JaliscoMexicoPuerto Vallarta

An (Almost) Insider’s Travel Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Things To Do and See + Where To Eat, Drink and Shop

puerto vallarta travel guide

I’m not alone in writing Puerto Vallarta travel guides, especially given that it’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico. However, I do have a distinct advantage over many other bloggers (probably, don’t quote me on it), in that my boyfriend and his family are from Puerto Vallarta and I’m privy to a healthy stash of insider secrets and knowledge. Along with that, I’ve also been to Puerto Vallarta a lot over the years (far too much, to be honest, especially for someone as pale and sun-hating as me), buuut…I’ve never actually lived there. So, for those who were wondering why this is billed as an ‘almost’ insider travel guide to Puerto Vallarta, that should answer your question.

In this post, I’ve combined plenty of things to do and see in Puerto Vallarta (even though I’m against travel’s must-see mentality), along with tons of local tips and recommendations to get you off the well-trodden Puerto Vallarta tourist trail. Almost everything on here is something I’ve done, tried or eaten at one point or another, so you can rest assured that it’s all suitably refined, tried-and-tested and includes activities, trips and information for travellers of all ages, tastes and budgets. (Except luxury travellers who want to lounge by a five-star pool all day, ugh, get out of here with your money and your free time.)

Basically, it’s a one-stop shop of comprehensive travel advice and recommendations for fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta, plus all the spots to eat, drink and shop. Think of it as your own personal Puerto Vallarta To Do list. Oh, and don’t forget my handy tips for visiting Puerto Vallarta section at the end.





  1. MERCADO RIO CUALE | Mercado Río Cuale, Puerto Vallarta

Mercado Río Cuale is not exactly a huge secret, and pretty much everyone who goes to Vallarta will surely take a stroll around what is essentially a market in the middle of a river. But why have I included this under ‘See’ and not ‘Do’? Well, mainly because the majority of the products are tacky t-shirts with cringy phrases and overpriced tat, but the saving grace is that it’s in a pretty location. There are cute fountains, dangerously wobbly rope bridges and some really awesome street art, plus a museum and a cultural centre.

The easiest way to get to Mercado Río Cuale is to head to the bridge that separates downtown Vallarta and the Zona Romántica (Gay District) and go down the stairs. You honestly can’t miss it.


Yes, plural. The scene stealing cathedral (UPDATE JULY 2017: Technically it’s a parish, but so many people refer to it as the cathedral, I didn’t want to cause confusion!) in Puerto Vallarta is easily the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Hidalgo 370, Downtown), which is smack in the heart of the Vallarta action and admittedly does have some gorgeous…turret toppers? I have no idea what they’re called, but the crown-like, ornate ~turret-toppers~ are really beautiful. A bonus is that just a block down from this cathedral is a cute square decorated with colourful papel picado, and a block down from that is the malecón. If you’re around in December, you’ll probably catch some of the traditional parades and celebrations that take place for El Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Dec 12th).

The second church worth a peek is actually located just before you get to the malecón itself, Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Refugio (Perú, 5 de Diciembre), and the Iglesia de la Santa Cruz (Lázaro Cárdenas, Emiliano Zapata) is just a couple of blocks from Río Cuale (towards the Zona Romántica). 

Main Square displays a variety of tropical plants

A post shared by Happy Wanderer Photos (@happywandererphotos) on

  1. TURTLE RELEASE | Playa Holi, Puerto Vallarta

From roughly June to September each year (the rainy season), there are tons of turtle releases going on up and down the coast of Vallarta and it’s not that tricky to stumble across one (read: there’s not much point booking a ‘turtle release tour’ in my opinion, especially if you just want to attend as a casual observer). One beach that I know does a ton of these releases is Playa Holi, so head down there at sunset and keep your eyes peeled for the baby turtle releases. (Click here for more info on other great release spots).

puerto vallarta travel guide


Unlike the turtles, if you want to whale spot in Vallarta, you’re going to want to join a tour. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen whales in Vallarta but there are plenty of reputable tour companies that can take you out to see them (like this one, this one and this one). Always remember to check that the company has a valid permit before you drop a hefty deposit for your boat ride though. The season for spotting these magnificent creatures in the Bay of Banderas is approximately December to March time.

  1. A SHOW AT LOS ARCOS | Los Arcos, Puerto Vallarta

Not to be confused with the Los Arcos islands further south down the coast, Los Arcos make for a great spot to hang out at of an evening as there are always shows (music, dance, comedy, you name it) taking place there. It’s a rite of passage to stop for five minutes and join the crowd at Los Arcos in downtown Vallarta.


One of Mexico’s coolest indigenous rituals that has found a starring role in modern day Mexican culture are the Voladores de Papantla performances. Nowadays these shows can be found across the country, despite originating in Veracruz, and Vallarta is no exception to this. Wander down the malecón and you’re likely to see five elaborately dressed men climbing what looks like a telegraph pole, before four of them launch themselves elegantly off the top, attached only by a rope. Sounds horrendous, but it’s actually pretty spectacular. Drop 5 pesos in their hat afterwards if you enjoyed the performance, don’t be stingy.

  1. ART

Art in Puerto Vallarta is, surprisingly, all around you. From the Sergio Bustamante sculpture of the malecón, to the sand and stone art installations that line Playa Los Muertos, there are tons of things for art lovers in Vallarta. I’ve never actually been to art galleries in Vallarta, but if that’s the kind of thing that floats your boat, there’s a pretty good guide to the best ones here – most of them are centred in the Río Cuale/ Zona Romántica area though, although there are plenty in downtown too.

