The author sitting on the sand above the sea on the Conchas Chinas Beach

25 Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (in 2021)

One of the great things about Puerto Vallarta is that there are so many things to do no matter what kind of traveler you are. With beautiful beaches, lush mountain jungles, incredible underwater scuba diving, delicious 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, becuase I’m here to help.

I recently was lucky to spend a week exploring this popular Mexican beach destination, and I made an effort to check out all the most popular activities in Puerto Vallarta so I could write up this list of my 25 picks for the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

25 Fun Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Playa Los Muertos

author in playa los muertos Puerto Vallarta

Address: Playa Los Muertos Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Let’s face it: you’re going to Puerto Vallarta for the beach. And Playa Los Muertos is definitely the most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta. You can find various water sports, play volleyball, or just relax and chill 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. The name is a sad reminder of Puerto Vallarta’s dark history.

Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens

The author with plants in the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden
My favorite thing to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Address: Carretera Puerto Vallarta, Carr. Costera a Barra de Navidad Km 24, 48425 Jal., Mexico | Phone: +52 322-223-6182 | Website

Located on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, the Vallarta Botanical Garden is a the perfect place to escape the bustle of the city, connect with nature, and experience my personal favorite thing to do in Puerto Vallarta. In the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden you will find expansive displays of the native vegetation of Mexico, 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, including dozens of hummingbirds – some which seem super-friendly with humans.

Personally, I loved the beautiful church and the charming “bridge of dreams” inside the garden, both of which are surrounded by lush vegetation and a tranquil atmosphere. For a truly special experience, seek out the habitat of the jaguar that lives next to the river. Believe it or not, you can even swim in the river (if you dare). Puerto Vallarta’s Botanical Garden also has a restaurant called “La Hacienda de Oro” where you can relax, connect to the internet, and enjoy local drinks and dishes.

馃憠 Pro Tip: choose the Vallarta Botanical Garden as your first activity in Puerto Vallarta since with the entrance ticket you can return for free for a week.

Walk The Malecon Puerto Vallarta

artist, making sand sculpture on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta
A sand sculpture artist at work on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta

Address: 48300 Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

The Malec贸n de Puerto Vallarta is the perfect point to find live shows, art, street food, restaurants with access to the beach, live music, crafts, and other activities. The walk along the Malec贸n 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. On the boardwalk you can find “Los Arcos,” architectural structures forming an amphitheater located at the south start of the boardwalk. At Los Arcos you can often find interesting free shows and performances to enjoy

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 M茅xico, all of which also make this list of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

馃憠 Worried About Safety in Puerto Vallarta? It’s honestly safer than you might think, but you should still get trip insurance for your vacation. You never know what might happen (especially these days). Travel Lemming uses and recommends World Nomads, but be sure to shop around.

Mirador de la Cruz del Cerro

author in mirador de la cruz del cerro

Address: Abasolo LB, Cerro, 48304 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. | Website

The Mirador de la Cruz del Cerro, is another one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for free. It is reached after an arduous uphill walk which, depending on your physical condition and preferred pace, takes between 20 and 45 minutes. Do not have to forget to bring water 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?). Although the climb up is a bit tiring, it’s a decent way to exercise and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in Puerto Vallarta.

馃憠 Planning a Trip Around Mexico? Be sure to read our list of the top fun things to do in Mexico.

Casa Kimberly

Bridge in Casa Kimberly Puerto Vallarta

Address: Calle Zaragoza 445, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. | Phone: +523222221336 | Website | 馃憠 Search Hotel Availability on Booking.com

This stunningly gorgeous boutique 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 live their romance with more privacy away from the buzzing paparazzi. After a few years, Richard bought the house and gave it to Taylor for her 32nd birthday. If you are a fan of this couple you need to visit the house.

馃憠 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!

Conchas Chinas

The author sitting on the sand above the sea on the Conchas Chinas Beach

Address: Conchas Chinas, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

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 at affordable prices. From downtown Puerto Vallarta can get to Conchas Chinas by driving, taxi, or via the Mismaloya / Boca de Tomatlan public bus line.

馃憠 Always Forget Something? Check out our Mexico packing checklist to make sure you bring everything you need!

Casa 449

sopa de tortilla in Casa 449, Puerto Vallarta
You must try the tortilla soup!

Address: C. Francisco I. Madero 449, Zona Rom谩ntica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. | Phone: +523226887000

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 of this is a menu based on local dishes, adding its own gourmet style that make each dish an experience that you will undoubtedly want to repeat daily.

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. It is well worth the journey to come here, as in my opinion this restaurant offers the best dishes in Puerto Vallarta plus incredibly warm hospitality. It’s like having dinner in a family home! The best part of all is that Casa 449 is very economical considering quality that you get in each dish. Without a doubt, you will 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 ok?

