Your Ultimate Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide 2023
Puerto Vallarta is a coastal city located on the western side of Mexico, known for its stunning beaches, bustling culture, and vibrant nightlife. With such an array of activities available, it can be difficult to decide how to spend your time in this beautiful city. To get a better understanding of what life is like in Puerto Vallarta, here’s an inside look at a typical day for a local. From sunrise to sunset, we’ll explore the city’s hidden gems, must-see sights, and all the unique experiences Puerto Vallarta has to offer. If you plan an extended stay, you may also want to explore Manzanillo a few hours south of Puerto Vallarta!
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Puerto Vallarta
- Explore The Malecon: The Malecon is the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s historic district. It stretches for miles along the seafront and is a popular spot for strolling, people watching, and catching street performances. There are plenty of restaurants and shops along the way too.
- Visit Los Muertos Beach: Los Muertos is the most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta and for good reason. It’s a beautiful spot to relax, swim, and soak up the sun. The beach is surrounded by lively bars and restaurants and it’s also where the pier is located for boat trips and water sports.
- Take A Day Trip To Yelapa: Yelapa is a secluded beach village only accessible by boat. It’s a peaceful and picturesque place with plenty of opportunities for hiking, swimming, and beach lounging. There are a few restaurants and shops in Yelapa, but it’s mainly a place to unwind and relax.
- Explore The Botanical Gardens: The Vallarta Botanical Gardens are located about a 30-minute drive south of Puerto Vallarta. The gardens are a peaceful and beautiful oasis with a wide range of flora and fauna to explore. There are also hiking trails, a restaurant, and plenty of picnic areas.
- Take A Sunset Cruise: A sunset cruise is a popular activity in Puerto Vallarta. There are plenty of companies offering cruises that range from a few hours to all night. The cruises usually include dinner, drinks, and music, and of course, stunning sunset views over the bay. It’s a romantic and unforgettable way to experience Puerto Vallarta.
Best Puerto Vallarta Tours
Tours in Puerto Vallarta are an excellent way to explore the sights and nearby areas. Unless you intend to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta (which I don’t recommend), tours offer the most convenient means of transportation while keeping costs in check. The expenses for getting around can accumulate rapidly, making tours a wise choice for navigating the area.
Where To Stay In Puerto Vallarta
- Zona Romantica: Also known as the Old Town, Zona Romantica is a vibrant neighborhood with narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and numerous restaurants and bars. It’s a popular spot for tourists and offers a variety of accommodations, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury boutique hotels.
- Marina Vallarta: This neighborhood is located near the airport and is known for its large marina, golf course, and luxury resorts. It’s a great option for those looking for a quieter, more upscale stay in Puerto Vallarta.
- Nuevo Vallarta: Located just north of Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta is a newer, more modern development with luxury resorts, golf courses, and high-end shopping. It’s a great option for those looking for a more secluded stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Conchas Chinas: This neighborhood is located just south of Zona Romantica and is known for its luxurious villas and stunning ocean views. It’s a great option for those looking for a more exclusive and private stay in Puerto Vallarta.
- Sayulita: While not technically in Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita is a popular destination located about 45 minutes north of the city. It’s a charming beach town with a bohemian vibe, great surf, and numerous accommodations ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury villas.
Top Puerto Vallarta Hotels
- Casa Velas: This luxurious all-inclusive boutique hotel is located in the exclusive Marina Vallarta area and offers guests a peaceful and serene escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown. The hotel features spacious and beautifully appointed rooms, an award-winning restaurant, and a spa that offers a range of treatments.
- Grand Miramar All Luxury Suites & Residences: Perched on a hilltop overlooking Banderas Bay, the Grand Miramar is a five-star hotel that offers stunning views of the ocean and the city. The hotel features spacious suites that are equipped with all the modern amenities, a large infinity pool, a spa, and a rooftop bar.
