Puerto Vallarta has been a destination that has welcomed travelers for many years, and it is one of our favorite places to visit in Mexico. There are many fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta — there is something for everyone.
Whether you are a backpacker on a budget, a digital nomad in Mexico looking to spend a month, a couple looking for a week-long vacation or an expat looking to settle down, you will find activities in Puerto Vallarta to keep you busy.
The city is divided into neighborhoods (zones), with the countless things to do in Puerto Vallarta spread along Banderas Bay and beyond. In reality, it doesn’t matter which part of the city you are staying in, because it is easy to get around.
However, you will want to choose your area carefully depending on the atmosphere you are looking for and the budget you have.
Here is my list of the 21 best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Here is a quick overview of the areas of Puerto Vallarta from the airport and heading south:
- Marina-more upscale than the hotel area, with the Marriott, Westin & more hotel.
- Hotel Zone – a short drive from the airport, this area has many hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, a Walmart and a Sams club.
- Centro – Old Town) – small houses, residential area, the Malecon (promenade by the sea) runs along here, many restaurants and bars. This area is on the north side of the Cuale River and offers affordable accommodation.
- Centro (Romantic Area) – located on the south side of the Cuale River, you will find many bars, cafes, restaurants and the beach of Playa Los
- Muertos. It is a popular neighborhood with a large LGBTQ community. Accommodation ranges from budget to high-end.
- Conchas Chinas-meaning “Chinese shells” based on the shells found here, this is a more affluent/upscale area of Puerto Vallarta with gated communities and high-end condos.
1. Walk … Everywhere!
I have to put walking as #1 on the list of things to do in Puerto Vallarta. Exploring on foot is the best way to get a feel for the city, and most areas of PV are within walking distance.
Mexico is already one of the lowest countries to travel to, but when you can do things for free, like walking and sightseeing, you can save even more money.
It’s a great way to see what vendors are selling, to look at people and get a feel for the terrain. You never know what you will stumble upon when discovering the city on foot — just make sure you wear good shoes because the sidewalks and roads are very uneven.
Note: The best time to travel to Mexico if you want to walk around the cities would be during the winter months or during the intermediate season. Otherwise, it can get unbearably hot and you will probably want to be at the beach all day.
2. Take part in a Gastronomic Tour
Did you know that Mexican cuisine has made the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO? This award has not been given to any other national food group.
Mexican food is much more than tacos and quesadillas and the best way to learn more about the tasty cuisine is to join a tour. This is a must in Puerto Vallarta for gourmets.
We have done food tours all over the world, and our favorites are in Mexico.
In Puerto Vallarta, discover Vallarta Food Tours. This company offers a mix of cultural, walking and gastronomic tours, making it a great way to learn more about the city of PV while feasting and cutting calories.
There are a few food tours offered with Vallarta Food Tours, but we did the “Original Downtown Tour”, which took us through the PV center on both sides of the river. We ate many dishes and tried some drinks too. You can also join their taco tour in the evening.
3. See the rhythms of the night (one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta)
If you are looking for a mini cultural show and a Cirque de Soleil-style dinner, then the rhythms of the night will be something you will not want to miss.
We saw this performance and although we are not big fans of big band tours, this show was spectacular and worth every penny. This is one of the best tours in Puerto Vallarta.
The evening begins with a sunset cruise (including an open bar) through Banderas Bay to Las Caletas, which is a beautiful private cove. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by a beautifully lit area with tiki torches and candles.
You will then be shown to your seat in the outdoor auditorium, which is surrounded by palm trees. The seats are all staggered, so even if there are people sitting in front of you, you will have no problem seeing the show.
The show depicts various stories from the ancient Hispanic civilization and Mexican folklore. During the show there is live music, dancing, contortionists, fire twirlers and more.
After the show, you will enjoy a large buffet dinner before returning to Puerto Vallarta by boat.
4. Watching the Sunset
There’s just something about sunsets on the Pacific Coast, and in particular, Puerto Vallarta. Some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen come from here. Have a drink and enjoy the show.
Great vantage points include anywhere along the Malecon, on the hill behind the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or from El Barracuda which is our favorite beach bar.
Once the sun goes down, the party starts in PV — there are so many bars and clubs, the nightlife in Puerto Vallarta is legendary. Enjoy the sunset, it’s one of the best free things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
5. Relax on the Playa las Gemelas
Surprisingly, about a 20-minute drive south of Puerto Vallarta, you will find beaches that seem to be Cancun or Playa del Carmen rather than the Pacific. I think this is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico.
Playa las Gemelas has turquoise water and whitish sand. When we visited, there were quite a few waves, but no riptides or dips, and the waves were fun to swim in.
Other visitors have experienced completely calm water here, so it really depends on the weather and the time of year.
There are only 2 apartment complexes on the beach and nothing else…not even a toilet. Bring a cooler full of beer, water and snacks and get through the day.
The walk to the beach is quite steep and goes down uneven steps, but it’s worth it when you see the view.
To get here, you will want to park at Condominios Girasol Sur (opposite along the road). There is no parking for the beach, so you will have to find some on the street or in the few roadside places in front of the Girasol Sur condos.
6. Take part in a booze tour (with a side of food)
For those of you who like to drink tequila – this is Mexico, who doesn’t?! – this tour is for you.
On our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, we participated in the much-loved Mex -ogy tour and enjoyed a after afternoon of Mezcal, Tequila, Raicilla, craft beer, Kahlua coffee and other craft cocktails.
To accompany the alcohol, you will get tasty food to help you absorb the alcohol.
The dishes we had were full portions of fish tacos, meat tacos, seafood “enchiladas”, onion rings, crickets (yes, crickets!), and delicious dessert.
Not only will you have fun and feel a little tipsy at the end, but you will learn a lot about the traditions and the creation of these alcoholic beverages.
We had a great day with our guide. So much fun in fact, that she took us for some after-night shenanigans where expats and locals like to hang out.
Click here to read more about the Méx -ogy Tequila, Tacos and Cocktails tour, it’s one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
7. Eat Fresh Seafood
Although Mexico is one of the best countries in the world for food and there is definitely a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta for everyone, sometimes it is nice to eat street (beach) food.
If you are an oyster lover, you will be glad to know that you can get fresh oysters on the beach. Just under the bridge that crosses the Cuale River, you will see many vendors selling these delicious pieces.
Plastic tables and chairs are set up so that you can sit and enjoy your plate of food by the water, or you can take them with you. Squeeze a little lime juice, sprinkle with salt and add hot sauce if desired.
Another option is to participate in this tasty seafood experience that includes the oysters listed above, and much more.