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Is Puerto Vallarta Safe? 2024 Update

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe? 2024 Update

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Are you heading to the beautiful Pacific coast of Mexico and wondering, is Puerto Vallarta safe in 2024?

As someone who used to live in Mexico and continues to travel there several times a year, I am constantly asked about the safety of different parts of Mexico.

I’ve written extensively about safety in Mexico City, Tijuana, Playa del Carmen, and beautiful Cabo San Lucas.

Over the years I have spent many weeks in Puerto Vallarta. I have used public transportation, taxis, and private transfers.

I have traveled to Puerto Vallarta with friends, with my boyfriend, and I have explored the city solo.

I can say with confidence that Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest places to travel in Mexico.

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe?: The Numbers

This isn’t just speculation and “how it feels,” this is statistically true as well.

According to Numbeo, Puerto Vallarta has a safety index of about 30-35% depending on the year.

To compare this to other cities, Miami has a safety rating of 53%, Maui’s is 58%, and New York’s is 57%.

When visitors over the last three years are polled about how safe they feel walking at night alone, the safety rating is a strong. 88% of people feel safe walking alone in Puerto Vallarta at night, myself included.

US Travel Advisory Address Safety

It can be helpful to get an understanding of a country’s crime situation by checking the travel advisories which are always listed on the US Department of State website.

This is particularly helpful when planning travels to Mexico because things change quickly there. They will give specific information about where in the state to avoid and why.

However, advice from the government should also be taken with a pinch of salt. In this instance, the government warns that you may want to reconsider travel to the state of Jalisco, the state where Puerto Vallarta is located.

Unfortunately, there are parts of the state where travel is not as safe. According to the government website, this includes, “Jalisco-Michoacan border and Federal Highway 110 and Federal Highway 80 south of Cocula.”

Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Barra de Navidad, and Lake Chapala are all wonderfully safe and beautiful places to explore in the state of Jalisco where this warning doesn’t really apply.

Even the government website states, “There are no other restrictions on travel for U.S government employees in Jalisco state which includes tourist areas in: Guadalajara Metropolitan AreaPuerto Vallarta (including neighboring Riviera Nayarit)Chapala, and Ajijic.”

pristine beach with lush trees on the edges and rocks in the foreground.

The beaches in Puerto Vallarta are spectacular, especially if you are happy to hop on a boat to get away from the crowds.

Safest Neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta

Pretty much every neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta is a safe place to stay. However, as a tourist there are neighborhoods where you will feel more comfortable than others.

  • Romantic Zone: This is my personal favorite neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta and where I usually stay when I visit the city. It is close to beaches, public transportation, and has a small-town feel with cobbled streets and small local hotels and restaurants. This is definitely one of the safest neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta.
  • Centro & 5 de Diciembre: The center of the city and where you will find lots of small hotels and Airbnb options. If you want to be close to the action and a more local scene, this is a good safe option.
  • Marina Vallarta: Located along the Puerto Vallarta Marina, this is where the super-yachts dock. There are a few resorts and big chain hotels here.
  • Zona Hotelera: One of the safest places to stay in Puerto Vallarta is in the resort area known as the hotel zone. This is where all of the biggest resorts and all-inclusive hotels are. The beach here is fantastic.
  • Nuevo Vallarta: While technically this isn’t part of the city of Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta is a newer resort area that has been built to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the area. Here you’ll find safety as well as golf courses and stylish resorts.

Solo Travel Safety in Puerto Vallarta

My most recent trip to Puerto Vallarta was a solo trip. I arrived to the airport, stopped across the street for a marlin burrito at Tacon de Marlin, and then I took the bus from the airport to the Romantic Zone where I had booked a small Airbnb studio to stay.

I went to the beach at night by myself. I dined at wonderful local restaurants solo. I hiked from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas on my own.

Through all of this I felt not only incredibly safe, but even looked after in many ways. More so than when I am traveling with others.

Mexican culture is one of warmth. You will find as a solo traveler all over this country, that people are curious about your adventures, are more open to chatting since they aren’t interupting your conversation with a travel partner.

Some of my favorite memories of travel in Mexico are when I am traveling solo and Puerto Vallarta is no different.