- Garlands del Río: Located in the heart of the historic downtown, Garlands del Río is a charming boutique hotel that offers guests an authentic taste of Puerto Vallarta’s rich culture and history. The hotel features six individually decorated rooms, a rooftop terrace, and a small pool.
- Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway: This adults-only boutique hotel is located on the beachfront in the Hotel Zone and is ideal for couples seeking a romantic and intimate getaway. The hotel features elegant and spacious suites, a full-service spa, and an excellent restaurant.
- Hotel Mousai: This luxury hotel is located in the upscale Garza Blanca area and is designed for guests seeking a stylish and contemporary experience. The hotel features modern and chic rooms, an infinity pool, a spa, and several restaurants and bars.
Where To Eat In Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a food lover’s paradise with an abundance of options ranging from street food stalls to high-end restaurants. Here are the top 5 places to eat in Puerto Vallarta:
- La Palapa: Located on the beachfront, La Palapa offers a stunning view of the ocean while serving up a variety of Mexican and international dishes. Try the lobster tacos or the grilled octopus for a truly memorable meal.
- Cafe Des Artistes: This elegant restaurant is considered one of the best in Puerto Vallarta, and for good reason. The menu features innovative French-Mexican fusion dishes, and the extensive wine list is sure to please any wine enthusiast.
- Tacos Revolucion: For authentic Mexican street food, head to Tacos Revolucion. Their al pastor tacos are a local favorite and are made fresh to order. This no-frills eatery is perfect for a quick and delicious meal.
- Le Kliff: This cliffside restaurant offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the surrounding jungle. The menu features seafood and grilled meats, and the extensive cocktail list is perfect for sipping while taking in the scenery.
- Fredy’s Tucan: This family-owned restaurant is known for its delicious breakfast dishes and friendly atmosphere. Try the chilaquiles or the huevos rancheros for a hearty and satisfying meal.
No matter what your taste buds crave, Puerto Vallarta has something to offer. These top 5 places to eat are just a few of the many delicious options available in this vibrant city.
How To Get Around Puerto Vallarta
Getting around Puerto Vallarta is easy and affordable. Here are the various modes of transportation available to travelers:
- Bus: Puerto Vallarta has a modern and extensive bus system that operates throughout the city and nearby areas. The buses are cheap, clean and efficient. Fares are usually paid in cash and you can flag them down anywhere along the route.
- Taxi: Taxis are a convenient way to get around Puerto Vallarta, particularly if you’re traveling with luggage or have mobility issues. There are plenty of taxi stands in the city, and you can also hail one on the street. Just make sure you agree on the fare before getting in.
- Rental Car: If you want to explore Puerto Vallarta at your own pace, renting a car is a great option. There are many car rental companies in the city and rates are reasonable. Just be aware that traffic in Puerto Vallarta can be heavy and the streets are narrow.
- Bicycle: Renting a bike is a fun and eco-friendly way to explore Puerto Vallarta. There are several bike rental shops in the city, and many hotels also offer bikes to their guests. Just make sure you wear a helmet and stay safe on the roads.
- Walk: Puerto Vallarta is a pedestrian-friendly city with plenty of sidewalks and walking paths. Walking is a great way to explore the city and discover hidden gems. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated.
No matter which mode of transportation you choose, getting around Puerto Vallarta is easy and enjoyable. Just be sure to plan ahead and be prepared for the unique challenges and opportunities that come with each mode of travel.
Puerto Vallarta Weather
One of the reasons why Puerto Vallarta is such a popular vacation spot is because of its amazing weather all year round. The city is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico and boasts a tropical climate that makes it ideal for outdoor activities and soaking up the sun.
- Spring: Spring is one of the most beautiful times to visit Puerto Vallarta. The weather during this season is generally warm and sunny with temperatures ranging from 75°F to 85°F. However, be aware that it is also the dry season and humidity can be low.
- Summer: Summertime in Puerto Vallarta is hot and humid. Temperatures during this season can range from 80°F to 95°F and the humidity can make it feel even warmer. The rainy season also starts in June and lasts until October, which can bring occasional showers or thunderstorms.
