Because of its diverse landscape and inviting local culture, there are so many things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
This travel guide covers all the must do experiences, activities and sights to see in Puerto Vallarta.
You’ll find free and inexpensive things to do, as well as the best tours and excursions for day trips from Puerto Vallarta.
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1. Stroll the Malecon
The Malecon is the famous seaside boardwalk that stretches for 6 miles.
It’s free to walk around, enjoy the sights, street performers, food vendors and public art.
Don’t miss visiting at sunset and after dark for the night market.
If you only have a day or 2 to explore Puerto Vallarta, I recommend checking out this private bike tour of the Malecon and nearby attractions.
Your guide will show you the best of the Malecon and the surrounding sights, as well as provide history and interesting facts along the way.
2. Go Beach Hopping
There are so many different beaches in Puerto Vallarta. In downtown, the most popular are Olas Atlas and Los Muertos beaches.
Here are a few of my other favorite beaches in Puerto Vallarta:
- Playa Las Gemelas has white sand and clear water
- Playa Madagascar had the best vibe that reminded me of the Caribbean
- Playa del Holi for a calm beach away from the crowds with shallow water.
Read more about this in my planning guide to the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta.
3. Shop at the Rio Cuale Market
Under the lush vegetation of the Isla Cuale market, you can shop for souvenirs in the shade on a hot sunny day.
The breeze from the river is cool and the market is picturesque.
4. Feed the Stray Cats in Cat Park (Gatos Parque)
There’s a stray cat population that lives in the east end of the Isla Cuale.
Most are docile and friendly and will accept food, water and face rubs from visitors.
5. Take a Free Walking Tour of Downtown Puerto Vallarta
The Puerto Vallarta tourist information center offers free walking tours 3 days per week.
You can join in on Tuesday and Wednesday at 9am and noon, and on Saturdays at noon.
The tours last about 2.5 hours, and you’ll learn all kinds of history and facts about Puerto Vallarta.
No need to pre-register, just show up about 10 to 15 minutes before departure to sign in.
The meeting point is at the old municipal hall, adjacent to Plaza Principal des Armas.
Address: C. Juárez 361, Proyecto escola, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
6. Take a Free Walking Tour of the Art Sculptures Found Along the Malecon
On Tuesday mornings at 9:30, the owner of the Pacifico Art Gallery sponsors a free walking tour of the public art sculptures found along the Malecon.
Meet at the Millennium sculpture at the far end of the Malecon near the Rosita Hotel.
7. Tour the city sights on the Hop on Hop Off Bus
If you only have one day to explore Puerto Vallarta, the hop on hop off bus is the perfect tour to see the sights and choose the areas you want to explore more.
Or, do this on your first day and ride the whole route to get a better understanding of the city and its history without walking.
8. Learn About the Importance of Manual Lepe
Manuel Lepe was a prestigious Puerto Vallarta artist, whose paintings have a very distinct style that became synonymous with Puerto Vallarta.
Look for his paintings all over the city.
9. Shop for Traditional Huichol Art
The Huichols are indigenous people who live mostly in the Sierra Madre mountain regions of Jalisco and Nayarit.
Their most recognizable art is delicate beadwork, which takes hours of meticulous and precise skill.
10. Take a Self-guided Walking tour of the Murals and Street art in Centro
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes walking through Centro to realize how colorful the streets are with gorgeous murals.
One of the best ways to see the city is to wander the streets in search of your favorite mural.
11. Take photos with the iconic Puerto Vallarta Letters on the Malecon
12. Find Umbrella Street for Fun Photos
One of my favorite streets in Puerto Vallarta is Iturbide. You’ll find it if you walk straight up from the Puerto Vallarta letters on the Malecon.
13. Admire the Stunning Architecture (inside and out) of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Known locally as the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, visitors can respectfully walk inside for a few minutes or even attend mass.
14. Take a Walking Taco Tour
A must do activity in Puerto Vallarta is to taste the different street tacos.
Street tacos in Puerto Vallarta are almost like their own sub-culture.
But if you’ve never eaten from a street cart, it might seem a little intimidating at first.
Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on the flavors of al pastor and birria tacos!
Join a tour through Vallarta Eats Food Tours for 3.5 hours of mouthwatering food and drinks.
15. Go on a Tequila and Mezcal Tasting Experience
Since Tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco, you can’t visit Puerto Vallarta without sampling some tequila.
Hint – it’s not as bad as you think!
We tried this Airbnb Experience where we visited La Catrina Cantina Bar and sampled a total of 14 cocktails all with a tequila or mezcal base.
16. Join free Bachata salsa dancing lessons
Also at La Catrina Cantina (no tour required) every Saturday evening they offer free Bachata and Salsa dancing lessons.
