25 Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (in 2023)
No matter what kind of traveler you are, there are plenty of fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta. With beautiful beaches, lush mountain jungles, incredible scuba diving, gastronomic experiences galore, and world class performances on offer, it’s no wonder why Puerto Vallarta is such a popular tourist destination.
The only problem is sorting through it all to figure out what to do in Puerto Vallarta. Never fear, though, because I’m here to help.
Over multiple trips recently, I’ve spent more than two months exploring this popular Mexican beach destination. I made an effort to check out all the most popular activities in Puerto Vallarta. This list includes my top 25 picks for the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta. And while you’re here, check out this guide to Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta (Best Areas & Places)!
Table of Contents
- 25 Fun Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Playa Los Muertos
- Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens
- Walk The Malecon Puerto Vallarta
- Mirador de la Cruz del Cerro
- Casa Kimberly
- Conchas Chinas
- Casa 449
- Free Walking Tour
- Plaza de Armas
- Church Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe
- Go Whale Watching
- Zona Romantica
- Rhythms of the Night – SAVIA Show
- Museo Naval
- Playa las Gemelas
- Banderas Bay
- Check Out the Food Tours
- Sierra Madre Mountains
- Marigalante Pirate Ship
- Islas Marietas
- Boca de Tomatlan
- Playa Las Animas
- Las Caletas Beach Hideaway
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25 Fun Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Playa Los Muertos
The most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta
The most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta, Playa Los Muertos is where to be for water sports, volleyball, or just relaxing with a drink in hand. The beach offers a wide variety of restaurants, live music, massage services, boating, swimming lessons, and more.
There are many street vendors who sell practically anything you can think of, but note many can be a little too insistent. A firm “no” or shake of the head helps.
According to some Puerto Vallarta locals I met, Playa Los Muertos receives its name from “the dead” because, during the colonial period, pirates used to brutally ambush the natives who were forced to bring down the gold they collected on the hills via donkeys.
Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Escape to nature at these lush gardens
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 322-223-6182 | Website
Located on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, the Vallarta Botanical Garden is the perfect place to escape the bustle of the city, connect with nature, and experience one of the most relaxing things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
In the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden, you’ll find expansive displays of the native vegetation, including one of the largest collections of orchids in all of Mexico. You can also enjoy the company of the many different animals that live in the garden (check out the Jaguar that lives next to the river), swim in the river, and try out the La Hacienda de Oro restaurant.
👉 Pro Tip: Choose the Vallarta Botanical Garden as your first activity in Puerto Vallarta since the ticket will get you free entry for a week.
Walk The Malecon Puerto Vallarta
Take in free performances and sample food
The Malecón de Puerto Vallarta is the perfect spot to find live shows, art, street food, restaurants with access to the beach, live music, crafts, and other activities.
The walk along the Malecón is one of the many free activities in Puerto Vallarta. You can visit it at any time of the day, although I personally recommend going at sunset to enjoy the view. At the south of the boardwalk, you can find “Los Arcos,” architectural structures forming an amphitheater.
As the Malecon path cuts through downtown Puerto Vallarta, you can visit the nearby Plaza de Armas, the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Naval Museum Secretaria de Marina Armada de México, all of which also make this list of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
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Mirador de la Cruz del Cerro
Get a birds eye view of Puerto Vallarta and the ocean
📍 Google Maps | Website
The Mirador de la Cruz del Cerro is another one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for free. It’s reached after an arduous uphill walk which, depending on your physical condition and preferred pace, takes between 20 and 45 minutes. Don’t forget to bring a water bottle and bug spray.
Once up at the Mirador de la Cruz del Cerro viewpoint, enjoy a panoramic view of the city as you look out over the crystal blue ocean water, lush green vegetation, and the dramatic mountain landscape which makes Puerto Vallarta so special. This is one on the attractions in Puerto Vallarta that both tourists and locals enjoy (hey, everyone loves the opportunity to take a good photo right?).
👉 Planning a Trip Around Mexico? Be sure to read our list of the top fun things to do in Mexico.
A boutique Puerto Vallarta hotel with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton history
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 322 222 1336 | Website | 👉 Search Hotel Availability on Booking.com
This stunningly gorgeous boutique Puerto Vallarta hotel is also one of the best tourist attractions in Puerto Vallarta. Casa Kimberly is famous because of its story involving the renowned Hollywood stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The couple met up in Puerto Vallarta in 1962 for the filming of the movie Night of the Iguana, where they began their passionate love story.
