Puerto Vallarta

Best Things To Do In Puerto Vallarta

This post was most recently updated on October 17th, 2019

Puerto Vallarta has become a hugely popular place to vacation or live. For this reason, it’s best to book months in advance to get a decent hotel or resort price.

While construction is booming there, the expat community continues to grow bigger every day. Part of the reason for this is because of the abundance of activities available for all ages.

Getting around Puerto Vallarta is very easy also. You have the option of Uber, taxi’s, or buses to take you anywhere. And with Puerto Vallarta divided into basically 5 zones, it makes it easier to figure out where you need to go.

Here are some of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta

Marina Vallarta

Starting from the airport heading south, you first come to the Marina Vallarta zone. This is the best area for viewing crocodiles. We found this guy keeping cool near the rocks.

Marina Vallarta

The Marina zone is also where we got to participate in releasing sea turtles one night. A great group of volunteers work off of donations in helping these little guys to survive.

sea turtles Puerto Vallarta

After a Q & A session, we were each given a bowl with a few sea turtles. We learned it was best to wait until the sun went down rather than release them in the daylight.

This is to help give them a better chance of survival since less of their predators were around after dark. Even still probably only about 3 in 100 will make it.

sea turtles in Puerto Vallarta

Then we all stood in a line and set them in the sand as we watched them toddle out into the ocean.

Hotel Zone

If you keep going south from the Marina you come to the Hotel Zone. Appropriately named because of all the large resorts and hotels found here.

Krystal Vallarta hotel

Since we were staying at an Airbnb, we decided to mix it up for a night. For $106 U.S. we booked a room at the Krystal Vallarta hotel.

This all inclusive resort was beach side and had 4 different pools. It was a great deal considering we overpaid the same amount for one meal at a restaurant on our first night in Puerto Vallarta. It probably wasn’t a good idea letting our waiter know it was our first time and first night in the city.

Puerto Vallarta sunset

Puerto Vallarta is well known for their gorgeous sunsets. Jerry captured this photo out on the beach from the Krystal Vallarta hotel.

Our other trip to the hotel zone took us to the Sheraton Buganvilias Resort. On Sunday morning they put on the best brunch. For this reason, we recommend you get there by 9 to avoid the long line ups.

You have so many items to choose from including all you typical breakfast items. Plus of course tacos, roast beef, crepes, sushi, tons of dessert items and mimosas.

Sheraton Buganvilias Puerto Vallarta

It cost us about $30 U.S. for the brunch a piece. Then after we had use of the pool and beach chairs for the day. You just have to leave your I.D. at the pool desk to receive towels.

The Downtown or Centro Zone

This area is sometimes divided up even farther and referred to either the north Centro or south Centro zone. Because we were staying in the south Centro zone, it was really convenient to walk to most places we wanted to go.

Malecón Puerto Vallarta

One of the best activities in the area is walking along the Malecon. There is always something happening on the mile long promenade. From people selling food and goods, to street performers, and even sand sculptures like this one in progress.

sand sculpture on the Malecon Puerto Vallarta

Also if you’re lucky enough you might see the Papantla Flying Men. A centuries old tradition that’s dangerous to perform, but also amazing to watch.

flying bird-men of Papantla in Puerto Vallarta

Most nights you can usually catch a Malecon Sculpture tour. Some of them are even free or pay what you think it’s worth.

Malecon sculpture Puerto Vallarta
sculptures in Puerto Vallarta

These arches are located right across from an outdoor amphitheater. One night a magician was putting on a magic show. And another night we heard some musicians playing.

malecon Puerto Vallarta

Not too far from our Airbnb was a lookout point called Cerro de la Cruz. On a clear day you can see all the way to Punta Mita. The climb up will take you at least 15 minutes. Then at the top it seems like you can see for miles. It’s where you’ll find the best views of the whole city.

cerro de la cruz puerto Vallarta

One of the most amazing things we noticed about Puerto Vallarta was how people were coming together to help the homeless animals in different ways. On Fridays at 10:15 you could meet outside MacDonalds on the Malecon to help walk the shelter dogs. How great is that!

Where To Stay

Hacienda San Angel is a beautiful boutique hotel with tropical gardens and views overlooking Banderas Bay. Part of this historic property was once owned by Richard Burton who purchased it for his wife. All of the rooms at this hotel are spacious suites with some offering a pool or sea view.

The Romantic Zone

At the start of the Romantic Zone is the River Cuale. Cross over the bridge and you’re on the Cuale River Island.

River Cuale bridge Puerto Vallarta

The little island is very lush and green with tons of shade from the bamboo and other trees. It was a great place to come and relax from the heat. Our favourite place to eat was also on the island.

