We recently spent 2 weeks in the Puerto Vallarta area and I’m so excited to share with you where we stayed, what we did, where we ate and everything in between.
This post will be more like a travel blog style, where I document everything in chronological order with LOTS of photos.
This vacation was the perfect mix of rest, relaxation and adventures.
I know not everyone may have the time to spend two weeks in Puerto Vallarta, but if you’re looking for some ideas about what to do or want to gauge how many days you need to visit, this post should help answer some of those questions.
I’m laying out our entire Puerto Vallarta itinerary so you can copy it all, or take bits and pieces.
Watch my Puerto Vallarta travel vlog in action in my video about our 2-week trip to Puerto Vallarta.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and make a purchase I may make a small commission. I only share information about things I know, love and trust!
Puerto Vallarta Itinerary
For this Mexico trip, we stayed in 3 different places. We started north and worked our way south:
- Grand Palladium Resort near Punta Mita (5 nights) – 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.
- Unelma Bungalows in Bucerias (6 nights) – 25 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.
- Rivera del Rio Boutique Hotel (5 nights) – in the Zona Romantica (old town) of Puerto Vallarta.
Why We Chose to Stay in 3 Different Spots
I liked staying in 3 places, because it gave us a taste of everything we wanted on this trip.
We got pampered and relaxed at the all inclusive resort and didn’t have to worry about planning or paying for anything.
In Bucerias, we enjoyed the laid-back beach town life and the great access to day trips.
In the romantic zone in Puerto Vallarta, the vibe was a little busier (in a good way) and offered a more lively atmosphere and new scenery.
If you’ve never been to this part of Mexico, or have only explored the city, I highly encourage you to visit both Puerto Vallarta and its surrounding area.
Resorts, authentic towns, a variety of excursions and day trips, great food and hidden gem paradise beaches are all found around here.
And while Puerto Vallarta is getting more popular, prices are still quite cheap.
Here is our day by day itinerary for spending two weeks in the Puerto Vallarta area.
We found tons of hidden gem places and unique things to do on this trip.
Days 1 – 5: Grand Palladium Vallarta – All Inclusive Resort
I booked a private driver to take us to the Grand Palladium Vallarta resort, which cost $60 for a one hour ride.
Puerto Vallarta Airport Arrival Tips
I do recommend arranging transportation in advance. Even though I’ve arrived at the Puerto Vallarta airport multiple times, it’s still quite overwhelming.
After you pick up your bags and head to the exit, you have to walk through a corridor of very pushy sales people who try to use tactics to draw you in, pretending they know where you are staying.
Don’t pay attention to these people.
When you do get passed the glass doors, it’s not a big area and gets very congested, so it’s nice to have your transportation waiting for you.
Here’s the company I booked with.
You can also take the pedestrian bridge to the left across the highway. This is where the Uber drivers can pick you up.
Yes, Uber is available and reliable in Puerto Vallarta!
Arrival at the All Inclusive Resort
The plan for the first part of the trip was to relax and unwind at an all-inclusive resort.
Chris and I love to do our own thing when we travel, but it’s so nice to get into vacation mode for the first few days relaxing by the pool with no plans!
Over the course of the next few days we enjoyed exploring every inch of the resort and found so many beautiful viewpoints.
We would usually hit the pool by about noon and hang out until sunset!
When the sun would go down, we got cleaned up and then usually met some new friends for a pre-dinner drink at the lobby bar.
Each night we tried a new a la carte restaurant and then back to the theater/lobby area for nightly live music and entertainment.
Where We Stayed – Grand Palladium Vallarta
We loved our stay at the Grand Palladium Vallarta and would 100% stay there again.
By today’s standards, it’s a ‘smaller’ resort with about 400 rooms.
But the property is beautifully lush with great villa-style rooms and excellent pool choices that it didn’t feel like a small resort.
We spent most of our time at the adult-only infinity pool where we had great views of the ocean, and we watched whales from here every single day!
