By George, we’ve got it, the perfect Mexico vacation – Puerto Vallarta! In between swimming with dolphins and hiking through jungles, Vallarta visitors barter for paintings made by local artists and sightsee down cobblestone walkways. It doesn’t take long to get wrapped up in this sultry, sparkling, seaside town. With the Pacific Ocean to its west and the Sierra Madre Mountains to its East, it’s a wonder Puerto Vallarta wasn’t littered with hotels from the get-go. (Well, except for the impossibility of it.) Anyhow, despite Puerto Vallarta's natural magnetism for tourists, the city's managed to keep its historic and cultural roots alive and well, for all to see. And that’s what makes Puerto Vallarta villas an undeniably unique idea. If you don’t have a good handle on Puerto Vallarta, you’re in for info overload. Let us make things easier for you with our Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide. Got tips for how we can improve the guide? Share them with us.
The layout of Puerto Vallarta makes it refreshingly simple to plan your itinerary. With seven distinct zones (neighborhoods), you can base decisions about what to do on geography alone. In the North Zone, indulge your inner surfer dude or boogie boarder on big, open beaches. In Nuevo Vallarta, turn the volume down a little with a cozy stroll along a lagoon. As for Marina Vallarta, well, you could spend days and even your whole vacation here; all your wants in needs are condensed into this one convenient spot. If you’re feeling all icky inside because you’re participating in the standard tourist activities, head downtown for instant relief. The Viejo Vallarta (along the Cuale River) has even more of an authentic Mexican experience in store for you. And for those who’d consider themselves a mountaineer rather than a beach bum, the “Magic South” features sweeping views of the Sierra Madre range.
The most visit-worthy of all these zones, though, is the Malecón, a really long, sandy stretch of beach, featuring great views, shops, clubs, and restaurants. It’s Puerto Vallarta’s natural boardwalk.
Puerto Vallarta borders 25 miles of Banderas Bay, so take a boat out to a well-hidden cove, wade into the shore with your child, visit with nature on a kayak ride, go fishing, or dive into the ocean’s depths and touch schools of fish as they speed past.
Ecotourism is big in Puerto Vallarta. You can sign up for canopy, jungle, and ocean tours just about anywhere. Zip line through the treetops of El Eden, where Predator was filmed, or throw on your snorkel gear and take a guided tour of Banderas Bay.
In such an exquisite setting like Puerto Vallarta, golf courses are bound to be around. Play on championship greens designed by none other than Jack Nicklaus (Vista Vallarta Jack Nicklaus) and Tom Weiskopf (Vista Vallarta Weiskopf), or test your skills on the always popular Flamingos Golf Course.
If you’ve still got energy to exert after golfing, surfing, kayaking, petting manta rays, and essentially, playing in the sun all day, remember that the Sierra Madres provide loads of possibility. Go biking, hiking, or just plain walking in the mountains – crashing in your comfy and luxurious Puerto Vallarta lodging afterward will feel very well-deserved.
What is there to see in Puerto Vallarta, beyond the beach and the mountains? How about downtown’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Church or the occasional whale splashing alongside your boat? Puerto Vallarta is a lush, vibrant city with mule-drawn carriages, untamed jungles, locally made art, and an oceanside location – ah, the beach. As long as you plop down here forever and refrain from blinking, you’ll get to see it all. But hey, if you can only drop by for a weekend or week, just make sure to take great pictures. Don’t be surprised if you start planning your return trip as soon as you get home... there’s always so much more to see in Puerto Vallarta!
Bring a few keepsakes and extra pounds back home with you, courtesy of these Puerto Vallarta shops and restaurants.