Free Walking Tour

Author walking along the Malec贸n on the Free Walking Tour Puerto Vallarta

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 is an unmissable opportunity 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.

馃憠 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

Plaza de Armas Puerto Vallarta

Address: Independencia s/n, Proyecto escola, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. 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 Malec贸n, 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

Address: Hidalgo 370, Proyecto escola, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. | 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 first decades of 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.

鉁堬笍 Heading to Mexico City too? Check out our list of the top things to do in Mexico City!

Go Whale Watching

Whale watching in the Banderas Bay near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

馃憠 Book a Whale Watching Tour

Definitely one of the most popular things to do in Puerto Vallarta, whale watching is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that brings tourists around the world to Puerto Vallarta between December and March, which 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.

Zona Romantica

Panoramic photo of the Romantic Zone and the sea in Puerto Vallarta

Google Maps

Zona Romantica is one of the most popular touristic areas of the city, and the neighborhood where I would recommend basing yourself during your stay. In this part of the city you can find some of Puerto Vallarta’s best restaurants serving up national and international food, 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. 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 can find an artistic modern pier where you can hire water taxi to take you along the Pacific coast to visit different islands near the beach on a boat tour.

馃洀锔 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

馃憠 Reserve Your Tickets Here

One Puerto Vallarta experience I am looking forward to enjoying on my next trip is the fabled Rhythyms of the Night show. From what I’ve been told, it’s 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.

Museo Naval

museo naval secretaria de marina armada de mexico Puerto Vallarta

Address: Calle Zaragoza 4, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.| Phone: +52 3222235357 | Website

The naval museum in Puerto Vallarta is a very interesting place where you can learn the naval history of Mexico from the pre-colonial era to the modern era. Tourists usually visit it when they are 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 the interest of your visitors is a life-size simulator of a naval skipper and it’s amazing. Definitely a great little museum.

Note: As of summer 2021, the museum is temporarily closed due to the ongoing health crisis.

Mismaloya

View of boat on Mismaloya Beach near Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Address: Mismaloya, Jal., Mexico

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 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, you can hire a boat to take you out into the sea and see the beach from a different perspective.

馃尨 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

Address: Carretera Barra de Navidad Km 8.5 Lomas de Mismaloya, 48390 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. | Phone: +523222280106 | Website

If you get tired of the crowds in the main beaches in Puerto Vallarta, head down for a day trip to Playa las Gemelas. One of the beaches with the clearest water, located just south of Puerto Vallarta only 10 minutes from the city center, Playa Gemelas is ideal for a day of relaxation and snorkeling.

Banderas Bay

Banderas Bay Puerto Vallarta

Address: Bahia de Banderas, Nayarit.

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.

Yelapa

People enjoying the waterfall in Yelapa, Puerto Vallarta.

Address: Yelapa beach, Jalisco.

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 having a pina colada and eating some quesadillas. At the eastern end of the beach there are stairs that take you to the town and to the waterfall that is the second most important attraction in town, everything is very well sign posted. Definitely one of the more popular activities in Puerto Vallarta.

馃憠 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

A plate of tacos and salsas
Hungry yet?

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

Sierra Madre mountains with residences, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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

Address: Paseo D铆az Ordaz Local 4, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. | Phone: +52 8002694445 | 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.

Islas Marietas

View of the famous Islas Marietas in Puerto Vallarta

Google Maps | 馃憠 Book a Tour

The Marietas Islands are protected natural area in the Marietas Islands National Park. They are made up of two islands, of volcanic origin, one round and the other elongated, which are totally uninhabited. 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 accessed by swimming since access is through an underwater channel that connects this beach. From the inside, a stunning a whole serves as a skylight into 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

Boca de Tomatlan cove by Pacific Ocean near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Address: Boca de Tomatlan, Jal., Mexico

Boca de Tomatlan is a quiet fishing village located near Puerto Vallarta. It is 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 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

Boat on the edge of the beach Las Animas

Address: Las Animas Beach,Jal., Mexico

If the only thing you want is to disconnect from the world, enjoy nature and have a great experience alone or with your family, 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.

Las Caletas Beach Hideaway

Address: Guatemala 560, 5 de Diciembre, 48350 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. | 馃憠 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.

***

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? Scroll down and leave me a comment (and be sure to check back in a day or two to read my reply!).

Oh, and before you go, be sure to check out our top tips for traveling Mexico! There are a few on there that you definitely can’t miss.

2 thoughts on “25 Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (in 2021)”

  1. Noreen McSorley

    Missed San Francisco, Sayulita – is a village on Mexico鈥檚 Pacific coast backed by the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. It鈥檚 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 Bucer铆as – 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

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