Alternatively, take part in the FREE Vallarta Art Walk, that usually runs on Tuesdays during peak season (roughly November to April).

puerto vallarta travel guide


I honestly don’t know whether this is an urban legend or a real-life place, but there’s apparently a house full of stray cats one or two streets up from the malecón in downtown Vallarta. I’ve never had much luck finding it, so I can’t pinpoint the location, but locals tell me it does exist. I swear. Let me know in the comments if you’ve found/ find it!


If you’d rather see crocodiles than cats, you’re in luck in Puerto Vallarta. There are literally so many places you can spot these things roaming around. On my last visit, I saw one swimming in the marina (possibly the one that ~literally~ snapped up a dog there a few years back), and the time before that there was one just hanging out on the Boca de Tomates beach (see map for exact location). You can also see them wandering the nearby golf course or, if you prefer your animal encounters to take place in a more formal setting, then the Estero el Salado (Estero el Salado, Francisco Medina Ascencio) is probably the best bet. As an added bonus, the Estero also has a ton of trash pandas (a.k.a. raccoons).



  1. WALK THE MALECÓN | Malecón, Puerto Vallarta

The malecón is a Vallarta must-visit, even if you are likely to be called ‘pretty laydeee’ by every store and restaurant owner down the entire strip as they try to entice you in.

Lined on one side by stores, restaurants and sports bars (more on that in the Where to Drink section), and on the other with the lapping of the ocean, Playa Los Muertos and the aforementioned stone and sand art, the malecón is one you need to experience both in the day and at night. In fact, the evening is the best time to try out the storefront swing at La Vaquita, if you fancy doing something more than a bit ridiculous. Absolutely steer clear of the clubs on the malecón though, as they’re kind of shitty and overpriced.

Art fans wondering what to do in Puerto Vallarta will be particularly pleased by the Puerto Vallarta malecón too, as there are also tons of sculptures (one of which is by Sergio Bustamante) dotted the entire length, offset by picturesque palm trees and a perpetually overcrowded Puerto Vallarta sign that you’ll have to fight to get a photo in front of. (You can take a free walking tour of these sculpture, if you’re interested in experiencing them more formally). Basically, there’s no shortage of things to capture your attention.

Don’t forget to try the tuba either, a fermented coconutty, apple-y, nutty drink that’s really refreshing in the heat. A medium cup of the stuff will cost you roughly MXN$20.

puerto vallarta travel guide

  1. VISIT THE MARINA | Marina, Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta’s marina is easily one of my favourite places to go of an evening, when you can wander leisurely around the water’s edge without sweating a less than healthy amount. I mean, feel free to go and ogle at the million dollar boats docked there in the daytime too, but you’ll soon realise why it’s typically much quieter (hint: it’s blazing hot). If you’re lucky you’ll spot one of the crocodiles swimming around in the water and, if you’re in Vallarta during peak season, each Saturday sees a bustling artisanal market that sells everything from Mexican products to international pastries and Indian food. Prices are, as is to be expected, marked up.

puerto vallarta travel guide


Vallarta isn’t just about the beaches and you have to head into the jungle at some point during your trip. A really easy way of doing this is by booking a canopy tour. They’re fairly pricey, but include complementary drinks, transport and the zipline tour itself, so if it’s the kind of thing you’re in to, suck it up and pay. Budget travellers and those who don’t like heights should probably steer clear though. While there are plenty of canopy tour companies in Vallarta, I can personally recommend Los Veranos Canopy Tour.

puerto vallarta travel guide

  1. EXPLORE PITILLAL | Pitillal Centro, Puerto Vallarta

Located super nearby to where I usually stay in Vallarta, Pitillal is a neighbourhood that often goes overlooked by visitors, but is definitely worth exploring as long as you speak Spanish. There are plenty of street food stands and local dining spots to experience, including a pretty famed hole-in-the-wall juice spot that my boyfriend’s entire family is obsessed with. (I’d really love to give you the address for it, but they literally just refer to it as los jugos del Pitillal. Soz.)


Don’t overthink it too much, and just go walk around all the winding back streets and explore Puerto Vallarta. I recommend heading at least three blocks up from the malecón and then seeing where the wind takes you. But before you think I’ve turned into a ragin’ hippie, definitely make sure you cross the river and head to the old part of Vallarta. Especially if you love a good gay bar. Oh, and take plenty of pictures of all the awesome, socially conscious street art while you’re at it.

puerto vallarta travel guide

  1. HIKE TO CERRO DE LA CRUZ | Mirador Cerro de la Cruz, Puerto Vallarta

The Cerro de la Cruz is the best viewpoint to get a 360-degree panorama over Puerto Vallarta and it used to be a local secret until the authorities tapped into its tourist attraction potential and redeveloped the whole site, adding stairs and building a spiral-staircased viewing platform. I’m not bitter. I guess at least now you don’t have to climb over a roof to get to the cross.

I’m also exaggerating slightly when I say ‘hike’. In reality, it’s a very steep and very sweaty 20-minute walk to the top, even allowing for numerous deep-breath-and-water breaks, but when you get there you’ll be treated with a deceptive breeze (I got second degree burns after being up there for 15 minutes) and an awesome view.