But there’s also a lively dancefloor every night that they’re open, so if you just want to let loose, this is your place to do it.
Bonus – this entire bar is decorated with the coolest Catrina and sugar skull art for great photo opportunities.
Address: Lázaro Cárdenas 315, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
17. Visit the Butterfly Sanctuary and release a butterfly for its first flight
Learn about all the native species of butterflies in the region at the Butterfly Sanctuary Mariposario Jardin Magico.
For 270 pesos (14 dollars) you’ll get a guided tour through this peaceful and Zen-like greenhouse and then get to release a butterfly for its first flight.
Uber or taxis can take you there and pick you up.
Address: C. Golondrina 60, Campo Verde, 48290 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
18. Participate in a Temazcal Ceremony
This is a traditional steam hut cleansing ceremony meant to purify and cleanse participants.
19. Book an Appointment at Hamam Turkish Spa
For about $150, try the 2 hour authentic Turkish bath ritual – including 7 courses of sauna, steam room, exfoliation, hot marble, massage and clay mask treatments.
All the staff were trained in Turkey, so it’s an authentic experience. You’ll find it in the Zona Romantica.
Address: Lázaro Cárdenas 240 A, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
20. Stroll Through the Vallarta Botanical Gardens
This is one of the most spectacular botanical gardens you may ever visit.
Admire over 300 species of orchids, visit the hummingbird hotel and do some light hiking on the many trails.
The gardens are located about 30 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta, and you can take a bus to get there.
Tip: we took this tour which included sampling coffee in a local village and a fun tequila tasting, in addition to visiting the gardens.
Address: Carretera Puerto Vallarta, Carr. Costera a Barra de Navidad Km 24, 48425 Jal., Mexico
21. Try Refreshing Agua Fresca
The most popular drink among locals in Puerto Vallarta is Agua Fresca.
This translates to fresh fruit water and there are so many different flavors.
The most popular flavors are hibiscus (jamaica) and horchata.
22. Try Tacos Al Pastor for about 1 Dollar
Eat your way through city and try tacos al pastor – arguably the most popular type of food here in Puerto Vallarta.
Al pastor is marinated pork that is cooked on an open flame spit. It’s shaved off and served in a corn tortillas with pineapple, onions and cilantro.
You can try them from a street cart for about 1 dollar each (20 to 25 pesos), or visit a sit down restaurant like Panchos Takos or Pepe’s.
23. Splurge on a Fancy Dinner at Sunset
Puerto Vallarta is home to some of the most glowing and captivating sunsets.
There are several restaurants in Centro (up a few blocks in the hills) that have stunning views of the city.
I recommend La Capella for Italian classics or La Traviata for pizza.
24. Hike up to the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz
A steep hike but worth it for the best views of the city and the entire Banderas Bay.
25. Climb up the Faro de Matamoros
This is an old lighthouse for great views of the city but nowhere near as steep as Cerro de la Cruz.
26. Hike to Palo Maria Waterfall
And then cool off in the natural pool and waterslide once you arrive.
From the highway across from the Garza Blanca resort, it’s about a 40 minute hike along the river.
It can be tricky to find, so you can hire a guide to take you there.
27. Travel back in time to San Sebastian del Oeste
This was once a thriving mining town in the 1700s, but is now a quiet village high up in the Sierra Madre mountain range.
The streets are so narrow that only one vehicle can pass at a time.
It takes about 2 hours to get there from Puerto Vallarta.
We joined this San Sebastian tour which includes pickup, stops in villages for coffee and local treats, lunch in San Sebastian and a guided tour of the village.
28. Hike to Los Colomitos Beach
This is the smallest beach in Mexico, with a pristine beach and Caribbean-like water.
Take a 30 minute bus ride to Boca de Tomatlan and then cross the river to get to the hiking path (about 30 to 45 minutes depending on your speed).
You can keep going further to other beaches, like Las Animas, or take a water taxi back to Boca.
29. Watch the Sunset from the Los Muertos Pier
Watch locals go fishing and admire the golden light that reflects off all the beachfront condos.
Tip – grab a beer at the nearby OXXO corner store!
30. Take a Photo with Your Sweetheart Under the Love Bridge
This is the one that Elizabeth Taylor built to connect to Richard Burton’s house.
You can find it in Gringo Gulch, not far from the pedestrian bridge.
31. Enjoy Free Mariachi Music with Locals
Visit Plaza de Armas (across the street from the Malecon.
Every night its set up as a night market with food and artisan vendors.
The municipal band plays twice per week and encourages dancing in the square.
32. See a Drag Show in the Zona Romantica
The Zona Romantica includes the very welcoming LGBTQ+ district, and because of this there are so many venues that host drag shows.
The Palm Cabaret and Bar host many shows in which you can buy tickets for.
But many bars in the area also have free shows where drag queens perform for tips.