- Fall: Fall in Puerto Vallarta is still hot and humid, but the rain starts to taper off towards the end of the season. Temperatures during this time range from 75°F to 90°F and it’s the perfect time for outdoor activities such as hiking or snorkeling.
- Winter: Winter is peak season in Puerto Vallarta, and it’s easy to see why with its mild temperatures and sunny days. The average temperature during this season ranges from 70°F to 80°F and the weather is mostly dry, making it perfect for sightseeing and relaxing on the beach.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Puerto Vallarta, you can be sure to enjoy warm temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and a variety of outdoor activities. Just be sure to check the forecast before you go, so you can pack accordingly.
Best Time To Visit Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a year-round destination with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. However, the best time to visit depends on your interests and preferences.
High season in Puerto Vallarta runs from November to April, with the busiest months being December and January. This is the best time to visit if you’re looking for warm, dry weather and lots of activities, festivals, and events. You’ll also find plenty of tourists, so be prepared for crowded beaches and restaurants, and higher prices.
If you’re looking for a quieter, more affordable vacation, consider visiting Puerto Vallarta during the shoulder seasons of May to June and September to October. During these months, you’ll find fewer crowds and lower prices, while still enjoying warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. The only downside is that this is the rainy season in Puerto Vallarta, so be prepared for occasional rain showers.
July and August are the hottest and most humid months in Puerto Vallarta, with temperatures often exceeding 90°F (32°C). If you can handle the heat, this is a great time to visit if you’re looking for low prices and fewer crowds. No matter when you choose to visit, be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, light clothing, and a hat, as well as a rain jacket if you’re visiting during the rainy season. And remember to stay hydrated and take breaks from the sun to avoid heat exhaustion or sunburn.
How To Stay Safe In Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a relatively safe place to visit, but as with any destination, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a trouble-free stay.
- Stay Alert: Puerto Vallarta is generally a safe destination, but you should always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar areas at night, especially on secluded beaches or in dark alleyways.
- Keep Your Valuables Safe: Pickpocketing and petty theft are not uncommon in tourist areas, so it’s important to keep your valuables safe at all times. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, jewelry, or other expensive items in plain sight.
- Stay In Tourist Areas: While it can be tempting to explore off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, it’s best to stick to tourist areas when you’re not familiar with the city. These areas are generally well-lit, have plenty of foot traffic, and have a strong police presence.
- Don’t Get Involved In Drugs: Drug use is illegal in Mexico, and getting involved with drugs can land you in serious trouble. It’s best to avoid any drugs while you’re in Puerto Vallarta.
- Use Common Sense: Finally, use your common sense when it comes to your safety in Puerto Vallarta. Avoid getting into arguments or confrontations with locals, don’t drink too much alcohol, and always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Puerto Vallarta Customs And Etiquette
Puerto Vallarta is a friendly and welcoming place, and it’s important to respect local customs and etiquette. Here are some tips to help you blend in with the locals and show your respect for their culture:
- Greetings: When you meet someone, it’s customary to shake hands. In more formal situations, such as business meetings, it’s common to kiss on the cheek as well.
- Clothing: Puerto Vallarta is a casual place, so light and comfortable clothing is recommended. Beachwear is acceptable on the beach or by the pool, but it’s not appropriate for other settings. When visiting churches or other religious sites, cover your shoulders and wear long pants or skirts.
- Tipping: Tipping is customary in Puerto Vallarta. In restaurants, a tip of 15-20% is expected for good service. In hotels, it’s customary to tip the housekeeping staff and porters.
- Language: While many locals in Puerto Vallarta speak English, it’s always appreciated if you try to speak a few words of Spanish. Basic phrases like “hola” (hello), “por favor” (please), and “gracias” (thank you) go a long way.
- Respect For Traditions: Mexico has a rich cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect local traditions and customs. This includes respecting religious holidays, such as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is a time to remember loved ones who have passed away.
- Safety: As with any destination, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take basic safety precautions. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or expensive jewelry, and be aware of pickpockets in crowded areas.
