The Absolute Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

There are so many amazing things to do in Puerto Vallarta. Whether you just want to be a beach bum, you want to get out and explore, or you want to eat your weight in seafood, there’s something to keep you busy in Puerto Vallarta.

Every time I visit this west coast Mexican city, I fall in love a little bit more. I’ve even considered moving here at some point because it truly has everything you could want.

The beach in town, Los Muertos, is long enough that it doesn’t ever feel that crowded. The boardwalk it just tacky enough, but still beautiful to walk along. The number of incredible restaurants increases every time I visit. 

If you’re wondering what to do in Puerto Vallarta, look no further than this extensive list. 

Be sure to check out my list of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta and the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta as you plan your next trip. 

Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

Go Beach Hopping

There are tons of really great beaches within the city limits of Puerto Vallarta.

The most popular option is Los Muertos, which is right in heart of the Romantic Zone. This is without a doubt the most popular public beach in Puerto Vallarta.

If you aren’t staying in a beach-front resort, you’ll likely find yourself at Los Muertos at some point during your trip.

However, even without needing to rent a car, you can easily hop on the local buses that head south to Mismaloya and stop off at any of the beaches that dot the coast line.

On weekends, these are the beaches where the locals head. The most popular and easiest to access are Playa Conchas Chinas, Playa Palmares, and Playa La Garza Blanca

Taking a bus or grabbing an Uber to these beaches is actually one of the best options, because there is very little, if any space to park along the road. It’s especially packed on weekends.

The Los Muertos beach in Puerto Vallarta is so easy to get to, which also means it’s one of the busiest.

Eat All the Seafood

Puerto Vallarta has one of the best restaurant scenes in the entire country in my humble opinion, especially for seafood.

Whether you want high end, street food, or something in between, there are so many options to choose from around Puerto Vallarta.

I rave about all of my favorite restaurants in Puerto Vallarta in this post.

However, you absolutely can miss a meal at El Barracuda. Get a table on the beach, order the shrimp and one of their spicy margaritas.

Other absolutely fantastic seafood spots that you don’t want to miss are the local Mariscos El Guero, Mariscos Cisneros, and Tacón de Marlin

For a fine-dining seafood experience, be sure to make a reservation at Café des Artistes.

eating seafood in puerto vallarta
Ceviche in this region of the country is kind of unique and incredibly delicious.

Spend the Day on a Private Yacht

Puerto Vallarta, or more accurately, Marina Vallarta, is one of the most popular yacht marinas in Mexico. 

Take a stroll along the marina and you’ll see, perhaps billions of dollars worth of boats floating there. It’s total luxury (and gluttony?).

Luckily, you can feel like a millionaire for a day or two with a group of family and friends, too. 

There are so many tour companies that offer day trips out on different yachts. Some include meals and a night on the yacht.

Others are day trips that allow you to bring your own food and drinks and simply provide you with the captain. It depends on the size of the boat and how much you’re willing to spend.

This tour with Get Your Guide includes snorkeling, stops at secluded beaches, paddle boarding, lunch, and unlimited drinks and cocktails. 

Alternatively, book yourself onto this tour to explore the region on a luxury sailboat. The trip includes lunch, an open bar, snorkeling equipment, paddle boards, and stops at smaller beaches that are only accessible by boat.

a big yacht parked in the puerto vallarta harbor
There are boats of all different sizes that you can rent depending on how much you want to pay, but it’s definitely a fun day out with a group of friends!

Enjoy the Craft Beer Scene

Craft beer bars are cropping up all over the place in Puerto Vallarta, but one of the originals is where you should start.

Los Muertos Brewing serves up crisp (and strong) IPAs, fresh lagers, malty amber ales, and rich stouts. They are complimented perfectly by what is without a doubt some of the best pizza you will have on the west coast of Mexico. 