Burton and Taylor were staying in different houses but both were in front of the other, so Richard decided to build a bridge over the street to connect both houses and be able to privately live their romance. After a few years, Richard bought the house and gave it to Taylor for her 32nd birthday.
👉 Pro Tip: The only way to get inside the Casa Kimberly hotel is by staying in it (if you can afford that, book your reservation here) or by visiting its restaurant. Otherwise, you can still walk down the street and see the famous bridge!
A great beach for outdoor activities and water sports
Conchas Chinas is a beach located south of Puerto Vallarta, between the forest and the mountains. It was highly recommended to me by locals several times. Conchas Chinas is ideal if you like outdoor activities and water sports, as here you can practice scuba diving and snorkeling.
You can also enjoy a large number of restaurants and bars here at affordable prices. From downtown Puerto Vallarta, you can get to Conchas Chinas by driving, taxi, or via the Mismaloya / Boca de Tomatlan public bus line.
👉 Always Forget Something? Check out our Mexico packing checklist to make sure you bring everything you need!
A local-run restaurant with gourmet takes on traditional Mexican dishes
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 322 688 7000
You won’t find this local secret on other lists of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, but trust me when I say it’s a must-visit in Puerto Vallarta. Casa 449 is a newer family-run restaurant whose managers trained as international chefs in some of the most expensive restaurants in Puerto Vallarta and Spain. The result is a menu based on local dishes that adds a gourmet flair.
This place is located on the outskirts of Zona Romantica, only 9 blocks from the sea, but in an area that is less frequented by tourists. The best part is that Casa 449 is very economical considering the quality. Without a doubt, you’ll spend less than half the cost of the more famous restaurants near the beach, and you get (in my opinion) much better food. Just remember to keep it our little secret ok?
Free Walking Tour
Learn all about the local history and hotspots with a free guide
📍 Phone: +52 322.222.0923 | Website
There are few things better to do in Puerto Vallarta than walking around the city and appreciating it from every angle. That is why I think it’s an awesome idea to go on one of the free tours in Puerto Vallarta organized by the Secretary of Tourism of Puerto Vallarta. In 2 hours you can learn and visit places in the city while learning from an expert local guide.
👉 Information: Walking tours are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays at 9 am and 12pm, also on Saturdays at 9 am. No prior reservation is required and the meeting point is at the Municipal Tourism office in the Old City Hall building in Old Town Puerto Vallarta, between the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Plaza de Armas. For more information, see here.
Plaza de Armas
Check out the main square of Puerto Vallarta, one of the best free things to do in the city
📍 Google Maps | Website
Puerto Vallarta, like most Latin American cities, has a beautiful main square called the Plaza de Armas. Visiting is one of the best free things to do in the city. The Plaza de Armas is located near the “Romantic Zone” and in front of the Malecón, right in the heart of the city.
On Sundays you can enjoy local dancers and performers in the center of the square, all set against the backdrop of the next item on this list of Puerto Vallarta activities …
Church Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe
A neo-baroque style church that often hosts festivities
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 322 222 1326 | Website
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an iconic place in Puerto Vallarta. The church was built around the same time that the town was founded in the 20th century, and it sports a neo-baroque style.
During the first two weeks of December, this church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. If you visit the church on these dates you can enjoy mariachi music and festive food with the locals.
✈️ Heading to Mexico City too? Check out our list of the top things to do in Mexico City!
Go Whale Watching
Hop on a whale-watching tour and see the best of these majestic animals
Definitely one of the most popular things to do in Puerto Vallarta, whale watching in Puerto Vallarta is best between December and March, which is when the humpback whales visit Banderas Bay.
The best way to see the whales is to go with an organized expedition. There are many tours and boats to choose from, but this one led by a marine biologist is especially popular.
One of the most popular areas of Puerto Vallarta with plenty of things to do
Zona Romantica is one of the most popular areas of the city, and the neighborhood where I would recommend basing yourself during your stay. Here, you’ll find some of Puerto Vallarta’s best restaurants, a plethora of LGBT bars, live drag queen shows, and more. Puerto Vallarta is one of the most gay-friendly cities in Mexico, and perhaps the world, so this is a great place to visit in Puerto Vallarta for LGBT travelers.
