach for you.

Playa Los Muertos

This popular beach located in the Romantic Zone is a perfect spot to spend the day. Relax under the shade of a palapa while enjoying fresh seafood and a cold cocktail from one of the many beachfront restaurants. When the sun sets over the ocean, the beach comes alive with music and dancing.

Playa Conchas Chinas

Tucked beneath the lush jungle cliffs of Conchas Chinas, this secluded beach features soft white sand and gentle waves ideal for swimming and boating. It’s a picturesque escape from the crowds, accessible only by a steep stairway leading down from the road above. Pack a picnic lunch, your snorkel gear, and a good book for a peaceful beach getaway.

Playa Gemelas

Twin secluded coves with pristine sands and calm waters make Playa Gemelas a perfect beach for families with small children. Access the beach from the road by climbing down a rocky trail, so be sure to wear proper shoes. Although less developed, amenities like restrooms, restaurants, and equipment rentals are available onsite. Get here early to snag a good spot before the crowds descend.

Playa Palmares

If you’re looking to ride the waves, head south of town to Playa Palmares, one of the best surfing beaches in Banderas Bay. Powerful swells produce right and left point breaks, especially in the winter and spring. Observe the surf conditions before paddling out, as the currents here can be dangerous. When you need to rest your arms, enjoy a fresh coconut or banana smoothie from the local vendors.

With eight miles of coastline and over a dozen beaches to choose from, Puerto Vallarta offers something for beachgoers of all kinds. Get out and explore—your perfect beach is waiting!

Top Puerto Vallarta Tours and Excursions

There are so many exciting ways to experience Puerto Vallarta. From adventure tours to cultural experiences, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Zip Lining Through the Jungle

Soar over the treetops on a thrilling zip line tour. Puerto Vallarta has some of the longest and highest zip lines in Mexico. Glide over jungle canopies, ravines and waterfalls for an adrenaline-pumping experience you’ll never forget.

Whale Watching Cruise

From December to April, thousands of humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Banderas Bay to mate and birth their calves. Take a whale watching cruise to see these magnificent creatures up close in their natural habitat. You may spot whales breaching, tail slapping and even a mother nursing her newborn calf.

Discover Colonial Mining Towns

Take a guided day trip to the charming silver mining towns of San Sebastián and Mascota in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Walk the cobblestone streets, shop at the local markets, and dine on authentic Mexican cuisine. You’ll get a glimpse into a traditional way of life that still exists in these colonial towns.

Learn to Cook Authentic Mexican Cuisine

Mexican food is world famous, so why not learn how to make it yourself? Take a cooking class where you’ll make classic dishes like enchiladas, tamales, mole and fresh tortillas. A skilled chef will teach you the techniques and share family recipes that have been passed down for generations. After cooking, enjoy the fruits of your labor by sitting down to a delicious Mexican meal.

Puerto Vallarta has no shortage of exciting activities to make your vacation unforgettable. From zip lining to whale watching to cooking classes, there’s something for everyone in this diverse destination.

Where to Stay: Hotels, Resorts and Neighborhoods

Puerto Vallarta has a wide range of accommodations to suit any budget and travel style. Whether you want an adults-only luxury resort, a boutique hotel in the heart of downtown, or a budget-friendly apartment, you’ll find it here.

Hotels & Resorts

Some of the most popular beachfront resorts are located in the Hotel Zone, about a 15-minute drive from downtown. This area has an active nightlife, dining scene, and long stretches of beach lined with resorts. Further south are quieter resorts around Mismaloya Beach and south of town. All-inclusive resorts like the Hyatt Ziva, Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa, and CasaVelas are highly rated.

Downtown & Central

For a more authentic experience, stay in the downtown or central area. Boutique hotels like the Hotel Posada de Roger and Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel are charming, affordable options with lots of character. You’ll be within walking distance to restaurants, bars, shopping, and the beach. The central area just across the river is also convenient, with larger hotels like the Westin Resort & Spa and Holiday Inn Express.

Romantic Zone

South of downtown is the popular Romantic Zone, with a nice beach, restaurants, and nightlife along the cobblestone streets. It has a laid-back vibe and range of lodging from budget apartments to luxury suites. Some top-rated places to stay include Costa Sur Resort & Spa, Blue Chairs Resort by the Sea and Villa David.