Of course, you should still take normal precautions, especially as a woman traveling solo. I like to have a beer or two with my meal or at a local bar in the evenings, but I never have more than two.

When hiking or walking through the streets of town on my own, I never wear headphones. Drivers in Mexico aren’t the best, so you always want to be able to see and hear everything around you.

sunset over the ocean with the sand of the beach in the foreground.

Puerto Vallarta is one of the places in Mexico where I feel safest traveling solo.

Swimming in Puerto Vallarta

There are so many beaches in Puerto Vallarta that are worth exploring, but not all of them are the safest for swimming. Especially for young children or adults who aren’t confident swimmers.

Puerto Vallarta is on the Pacific Ocean and the wide open Bay of Banderas where the city is located can bring in some serious rip currents.

Consider smaller beaches like Conchas Chinas and Punta Negra where the waves are very small and the water is calmer than at the main Los Muertos beach located in the Romantic Zone.

Always check the flags on the beaches before entering the water. Red means that you cannot swim. Yellow means swim with caution and green means you can swim as normal.

White flags mean that jellyfish are present, so be sure to take extra caution. Jellyfish tend to be most common during the summer months when storms occur more frequently.

Food Hygiene Tips

Food and water hygiene in Puerto Vallarta varies greatly depending on the establishment.

I have a full list of my top picks for best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta which you can rest assured are tried and tested (and tried and retested with every return trip!).

I urge you to try street stalls as often as you try restaurants while in Puerto Vallarta. Look for a place that is using clean bottled water, has a high turnover, and is cooking food fresh to order (rather than places where the meat is sitting on the grill for long periods of time at different temperatures).

Do not drink the tap water in Puerto Vallarta. While it’s certainly cleaner than places like Chiapas or even Mexico City, it should still be avoided for consumption.

In addition to simply not drinking it, you should use bottled water to make coffee and cook rice and pasta with.

I have never had a problem using tap water to brush my teeth or to take a shower. For the most part, it is sanitary, just not great for drinking.

If you purchase food from a local market (or even from the large chain grocery stores), be sure to clean it. I wash vegetables in water mixed with Microdyn. I don’t travel anywhere in Mexico without a little bottle in my suitcase.

ceviche on a tostada on a white plate with salsas in the background.

There are so many wonderful dishes to try in Mexico, don’t avoid the local cuisine for fear of getting sick!

Sun Safety in Puerto Vallarta

It may seem obvious that you are coming to a beach town, so you should take care that you are sun safe.

But the sun in Puerto Vallarta should not be underestimated. Even during the winter months when the temperatures feel bearable and the sun not as strong, you can still burn quickly.

Always be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. If you are spending a lot of time surfing or body boarding, consider packing an SPF shirt to wear while you’re in the ocean.

Safety on Public Transportation

Public Transportation in Puerto Vallarta is affordable and safe. The buses are a bit old, a bit rickity, and the suspension may be lacking.

Your biggest safety concern is falling over if you are standing on the bus. Hold on tight or find a seat when possible.

If you are traveling to Puerto Vallarta on a budget, it’s really an unbeatable way to get around. For 10 Pesos or roughly 50 cents US, you can get anywhere in the city.

I use the bus to go to and from the airport (give yourself plenty of time to sit in traffic!), to go to and from the beaches, and to get to the bigger supermarkets.

I have taken the bus by myself and with my boyfriend and I have felt perfectly safe in both situations. Both tourists and locals take the bus, but for the most part, it is mostly packed with locals going to and from work throughout the day.

The yellow seats at the front of the bus are reserved for older people, pregnant women, and parents with small children. You can sit in these seats as long as no one else has gotten on, but it’s always best to leave them free if there are other seats available further back on the bus.

line of people waiting at the airport in puerto vallarta.

The airport in Puerto Vallarta is the only place you definitely don’t want to take a taxi, the prices here are INSANE compared to other local prices. Head outside to the sidewalk and get a bus or an Uber.

Taxis and Uber Safety

If you want to get somewhere quicker or you don’t want to sweat on the bus at rush hour when getting back from the beaches, you can go to a taxi rank, which are called sitios in Mexico.