By following these tips, you’ll be sure to make a positive impression on the locals and enjoy your time in Puerto Vallarta to the fullest.
Other Things To Know About Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a vibrant city located in the western part of Mexico, on the Pacific coast. The official currency used in Puerto Vallarta is the Mexican peso (MXN). It is highly recommended to exchange your money at banks or exchange offices, as you may not get a good exchange rate in tourist areas.
The official language spoken in Puerto Vallarta is Spanish, but many locals also speak English. However, it is always good to learn some basic Spanish phrases before your trip. The time zone in Puerto Vallarta is Central Standard Time (CST), which is six hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-6). Additionally, Puerto Vallarta is a very friendly and hospitable city. You will notice that people are often eager to help and will go out of their way to make sure that you have a pleasant stay. However, it is important to note that Puerto Vallarta is a conservative city, so it is recommended to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
Lastly, Puerto Vallarta has a rich cultural heritage and there are plenty of opportunities to experience local traditions and customs. For instance, you can attend a traditional Mexican fiesta, visit local markets or take part in cooking classes to learn how to make authentic Mexican cuisine. Puerto Vallarta is truly a unique and magical city that offers visitors an unforgettable experience.
Puerto Vallarta Travel Costs
Puerto Vallarta is known to be a budget-friendly destination, but the cost of your trip will still depend on several factors. Here are some of the things you should consider when budgeting for your Puerto Vallarta vacation:
- Accommodation: The cost of your accommodation will likely be the biggest expense during your trip. Depending on the time of year and the type of accommodation you choose, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 or more per night. If you’re on a tight budget, consider staying in a hostel or an Airbnb instead of a hotel.
- Food And Drinks: Puerto Vallarta has a great food scene, with plenty of local eateries offering affordable and delicious meals. You can expect to spend around $10 to $20 per meal at a mid-range restaurant, or $5 to $10 at a street vendor. If you’re planning on drinking, keep in mind that alcoholic beverages can be quite pricey in tourist areas.
- Activities And Attractions: There’s plenty to see and do in Puerto Vallarta, and many of the attractions are either free or low-cost. For example, you can explore the historic center, visit the malecón (boardwalk), or take a free walking tour. Other activities, like zip lining, water sports, or whale watching tours, can be more expensive, with prices ranging from $50 to $150 or more.
- Transportation: If you’re staying in the city center, you can easily explore Puerto Vallarta on foot. If you need to take a taxi, you can expect to pay around $5 to $10 for a short ride, or up to $30 for a longer trip. Buses are the cheapest way to get around, with fares starting at just $0.50.
Overall, you can expect to spend anywhere from $50 to $150 per day in Puerto Vallarta, depending on your travel style and budget. To save money, consider traveling during the shoulder season (May to October), avoiding tourist hotspots, and taking advantage of local discounts and deals. With some careful planning and budgeting, you can enjoy an unforgettable Puerto Vallarta vacation without breaking the bank.
Finding Affordable Flights To Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is an amazing destination that offers stunning beaches, great food, and plenty of adventures. However, if you’re on a budget, finding affordable flights can be challenging. Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to save money on airfare to Puerto Vallarta. The first step is to plan ahead and book your tickets in advance. Generally, the earlier you book, the lower the price will be. Also, try to avoid peak travel times, such as major holidays and weekends. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you may be able to find cheaper flights.
Another way to save money on flights to Puerto Vallarta is to use travel deal websites like Kayak, Expedia, or Skyscanner. These sites aggregate fares from various airlines and can help you find the cheapest flights available. You can also sign up for alerts on these sites, so you’re notified when prices drop or there are new deals available. It’s also a good idea to consider alternate airports. Puerto Vallarta has a small airport, so sometimes it’s cheaper to fly into nearby airports like Guadalajara and take a bus or taxi to Puerto Vallarta.