Monzón Brewing Co is the other mainstay of the Puerto Vallarta craft beer scene that I highly recommend checking out. The bar itself is perfect for gathering with friends. They test out different flavor pairings with their lagers, Pale Ales, and IPAs that I really enjoy. 

los muertos brewering craft beer in puerto vallarta
Having a beer at Los Muertos is one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta if you’re a craft beer lover!

Take a Boat Trip to Yelapa

Yelapa is a tiny little fishing village that, in recent years, has turned into something of an escape from Puerto Vallarta.

The small outcrop is located on the edge of a peninsula with no road access. The only way to get to Yelapa is by boat.

You can easily head here for the day. Organize a time for a water taxi to come back and pick you up. You can grab a water taxi either from Los Muertos Beach or at Boca de Tomatlan.

Once you get to Yelapa, you can go horseback riding, hiking through the hills, or simply roll out your towel on the sand and enjoy the solitude.

If you want to make a trip of it, there are a few small hotels in Yelapa. Just be aware that these are not luxury resorts. However, if you are looking for a quiet place to escape the internet and cell phone service for a while, you’ll get that and more with a few nights in Yelapa. 

Casa Palapa is my favorite option for a stay in Yelapa if you are coming with a few people. It’s a whole two-bedroom house with unbeatable views of the bay. Book a stay at Casa Palapa here.

Pura Vida Wellness Retreat is the closest thing to a bit of luxury that you’ll get on this beach. There is a pool, expansive balconies, and huge windows in the rooms that all take in the view of the bay. Book a stay at Pura Vida Wellness Retreat here.

a whale tale seen from a whale watching trip
Whale watching is so much fun in Puerto Vallarta, especially when you actually spot a whale!

Go Whale Watching

One of the most popular things to do in Puerto Vallarta is to go whale watching. 

The whale watching season runs from December until March, but they can sometimes be seen as early as November and as late as May. It really depends on how the weather has been and how warm the water is during that year.

However, if you want to have the best chances of seeing a whale, you’ll want to go during those peak months.

There are tons of options for whale watching. If you sit on the beach at Los Muertos, plenty of people will walk up to you throughout the day offering boat tours and whale watching tours. 

If you want to pre-book a tour to ensure you have a spot during the peak season, I usually use Get Your Guide, which links you up to local tour companies in the area. 

This tour takes you out into Banderas Bay. Depending on the hour you choose, it includes breakfast or lunch, unlimited coffee and tea, and has an open bar in the afternoons. It lasts about four horus and costs just under $100 per person. Book a whale watching tour here.

Stroll Along the Malecon

Walking along the Malecon, or boardwalk, is a fun thing to do in Puerto Vallarta if you have kids or you’re a kid at heart.

This is where you’ll find most of the souvenir shops. This is where you’ll find Señor Frogs and where people will ask you “hey amigo, you want a free shot of tequila?”

It’s without a doubt one of the most tourist-centered things to do in Puerto Vallarta, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun!

It’s particularly beautiful at Christmas-time when you can stroll along the Malecon and see all of the Christmas lights. 

The Malecon is also where you’ll see street performers doing all sorts of different things. In the evenings, there is usually a night market where you can buy ice cream or elotes and other Mexican street snacks.

If you love the colorful signs that say the name of the city (I do), then this is also where you’ll spot that. 

sunset over the beach in puerto vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is also a really great place to watch the sunset.

Take a Food Tour

If you don’t feel confident enough with your Spanish or you’re short on time, you’ll definitely want to consider taking a food tour around Puerto Vallarta while you’re visiting.

They are the experts who will take you to the absolute best spots for seafood, street tacos, and local drinks and snacks.

There are a few really great local tour companies that I recommend checking out. 

Vallarta Food Tours is one of my favorites and they pride themselves on seeking out not just the best food, but on supporting the small businesses around the community. 

Another great food tour company in Puerto Vallarta is Vallarta Eats. They have a huge selection of tours to choose from and if one of their regular tours doesn’t quite fit what you’re looking for, they’ll put together a private tour where you visit a combination of different places. 

