Puerto VallartaTravel Guide

Set on Mexico’s Pacific Coast in Jalisco state, with the Sierra Madre Mountains behind it, Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular destinations in the country. Known for its gorgeous beaches, exciting cultural scene, year-round tropical weather and delicious food, there’s something here for everyone.

The coastal city's charm lies in combining its authentic Mexican spirit, traditions and architecture with a modern resort atmosphere, entertainment and nightlife. Some of Latin America's best clubs can be found here!

Art, culture and history seekers will be in their element as Puerto Vallarta boasts a thriving scene of theatres, concerts, Mexican folk-dance shows, film screenings and galleries, while its rich heritage is reflected in its public sculptures and landmarks. Several festivals and events are held throughout the year, such as the Day of the Dead celebrations, the International Film Festival and Puerto Vallarta Gay Pride. 

Beaches are pristine and plentiful — picture long stretches of sand, deep blue water and backdrops of jungle-covered mountains. Popular water sports include sailing, snorkelling and kayaking. If you’re an outdoorsy traveller, you can enjoy hiking, ziplining and 4x4 tours.

The city’s diverse culinary scene is also a tourist drawcard. Centred around fresh seafood from the Pacific Ocean, well-known Mexican dishes and a good dose of international cuisine, the city’s chefs are known for their creative flair. 

Puerto Vallarta quick facts


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Bottle of Coke/Pepsi (330ml)

ZAR R33.24

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Mexican peso

ZAR R1.00 = MXN $0.98

Eating out

Restaurant meal (casual dining)

ZAR R182.42


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Explore Puerto Vallarta

Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is divided into five zones, each offering a different experience. Choose the zone that best suits you for your accommodation. The North Zone includes Nuevo Vallarta, a tourist destination, and the upmarket Marina Vallarta with its many resorts and golf courses. The Hotel Zone can be found around the harbour, while all the action is in downtown Puerto Vallarta. The charmingly named Romantic Zone, south of downtown Puerto Vallarta, is so-called because of its historical, colonial charm complete with cobbled streets and beautiful architecture. Finally, the South Zone is known for its resorts, big beaches and calm surf. Accommodation options in the city range from 5-star hotels and all-inclusive resorts on private beaches to laid-back bungalows.   

Hotel Playa Los Arcos is an all-inclusive resort that ticks all the boxes if you want to level up on luxury, with the beach on your doorstep. In the heart of the Romantic Zone, you’ll be within walking distance of the action at the Malecón boardwalk. You can also take advantage of typical resort amenities, such as an infinity pool, oceanfront dining options and a pool bar.

If you’d prefer something slightly more laid-back during your stay in Puerto, spend a few nights at Estancia San Carlos. This comfy three-star bungalow offers free WiFi, a sun deck and a pool for the kiddies (there’s an adult version, too!). Aside from being budget-friendly, it boasts an excellent location in the Romantic Zone, just two blocks from the Malecón boardwalk. 

If you enjoy doing the self-catering thing, Mako 54 is for you! Situated 700m from Camarones Beach, these stylish, modern apartments have fully equipped kitchens and balconies. There’s a covered rooftop pool on site and only six suites, ensuring a peaceful, private stay.

Picture an opulent Mexican homestead set against a mountain with the jungle all around and the beach a short walk away. Hacienda Maria Elena’s prime location is just the start. Offering six luxury rooms in the main house, you could also opt to live large and hire the adjacent, private, five-bedroom villa that comes with a chef service!

Offering stunning ocean views, the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa in Marina Vallarta also has all the mod cons to elevate your stay, including luxury rooms and suites, six restaurants, a fitness centre, a spa and an infinity pool.

How about a traditional boutique hotel with fun, colourful Mexican décor? Casa Colibrí Malecón (Hummingbird House Malecón) is perfectly situated just 300m from the city centre. Choose from studios, rooms or suites. There’s a shared kitchen on site, a rooftop terrace, free WiFi and friendly staff to welcome you. Recommended for women solo travellers!

Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

  • Puerto vallarta coastline
    • Man smiling looking back attached to a zip line
    • Town of Puerto Vallarta with town clock as focal point and ocean/mountains in background
  • Puerto vallarta coastline
    Puerto vallarta coastline
    Puerto vallarta coastline
  • Man smiling looking back attached to a zip line
    Man smiling looking back attached to a zip line
    Man smiling looking back attached to a zip line
  • Town of Puerto Vallarta with town clock as focal point and ocean/mountains in background
    Town of Puerto Vallarta with town clock as focal point and ocean/mountains in background
    Town of Puerto Vallarta with town clock as focal point and ocean/mountains in background

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

From mariachis (Mexican folk musicians) to tequila tastings, whale watching excursions to beach parties, adventure activities to cultural tours, there’s a lot to do in Puerto Vallarta! Here’s just a handful to get you inspired:

Puerto Vallarta’s iconic Malecón boardwalk, a pedestrian-only area stretching 1.6km along the bay, is a lively spot offering activities for the whole family. Lined with palm trees, murals and artworks, it’s an entertainment hub where street performances common. Many restaurants, clubs and bars add to the festive atmosphere and keep the nightlife buzzing.

We recommend setting aside time to book a snorkelling trip or day trip to the Marieta Islands. This string of uninhabited atolls is popular with nature lovers for its untouched beaches and tropical rainforests. Many adventure tours head here, so adrenaline junkies, take note! And if you’re a bird-watcher look out for the blue-footed boobies (yes, their feet are blue!). 

The small fishing village of Boca de Tomatlán is also worth exploring — it’s 30 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta by taxi or bus from the Romantic Zone, along Highway 200. It’s known for its stunning hiking trail to Las Ánimas beach. Alternatively, head to the pier and book a panga (small speedboat) to explore a host of interesting places, such as the remote village of Yelapa and its waterfall.

Put on your comfortable walking shoes and spend a day pounding the pavements of downtown, known as El Centro, a vibey culturally rich area, to really get under the skin of Puerto Vallarta. If you’re a history buff, stop by the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This famous attraction, unmissable with its iconic Renaissance tower, was built in 1883 and is famed for its gorgeous architecture, which combines several styles. Explore the many boutiques, art galleries and markets. Downtown is also where you’ll find the Los Arcos Amphitheatre, an open-air stage that pumps at night with live music and performances. 

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Flights to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta food and drink

Puerto Vallarta offers the rich culinary heritage of Mexico with a coastal twist. Fresh seafood features high on menus — ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice and spices), and grilled huachinango (red snapper) are among the local favourites. You’ll also come across traditional Mexican dishes like sopes (cornmeal cakes), tacos and enchiladas (filled corn tortillas topped with a savoury sauce) or birria (a goat or beef stew). Whether you choose to go to a gourmet restaurant or a little shack on the beach for fish and beer, eating out in Puerto Vallarta is an experience.

With ingredients sourced from open-air markets in the local neighbourhood, the food served at Gaby’s Restaurant will leave you wanting seconds and thirds. Be sure to sample the chiles en nogada, the national dish of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a poblano pepper stuffed with mincemeat, and while simple, it’s delicious! Gaby’s is a traditional, colourful eatery that invites you to linger over a Mexican cerveza (beer) or two and even offers cooking classes to turn you into a Mexican master chef! To find Gaby’s, head in the direction of the Malecón boardwalk.

A standout gourmet experience is what you’ll get at La Tintoque at the Marina Vallarta. With a unique and creative menu that changes daily, you’ll never tuck into the same dish twice. Their cocktails are just as delightful as their food. 

Puerto Vallarta has a strong street food culture, with vendors throughout the city selling fish tacos, pescado zarandeado (grilled fish), tortas aghodas (drowned sandwiches), stuffed jalapeños, and sweet tamales (steamed corn-dough cakes filled with meat). Each dish is prepared on the spot, so you can watch how it all comes together. Other street-food hotspots are Los Muertos beach, Boca de Tomates for seafood stalls and the beach resort area of Rincón de Guayabitos.

If you’re short on time or need a little guidance, consider booking a food tour and let the experts take you on a culinary journey. (Beverage journeys featuring tequila and beer are available too!)