The staff at the resort are so kind and friendly.
We met many guests who have stayed here multiple times and mentioned that the exquisite service is one of the main reasons why they keep returning.
The biggest and best surprise about this resort was how amazing the beach is here! The sand was so soft.
While the color wasn’t white, the texture of the sand reminded me of what you would find in the Riviera Maya.
The water was shallow, turquoise-clear and very swimmable.
I also put together a video tour of the entire resort.
Days 6 – 12: Bucerias and Day Trips
Where We Stayed
Our first stop in Bucerias was checking in at Unelma Bungalows. We’ve stayed here before and couldn’t wait to stay another 6 days.
The property is in a perfect location – on Lázaro Cárdenas street in the heart of the ‘zona dorada’ or ‘golden zone.’
This is the arts district in Bucerias where you’ll find many expats and snowbirds who call this area home.
Unelma Bungalows is a property with 4 suites (our favorite is the open air thatched-roof villa), with a garden courtyard, pool and a private beach.
I love this place so much I almost hate to share it with others so I can keep it to myself 😉
If you’re interested in staying here, I recommend booking as far ahead as you can, as many guests book their spot well in advance.
But if you don’t see availability, keep checking back often as you might be able to snag a cancellation.
You can also watch my video, which provides a tour and overview of Bucerias, Mexico.
Day 7 – Bucerias Day
First stop was breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants – the Red Apple.
They have a fantastic breakfast menu with both traditional Mexican food and classic western favorites.
It’s upstairs, so the views are great and it’s also shady and breezy.
For the rest of the day, we strolled around centro (the downtown), the market and the beach to get reacquainted with everything since it had been 3 years since we last visited.
I opted for a massage on the beach that afternoon.
400 pesos ($20 USD or $25 CAD) for a one hour massage on the beach. Lovely!
We also hit Karen’s on the beach for happy hour which is from 3 – 5 pm. This is another great spot that’s always a fun time! Coconut mojito is my favorite.
At 6pm, we gathered some cold beverages and congregated for sunset.
Sunsets in Bucerias are special since it’s located in the middle of the Banderas Bay.
You get unobstructed views from the miles of wide beach like nowhere else in the region.
We wrapped up the day with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Bucerias: Tacos Lindas!
This is a no frills taco joint, but the food is delicious and cheap. We’re talking about 1 dollar per taco.
And you can bring your own beer or wine to enjoy with dinner.
Day 8: Hot Springs Tour (highlight day)
This was one of the days I was most excited for on the trip.
We booked a tour through Viator to check out the natural hot springs about 1.5 hours from Bucerias.
The tour exceeded my expectations and is one of the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta (read more day trip ideas here).
Our guide picked us up in a jeep (there was only one other couple with us) and the first stop was 30 minutes away in the small town of San Juan de Abajo.
Here we stopped at a small market to pick out fresh fruit and vegetables for our lunch that day.
Then we walked through town for a few minutes, enjoyed the sights, visited a tortilla factory and had some fresh coffee and a bathroom break.
Then we continued into the countryside and arrived at the Aguas Termales Nuevo Ixtlan (hot springs) about an hour later).
At this point we were pretty deep into the Sierra Madre mountains, which was breathtaking in itself.
There are 30 stone tubs that hold 2-4 people in which the natural hot springs water is piped into. Each group got to enjoy their own ‘tub’ for about 2 hours.
We chatted, soaked, and enjoyed fresh snacks and a BBQ lunch prepared by our hosts.
After lunch, we headed back to Bucerias for a one hour massage on the beach (which was included in our tour package).
This was an amazing experience, and I would do it over and over again.
It was about $100 per person, which is amazing value. You can read more tour details here.
And I’ve got an entire video tour of the hot springs here!
We got back to our villa by about 4:30 pm and then ended up taking a sunset horseback ride on the beach!
It was 500 pesos each for a fun 40 minute ride!