Puerto Vallarta Shopping
If you can get your hands on a piece of Huichol art, the kind crafted by Vallarta’s native Indians, you’ll return home with a true-blue souvenir. Definitely better than a key chain. During your Puerto Vallarta vacation, you’re sure to cross paths with art dealers, antiques sellers, and craftsmen – from flea markets to fashion boutiques, you’ll find it all. But don’t expect to run into any malls. Instead, independent stores are grouped together downtown, at the Malecón, and in other hot shopping spots around town. A much raved about, must-see art gallery is Miralo, located in Viejo Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta Dining
In Vallarta, you have about 250 restaurants to pick from. Every dish is served in Puerto Vallarta, so whether you’ve got an appetite for Chinese or genuine Mexican cuisine, you won’t go hungry. Try French food at Café dos Artistes, savor a four-course dinner at Teatro Limon, eat a light lunch at El Planeta Vegetariano, or dine in the jungle at Chico’s Paradise. Chefs from all over the world have come to Vallarta to share their inspired, and of course delicious, recipes.
If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, look forward to similar weather in Puerto Vallarta. With the exception of June to early October (the rainy season), Vallarta boasts clear skies and 80 degree temps throughout the year. As night falls, it can get a little breezy, however.
If you don’t mind humidity and rainfall, visit during Vallarta’s low season, summer, and you’ll get to hang out with locals instead of tourists. However, if rain is a no go for you, suck it up and book your Puerto Vallarta tours and accommodations well in advance. They’ll go quickly!
Puerto Vallarta is beautiful, but it's also full of hazards for the ignorant guest. Here are some tips to get your vacation started on a good note.
Don’t Hurt Yourself
It’s hard to resist the adventuresome Puerto Vallarta tours, on water and land, but if you’re out of shape or elderly, steer clear of them. Many excursions require a great deal of physical endurance from you. Sound intimidating? Skip out and sunbathe in your private Puerto Vallarta patio instead. Don’t feel like you’re missing out; Puerto Vallarta vacations are about having fun, not breaking your ankle.
Exchange Your Money at the Airport
The Puerto Vallarta airport features ATMs that exchange dollars for pesos; while Mexican merchandisers accept dollar bills, they won’t grant you a reasonable exchange rate. You’re better off using pesos during your trip.
The Puerto Vallarta bus system will get you from the marina to the “Hotel Zone” with ease, but it can also get confusing. Educate yourself on the different types of buses and their various paths before you give them a go. Also, don’t expect the comfiest ride – if you’re looking for a luxurious mode of transport, rent a car.
No matter what you plan to do in Puerto Vallarta, make sure to bring along tennis shoes. These will come in handy for everything from long walks to mountain climbs. Unless you’ll be hanging around a luxury resort day in and day out, pack some tennis. At least you’ll have the option to get outside and do stuff, comfortably.
But don’t pack too much. Chances are you’re gonna find all kinds of eclectic goodies in Vallarta’s shopping districts, so you’ll need lots of room in your suit case to bring them back with you.
Need to book an ATV tour or prep for your destination wedding? Searching for a car rental? Puerto Vallarta has some of the most charming and helpful people in the world dedicated to your pursuit of the perfect vacation (or even wedding).
Unless you live close to the border, you’ll fly into the Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport. Puerto Vallarta flights leave the US all the time. There’s a bank and car rental service at the airport, so you can get things off to a smooth start. (Though getting through customs can be a pain.) Once you’ve got your money changed, make your way over to the taxi area. If a taxi driver helps you with your luggage, tip them! Otherwise, keep in mind that in Puerto Vallarta, gratuity is factored into most services like these.
Coming by boat? Puerto Vallarta has three marinas ready to receive you.
One of Puerto Vallarta’s major appeals is its genuine Mexican feel, combined with its world-class resort-style offerings; why spoil this by staying in a forgettable, high-rise hotel? Instead, shelter you and your family members in one of Vacation Rentals.com’s roomy Puerto Vallarta rentals. Whether you book a one-bedroom beach condo or a cabin in the mountains, your Puerto Vallarta lodging should be just as spectacular as your itinerary. Puerto Vallarta is a superb idea for mountain climbers, beach goers, art collectors, foodies, and lovers of golf; vacation rentals are, too.