Explore the Botanical Gardens

The Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens is often listed as one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta. I would say it depends on what you like.

It’s about 20 minutes outside of the downtown area. You can take the bus here, grab an Uber, or drive yourself if you have a rental car.

The gardens are home to some of the region’s native plants as well as plants that come from other parts of Mexico. It is incredibly well kept and throughout the year, depending on what’s in season, offers something completely different to see. 

There are several different paths, which is what I really enjoy about the gardens. You can explore and get lost amongst them, feeling like you’re on a hike more than just strolling through a garden.

If you don’t have a rental car and want to add a few more stops to your day trip, check out this tour with Get Your Guide. It takes you to the Botanical Gardens as well as to a local distillery and an organic coffee factory. Book that tour here.

sunshine over the beach
There are a few hikes around Puerto Vallarta that lead you to isolated beaches that are only reachable by hiking or water taxi.

Go Hiking

If you are looking for something more challenging than a stroll through the Botanical Gardens, then lucky for you Puerto Vallarta has plenty of hiking top satisfy those needs.

There are parks scattered around the region where you can simply walk in and start following on of the paths. These include Nogalito Eco Park and Garza Blanca Mountain and River Hike.

Another great local hike starts in the little town of Boca de Tomatlan, about 15 minutes south of the Romantic Zone. You can see the route for that hike, which takes in several different beach spots, on this website here.

Visit Boca de Tomatlan

In addition to having a great hiking trail, Boca de Tomatlan is a popular place to head to take a boat trip.

As I mentioned above, you can come here to take a boat to Yelapa. You can also hop onto a whale watching trip here, although the quality of those trips can vary.

Other water taxis (called pangas), can take you to other local beaches as well that are not accessible by car.

As soon as you get to Boca de Tomatlan, tour guides will start approaching you. Many speak both Spanish and English. Most have cards or posters of the trips that they can take you on.

They have all price fixed, so it’s unlikely that you will be able to move to different guys and haggle (in my experience).

 You can also just head here for the small beach and great local seafood restaurants as well.

luxury hotel with palm trees and a pool
Sometimes all you want to do is kick back and relax. There are so many stunning resorts in Puerto Vallarta where you can do just that.

Stay at a Luxury All-Inclusive Resort

This is one of the biggest draws to this part of the country and one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta if you want to be pampered.

There are so many fantastic all-inclusive luxury resorts in Puerto Vallarta. If you want to have a private beach, a spa session, top-quality room-service, and a suite that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, there are plenty to choose from.

One of my absolute favorites is the Secrets Resort. There are a few Secrets Resorts around Mexico (the one in Huatulco is one of my favorites), but this has to be one of their most luxurious. Check out all of the amenities and book a stay at Secrets Resort here.

The Hotel Mousai is another great option for luxury in Puerto Vallarta. The views from the rooms are stunning.

It’s away from many of the other big resorts, which makes you feel like you have the whole bay to yourself when you look out from the infinity pool. Book a stay at Hotel Mousai here.

woman in infinity pool looking at the ocean
Simply taking in the views should be on your list of things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Visit the Uninhabited Islas Marietas

Islas Marietas are one of the best day trips and things to do in Puerto Vallarta. It’s the sort of trip that you can do again and again and never get tired of that view.

This uninhabited group of islands is absolutely stunning. One of the beaches is actually inside a cave that you snorkel to and once you get there, it’ll just be you and your tour group.  

This tour with Get Your Guide is well worth the $100 price tag. It’s a full day, 7-hour tour that includes breakfast and lunch, snorkel equipment, kayaks, paddle boards, and an open bar once all of the water activities are over.

This tour does not include a trip to the hidden beach in the cave, but it is a great option if you want to spend the day out on the water exploring other parts of the islands. You can book that tour here.

If seeing the hidden beach inside the cave if your priority, this tour is the one you should take. It’s a little bit more expensive, but it takes you to the beach and includes all safety equipment needed to get inside the cave. You can book that tour here.

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