Dinner was at Mr. and Mrs. Fish Tacos – a really great spot in Centro Bucerias.
I had the fajitas and apparently the onion rings here are out of this world. Great service and wish we could have gone back on this trip!
Day 9: Beach walks, Markets, Nuevo Vallarta and Unique Dessert
Today was a nice day of random strolls all throughout town. One of the best things to do in Bucerias, in my opinion.
Best Local Breakfast
We started with breakfast at Cocina de Jorge.
This is a great spot for authentic Mexican breakfast and cafe de olla in Bucerias. Very cheap to eat here and the food is homemade and delicious.
A Walk into Nuevo Vallarta
After shopping for a hat at the markets, we strolled through town admiring the gorgeous facades and home fronts and then decided to walk into Nuevo Vallarta on the new path (only about a 20 minute walk).
From Nuevo, we walked back to Bucerias along the beach, stopping at a couple beach bars for cervezas with our feet in the sand.
Oye Henry’s had really cold beer and is right near the Royal Decameron resort.
Dinner at a Jazz Club
We enjoyed live jazz music with dinner at Encore, which is adjacent to where we were staying at Unelma Bungalows.
This is one of the reasons we love staying there – we can listen to the music from the comfort of our patio.
I had the coconut shrimp with a mango sauce, and Chris had tortilla soup and tuna tartar. All was scrumptious. I thoroughly enjoyed my dessert though – Mexican coffee!
Complete with a fun display of lighting the tequila and Kahlua on fire. Yum!
The most interesting dessert I’ve ever tasted…
Since I was so hopped up on coffee, it was time to go seek out some dessert. We hadn’t enjoyed street vendor churros yet, so we started toward centro.
BUT – we didn’t make it that far.
As we strolled down the main street in the arts district (Lazaro Cardenas) we were curiously interrupted by a piercingly loud whistling sound.
Turns out, it’s a food vendor known as a camote or camotero cart.
A wood-fired broiler on wheels that steams sweet potatoes and bananas or plantains for hours – once too much steam builds up, it releases through the whistle.
I had never heard about this type of food vendor, so we had to try some.
For 50 pesos I got a massive plate of sweet potatoes and bananas covered in sweetened condensed milk.
Day 10: La Cruz Market Day
This was a Sunday which is market day in La Cruz at the marina. It’s one of the best markets in the entire region and is more like a festival atmosphere than a farmer’s market.
We started with breakfast at Delicias Mexicanas – a fantastic find in a more residential area.
From the street entrance we walked through a corridor to a garden courtyard and watched them prepare our food in the outdoor kitchen.
The breakfast menu offered a great selection of both Mexican and American style breakfast, of which everything was 120 pesos, including coffee and orange juice.
Getting to La Cruz
We took the bus from Bucerias to La Cruz for 10 pesos per person. After less than 15 minutes we arrived in the small town.
First we checked out the main plaza which is the smaller market, and then made our way to the massive market down by the marina.
We loved visiting these markets because all the vendors were selling more locally made, higher quality products, including some unique items we hadn’t seen before.
The souvenir market in Bucerias is fun, but the ones in La Cruz are in their own league.
If you’re in the Bucerias area, I recommend buying your souvenirs from the La Cruz markets, especially if you’re looking for something special to take home.
After shopping we were ready for a sit down and a beverage. We found ourselves at the Green Tomato which had a live band who were phenomenal!
The music and dancing kept us there for several hours longer than planned.
Found a Local Beach
We strolled through town to find Playa Manzanilla, where we were told all the locals hang out. This is definitely a hidden gem area not far from Bucerias.
The beach was beautiful, with soft sand and shallow water with minimal waves, so it was perfect for all the kids who were there.
Since it was Sunday, it was extremely busy, so we didn’t stay long. I would love to come back on a weekday morning though. There are a few beach bars here with great prices, too.