Fun fact: I have fond memories of this place (even though on my first visit I claimed I would never again return because it was justtoosteepandtoohot!) mainly because it was one of the first things I ever did in Mexico, with the person who would later become my boyfriend.

To get there, start at the malecón and walk up Calle Abasolo next to Mandala (you can’t miss this overly tacky tourist club, right on the main strip). From there, keep going straight up ‘til you reach the cruz.

puerto vallarta travel guide

  1. SNORKEL AT LOS ARCOS | Los Arcos, Puerto Vallarta

Los Arcos, the sea-based ones, as opposed to the land-based ones along the malecón, are rock formations known for having great snorkelling conditions in and around them. Happily, this means there are plenty of boats and tours in Puerto Vallarta that will include a stop at Los Arcos. Unhappily, this means there are a shit ton of boats that stop by Los Arcos. When I went, it was with a tour that had Las Ánimas beach as the final destination and it included a stop for snorkelling although the choppy seas that day meant we saw, um, nothing. So, check the weather before you decide to head there. I’d love to give fixed details about the tour I took but I don’t have any. I’ll stick my neck out and say it cost maybe MXN$300 per person. Ish.

puerto vallarta travel guide

No-one looks good in a snorkel


I’ve never done a Puerto Vallarta Food Tour, mainly because I always stay at my boyfriend’s family’s house in Vallarta and they feed me right up. However, I’ve heard that they’re a really great (if pricey) way to sample a few of the classic dishes from the best street food stands in the town. If you want more info on the Puerto Vallarta tours (which cost around US$50 per person), check out this post by From Here To Sunday.


Even if you’re not a big beach-lounging fan, at least take a stroll (or a bus ride) to one of the many, many Puerto Vallarta beaches. My personal favourites are Conchas Chinas and Playa Las Ánimas, mainly for the cool coastal walk you can take to get there and the speedy boat ride needed to get back. Click here for a more in-depth guide to the best Puerto Vallarta beaches, from the iconic to the underrated.

puerto vallarta travel guide

  1. BUNGEE JUMPING | Barra de Navidad Km. 9.2, Puerto Vallarta

Adrenaline junky I am not, so bungee jumping isn’t on my immediate list of ‘things to to before I die’, but I thought it was worth mentioning for the sake of this Puerto Vallarta travel guide. However, for braver souls than me, you can go bungee jumping in Puerto Vallarta with Bungee Beat. The jump point is on the coastline overlooking Banderas Bay, so you’d need to take the bus bound for Boca de Tomatlán or Mismaloya from central Puerto Vallarta (outside the Oxxo at Basilio Badillo and Constitución) and get off when you see the Bungee Jump sign. You can’t miss it. At the time of writing the bus costs MXN$8.



YELAPA | Yelapa, Jalisco

I’ve, sadly, never been to Yelapa (even though I tried to convince my family to come with me – they were having none of it). However, I have heard only good things about Yelapa. It’s principally known for yoga retreats, cool hotels (which I’ve written about but never stayed at) and for being removed from the tourist trail of Puerto Vallarta itself. You can get there in about an hour and a half if you’re driving/ taking a taxi, or there are water taxis that leave from the malecón which will drop you in Yelapa around an hour later. If you want to know more about Yelapa, I recommend checking out From Here to Sunday’s blog, which has more info on yoga retreats and activities to do there.

NUEVO VALLARTA + SPLASH | Splash, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit

Splash is an average water park in Nuevo Vallarta but makes for a pretty good day out if you wanna go down some slides or, if you’re anything like me, drink cheap beer by the pool. I can’t remember what we paid to get in but I do remember distinctly that the pricing info on the official website was a little of the mark, so budget over what it tells you there. Also, you need to pay for rubber ring and locker rental. (Sidenote: we rented rubber rings, rushed to the tube slide, and then realised we weren’t cut out for such excitement after I fell off my ring mid-slide and lost my glasses. We spent the rest of the day drinking.) In fact, the best thing about the day trip to Splash was going to El Coleguita on the way home.

While you’re in Nuevo Vallarta, you should also take the opportunity to head to Playa Etcetera, one of the few that allows public access in the area and is great for swimming.

TEQUILA | Tequila, Jalisco

Tequila is one of my favourite day trips ever, and I’ve been three times now, so I can definitely recommend it. In fact, I have a whole post about taking a day trip to Tequila.

However, the flaw in this plan is that it’s far easier to get there from Guadalajara than it is from Vallarta, so you might need to suck it up and (like I forced my mum and sister to do) make a weekend of it – take an overnight bus to Guadalajara, spend some time there (I highly recommend getting breakfast at Piggy Back), before heading to Tequila the next day.

If you still wanna go, you’ll need to take the bus from Vallarta to Guadalajara from the Vallarta Plus terminal (see the map below for the exact location). Once you’re in Guadalajara, the post I linked above tells you all about how to get there and what to do.