But regardless of your orientation and identity, you’re sure to love Zona Romantica as it is also home to the number one thing to do in Puerto Vallarta, the popular beach Playa de Los Muertos. From the beach, you’ll find an artistic modern pier where I recommend hiring a water taxi to take you to different islands.
🛏️ Want the Perfect Place to Stay? Check out the incredible beachside hotel Vallarta Shores, or the highly rated Casa Cupula LGBT Hotel.
Rhythms of the Night – SAVIA Show
A beachside show with dancers and light shows
Rhythms of the Night is a spectacular show set on a beachside stage featuring dancers and light shows. The show is produced by Gilles Ste Croix, co-founder of the famous Cirque du Soleil, so it certainly sounds incredible right?
It’s not cheap, but hey you’re on vacation! You can book a ticket to enjoy the show and dinner after a cruise on the bay.
A great place to learn about Mexico’s Naval history
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 322 223 5357 | Website
The naval museum in Puerto Vallarta is a very interesting place where you’ll learn the naval history of Mexico from pre-colonial times to the modern era. Tourists usually visit it when they’re passing through the boardwalk to enjoy the cafeteria and air conditioning, but they all end up delighted with the museum.
One of the things that will catch your interest is the life-size simulator of a naval skipper. Definitely a great little museum.
A small fishing village and great day trip from Puerto Vallarta
Known as the setting for the movie Night of the Iguana, the small fishing village of Mismaloya is a beautiful place for a day trip from Puerto Vallarta. Mismaloya is surrounded by a small jungle and features a large number of restaurants you can enjoy right on the beach.
Mismaloya’s beach is not very big, but it is very beautiful. If you tire of sunning yourself and want a more energetic activity, then hire a boat to take you out into the sea and see the beach from a different perspective.
🌴 Up for An Adventure? One of the most fun things to do in Mismaloya is to take an ATV tour. This one by Viator is super popular and comes with excellent reviews.
Playa las Gemelas
A lesser-known beach with clear water and gorgeous sand
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 322 228 0106 | Website
If you get tired of the crowds in the main beaches in Puerto Vallarta, then head down for a day trip to Playa las Gemelas. One of the beaches with the clearest water, Playa Gemelas is located just south of Puerto Vallarta, 10 minutes from the city center. It’s ideal for a day of relaxation and snorkeling.
Get out on the water of the bay that protects Puerto Vallarta
Banderas Bay is the name for the giant bay upon which Puerto Vallarta, and most of the beach destinations in this post, sits. The bay helps protect the city from hurricanes, and also helps keep the shoreline more tranquil.
Getting out on the water and enjoying the bay is definitely one of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta. There is a really great snorkeling tour on a luxury yacht to consider, or if you really want to splash out you can rent your own private boat (with captain) using the Sailo yacht rental site.
A tranquil town that can only be reached from Puerto Vallarta by water taxi
Yelapa is a town with a beach located southwest of Puerto Vallarta, where the bay can only be accessed with a water taxi. The beach has thick yellowish sand, warm and transparent water, and different restaurants with access to the sea where you can relax with a pina colada and some quesadillas.
At the eastern end of the beach, there are stairs that’ll lead you to town and the waterfall. Definitely one of the more popular activities in Puerto Vallarta.
👉 Are you also planning to visit the Riviera Maya (home to Cancun, Tulum & Playa del Carmen)? Be sure to check out all our Mexico destination guides. You’ll find tips for tons of lesser known destinations like Valladolid, plus helpful guides on where to stay, what to do, and how to travel like a local in Mexico!
Check Out the Food Tours
Try the best of Puerto Vallarta food with a specialty tour
Puerto Vallarta has so many great food tours. Love tacos and churros? Check out the popular Taco Adventure Tour, where you will visit several Mexican food stalls and eat heaping plates of tacos, quesadillas, churros, sopes, pozole and more – all while meeting other hungry travelers.
Prefer to get your drink on? It’s always 5 o’clock at the Puerto Vallarta Mixology Tour, where your guide will “teach” you about the quality roots of different drinks such as tequila, mezcal, micheladas, among others. Plus, you will also enjoy very tasty tacos and desserts!