Open Air Drinks & Dinner
We got back to our villa just in time for another sunset walk on the beach before heading to La Negra for pre-dinner drinks.
La Negra is a really cool spot, it’s a restaurant with a classy nightclub vibe. Come here if you want a restaurant with a really great ambience and atmosphere in Bucerias.
Ask to sit upstairs, where its open air seating among the modern thatched roof decor.
They’ve got a great beer selection if you’re looking for something beyond the standard Pacifico and Modelo, and I ordered a yummy drink made with lime, tamarind and mezcal.
We didn’t eat here because we wanted to have dinner at La Postal – one of our favorite restaurants in Bucerias.
They specialize in pizza, pasta and gelato – need I say more?
The open air, al fresco dining experience surrounded by lush greenery makes you feel like you’re dining in the secret garden. All I can say is just go!
Day 11: Morning Margaritas and Rhythms of the Night!
The day started off back at the Red Apple for breakfast, where I had a big glass of their fresh squeezed green juice.
I call these my morning margaritas.
We enjoyed some pool time and then got ready for one of the best evenings we had on this trip – the Rhythms of the Night show (that’s a link to my full review on the show).
I had been wanting to do this for the last 3 trips to the Puerto Vallarta area and finally got to do it. This is a dinner and entertainment experience.
We took a one hour sunset catamaran cruise (which included free drinks) out to a private beach that was only lit by tiki torches and candles.
We followed the candle light and sounds of the bongo drums toward the outdoor amphitheater to be seated for the show.
I’ll let the photos do most of the explaining, but the only way I could describe this show would be a Las Vegas-style Cirque du Soleil with a Mexican flair.
Following the show, we had a buffet dinner dinner on the beach, which was ok.
I loved the show, the dining atmosphere and exploring the island, so I didn’t mind that dinner was mediocre.
Watch my full video review of Rhythms of the Night here.
Day 12: Crocodile Sanctuary and Arrival in Puerto Vallarta
This morning’s breakfast was one of our favorites in Bucerias – Los Tejabanes.
A quaint local spot, only a few tables and a few menu items. I tried Machaca for the first time, YUM.
It was seasoned, shredded pork mixed with peppers and onions and came with tortillas. This restaurant is also pet friendly!
About 10 minutes down the highway toward Puerto Vallarta is the El Cora crocodile sanctuary.
This is a must-visit if you’re in Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta.
This nonprofit organization focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating crocodiles who are getting pushed out of their natural habitats due to the massive resort development happening in this region.
It’s 250 pesos per person for a one hour tour and then you can spend as long as you want on the property.
They receive no government funding and are doing incredible work with hopes of helping these endangered species while also educating tourists about these beautiful but misunderstood animals.
We saw several crocodiles and even got to hold one.
Days 12 – 17: Puerto Vallarta
Later that afternoon, we checked into our hotel in Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone for the last leg of our trip.
Where We Stayed in Puerto Vallarta – Rivera del Rio
I think we found the most romantic hotel in all of Puerto Vallarta!
We stayed at the Rivera del Rio, tucked away overlooking the river so it was nice and quiet with amazing views of the expensive homes over in the ‘Gringo Gulch’ neighborhood.
But still only a 5 – 10 minute walk to restaurants and the Malecon.
This boutique hotel recently added (as of 2022) 11 new rooms to the original 8. Each room is whimsically decorated, and they’re all unique.
Our room was themed after the Zelda video game and had a gorgeous balcony view.
The building was originally a residential mansion that’s since been converted to a boutique hotel, and kept all of the original and quirky charm.
If you’ve ever stayed in New Orleans’ French Quarter, you’ll know what I mean.
The hotel has two pools, one of them being a heated infinity rooftop pool, complete with a bar that serves fantastic spicy mango margaritas.
There’s also a nice jacuzzi hot tub on site, offering great evening views.
After checking in, getting settled and a happy hour beverage at the rooftop pool bar, we headed down to the Malecon for a stroll and sunset drinks.