Related Post: Things To Do in Guadalajara, Mexico: A Former Resident’s Guadalajara Travel Guide

puerto vallarta travel guide

SAYULITA | Sayulita, Nayarit

I’ve been to Sayulita, Nayarit twice and it’s only OK, in my opinion, yet remains an overwhelming must-visit of travellers from both Mexico and abroad. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just very touristy and hippie-esque, so if that’s your vibe, you’ll love the damn place. To get there you’ll want to take a bus from outside Sam’s Club (next to Galerías) in central Vallarta, and the journey takes around an hour and a half and costs roughly MXN$40 (or it did the last time I went anyway). Word to the wise – it has this huuge reputation for being an awesome surf town. From what I’ve seen of the waves there, I don’t agree. In fact, I think it’s far better for body boarding.

puerto vallarta travel guide

I miss my Sayulita hair

LAS ISLAS MARIETAS | Las Islas Marietas, Nayarit

The ecological islands with the famed hidden beach that were once closed to the tourists are open once more for visitors, although there are less tours that take you there per day and they (probably) cost a bit more. Even so, it remains one of the top Puerto Vallarta tourist attractions…that’s actually in Nayarit. I’d budget around MXN$1000 MAXIMUM if you’re dying to see Las Islas Marietas on your next trip to Vallarta, although as I’ve never been myself I can’t be 100% sure.

SAN SEBASTIÁN DEL OESTE | San Sebastián del Oeste, Jalisco

Another place I’ve never been (like, damn, I need to get out more when I visit Vallarta), I’ve been recommended San Sebastián del Oeste on more than one occasion, as it’s a small pueblo mágico about two hours outside of central Vallarta by car. It’s the perfect place to escape from the beach and the tourists for a speedy day trip if you’re looking for a change of scene and it’s supposedly very pretty.

VALLARTA BOTANICAL GARDENS | Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Jalisco

OK, I HAVE been to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Twice, actually. And, even though I’m 22 and not a middle-aged mother of two, I reeeaaallly rate this as a Puerto Vallarta sidetrip. Not even a sidetrip, a half day trip at most to be honest. There are, as the name suggests, some beautiful botanical gardens, as well as some jungle trek type routes you can follow and a river you can even take a dip in. The gift shop and restaurant are well overpriced though, so browse but skip ‘em. You’ll get the same stuff cheaper in the centre.

To get there, you’ll need to suffer through a 45-minute bus ride with views like the one you see below. Awful, I know. It will cost you a whopping MXN$25 as well. Grab this bus from the corner of Aguacate and Carranza in the centre.

puerto vallarta travel guide




puerto vallarta travel guide



    • Street Markets take some exploring to find, but they’re worth it if you want cheap eats in Puerto Vallarta. Basically, choose from any that look like the food is fucking delicious, because the chances are the food is fucking delicious.
    • Food Park Vallarta (Francisco Medina Ascencio 2450, Díaz Ordaz) I had a decent smoothie from the coffee right by the entrance and some AWESOME tacos de birria (four tacos and a beer for MXN$100) – don’t forget to ask for some consome (broth) to go with them either. I’ve heard great things about the burger stall too, but it was closed when we went. Watch out for the cats sauntering up to your table while you eat.
    • Mercado Río Cuale (Agustín Rodríguez, Centro) If you want a quick slice of Mexican market dining, then go to the indoor part of Mercado Río Cuale and head upstairs. Choose from any of the fondas you find there.

puerto vallarta travel guide


    • La Piazetta (Rodolfo Gómez, Emiliano Zapata) supposedly has some delicious seafood pizzas, but I’ve still never had the opportunity to go. If you go, let me know how it is, OK?!
    • Florios (Galeana 185, Centro) have THE BEST pizzas in Vallarta (in my opinion) and they’re not overpriced even considering their pretty prime location in the centre. My family raved about the cocktails too.
    • Barcelona Tapas (Matamoros 906, Centro) is the place me and my mate were tipped by a group of American ladies for taking literally two photos of them and the waiter. I recommend the tortilla espanola and the paella, which we took to go and ate on the beach after getting stoned. The views are fab.
    • Kashi Sushi (Las Américas 343, Lázaro Cárdenas) is a bit out of the way for the average Vallarta visitor, but the Banana Roll makes the journey worth it and the Aguachile is like the perfect blend of spicy Mexican seafood and Japanese sushi. Plus, it’s cheaaap. (There’s also a branch on Avenida Francisco Medina Ascencio).
puerto vallarta travel guide

Banana Roll

puerto vallarta travel guide

Looking like a middle aged mum at Barcelona Tapas




(I’ve not included the ‘typical’ Puerto Vallarta nightlife hotspots though, like Mandala or La Vaquita, because they’re overpriced and awful. Sorrynotsorry.)


    • Cheeky Monkey (Díaz Ordáz 556, Centro) sounds shit, but if you’re looking for cheap things to do in Puerto Vallarta and you like generous margaritas and great views over the malecón, this isn’t a bad shout.
    • The Sports Bar next to Day Off Beach Bar (Calle Morelos, Centro), which I don’t know the name of, has cheap beers and not awful fish ceviche, if you feel a bit peckish.
    • La Ingrata (Abasolo 169, Centro) is a three level bar with live music and a youthful, local clientele. You can hang out on the terrace, play pool on the second floor or sweat it out with the band on the ground floor.
    • Los Muertos Brewing (Lázaro Cárdenas 302, Emiliano Zapata) is a craft beer chain. I’ve never been myself.
    • Bodeguita del Medio (Díaz Ordáz 858, Centro) is a pricey but reliable spot for cocktails and salsa. When I went, the salsa dancers that were dancing next to our table were honestly professional standard. Just so, so good. Don’t believe their claims that the mojito is the best in the world though, it’s far too sweet.
    • Bar Morelos (Morelos 589, Centro) has fancy cocktails and a plush décor but is expeeeensive and they try and add on a 15% tip to the bill. Pay if you like, but you should know that it’s not obligatory to give that much. We left 10%.
    • Jazz Foundation (Allende 116, Centro) was recommended to us by the waitress at Florios and I have heard the name bandied about in other circles too but I’ve not been there personally.