No matter where in Puerto Vallarta you choose to stay, you’ll experience the city’s vibrant culture, natural scenery and warm hospitality. Get ready to make memories that will last a lifetime!

Nearby Towns and Day Trips From Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a perfect home base for exploring the surrounding areas. Within an hour or two of the city, you’ll find sleepy beach towns, colonial cities, tropical jungles and more. Rent a car or book guided tours to visit some of these nearby destinations.

About 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta is the laid-back surfer town of Sayulita. It has a beautiful crescent beach, hippie vibe and vibrant nightlife. Check out the beachfront fish tacos, go surfing or just unwind.

An hour to the east in the Sierra Madre Mountains is San Sebastián del Oeste, a historic silver mining town. The cobblestone streets, charming plaza and colonial-era church make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s a popular spot for hiking, horseback riding and bird watching too.

For adventure, head 2 hours inland to explore the tropical rainforest of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Zip line through the canopy, raft down rivers, spot wildlife like parrots and coatis. Small towns like El Tuito and Talpa de Allende offer a glimpse into traditional Mexican culture.

About 45 minutes south is the popular resort town of Bucerías. It has a lovely beach, art galleries, golfing and water sports along the coast. The pace here is more relaxed than Puerto Vallarta, perfect if you want to unwind. Other beach towns in the area include La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta Mita and San Francisco (San Pancho).

You can also take boat tours to secluded beaches like Yelapa, Majahuitas and Quimixto. Most offer snorkeling, kayaking, drinks and meals. The jungle-lined coves and laid-back vibe make for an unforgettable day trip.

With so many wonderful places around Puerto Vallarta, you’ll have no shortage of adventures. Exploring the nearby towns and natural areas will give you a better sense of the region’s charm and diversity. Every destination has something different to offer, so try to visit a few if you have the time. Your trip will be all the richer for it.

Puerto Vallarta Travel FAQs: Your Top Questions Answered

So you’ve decided to take a trip to sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Fantastic choice! Before you head to the beach, here are some frequently asked questions to help you plan your perfect getaway.

How do I get to Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta has its own international airport (PVR) with direct flights from several major US and Canadian cities. You can also fly into nearby Manzanillo (ZLO) or Guadalajara (GDL) and drive about 2-3 hours to Puerto Vallarta. Once you arrive, taxis and rideshares can take you into town or to your hotel.

What is the weather like?

Puerto Vallarta has a tropical climate with warm weather for most of the year. The dry season runs from November to April, with little chance of rain and average highs of 82 F. The rainy or “green” season is from May to October, with frequent short afternoon showers and lush, vibrant greenery. The ocean temperatures are pleasant for swimming year-round.

What is there to do?

There’s no shortage of activities in Puerto Vallarta! Relax on the beach, go whale watching or snorkeling, take a boat tour to secluded beaches, explore the cobblestone streets of Old Town, or go zip lining in the jungle. Foodies will love the vibrant culinary scene with tasty street food, gourmet restaurants, food tours and cooking classes. There’s also a lively nightlife with bars, clubs and shows along the beachfront boardwalk.

How much does it cost?

Puerto Vallarta is very budget-friendly. You can find nice hotels for under $100/night and great meals for under $10. Taxi fares and tours are also very affordable. If you want an upscale resort experience, there are also luxury options. Budget $50-100/day for food, $10-30 for activities, and $5-20 for taxis and you’ll live comfortably without breaking the bank.

Do I need to know Spanish?

While Spanish is the main language in Puerto Vallarta, many locals in the tourism industry speak English. It is still helpful to know some basic Spanish phrases to be polite. Carry a translation guide or dictionary, or download a translation app to help you communicate. Most signs are also in both Spanish and English.

With gorgeous beaches, a charming town, adventure activities and amazing cuisine at great prices, Puerto Vallarta has something for every traveler. Have a wonderful trip and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any other questions!


So there you have it – everything you need to know to plan an amazing trip to Puerto Vallarta. With its beautiful beaches, charming colonial streets, and endless options for dining, adventure, and nightlife, PV has something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, party all night, or immerse yourself in Mexican culture, you’ll find it here. And with direct flights available from cities across North America, getting to this Pacific paradise couldn’t be easier. So start planning your Mexican escape today – your next unforgettable adventure awaits in Puerto Vallarta!