Welcome to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
One of Mexico’s most loved resort destinations, Puerto Vallarta is known for it’s intensely laid back atmosphere and stunningly beautiful beaches. It is located in a sweet spot geographically, with an ideal climate. Between the rich, azure Bahia de Banderas and deep green palm-covered mountains, Puerto Vallarta is the perfect year-round location for its citizens, as well as worldwide locals. Despite its popularity, most visitors stick to the well-known, obvious sights, which barely scratches the surface of all this beautiful place has to offer. However, if you just dig a little deeper, as a worldwide local would, you’ll find that there are some real gems to discover in this little corner of Jalisco. Take a look into our insider’s guide to learn of paths less traveled.
Start with Some of the Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
Although Puerto Vallarta is primarily covered with beach resorts, there’s a wealth of culture, architecture, and history to explore. Get out of the “Americanized” resorts by visiting Old Town Puerto Vallarta, and a stroll around the center of town for a great way to spend a few hours any time of the day. However, if you are visiting the old part during a hot day, be mindful that most places don’t have air conditioning. So, be prepared to take plenty of breaks and drink a lot of water (bottled of course!).
Wander around the Plaza de las Armas, where you’ll find a variety of craft stalls, food vendors, and beautifully unique street art. Stroll along the street, just above the river banks where you may catch a much needed breeze coming off the river. Be sure to bring your camera to capture views of the river as well as all the amazing historic architecture. Don’t miss La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the town’s most recognizable and beautiful church.
Worldwide Local Tip: Why not take in a little culture at the Teatro Vallarta, the city’s open air theatre. Situated on the Malecon, and backed by the faux-Greek arches of Los Arcos, it hosts free concerts, plays, and cultural events, all year round.
Puerto Vallarta Beaches
It would be unthinkable to visit Puerto Vallarta and not experience some beach life. The most dazzling beaches are up there with the Riviera Maya and the southern Pacific coast. They may not be the ones right in front of you, but a little exploration will bring you to some of the best stretches of sand in Mexico, away from the crowded Puerto Vallarta resorts. A short drive down the coast brings you to the picturesque Playa Mismaloya, made famous by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, in the 1964 hit “Night of the Iguanas.” Gaze out towards Los Arcos Marine Park, and soak up the Hollywood glam of yesteryear.
Worldwide Local Tip: To experience a beach in its truest form, without the maintenance of public beaches, truly adventurous travelers seek out Playa Yelapa. Only accessible by boat, it is an enchantingly remote spot that isn’t overly populated by crowds. It is definitely well worth a day trip from town, allowing you to soak up the sunny Puerto Vallarta weather without the hustle of the more popular spots.
Worldwide Local Tip: While visiting Playa Yelapa, there are some things to be aware of. First, any local offering to take a picture of you (for example with an iguana), it is not free. This is how many of them make a living, by selling homemade items or services. As far as that goes, it is the same for other public beaches in Mexico. Lastly, don’t be surprised if you are approached and offered some “ganja.” The choice is yours...YOLO! Otherwise, if you politely decline, they won’t hassle you.
Visit Isla Cuala for Dancing and More
The Isla Cuale, in the aptly named Zona Romantica, one of the calmest and most peaceful spots in a city that can, at times, be defined by its nightlife. Walking around, under the shade of the lush foliage, is a great way to cool down and relax, which makes for a lovely alternative to sun-worshipping on the beach. There’s a fascinating museum of pre-Hispanic artifacts at the western tip of the island, as well.
Worldwide Local Tip: The Isla Cuale Flea Market is open 9 am-9 pm daily, and although a lot of what’s offered can be fairly typical, there’s plenty of fascinating artistic pieces and unique items, if you look hard enough.
Have an Amazing Time in Puerto Vallarta!
Puerto Vallarta is not all about just laying around on a sun-drenched beach with a cocktail in hand, although there is, of course, plenty of that to go around. A worldwide local dives a little deeper into this relaxed beachside town, and will be rewarded for their efforts with unspoiled, romantic spots and a fascinating cultural scene.