Finally, consider using frequent flyer miles or credit card rewards to book your flights. Many credit cards offer rewards programs that can be redeemed for flights, hotels, and other travel expenses. In summary, finding affordable flights to Puerto Vallarta requires some planning and research. Book your tickets in advance, be flexible with your travel dates, use travel deal websites, consider alternate airports, and use frequent flyer miles or credit card rewards. With these strategies, you can save money on airfare and enjoy your dream vacation in Puerto Vallarta without breaking the bank.
Backpacking Puerto Vallarta Suggested Budgets
If you’re a backpacker or budget traveler, Puerto Vallarta can still be a great destination for you. Here are some suggested budgets to help you plan your trip:
Low Budget: $30-40 per day
This budget would cover staying in a hostel or camping, eating street food and cooking your own meals, and using local buses or walking to get around.
Mid-Range Budget: $50-70 per day
This budget would allow you to stay in a budget hotel or guesthouse, eat at mid-range restaurants and street food, and take some tours or activities.
Luxury Budget: $100+ per day
This budget would allow you to stay in a luxury hotel or resort, eat at high-end restaurants, and take tours and activities such as boat trips or zip lining. Note that prices can vary greatly depending on the season and your own travel style, so it’s important to do your own research and adjust your budget accordingly.
No matter what your budget is, there are plenty of free or low-cost things to do in Puerto Vallarta, such as visiting the Malecón, exploring the Old Town, or hiking to the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz. Remember to always be respectful of local customs and take necessary safety precautions, no matter how much you’re spending on your trip. Happy travels!
Puerto Vallarta Money Saving Tips
When traveling to Puerto Vallarta, it’s important to be mindful of your budget. While it can be tempting to splurge on luxury accommodations and fancy restaurants, there are plenty of ways to save money while still having a great experience. Here are some money-saving tips to keep in mind:
- Look For Budget-Friendly Accommodations: While there are certainly plenty of high-end hotels and resorts in Puerto Vallarta, there are also more affordable options available. Consider staying in a hostel or a budget hotel, or look for rental properties on Airbnb or other similar sites.
- Take Advantage Of Public Transportation: Taxis in Puerto Vallarta can be expensive, so consider taking the bus instead. The local bus system is easy to navigate and can take you to most of the major tourist attractions in the city.
- Eat Like A Local: While there are plenty of restaurants in Puerto Vallarta that cater to tourists, you can often save money by eating at local taquerias and other casual eateries. These spots serve up delicious food at affordable prices.
- Take Advantage Of Happy Hour Specials: Many bars and restaurants in Puerto Vallarta offer happy hour specials on food and drinks, which can be a great way to save money while still enjoying a night out.
- Avoid Tourist Traps: While it can be tempting to visit popular tourist attractions, these spots are often more expensive than other options. Consider exploring some of the less well-known areas of the city, where you’re likely to find cheaper prices.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy all that Puerto Vallarta has to offer without breaking the bank. With a little bit of planning and budgeting, you can have a great trip without spending a fortune.
What To Pack For Puerto Vallarta
Packing for a trip to Puerto Vallarta can be tricky as you’ll want to be comfortable while exploring the city and enjoying the beach. Here’s what you need to pack for a stress-free and enjoyable vacation in Puerto Vallarta:
- Swimsuit And Beach Attire: The beach is a major draw in Puerto Vallarta so pack swimwear and beach cover-ups. Lightweight and breathable clothing is ideal for the hot weather.
- Comfortable Shoes: The city of Puerto Vallarta is built on hilly terrain and cobblestone streets, so comfortable shoes are a must. Walking sandals or sneakers are the best option.
- Sunscreen And Sun Protection: Don’t forget to pack sunscreen with a high SPF and sunglasses. A hat or a scarf can also help protect you from the sun.
- Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes can be a nuisance in Puerto Vallarta, so pack insect repellent and use it regularly.
- Lightweight Clothing: It’s always a good idea to pack light, breathable clothing as the weather can be hot and humid. Cotton, linen, and rayon are good options.
- Rain Gear: The rainy season in Puerto Vallarta is from June to October, so it’s always a good idea to pack a lightweight rain jacket or umbrella.