We ended up at El Patron, because we negotiated some good prices on happy hour drinks.
We found a hidden gem restaurant in Puerto Vallarta – El Santo Taco was dinner for the evening – it was so good!
It’s on the main touristy street (Basilio Badillo) but it’s somewhat tucked away so a lot of people miss this hidden gem restaurant in Puerto Vallarta.
They’ve got the slab of pastor right out front, and man is it tasty. The seating area is in an open-air garden vibe with fun lights.
And most tacos are under 25 pesos each.
Day 13: Hiking, Turkish Bath and Tacos
After a basic but hearty breakfast at the hotel, we hiked up to Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz for the best views in all of Puerto Vallarta.
It’s quite a steep hike through the narrow streets, but you can take your time and enjoy the beautiful homes and lush gardens along the way.
Once we got back down to the Malecon, we enjoyed some refreshing beers as a reward, and I also got my hair braided!
We ate lunch at La Tostaderia under the yellow umbrellas!
My tostada was so fresh tasting and the fresh squeezed pineapple juice was the biggest hit. I wish we could have gone back for another meal.
We did some more sightseeing in town and walked back to the hotel on Isla Cuale, through the river market.
At the end of the island is ‘cat park’ where a bunch of stray cats live! So we stayed for a few extra minutes and cuddles.
After an afternoon dip in the rooftop pool, we headed to our appointment at Hamam Turkish Boutique Spa.
We enjoyed the 2 hour traditional Turkish spa treatment, which included a sauna, steam room, exfoliation, marble table bathing rituals and a full body massage.
I highly recommend trying out this unique experience when visiting Puerto Vallarta!
For dinner, of course it was time for more tacos.
Tonight we visited Tacos Sonorita which came highly recommended and did not disappoint.
Not only were the pastor tacos delicious, they had an excellent selection of margaritas – I went with the tamarind flavor, but wanted to try the passionfruit and hibiscus.
And we discovered this spot is one of the stops on the popular walking taco tour!
And most tacos were 55 – 70 pesos for 3!
Day 14: Botanical Garden and Tequila Tasting
Fun Day Trip from Puerto Vallarta
Today we took one of my favorite day trips from Puerto Vallarta, a tour that took us to a small village for coffee tasting, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens and then a tequila tasting!
We booked a small group tour through Viator, and our guides picked us up from our hotel.
Since the botanical gardens are about an hour from town, we stopped at a small village where the locals roast some of the best coffee I’ve ever tried. It’s got cinnamon and cacao in it.
Then we arrived at the botanical gardens for a gorgeous afternoon among the most lush plant life! If you’re an orchid lover, you have to come here.
If you’re part of the tour, don’t forget to order your free hibiscus tea at the restaurant.
Our last stop of the day was at a tequila distillery, Rancho Los Veranos.
This was such a fun experience and they don’t skimp on the tequila samples! We also had a fresh prepared lunch with great views overlooking the ranch.
We were dropped off at our hotel just in time for a warm sunset dip in the infinity pool overlooking the bay.
DIY Taco Tour
Tonight we decided to do a DIY taco tour. Our first stop was Taqueria Las Güeras.
Another great stop (also on the taco tours). Your table gets six homemade salsas and sauces ranging from mild to death on the spicy scale.
There’s a huge selection of different kinds of tacos, but of course I had to try pastor and birria.
We kept seeing every table order this dark drink that was being poured from a huge vat.
We were told it was hibiscus juice so we ordered one. WOW. I am so in love with hibiscus juice after this trip.
It’s like a better version of cranberry juice. With the juice, two beers, two tacos and two quesadillas, it came to 203 pesos.
Next up street tacos. Oh my! SO good.
These were probably my favorite pastor tacos, because they shave off the pork and it lands in its own grease to cook a little bit before they put it in your tacos.
Remember, calories don’t count on vacation. This street taco cart is found at the intersection of Madero and the 200.