    Full disclosure: I’m not a big beach fan, so, unsurprisingly, I’ve never been to any of these beach bars. However, they’re all places I’ve been recommended frequently by Vallarta visitors and locals. For more bars in Vallarta, click here.



  1. LA ISLA | La Isla, Las Glorias, Puerto Vallarta

The newest Puerto Vallarta shopping centre addition, La Isla is much prettier than many shopping centres, but it’s all outdoors, so go after dark and save yourself from the heat. They even have two ponds – one with Koi fish and the other with turtles.

  1. GALERIAS VALLARTA | Galerías Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta

One of the main shopping centres in the city, it actually has a cool view from the balcony in the food court area and air conditioning if you’re wilting in the Vallarta heat.

  1. MERCADO RIO CUALE | Mercado Río Cuale, Puerto Vallarta

This is the place for artesanías, although they suffer from ‘tourist pricing’, so be aware of that. Also check out the Zona Romántica (a.k.a. the Puerto Vallarta gay area) and the streets near the market for other stalls.

puerto vallarta travel guide

La Isla



There’s a pretty obvious reason that winter is the peak season in Puerto Vallarta, and that’s because a Vallarta summer is both a hot, humid mess and rainy season. (I should know, I always seem to go in the sweatiest months of the year and have to spend most of my day by a fan just to be able to function. And I got thrush from persisting in my habit of wearing black skinny jeans 24/7.) By all means, if you want to sweat off 10lbs, go in summer though.

Alternatively, join all the other Canadians and Americans holidaying there in winter and avoid the feeling that you’re literally melting every time you leave the cooling comfort of your hotel’s air con.

So, when is the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta? Personally, I think the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is in winter if you want temperate weather and summer if you’re skint and want to save some money.


Is it safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta right now? Yes, it’s absolutely safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta. Honestly? The biggest danger you’ll face are the tourist traps. The tequila tasting place in Río Cuale? Yeah, probably not worth it. Señor Frog’s? Get the fuck out. I always recommend walking at least two streets up from the malecón at least a couple of times.


The buses cost a pretty uniform MXN$7.50 across the board and I’ve discussed in previous posts how change is a friggin’ commodity in Mexico. So, keep hold of the pesos and the bus fares will take care of themselves.


While we’re on the subject, I might as well cover a few final bits of travel information to help with getting around in Puerto Vallarta. First of all, there is no Uber. The taxi mafia reigns supreme in Vallarta, but there are standard prices, so make sure people in your hotel give you a rough rate sheet for Puerto Vallarta taxis. (UPDATE JULY 2017: There is now Uber in Puerto Vallarta. They introduced it literally a week after I was last there, damn them.)

Alternatively, buses are pretty easy to navigate and cheap (ask locals for help if you’re not sure which bus to take and where to get off). As a rule of thumb, if you want to go from Puerto Vallarta to Nuevo Vallarta though, the buses leave from near Galerías Vallarta.

Related Post: Moving to Mexico? Here’s What to Pack + What to Leave Behind

Did I miss anything out of this Puerto Vallarta travel guide? Tell me in the comments! Alternatively, if you found this mega rundown of all the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta useful, share the pins below or buy me a coffee to say thanks! (This blog runs on sleepless nights and caffeine so you’d really be helping me out.) 


  1. Cristina 29 July, 2017 at 05:46 Reply

    Again, I’ve never been to Vallarta, sadly. But, like always, you wrote a really good guide!
    Is Vallarta your favourite beach town in Mexico?

    • Lauren 30 July, 2017 at 01:47 Reply

      Thanks! I’m not sure, as I’m not a big beach fan, but I really like the place because I go so often and my boyfriend’s family are there!

  2. Erin 29 July, 2017 at 14:34 Reply

    I love comprehensive guides. This is great! I’ve been to a few places in Mexico, but I haven’t made it to Puerto Vallarta yet. It looks beautiful. It’d be really neat to see turtles released. Thanks for the tip about not needing a reservation/tour to watch this. Yelapa sounds like a place I’d like to visit. It’s nice to get away from crowds of tourists. I’ve never done a yoga retreat, but I am intrigued by them. Have you ever done one?

  3. Christine 30 July, 2017 at 03:03 Reply

    I do believe Uber is up and running in PV……
    great guide and we will check some places I’ve never been. Thanks

    • Lauren 30 July, 2017 at 03:43 Reply

      Yep, a few people have mentioned this! They brought it in literally like a week after I was last there haha. I’ll be updating the post with this info soon 🙂

  4. Tammy 30 July, 2017 at 22:35 Reply

    – Many of your photos are not showing.
    – Zona Romantica/Old Town is NOT the gay area. There are a few hotels (eg. Blue Chairs) that market internationally because they offer same sex marriages on the beach. LGBTQ are all over town. Calling it a ‘gay district’ might discourage some tourists from visiting and missing some great restaurants, theatres and boutiques. Not to mention 18 new condos going up 🙁
    – “Parroquia” means parish in Spanish. Parroquia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe is a parish church, not a cathedral. PV does not have a bishop.
    – Only one of the 15 sculptures along the Malecon is by Sergio Bustamente. The free tour operates Nov. to April only on Tuesday mornings.
    – art galleries are downtown except for Dante gallery on Basilio Badillo.
    – suggesting places/restaurants/tours without personal experience is not a good recommendation
    – yes, I live here