- First Aid Kit: Bring along a basic first aid kit with band-aids, pain relievers, and other essentials.
- Travel Adapter: Mexico uses type A and type B power outlets, so bring along a travel adapter if your electronics require it.
- Camera: Don’t forget to pack a camera or your smartphone with a good camera to capture all the beautiful sights and memories of Puerto Vallarta.
- Cash And Credit Card: While credit cards are widely accepted in Puerto Vallarta, it’s always good to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases and tips.
Remember to pack only what you need and leave some room in your suitcase for souvenirs and other goodies. Enjoy your trip to Puerto Vallarta!
Can You Drink Tap Water In Puerto Vallarta?
As a traveler, it is always essential to ensure that you stay hydrated and safe. You may be wondering if it is safe to drink tap water in Puerto Vallarta. The answer is no. It is not advisable to drink tap water in Puerto Vallarta as it may contain harmful microorganisms that can lead to health problems. Most hotels and restaurants provide purified or bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes. Always ensure that you confirm the source of the water before consuming it. You should also use bottled or purified water when brushing your teeth or washing fruits and vegetables. If you are traveling on a budget, you may consider purchasing a reusable water bottle and filling it with purified water to save on the cost of bottled water. Additionally, you can carry water purification tablets or a filtration system for convenience.
Other Things To See And Do In Puerto Vallarta
Beyond the top 5 things to see and do in Puerto Vallarta, there are many other attractions and activities to explore in this beautiful city. Here are some of the other must-see and must-do experiences in Puerto Vallarta:
- Ziplining: Adventure seekers can soar through the treetops on a thrilling zipline tour, with views of the jungle and the ocean.
- Art Galleries: Puerto Vallarta is home to a thriving art scene, with dozens of galleries showcasing the work of local and international artists.
- Botanical Gardens: Located just outside the city, the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle, with lush gardens, exotic plants, and beautiful waterfalls.
- Snorkeling And Diving: The waters around Puerto Vallarta are teeming with colorful marine life, and there are many snorkeling and diving tours available to explore the underwater world.
- Whale Watching: From December to April, humpback whales migrate to the waters around Puerto Vallarta, and visitors can go on a whale watching tour to see these majestic creatures up close.
- The Malecon: A walk along Puerto Vallarta’s famous boardwalk is a must-do, with stunning ocean views, street performers, and lively restaurants and bars.
- Isla Cuale: This small island in the middle of the Cuale River is a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city, with a small museum, gardens, and artisan markets.
- Cooking Classes: Learn to cook traditional Mexican dishes with a cooking class in Puerto Vallarta, using fresh local ingredients and traditional techniques.
- Visit Punta Mita: Punta Mita is a gorgeous beach getaway destination in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. This stunning paradise is known for its pristine beaches, luxurious resorts, and stunning landscapes.
Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or culture, Puerto Vallarta has something for everyone. Don’t miss these other amazing attractions and experiences in this vibrant and welcoming city.
The Bottom Line
Puerto Vallarta is a charming and colorful Mexican city that is a must-visit for anyone who loves culture, food, and the beach. This travel guide covers all the essentials you need to know before embarking on your trip, from the top things to see and do, where to stay and eat, and how to get around the city. If you’re planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta, make sure to pack comfortable clothes and footwear, and sunscreen as the weather can get quite hot. Remember to always stay safe, respect the local customs and etiquette, and try some of the delicious traditional Mexican dishes available in the city.
When it comes to money, it’s always good to know your budget, and plan your expenses accordingly. If you’re on a tight budget, backpacking is an affordable option, and you can find many inexpensive hotels, restaurants, and street food vendors.
Overall, Puerto Vallarta is a welcoming and friendly destination, and whether you’re a solo traveler or on a family vacation, you’re sure to enjoy the city’s stunning scenery, warm weather, and vibrant culture. So book your flights, pack your bags, and get ready for a trip of a lifetime to Puerto Vallarta!