Day 15: Yelapa Day Trip
Pancakes and Green Juice for Breakfast
This was an interesting day. We started with breakfast at the Pancake House, a staple restaurant we always have to visit at least once.
Surprisingly, they haven’t seemed to increase prices in the 8 years since I was there last. I had the black forest pancakes for 75 pesos (less than $4 usd).
I found a fantastic fresh juice vendor across from Hotel Posada to wash down the pancakes.
There was spinach, celery, cactus and all kinds of good stuff in there.
Making our way to Yelapa
We took an Uber to the town of Boca de Tomatlan to catch the water taxi to Yelapa, which is a small fishing village only accessible by boat.
From Boca, we caught the water taxi which took 30 minutes to get to Yelapa. The village is small and quiet, but very colorful.
There’s a fun 10 minute walk through town to get to a magical waterfall. We spent a few minutes splashing around, getting photos and then enjoyed a few beverages in the sun.
The waterfall definitely made this day trip worth it.
Then we spent some time at one of the many beach bars before heading back to Boca to catch the bus to get back to Vallarta.
To be honest, Yelapa was a little underwhelming from what I was expecting.
If I were to go back, I would book a tour with someone who can show us around a little more.
This Yelapa tour looks fun, which includes transportation to Yelapa, the waterfall and snorkeling/kayaking at Majahuitas Beach.
Great Dinner Spot
For dinner, we ate at Martini en Fuego, which was SO good.
The menu is almost like Italian Mexican fusion, including a fantastic shrimp menu. It was intimate, the service was great and it felt like a high-end restaurant without the price tag.
I had the Camarones Fiesta (shrimp party) which was a mix of coconut shrimp, deviled shrimp and Robert-style, which was shrimp wrapped in bacon and some other goodies.
Since it was still early, we walked off our dinner and took a stroll to the Malecon.
At night there are so many great buskers and street vendors. We got some crepes for dessert!
Day 16: Malecon and Marina Day
This was our last full day, so we hit up the River Cafe for breakfast – this is such a beautiful spot.
It’s in a picturesque location and a relaxing atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Coffee is great here. On Sundays they offer a fantastic breakfast buffet.
I ordered the Nopales con Huevo – mexican style scrambled eggs with cactus! Very tasty.
Then we hit the river market, strolled along the Malecon, did some bartering with the vendors and just enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city.
I finally got some fresh coconut juice and then we enjoyed a couple hours by the pool.
In the early evening we headed to the Marina, where they’ve got a great selection of bars and restaurants.
We always head to Victor’s where you get a free shot of tequila with every drink order.
Day 17: Travel Home Day
Our flight home was early afternoon, so we went to one more new breakfast spot, enjoyed some last minute views from the rooftop of the hotel and packed up to head to the airport.
Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta
December through March is considered the high tourism season in Puerto Vallarta, which means this is when it’s the busiest and most expensive time to visit.
But that also means it’s the nicest. We were here throughout the month of February and the weather was perfect. Sun every day with minimal humidity.
The evenings were cool (and I wish I had brought more than one light sweater), but cool evenings mean it’s easier to sleep at night!
However, November and April are perfect months to visit, because these are right at the beginning and end of tourist season, so the weather is still consistently hot, but fewer tourists and lower prices.
Puerto Vallarta Vacation Recap
16 days in the Puerto Vallarta area was such a delight.
I enjoyed spending time in 3 different places. 5 or 6 nights in each spot was the perfect amount of time.
Two things I really wanted wanted to do on this trip that we didn’t get a chance to do was whale watching and the baby turtle release into the ocean.
I’ll be looking to do these next time.
I’ve done the excursion out to Marietas Island before, and I think that’s something you only need to do once.
There are plenty of ATV and zipline tours in the region as well, but those don’t interest me.
I would also love to do a trip to San Sebastian del Oeste , so stay tuned to the blog for those adventures next!
I also put together a full video of the entire trip, check it out here!
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