Sample a bit of everything in one place at the Food Park in the Hotel Zone! Packed with food trucks and containers, you can find a variety of dishes here, from burritos and nachos to sushi, burgers, pizzas and waffles. Enjoy this outdoor dining experience paired with entertainment in the form of DJs and mariachis — plus a playground for the kids.

Need a taco fix? Pancho’s Takos in the Romantic Zone is a must-visit! Insanely popular, be prepared to queue and maybe even rub shoulders with the patrons at the next table. But the authentic Mexican fare and the pumping atmosphere are SO worth it!

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Puerto Vallarta through your eyes

Where to shop in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is a great destination for shopping. From malls and local markets to independent stores and art galleries dotted across the city, shopping up a storm and heading home with extra bags is what it’s all about!

The Galerias Vallarta is Puerto Vallarta’s main shopping centre and a popular haunt for locals and tourists alike. The high-end mall boasts a variety of designer stores, boutiques, a cinema and even a casino! You’ll find some great restaurants here and a huge fast-food court with all the regulars like McDonalds and Subway. The mall caters (a lot!) to the kids with entertainment areas and a trampoline park.

If you prefer being outdoors while browsing, head over to La Isla Shopping Village. This open-air complex is packed with international stores like Tommy Hilfiger and Guess, restaurants, a cinema and pretty little fountains to appreciate as you wander from one shop to the next.

Many travellers are introduced to the vibe of Puerto Vallarta by meandering along the Malecón boardwalk. Home to a variety of stores, there are also street vendors selling art, handicrafts, souvenirs, hats, jewellery and traditional sweets, among many other items.

If bargain hunting is your thing, head to the Cuale Island Flea Market set between the Romantic Zone and the Old Town. You can find almost anything here, from clothing and jewellery to local artwork and fresh produce.

The Olas Altas Farmers Market in the Old Town offers a wonderful open-air shopping experience where you can easily hang out for the whole day. Loads of homegrown and handmade goodies at great prices can be found here, while occasional live music adds to the atmosphere. It’s a seasonal market, open between November and April only.

Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Puerto Vallarta?

A good time to visit Puerto Vallarta is leading up to the summer low season from mid-April to June. Although the average daytime temperatures are a balmy 29°C to 32°C (84°F to 89.5°F) at this time of year, there’s very little chance of rain and fewer tourists. If you’re looking to snag a bargain, hotel and resort rates are more affordable during this period.

Although things heat up considerably from May to August, the warmer water temperatures and high visibility in Banderas Bay make it a prime spot for scuba and free divers.

If outdoor activities top your agenda, the best time to travel in Puerto Vallarta is from December to March, when the average temperatures aren’t much higher than 28°C (82°F). These are the coolest and driest months in Puerto Vallarta, and also when you can spot thousands of humpback whales migrating to the warm waters of Banderas Bay.

This time of year is also high season, so expect to compete with plenty of crowds and pay more for accommodation and activities. The really busy season for Puerto Vallarta is March and April when Spring Break kicks into high gear, and students descend on the city. Expect DJs, loud music, beach parties, pool parties and general mayhem!

As you can see, each season has its pros and cons, so find out more from one of our travel experts before you book.   

Don't miss out. Book your flight today!

How to get around Puerto Vallarta

Thankfully, as a small city, most of Puerto Vallarta’s hotspots are within walking distance — meaning it's easy to get around. Buses are the favoured mode of public transport even though bus stops may not be easy to find (look for a group of locals standing together, usually on a street corner). You can also stop a bus in the street by pointing to the road in front of you. The downtown buses have "Centro" in the bottom of their windows, and those with "Tunel" will take you to the South Side. Want to be a bit more organised with your bus travel? Download a helpful app like Check My Bus!

Taxis are plentiful in Puerto Vallarta — hail a bright yellow cab on the street or find one at the many taxi ranks, usually at tourist attractions, shopping centres, the airport and the plazas. These taxis aren’t metered since the rates are determined according to a zone system. Some taxi drivers make up their fares, so always discuss what your trip will cost before getting in. Uber is also available in Puerto Vallarta.