Or maybe you want to learn how to cook? There is a popular local cooking class led by an international chef who will teach you all his tricks for preparing typical Mexican dishes. Definitely a great skill to take home from Mexico!
Sierra Madre Mountains
Do one of the many outdoorsy activities in these nearby mountains
Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by the incredible Sierra Madre mountains, where you can find lots of activities such as quad/ATV riding through the jungle, horseback riding tours, hiking, and more.
Escaping into the mountain rainforests is definitely a great alternative if you get tired of too much time at the beach!
Marigalante Pirate Ship
A 6-hour sailing experience that includes food and snorkeling
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 800 269 4445 | Website
The Marigalante Priate Ship is a popular experience in Puerto Vallarta which, you guessed it, simulates being on board a pirate ship! A great activity for families, a tour on the ship lasts 6 hours sailing.
You’ll sail into bay, enjoy views of the coast, and gorge yourself on food and drink at the open bar. The program includes themed shows, which children are likely to enjoy. The ship also stops for snorkeling. If you’re visiting in January or February you may even spot a whale.
A protected natural area just 2 hours from Puerto Vallarta
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Book a Tour
The Marietas Islands are protected natural area in the Marietas Islands National Park. They are made up of two uninhabited islands of volcanic origin, one round and the other elongated.
As it is a protected area, the number of people who have access per day is limited. The dramatic “beach of love” is particularly famous as it can only be reached by swimming through an underwater channel. From the inside, a stunning hole serves as a skylight onto the beach.
The trip to the Marietas Islands from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is approximately 2 hours. You’ll need to go with a tour, and seats are limited, so be sure to book in advance (I suggest going with the most popular one on Viator).
Boca de Tomatlan
A small fishing village noted for scuba diving and relaxing
Boca de Tomatlan is a quiet fishing village located near Puerto Vallarta. It’s a popular place for diving and makes for a great thing to do near Puerto Vallarta. Guarded by palm trees on each side, “Boca” offers a pretty little bay that makes for a great place to chill and relax away from the crowds.
From Puerto Vallarta, you can get to Boca de Tomatlan by taking the Mismaloya bus line.
Playa Las Animas
One of the best beaches near Puerto Vallarta for relaxing
If the only thing you want to do in Puerto Vallarta is to disconnect from the world, enjoy nature, and have a great experience, then Playa Las Animas may be the thing to do near Puerto Vallarta for you.
This tropical beach is accessible by water taxi or bus, and offers clear sands plus crystal clear and warm water. Surf, kayak, snorkel – or just relax and enjoy one of the best beaches near Puerto Vallarta.
👉 Read Next: Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Las Caletas Beach Hideaway
Only accessible by boat, this beach is stunning
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Book a Tour to Las Caletas
While I didn’t quite have time to visit myself, many locals recommended Las Caletas Beach Hideaway as a great day trip from Puerto Vallarta. The beach sits on a scenic stretch of sand that is nestled between the mountains of the Sierra Madre and only accessible via boat. It looks absolutely stunning.
In particular, it is famous for several hammocks located right on the shoreline, where you can relax as the waves lap up underneath you.
👉 Read Next: The Best Hotels in Puerto Vallarta
That’s it for this list of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Which one is your favorite? What are you planning to do in Puerto Vallarta? Oh, and before you go, be sure to check out our top tips for traveling Mexico!
Have fun finding the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta!
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Missed San Francisco, Sayulita – is a village on Mexico’s Pacific coast backed by the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. It’s known for beaches with strong surf, like the central Sayulita Beach. To the west, Los Muertos Beach is more sheltered, sandwiched between protective rocks. Galleries in Sayulita sell artworks by Huichol indigenous people. Southwest, the Marieta Islands have diverse wildlife such as humpback whales and dolphins.
Also Bucerías – meaning “place of divers”, is a small beach resort town in Nayarit on a stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast known as the Riviera Nayarit, on the Bay of Banderas, between La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Nuevo Vallarta.
Love going to these nearby towns
All great suggestions Noreen! Thank you for stopping by.
I recently became a snowbird 6 months out of the year and the only thing I haven’t done is Casa 449.
Amazing job checking off all the best sites in Puerto Vallarta! You definitely should try Casa 449 – and tell them Clara sent you 🙂