    • Lauren 31 July, 2017 at 00:15 Reply

      1. I know about the photo issue and am working on fixing it as we speak!
      2. I think if people are discouraged from visiting an area because it has the reputation for being the city’s gay area (which the Zona Romantica does have) then they’re kind of silly, and deserve to miss out on what it has to offer!
      3. I’m aware parroquia is parish, but most people refer to the central church as the cathedral, so I stuck with that. I will edit to reflect this 🙂
      4. Thanks for the tour information (the website didn’t provide that information) and I didn’t know that about Sergio Bustamante. I’ll update!
      5. I know there are plenty of art galleries downtown, but there are also a ton in the Zona Romantica too.
      6. I always make it totally explicit when I mention a place that I haven’t personally visited and I’m of the opinion that people can research further around that activity/restaurant/experience if they like the sound of it; however, I think it’s important to mention it and give people all the info I can personally provide. I also link to appropriate blogs and articles of people who HAVE been to the place or done the activity when appropriate – for example, the yoga retreat is not something I’ve done but I provided links to blogs written by people who have!
      7. I can tell. So do my boyfriend’s family, who also helped me with research for this post so the information I provided could be as accurate as possible. Not everyone knows everything though, so thank you for your feedback 🙂

  5. Rick G 31 July, 2017 at 19:51 Reply

    I’ve been to Los Muertos Brewing and they have excellent craft beers! At the brewery they have good food too and the pizza is much too big for just two people, bring friends! I’ve read about street art or graffiti art but didn’t see it last time. I’ll be back in March and I’d like to check that out. Good tips, thanks!

  6. Eric 18 October, 2017 at 00:45 Reply

    I have been to Vallarta several times and recently decided to move there. I have visited in various times of the year and agree with what you have said about the climate. My friends and family are all planning on visiting in the upcoming months and I tell them if you want the best weather, choose November through March. But it is crowded and expensive then. My partying 20 something daughters chose January. My mother and sister are leaning towards late March/April. My 40-60-year-old friends are thinking January and April.

    Zona Romantica (Emiliano Zapata or Old Vallarta) is a mix of hetero and gay (I’m a hetero male). There are gay bars and straight bars. You will see a lot of 20 something men walking in pairs (not women for some reason) just about everywhere. On the street or in most restaurants, that’s about as gay as it gets. Other than pride week, I never saw openly gay PDA anywhere in Zona Romantica – not on Los Muertos beach, not on Basilio Badillo, not on not on Olas Altas. I’m sure it happens, but it did not feel like a “gay zone.” I have stayed at Los Arcos Hotel a couple of times because I like the location, so I have walked all over that area and have never even seen two men walking holding hands, much less anything more. I have sat at the palapa bar at Margarita Grill and talked to straight women and stopped at Pancho’s Tacos at 2 am and ate tacos with some guy I was standing next to in line and he did not try to pick up on me. And yes, there is a line at Pancho’s at 2am, and sooo worth it (6 el pastor tacos, 2 beers and 2 sangrias for $150 MX). Before I decided to move to Vallarta, I literally read hundreds of blogs and until your post I’ve never heard it called the Gay Zone (although we all know it is).

    I am moving to Marina Vallarta next month so I know the area well. El Faro in the marina has the only “elevated” view of the marina. There are lots of bars/restaurants that have views of the marina from the malecon that surrounds the marina. El Faro is pricy for what you get, but you are paying for the real estate. Take the stairs – it’s pretty cool.

    You mentioned Tacon de Marlin. I have eaten there several times and would not consider it expensive ($120-$150MX for a burrito that is large enough to feed two). I always recommend it to people coming in from the airport. Walk to the left of the OXXO, over the pedestrian bridge, and it is at the base of the bridge. All the Mexican locals know to catch a taxi there because they don’t have to pay the airport fee of about $10 US that taxis pay to pick you up at the airport. So, with the cheaper taxi ride, you kinda get a free lunch.

    Markets: The Food Park Vallarta is like a food truck court that is permanently there. Kinda cool if you are staying in the area, but I would not make a special trip there. You did not mention the market on the malecon on Sunday. There is some incredible food there sold by street vendors. The deserts will rival just about anything that you could get at a five-star restaurant in the US for $20-$60MX from what I remember. If you eat at a restaurant in the area, save room for the deserts on the malecon.

    Great post. I could write 20 pages on restaurants in Vallarta alone. There are so many incredible choices.

  7. Melissa 3 November, 2017 at 22:55 Reply

    Hi! Do you know of any good places for air bnb? my friends and I are thinking of going for spring break and would prefer an air bnb that has ocean views over a hotel

    • Lauren 4 November, 2017 at 04:42 Reply

      I can’t give any specific suggestions, but the old town locations tend to be high up with good views over the city and sea!

  8. Liz Perry 13 December, 2017 at 15:29 Reply

    Hey Lauren!

    Great post – One of the best I’ve read! I live here in Vallarta – and here’s the skinny:

    1. You HAVE TO visit Yelapa and San Sebastian del Oeste. For real.
    2. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga.

