10 Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

What is Puerto Vallarta Most Famous For?

    Puerto Vallarta is internationally recognized for its charm and friendliness, with life revolving around the ocean. The coastal city has some of Mexico’s most pristine beaches, most of which are great for water sports and whale-watching tours. There is plenty to see on land as well, whether you want to embrace some local culture or explore the area's biodiversity. 

    Exploring Old Vallarta and its traditional architecture gives you a real feel for the Spanish colonial atmosphere. But the city also embraces modern culture – some of the finest galleries in all of Mexico are clustered together along a few small streets in the Centro area and public sculptures dot the city. Read on for our guide of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta in a day.

    What are the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta?

    1

    Start the day on Playa Los Muertos

    Enjoy windsurfing at Puerto Vallarta’s main beach

    Puerto Vallarta’s main beach, Playa Los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) is hugely popular, with lots of places to eat and drink and a variety of water sports on offer. The 1-km-long shoreline has a modern pier that’s shaped like a sail, where you get to enjoy views of boats dotted across Banderas Bay. The waters are calm throughout the year, and attract those who enjoy jet-skiing and windsurfing. 

    Location: Playa Los Muertos, Jalisco, Mexico

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    2

    Must-See: The Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe

    Enjoy street processions in early December

    The Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe is dedicated to the patron saint of Mexico and of Puerto Vallarta. The center of the cathedral's marble altarpiece holds the image of the lady. The brick bell tower is adorned with a crown that pays homage to the one worn by Carlota, who was briefly empress of Mexico in the 1860s. 

    From December 1st until 12th, people come together to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is a good time to visit the cathedral thanks to street processions, festive food and mariachi music.

    Location: Hidalgo 370, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10am to 2pm and 2pm to 6pm, Saturday from 10am to 2pm

    Phone: +52 322 222 1326

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    3

    Shop at Cuale Island Flea Market

    Find Mexican crafts at this indoor market

    Cuale Island Flea Market is a 2-storey building with dozens of stalls, where you can shop for everything Mexican. From sarapes (shawls), sandals, souvenirs and tee-shirts to jewelry, leather goods and handicraft items, there are plenty of things to include in your shopping bag when you’re in the area. 

    Keep your energy up for all that shopping at one of the food stalls selling Jalisco food. These include tacos, tamales, and pico de gallo (diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, serrano chili, and lime juice). 

    Location: Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9am to 9pm

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    4

    Must-See: Cuale Archeological Museum

    See motifs by one of Mexico’s few remaining indigenous tribes

    Museo del Cuale (Cuale Archeological Museum) is small but packed with interesting finds. Pre-Columbian figures, Indian artifacts, shaft tombs, together with exhibits of Aztatlán and Purépecha cultures and the Spanish conquest are some of the treasures in store. 

    Fascinating creations of the Huichol tribe, one of the few remaining indigenous groups that still maintain ancient customs and beliefs, can also be found here. They are known locally for creating traditional motifs, such as symbolic animals and birds, in intricately detailed beadwork and yarn-paintings.

    Location: Isla de los Niños del Río Coale s/n Centro, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

    Open: Tuesday – Saturday from 10am to 7pm

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    5

    Snorkel at Los Arcos Marine Park

    Swim among tropical fish in Banderas Bay

    The Los Arcos Marine Park is a protected area in Banderas Bay, on the west coast of Mexico. Boat trips take you to the park’s granite islands, many of which look like arches protruding from the ocean surface. Snorkelers and divers often make their way to the Los Arcos Marine Park as they get to see colorful reefs and marine animals, such as octopus, clown fish, rays, octopus, and lobsters. 

    Location: Frente a Mismaloya, 48354 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

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    6

    Drink tequila

    Go for a tequila-tasting tour

    Tequila is a distilled liquor made from blue agave plants. The alcoholic drink can only be produced in Mexico, and locals typically drink it straight as a shot. If you want to learn more about how tequila is produced, opt for a tequila tasting tour when you’re in Puerto Vallarta. Most tours include at least 3 types of tequilas for you to sample, as well as informative guides on quality and food pairing. 

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    7

    Playa Olas Altas

    Watch surfers tackling the waves

    Playa Olas Altas (High Waves Beach) is a quiet stretch of beach about 1 km north of Playa Los Muertos Pier. The waves are strong enough to surf, sometimes reaching heights of 2 meters and above. The best time to enjoy surfing in Playa Olas Altas is from April to October. You can also enjoy relaxing activities such as sunbathing, but head up north to the Carpa Olivera pool if you want to swim.

    Location: Playa Olas Altas, Jalisco, Mexico

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    photo by David Stanley (CC BY 2.0) modified

    8

    Relax at Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens

    Check out Mexico’s largest orchid collection

    Vallarta Botanical Gardens attracts nature lovers and those who want to relax with views of exotic flowers, plants and trees. There are numerous hiking trails for visitors to explore the carefully presented collections. The orchid collection in particular is one to look out for – they aim to keep the title of ‘Mexico’s biggest orchid collection’. Besides walking through the gardens, you can take a dip in the neighboring Rio Horcones emerald pools.

    Location: Carret. Barra De Navidad Km. 24, Las Juntas y los Veranos, 48447 Jal., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm (closed on Mondays in April – November)

    Phone: +52 322 223 6182

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    photo by Thomassin Mickaël (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Catch the sunset at Malecón

    Climb the lighthouse for panoramic ocean views

    Malecón, a promenade that stretches almost 1 km, connecting the city's historical center to the waterfront. Grab some refreshment at one of the many cafes before crossing the swinging bridges to Cuale Island, where you can browse the numerous market stalls. For a great view of the bay, make sure you climb the Matamoros lighthouse. Those in search of marine life should prepare their cameras for humpback whale sightings.

    Location: Paseo Díaz Ordaz S/N, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

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    photo by Christian Frausto Bernal (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    10

    End the day at Los Arcos Amphitheater

    Watch free concerts at this open-air theatre

    The Los Arcos Amphitheater, which also goes by the name Aquiles Serdán Theatre, is a Vallarta landmark. The 4 distinctive stone arches that back the theatre have become symbol of the city. It's used regularly as an open-air theatre for cultural performances and festivals on weekends and during holidays. Choirs, bands and dancers put on performances most nights and they are usually free to watch. The sunsets are also pretty special from here – the arches and Banderas Bay making the perfect backdrop.

    Location: Malecón s/n, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

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    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler

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