A great way to explore the city is on an e-bike and you’ll find loads of bike and scooter rental shops in Puerto Vallarta. Water taxis travel from Los Muertos beach to Yelapa and from the Boca de Tomatlán pier to Las Animas, the beachside village of Quimixto, Yelapa and the secluded Pizota beach.

Let us help you organise your own wheels for exploring. Hire a car today.

What are the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta?

The beaches in Puerto Vallarta are set in beautiful landscapes. The sand varies in colour from golden or white to pink, orange or purple — affected by the minerals present in each location. The waters also range in colour from deep blue to turquoise. Some beaches have pebbled areas, while others have pure soft sand.

About three kilometres south of downtown, you’ll discover the exquisite (and secluded) enclave of Conchas Chinas. This tiny, sheltered cove is popular with families for its calm, shallow waters and golden sand. Conchas Chinas means "Chinese Shells" and refers to the pretty little seashells found only on this beach.

If you’re looking for a private beach and tropical sanctuary, add Las Calentas to your list. On the southern coast of the Bay of Banderas, with gin-clear waters and a jungle-clad mountain as your backdrop, you’ll feel as though you’ve arrived in Mexico’s Garden of Eden! Las Calentas is only accessible by boat — and only those owned by Vallarta Adventures are permitted to dock there.

Up for some scuba diving? Los Arcos is where you need to go. Set in the heart of Banderas Bay, this protected marine park is the perfect place to play with the fish during your stay in Puerto Vallarta. Snorkellers and bathers also can enjoy exploring its flourishing ecosystem and granite caves.

Las Animas lies just south of Puerto Vallarta and makes for a fantastic day trip. It’s a beautiful sandy beach with gentle waves and many vendors, restaurants and little shops. Catch the water taxi from the Los Muertos pier in the Romantic Zone to get there. It’s the first stop most water taxis make after Boca de Tomatlán.

A popular stretch of sand in Puerto Vallarta, Los Muertos beach runs alongside the Malecón boardwalk. It boasts a pier lined with bars and restaurants, and offers water sports like jet skiing, windsurfing and parasailing.


Puerto Vallarta Frequently asked questions

Puerto Vallarta's beaches offer the perfect trifecta – sand, sun and fun! From the impossibly clear waters of Playa de Oro to the buzzing boardwalk of Los Muertos, there's no shortage of sun-kissed beach bliss in this vibrant Mexican city.

Puerto Vallarta is often ranked as one of the friendliest cities by various polls so is considered safe for international visitors. Zona Romantica (the Romantic Zone), Marina Vallarta and Zona Hotelera (the Hotel Zone) are the ideal spots to feast on fresh seafood and soak up the sun with peace of mind!

Glad you asked! The best time to head to Puerto Vallarta is from April to June when the weather is warm and there are smaller crowds than peak season. If you have your heart set on whale watching, aim for December to March to catch a glimpse of the majestic mammals as they make their annual migration to Banderas Bay.

Swim with dolphins and sea lions, spot some whales, check out life under the sea with a spot of snorkelling or scuba diving, learn to sail, eat your way around on a self-guided food tour, fly through the jungle canopy on a zip line, go parasailing, do some sightseeing, skip from bar to bar, the list is endless!

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Puerto Vallarta is best known for its glorious stretches of beach, vibrant nightlife and delightfully fresh seafood. Whether you're looking to roll out a towel and relax on the sand or dance the night away, Puerto Vallarta has something for every kind of traveller.

Pack your swimsuits and flip flops (jandals or thongs, depending on what you call them in your part of the world) because you're heading to Puerto Vallarta, baby! Don't forget to throw in a hat, sunscreen, and your adventurous spirit for exploring the colourful town and soaking in that soul-filling ‘vitamin sea’ and stunning beach views.

Be captivated by the charm of Old Town, hit the beaches for some fun in the sun, or take a boat trip to the stunning Marietas Islands for a day of snorkelling and exploring hidden beaches. Get a dose of traditional Mexican culture at San Sebastian Del Oeste or stroll around the buzzing boardwalk of Los Muertos, the hardest part will be trying to narrow down your list of destinations to squeeze in!

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