Le Bistro Puerto Vallarta

The Le Bistro restaurant has the most gorgeous view of the River Cuale as you sit eating. Therefore, if you get the chance check them out for breakfast. You’ll get a huge portion of delicious food for a really great price!

River Cuale Market

As you walk along this small island, you can’t miss the colourful rows of booths. This was one of my favourite markets to pick up some gifts.

If you’re a big cat lover like us, you can always come back any night and feed the stray cats on the island. Just pick up a bag of cat food at the grocery store, and you’ll easily find where the cats hang out.

Puerto Vallarta Taco Tour

One activity that everyone needs to do when they come to Puerto Vallarta is to go on a taco tour. There are a few different companies to choose from. But we highly recommend taco 101 with Memo Lira.

taco tour puerto Vallarta

We had an amazing time on this tour and were totally stuffed by the time we got done. On his tours you pay for what you want to eat, then tip what you feel it was worth.

Also at the end of the tour Memo takes you to the best place for ice cream in Puerto Vallarta. We even went back another day and found the ice cream shop again. Yum!

taco tour puerto vallarta

He also does other food tours and cultural walks. We only wished we had time to do more of his tours. Check out vallarta101.com.

Walking along the Malecon in the Romantic Zone you’ll come to Los Muertos Pier and beach. This was certainly the most popular spot right in Puerto Vallarta for lounging in the sun. And also where the best strip of beach is located.

Los Muertos Pier

Los Muertos Pier is where you can get a water taxi to take you to a number of different places too. Or if you’d like to rent a seadoo, go on a fishing trip, and even parasail you can find it there.

Besides that, there are also plenty of cool restaurants and bars along this strip. Also loads of vendors walking up and down the sandy beach selling their goods. Even though someone would ask you every few minutes if you’d like to buy something, a simple no gracias and they were on their way.

Puerto Vallarta Day Trips

There are plenty of options for day trips out of Puerto Vallarta. We decided to check out the towns both to the north and south of the city.

Mismaloya

One day we took the bus to the Zoo in Mismaloya. It’s about a 25 minute bus ride from Puerto Vallarta. The bus leaves from Basillo Badillo and Constitucion in the Romantic Zone.

Zoo in Mismaloya

The fare is only 10 pesos. For the best views of the ocean, sit on the right side of the bus. Once you get to your stop, it’s about a 15 minute walk in from the road to the zoo.

You’ll have the option of buying bags of food to feed the animals. 

Tip-buy two or more bags of food for the animals cause you’ll run out.

After you’re done at the zoo, you could take a taxi to El Eden. It’s only 2.5 miles from the zoo. This is the location where Arnold Schwarzenegger filmed the movie Predator.

There are only a few remaining props left from the movie. But El Eden also has a restaurant and a beautiful waterfall and river to swim in. Or you could do the canopy tour and zipline through the jungle.

Boca de Tomatlan

Boca de Tomatlan is a sleepy little Mexican town south of Puerto Vallarta. You take the bus to get there the same way as to the zoo. The ride will take about 45 minutes. Or another option would be to catch a water taxi in Boca de Tomatlan to take you to Yelapa for the day.

This is the place where you start your hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas. You can read all about our adventurous hike here.

Boca de Tomatlan hike

Bucerias

For a relaxing beach day away from Puerto Vallarta, we went to Bucerias. To get to Bucerias from the downtown zone, you need to first take a bus to Walmart/Sam’s Club in the Marina Zone. Out in front of Walmart will be a few different buses going to Bucerias. The cost is 30 pesos each.

Bucerias has some really great food and drink options on the beach. El Chivero and Fat Boys are two popular ones.

For the cost of some food and drinks, you’ll get a nice lounger on the beach to watch the waves and beach vendors go by.

vendor on Bucerias beach

This has got to be tough pushing a wheel barrow threw the sand to make a living.

After we’d had enough of the sun and sand, we took a walk through the bright and lively market.

Bucerias Market

Bucerias has also become a really popular retirement place. And there’s no shortage of condos to rent. We really enjoyed our day here in this chill little Mexican town.

And finally, that’s our list of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta. You could be on the go 24/7. Or most importantly, take some time out to relax with a drink at one of the plenty beach side bars.

Puerto Vallarta is a great destination for any budget. While you could splurge and do tour after tour. And eat your meals at more expensive restaurants. Or just walk around and take in all the sights for free. Then visit the markets, and try some of the tasty street food for cheap.

Ever wondered what a cenote is? Art of Scuba Diving lists the 75 Best Cenotes in Mexico. Check it out!