You’ll be able to spot them because there is usually a line of taxis waiting there. Taxis in Puerto Vallarta are white and yellow.

Always ask the price of the ride before getting in. Taxis here do not use meters, they simply have set prices to get from one part of the city to another (and sometimes they make them up).

The city taxis are the most expensive way to get around the city, but they are almost always available and they are perfectly safe options. I have taken several taxis alone in Puerto Vallarta without any problems.

If you don’t speak Spanish or you aren’t near a taxi stand, you can use Uber in Mexico. The only place you can’t use Uber is from inside the airport. You have to walk to the bus stop in front of the airport to order and Uber from there.

You use it exactly the same way you use it at home, you don’t need to do anything different. Just know that the prices are quoted in Pesos, which also uses the $ sign (so don’t be too panicked when the price is $150, that’s only about $8.50 USD).

beach with boats sitting in the water.

Be sure to get under umbrellas at the beach during the height of the sun to avoid getting sunburned!

Driving in Puerto Vallarta

I do not recommend driving in Puerto Vallarta. Especially if you are planning to stay in the Centro or in the Romantic Zone.

You simply do not need a car if you plan to spend the majority of your vacation in this region of Puerto Vallarta.

Parking is hard to find. Most of the roads are one-way (which sometimes is not observed by local drivers). The roads are cobbled and not well maintained so it is a very uncomfortable ride.

You can walk almost everywhere in downtown Vallarta and for places where you can’t public transportation and taxis are affordable and readily available.

If you plan to take day trips to Sayulita, Bucerías, or along the Costa Alegre, then you may want to rent a car in Mexico, but otherwise you don’t need it.

Your biggest concerns when driving in Puerto Vallarta, besides road quality, is drunk drivers. This is especially apparent on weekends when people spend all day drinking beers at the beach and then drive home.

Be even more vigilant after dark when it is harder to see potholes or other problems that may be in the road.

fruits and vegetables inside a mexican market.

If you are self-catering, be sure to wash all of the fruits and vegetables, especially when you are going to eat the skin (like tomatoes).

Hurricanes in Puerto Vallarta

Every year between July and October, Puerto Vallarta, like much of Mexico, runs the risk of hurricanes.

In 2023, Hurricane Lidia was a category 4 hurricane that made landfall and was soon downgraded to a tropical storm, but not before it ripped up the beach and many of the palapas that lined the sand.

When planning your trip to Puerto Vallarta during these months, pay careful attention to the weather and the news. Thankfully, hurricanes are usually predicted at least a few days before it arrives.

This gives you time to cancel your trip or move it to a different date. Always make sure to have travel insurance whenever traveling to Mexico, but especially during these months of the year when you may need to cancel or rearrange plans at the last minute. Credit cards like the Chase Sapphire insure your trip as long as you book everything through the card.

Safety at Night

Nightlife in Puerto Vallarta is bustling. Whether you want to enjoy some cool craft beer bars, drink margaritas on the beach, or find local clubs, there is something for everyone in Puerto Vallarta’s nightlife.

Take the same precautions that you would take anywhere in the world when out at night, especially when you are solo.

For the safest places to hang out in Puerto Vallarta at night, stick to populated areas like the Romantic Zone or the Centro around the Malecon.

Always leave your passport and most of your credit and debit cards in the safe at your hotel or in a safe place at your Airbnb. I usually go out with about 800-1,000 Pesos, less if you are not planning on eating a local taco spot that only accepts cash, and then one credit card which I have free international usage (the Chase Sapphire is the best travel card!).

sunset over the beach with the pier in Puerto Vallarta in the distance.

The sun goes down in Puerto Vallarta and the party starts, especially in the Romantic Zone.

LGBTQ+ Safety in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly places in all of Mexico.

You will find hotels, clubs, and bars that cater specifically for the LGBTQ+ community and many other restaurants and bars around town will have rainbow stickers or flags in the windows to let people know that their establishment is a safe space for all travelers.

Unfortunately, there is always a small group of people in every part of the world who have opinions even when no one is asking. You may come across these people, but know that the majority of locals and visitors are accepting and kind.