Puerto Vallarta is located in the beautiful Banderas Bay. It’s one of the widest and deepest bays in the world. There’s no shortage of beaches here and they’re all clean with plenty of water activities to keep your group entertained for an entire afternoon.
Pull up a chair and grab a cerveza or margarita!
Some of our favorite beaches are:
Playa Los Muertos
Playa Las Gemalas
2. Go for a Stroll on the Malecon
Renovated a few years ago, the Malecon (boardwalk) is much wider and it’s pedestrian only. It’s lined with designer shops, restaurants, bars, shops with boozy ice cream, and souvenir markets.
It also serves as an open-air art gallery as it’s dotted with impressive sculptures that provide perfect photo ops. You’ll also regularly see local artists hard at work on new mural paintings.
One of my favorite things to do on the Malecon is to watch the Dance of the Flyers or Danza de los Voladores. It’s a reenactment of an ancient Mesoamerican ritual where 4 men tied to ropes launch themselves from the top of a pole and slowly spin back to the ground while a fifth man plays flute on top of the spinning pole.
Another popular thing to do on the Malecon is visiting the Choco Museum. Learn about the history of cacao and how chocolate is made. If you really want to get involved you can join one of the classes where you’ll learn how to make mole sauce and lots of other chocolate varieties.
3. Visit the Churches
The downtown Puerto Vallarta skyline is dominated by the crown on the Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is a beautiful church that you should visit in Puerto Vallarta. It’s one of the main things to do in Peurto Vallarta. If you’re visiting between December 1st and 12th you should definitely check out the Lady of Guadalupe Festival.
Other beautiful churches in town worthy of a visit are the Parish of Our Lady of Refuge in 5 de Diciembre and Paradise Church PV in Old Town.
4. Eat all the Tacos!
Ah, tacos! The quintessential dish of Mexico. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.
If you think that all tacos are just meat rolled in a tortilla, you are sorely mistaken! The different taco varieties are so vast, our friends over at Food Fun Travel had to split their taco podcast episode into two different parts in order to include all the information.
There are so many incredible taco stands scattered around Puerto Vallarta that the options are endless. Our personal favorite taco styles are tacos al pastor, tacos de marlin, and tacos de birria (goat stew – delicious!).
Don’t worry, all the taco stands here are safe to eat at but if you’re wary about street food then you should join one of the many food tours here in Puerto Vallarta. They’ll take you to all the best places and give you a bit of info and history about the things you’re trying.
Food tours are definitely amongst the most popular things to do in Puerto Vallarta. Check out our review of the street food tour with Vallarta Food Tours.
Head over to TripAdvisor to check out reviews of Vallarta Food Tours and Vallarta Eats Food Tours to decide which one is best for your trip!
While we’re on the topic of food, I’ve got a post about where to eat in PV coming soon but until then I’ll leave you with one restaurant that is always recommended as the best place for fish tacos and margaritas on the beach: El Barracuda.
5. Hike Up to Mirador de la Cruz
You gotta walk off those tacos somehow!
There’s no better way to do that than by climbing the stairs up to the cross that overlooks Puerto Vallarta or the Mirador de la Cruz. I say to go a bit before sunset. The temperature isn’t as hot, the light will be perfect for taking photos of the city, and you’ll have the best view of nature’s most stunning performance.
From the Malecon, start from Mandala Nightclub and walk up Abasolo Street. As you start to climb the hill, the road will end and you’ll begin the stair climb. The stairs get pretty steep towards the top. There is a funicular but we’ve never seen it running. There are plenty of benches where you can stop and rest along the way.
Don’t forget your camera! It’s one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for photography enthusiasts.
6. Find All the Street Art
There are some incredible murals around almost every corner here.
The abundance of street art is one of my favorite things about Puerto Vallarta and Latin America at large. It’s so prevalent and has such an interesting history.
Set out on foot and spend an afternoon exploring the alleyways and smaller streets in Centro and the Romantic Zone. Some of my favorites are included in a previous post I wrote about street art in Mexico.
7. Visit the Botanical Gardens
We always take our visitors to the Botanical Gardens. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
I highly recommend taking the bus from town as the scenery is simply amazing. The road hugs the mountain as it winds along the coast providing breathtaking views of the Bay and Los Arcos Nature Reserve.
The Garden has an incredible collection of cacti, orchids, native plants to this part of Mexico, and lots of old trees. It’s one of the perfect things to do in Puerto Vallarta for nature lovers. There are hiking trails that wind through the park and down to the river where you can go swimming if you want.
After you’ve had your fill of flowers and hiking you should grab a bite at the restaurant. Their food is delicious. They also have a really impressive shop with local artisan crafts, souvenirs, locally made chocolate, and raicilla – the local spirit.
8. Shop at the Local Markets
During the dry season (November – April), the Olas Altas Farmers Market (featured in the video) happens every Saturday from 9:30 am – 2 pm. You’ll find fresh bagels, homemade yogurt, British pies, salsas, and artisan bread. Shop the local artisan craft stands and enjoy a freshly made Thai meal while enjoying the live music.
Save shopping at big grocery stores for when you get home. There are lots of local Municipal markets selling fresh produce, meats, and other snacks at a fraction of the cost. There’s one in just about every neighborhood but some favorites are in Emiliano Zapata and 5 de Diciembre neighborhoods.
9. Hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Playa Las Animas
This is by far my favorite thing to do outdoors here, well besides sitting on the beach! This hike goes along the side of the mountain and passes by several secluded beaches where you can stop and take a dip to cool off so it’s the best of both worlds.
Playa Las Animas is a small fishing village that you can only reach by boat or this hike. There are several little restaurants and an adventure park. It’s popular for daytrippers so you should plan on arriving later in the afternoon. They usually leave around 3 pm.
Start by taking one of the orange buses from the Oxxo on Basilio Badillo to Boca de Tomatlan. When you arrive, walk down the hill towards the water. There will be water taxi drivers asking you if you want the boat. Just politely tell them you’re going to hike and they’ll usually point you in the right direction. When you can no longer go straight, turn left and walk along the water until you come to a bridge. The bridge is where the trail starts.
Total time to hike to Las Animas: 1 hour 45 minutes
You’ll pass by several empty, undeveloped beaches and a few nice resorts. You’ll recognize Las Animas as it has a lot of restaurants, little beach shacks, and a long pier. All the restaurants serve delicious food and drink so reward yourself!
Most people go to Las Animas as a day trip so things shut down pretty early – around 5 pm. When you’re ready, you can hike back or take a water taxi for 50 pesos. The last time we went the guys working at the restaurant helped us get a water taxi at 6 pm so no worries about getting stranded there.
10. Enjoy a Fancy Dinner
There’s way more food in Puerto Vallarta than just tacos. Puerto Vallarta actually has several world-class and even Michelin star restaurants. Eating is a big part of the tourism industry. You shouldn’t eat poorly on vacation!
The most well-known restaurant for fine dining in Puerto Vallarta is Cafe des Artistes. Celebrity chef Thierry Blouet serves French and Mexican fusion cuisine in a beautifully designed restaurant that looks like a castle on the outside. The rooms inside all have a different design including a sculpture-filled reception area, an elegant piano lounge, and a jungle-like outdoor courtyard.
Other popular fine-dining restaurants are:
Extra Things to Do…….
Go meet the local people. Mexico and Puerto Vallarta has very rich history and you may learn a lot.
ENJOY YOUR STAY IN OUR BEAUTIFUL CITY!