    Have a wonderful day,
    Insta: LattesAndYoga

  9. Marcie 26 December, 2017 at 19:31 Reply

    Loved reading your post and all your suggestions…..I think we would get along great! We are leaving in 2 weeks and will be there for 2 weeks, so I look forward to checking out the sights you recommend! Thank you for the information

  10. Anne 23 March, 2018 at 14:20 Reply

    I’m glad to have discovered your blog Lauren, I’m enjoying reading your informative, and quippy posts. My husband and I have been to Mexico about a dozen times, and are planning the big move in October from Canada – can’t wait! One thing I thought people should know is in regards to your comment, “Bar Morelos (Morelos 589, Centro) has fancy cocktails and a plush décor but is expeeeensive and they try and add on a 15% tip to the bill. Pay if you like, but you should know that it’s not obligatory to give that much. We left 10%.” As I’m sure you know, it’s actually illegal for restaurants in Mexico to add the tip to the bill, and that if you point it out, and ask them to remove it (perhaps mentioning Profeco :D), they will. For anyone wanting avoid any type of disagreement, you can say nothing, but know that you can leave whatever tip amount you like. It’s also good to know this sometimes happen, in order to prevent double tipping.

    • Lauren 4 April, 2018 at 21:42 Reply

      Thank you so much! Yes, you’re correct. Any added tip is, legally, just a suggestion. But, as I usually give 10% across the board, I just asked them to adjust it that time round 🙂 It’s not common (in my experience) that tips are pre-added to the bill anyway! I think this was an out of the blue instance. Good luck with the move!

  11. Viktor 2 April, 2018 at 08:45 Reply

    Thank you for this guide, Lauren!
    I used it extensively throughout my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta.
    Pretty sure I saw you on a bus to Sayulita, carrying some takeout food on Friday, March 23. Or someone who looks very much like you 🙂

  12. Heather- The Cheapskate Girl 10 April, 2018 at 05:45 Reply

    Great post! I enjoyed reading all of your suggestions and remember doing most of those myself. I moved out of Vallarta almost 3 years ago and I seriously miss it almost everyday, even those hot sticky summers! But I am happy to be heading back there soon for a little vacation!
    You covered a ton of stuff, I just thought of a few others…
    Destiladeras beach and Bucerias are two that I enjoy (although Conchas Chinas is my all time favorite and where I got married). I also love the tiniest beach ever by Ocean Grill. That was awesome! Yelapa is my favorite little getaway, I still consider Casa Miramar my second home.
    Thanks for sharing your experience in Vallarta. It’s nice to get the word out there that this is an amazing place and should not be overlooked because of the negative things that happen all around the world, not just Mexico.

  13. Diane 29 April, 2018 at 23:49 Reply

    Hi Lauren. We live in San Sebastien Del Oeste about two hours from PV. We have lived here with our four kids for a year and are now returning home. We lived in PV for three years before that. Here are some tips for San Sebastien as there is no advertising here, no cajera – bring cash, and I don’t know how you would ever find this out as there is little useful info on this place. Here are the tips: You want a car, period. And you want to stay overnight. At least one night. Two is perfect. Driving from PV or GDL you will arrive in Estancia before you turn up the mountain road to get to San. Near the plaza – everything is near the Plaza in Estancia ;)- are some places to eat along the road – restaurant, tequila tasting place, restaurant…look for YESENIA’s. It is has, in all our years in Mexico, the BEST huevos rancheros and homemade tortillas we have ever had. Truly. If it is closed, than one place past the tequileria is also tasty for breakfast, but Yesenia is legendary. And nothing special to look at, like so many culinary happy surprises in this country. Only breakfasts though….the best eats are in San, up the mountain. San is a really great Pueblo Magico, especially after any daytime tourists depart. All little trails lead back to the plaza, and if you can be here in the rainy season watching the clouds roll in is a treat. And sometimes in the evening it misty and foggy everywhere, and beautiful. It is a place to stroll and eat and have coffee and read a book etc. There are no beggars, hawkers, trash, and it is QUIET as there are very few cars especially as evening approaches. It is not unusual to see people come into town on their horses. It is VERY well maintained bc of the money that PV tourism draws, and there are pretty homes tucked up streets with flowers, butterflies, HUGE grasshoppers – so many birds. You hear birdsong often, and chickens, and the odd barking dog etc. There are no museums, per se. Or major sights. The local chuch, there is just one, is LOVELY, and the town – which once had 30,000 inhabitants and now has 700 is all stone walls, adobe houses, and a very picturesque plaza. There are souvenirs to buy etc and the usual local treats. COFFEE is a thing here. Our fave coffee is in PV – naturezza and Cafe es todas near the IMSS hospital in the palmar de aramara market area. YOU HAVE TO GO TO Cafe es Todas next time you are in PV and have a frozen ginger coffee. Or a hot ginger coffee. Annie, the owners wife is from the Dominican Republic, and its the only place to get it in PV. I prefer the iced version, personally.

