An (Almost) Insider’s Travel Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Things To Do and See + Where To Eat, Drink and Shop
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.
PUERTO VALLARTA TRAVEL GUIDE
A.K.A. WHAT TO SEE IN PUERTO VALLARTA AND THE BEST OF PUERTO VALLARTA ATTRACTIONS
Mercado Río 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.
I'm putting the finishing touches to my street art Vallarta piece today! I'm really excited about this one, so here's a sneak peek… #northernlauren #puertovallarta #jalisco #jaliscoesmexico #visitmexico #mexico #streetartchilango #streetart #streetartmexico #streetartvallarta #restorecoral #catrina #riocuale
The Cathedrals and Churches
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).
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).
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.
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.
Voladores de Papantla
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.
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).
The Infamous Cat House
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).
A.K.A. WHAT TO DO IN PUERTO VALLARTA
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.
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.
Take a Canopy Tour
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.
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.)
Wander the Backstreets
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.
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.
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 Food Tour
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.
Lounge on the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta
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.
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.
A.K.A. PLACES TO VISIT NEAR PUERTO VALLARTA, FROM PUEBLOS MÁGICOS TO FARFLUNG BEACHES
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.
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.
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.
Took my mum to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens yesterday. It was my second time there and still just as good! What do you think, would you want to see a blogpost full of all the photos i took during the day? Are plant fetishes a thing?! Enlighten me… #northernlauren #puertovallarta #jalisco #jaliscoesmexico #westcoastbestcoast #visitmexico #mexico #vallartabotanicalgardens #jardinbotanicovallarta #botanicalgardens #greenhouse
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.
A.K.A. THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN PUERTO VALLARTA FOR GREAT FOOD
Breakfasts and Coffee:
- Natureza Deli (Francia 137, Versalles) has some amaaaazing food and smoothies, plus huge coffees. I went there for breakfast and ordered chilaquiles with chicken and I really recommend them. The prices are not at all bad either, given that it’s off the typical tourist trail too.
- Los Coapinoles (Camino Los Llanitos Km4.5, Los Almacenes) is the restaurant of a canopy tour destination, that isn’t really worth recommending for the food alone, but rather for the location up in the Puerto Vallarta mountains. Only go on weekends though, when they offer a buffet breakfast, complete with quesadilla station and plenty of guisados and juices to choose from. The café de olla was some of the best I’ve ever had.
- Other coffee spots (that I haven’t visited, but get great reviews) include Café Canela (Lucerna 107, Versalles), Caffe del Mar (Basilio Badillo 146, Emiliano Zapata) and Dees Coffee Company (Francisca Rodríguez 111, Emiliano Zapata).
- 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.
- 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).
- El Coleguita (Calle Popa, Marina Vallarta) THE BEST SEAFOOD PLACE EVER. It’s one of the only Puerto Vallarta restaurants I can eat at time and time again. They’re cheap, delicious and the portions are enormous, plus all the added extras you get for free are almost too good to be true. Except they are true. I swear. (There’s also a branch on the road between Splash and Puerto Vallarta.)
- Rey del Aguachile (Calle Perú 1028, 5 de Diciembre) has some Facebook famous seafood but I haven’t eaten there myself.
- Tacón de Marlín (Francisco Medina Ascencio, Villa Las Flores) is pricey but worth it for the eponymous marlin tacos, according to my boyfriend.
A.K.A. THE BEST PLACES IN PUERTO VALLARTA TO DRINK, FROM LIGHTHOUSES TO BEACH BARS
(I’ve not included the ‘typical’ Puerto Vallarta nightlife hotspots though, like Mandala or La Vaquita, because they’re overpriced and awful. Sorrynotsorry.)
Malecón/ Downtown Puerto Vallarta:
- 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.
- Bar La Playa (Lázaro Cárdenas 179, Emiliano Zapata) is a solid choice.
- Joe Jack’s Fish Shack (Olas Altas 507, Amapas) sounds shit but I’ve seen it recommended everywhere. (UPDATE JULY 2017: Apparently Joe Jack’s is NOT on the beach, but it’s still got some great ginger mojitos that make it worth a visit.)
- La Palapa (Púlpito 105-3, Emiliano Zapata) on Los Muertos beach is supposedly a good spot for a drink.
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.
Galerías 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.
Mercado Río 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.
Choose the month you visit wisely
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.
Avoid tourist traps
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.
Carry loose change
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.
Getting around Puerto Vallarta
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.
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.)