    Ok – San. Montabello Restaurant. Closed on Tues and Wed as are many things bc the locals go and shop in PV for the weekend visitors. The owner, Walter is from Livorno, Italy and his wife, Coco is from here. The restaurant is in her childhood home and all the pastas and the pizzas are homemade and KILLER. Especially the pizzas. The best in Mexico, and I spent 8 weeks in Italy. Excellent. For coffee there is El Fortin on the plaza. Above the arches where the pharmacy and other small stores are there is Cafe de Montagne. 20 peso big cappacinos and frappes and other drinks. And snacks, all of which I would avoid. Their deserts are fine. They have local teas and homemade cookies and treats too. It is a very pretty cafe, and the best place to chill and watch the plaza at sunset and after dark. Everyone here is uber friendly. For a fix of Mexican food, Rosa’s is your go to, and very inexpensive. Pozole, enchiladas, Carne en Jugos etc. For a gorgeous splurge – Villa de Nogal. Just as you enter San Sebastian there is a wall on your left. The villa is behind it and walking throught the gate, you are suddenly in Alsace, France. The owner, Michel, has an estate here and everything is farm to table. The pates, the French onion soup, the trout munierre…those are my faves on his menu. I am told his steak is excellent too – but it is the VIEWS especially as and after the sunsets and they light the lamps all around you. Everything, every detail is exquisite. I will send you some photos if you want…no more expensive than a PV restaurant, and really beautiful. On a budget, have a chocolate mousse after your french onion soup and a coffee. And linger. The drapes, the open layout, the gorgeous big oven and wood burning oven…the bathrooms, lol. Really really well done and beautiful. For accomodations, you can find a room for 500-600 pesos for the night and there are many options. I like Hotel Poze, with a painting of flowers. Fermin runs it and just ask for a room with its own little terrace. Or, go to El Fortin and ask for Terri. She rents a casita and a larger white house on a quite street – that is where we have rented for our year here. When we are gone, the casita is great. the white house on the same property is ideal for a family or many friends. Not sure what the rates are as we have both as long term rentals. The reason you want a car is that is the most economical way to get here and back to PV and it gives you transportation to La Bufa. Take a picnic and you take a switchback road up, up, up, about thirty minutes to La Bufa where there is parking and a well marked trail, about ten to 15 minutes easy stroll to a STUNNING lookout point from which you can see all the way to Nayarit on a clear day. There are huge agave interspersed with pine trees, lots of birds and butterflies..and silence -just the wind. You can lounge there for a few hours and read with your picnic items. If it is the rainy season you want to go down before the thick fog rolls in, but it is fun to watch it head your way. you can be standing in a cloud if you wait too long – or on purpose if you are fine with driving in fog down a mtn road. There is just the one road, you cannot get lost. Well, that’s it..the rest is strolling taking pics and relaxing. There are no grocery stores here or ANYTHING else. Utterly tranquil and totally unique. We have never been anywhere else like it, though you may have, of course. We are considering Mexico City with the kids, but the size of it overwhelms, and I am not sure if they would enjoy it that much – heresy, I know. The museum just may not really interest them. They are ages 8, 11, 12, and 14 and we wonder if the expense of the trip is really worth the sites as we were told, candidly, what your reviews confirmed. The museum, though amazing, only amazes if you have an interest in the subject matter or the attention span to appreciate it if its not a history you know anything about etc. The pyramids were not great and the pollution and altitude is ROUGH. This is from Mexican friends of ours btw. Thoughts on Mexico City with four older kids? We are doing SMA, Guanajuato, and the Copper Canyon with them.

    • Lauren 1 May, 2018 at 03:20 Reply

      I think they might enjoy CDMX more than Guanajuato tbh! GTO has an ‘older’ vibe to it, although it is very pretty…however, I’m not an 11 year old! San Miguel is similar, but both are places that are calm and easy (ish) to navigate with kids. Plus there are plenty of spots to eat. CDMX does have plenty to do though, and there’s a lot directed at kids, but it is MANIC! Depends how much shepherding around of them you’re up for haha. (Also, I’m hoping to visit San Sebastian soon, so this info is FANTASIC, thank you so much!)

  14. diane 29 April, 2018 at 23:56 Reply

    My kids want to see the castle in Mexico City. If we do go…any tips for accomodation for two adults and four kids. We dont need fancy, just clean and safe. xoxox

    • Lauren 1 May, 2018 at 03:21 Reply

      Hmm, I’m not sure to be honest. The places I’m familiar with aren’t really kid oriented 🙁

  15. Kanika Bakshi 29 May, 2018 at 11:25 Reply

    Fantastic post and a complete tour guide. This post is very helpful to me as we have planned a trip to Mexico and with the help of your post I have got to know various places to see and things to do there. Keep sharing such interesting posts.

  16. Manuel Rangel 18 September, 2018 at 19:03 Reply

    Hola lauren,
    Would you mind also letting people know about how beautiful sunsets we have here in PV. Taking advantage of the great sunsets we have, its great to take some beach pictures to remember them. My company is named captura el momento fotografia or in english Capture the moment we´d love to help you with that. Look us up on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Captura-el-momento-Fotografia-1385008238282947/ . By the way food tours I would recommend Vallarta Eats.

  17. Nancy 21 September, 2018 at 22:11 Reply

    I’m interested in going to Los Coapanoles on a weekend (Dec 23 to be exact). How do you get there? Taxi and what would be approximate cost. or is there a bus?
    Second question: are many restaurants open on Xmas Eve?

    • Lauren 24 September, 2018 at 09:32 Reply

      Taxi is my answer but I’ve only ever driven so I can’t be sure on cost. Try Uber! As for Xmas Eve, I would say PROBABLY but I don’t know for sure 🙂

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