Address: Olas Altas 508, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
33. Wednesday Night Art Walk (free)
On Wednesday nights from 6 to 10pm, you can check out the Vallarta ArtWalk for free.
Visit 16 participating galleries in Centro Historico (historic district) and shop for paintings, jewelry, sculptures, ceramics and more.
View the map area here.
34. Rhythms of the Night
This is one of the top rated excursions in Puerto Vallarta.
You’ll head out on a sunset cruise to a private cove to watch a Cirque du Soleil style show.
Then you’ll have dinner on the beach, only lit by candles and tiki torches.
35. Learn to Make Mole Poblano Sauce
Mole poblano is a spicy chocolate based sauce used in many popular Mexican dishes like enchiladas.
This is the perfect way to try something new and unique in Puerto Vallarta and perfectly authentic.
Join this tour where you’ll purchase ingredients from a local market and learn to make the dish from scratch and bring home a jar of your creation!
36. Go for Cheap Massages on the Beach in Bucerias
Bucerias is a small community about 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.
It’s known for its 5-mile stretch of soft sandy beaches.
Among the beach bars and sun bathers, you’ll find many massage tents offering fantastic massages while you listen to the calming waves.
37. Learn to Surf in Sayulita
Or just soak up the lively and colorful beach town vibes!
Sayulita is about one hour north of Puerto Vallarta, but a fun day trip or even a great place to spend a few days.
The waves are calm and consistent at the beach in Sayulita, which is why its a great place to learn.
Trust me, even if you’ve never done it before, you’ll be just fine.
You can watch my video here of use learning how to surf to make you feel better about it!
38. Make your own Chocolate from Scratch
At Planeta Cocao, you’ll get a tour of this chocolate plantation by learning all about the history of the cacao bean and the different trees that grow them.
Then you’ll make your own chocolate from scratch, including shelling the beans and milling them into any type of chocolate you want.
Address: San Vicente 120, 63735 Tondoroque, Nay., Mexico
39. Visit the Crocodile Sanctuary
Learn about the importance of crocodiles for the area’s natural ecosystems at the El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary.
This is a rescue and rehabilitation center where you’ll meet all kinds of crocodiles and other native animal species.
Every visitor gets a guided tour by either a veterinarian or a certified biologist and you’ll leave with a newfound love for these prehistoric animals.
40. Go Whale Watching
Every year from December to March, Humpback Whales make their way back to the warm waters of Banderas Bay.
41. Release Baby Sea turtles
From August to December each year, thousands of sea turtles hatch from their nests buried in the sand.
At night until the moonlight, they make the mad dash across the beach to get to the ocean.
But predators know this, and are waiting to swoop them up.
In turn, there are several organizations who collect the sea turtles and bring them to the water by hand so they make it safely.
You can join in on one of the release nights and save the baby sea turtles!
42. Find the Hidden Beach
Go to Marietas Island (Islas Marietas) to find the hidden beach in the middle of the water.
To get there, you’ll take a boat and then swim under a small cave opening to reach the inside.
Since this beach is a protected site, there are a limited amount of people allowed to visit each week.
So you’ll have to join a certified tour to get there.
43. Soak in the Natural Hot springs at Nuevo Ixtlan
About 1.5 hours from Puerto Vallarta at the base of the Sierra Madre mountains, you’ll find natural hot springs.
There’s actually several hot springs that surround Puerto Vallarta.
At Nuevo Ixtlan, there are about 30 stone tubs which hold 2-6 people each.
We thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the highly therapeutic mineral water here.
The hot springs are a little tricky to find, and the road to get in is rough, so I recommend joining a tour
This is the tour we booked – it comes with a fresh grilled lunch and finishes with massages on the beach.
44. Zipline Among the Rainforest Treetops
Join the best zipline tour in Puerto Vallarta.
Start with a speedboat experience, soar on a series of 15 ziplines, then end with tequila and a dip in the natural river pools (including a natural waterslide)!
45. Test Your Fears on the Jorullo Bridge
The Jorullo Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world that can support vehicles.
Most people choose to take an ATV tour and ride across this bridge.
On this tour, you’ll ride an ATV through the mountains, stop at a waterfall, cross the bridge for suspended views of the valley below, finish with tequila tasting (to calm your nerves or celebrate your survival).
46. Tour Multi-million Dollar Oceanfront Homes and Villas
Have you ever wondered what those massive oceanfront mansions are like up close?
Through the International Friendship Club, you can tour them!
This organization offers weekly tours of these homes in support of the Cleft Palate Surgery Program.
47. Cycle 40 miles along the coastline up to Punta de Mita
Punta de Mita is a swanky area where the rich and famous hang out.
And the coastline has a similar feel to southern California.
On this guided tour, you’ll make stops along the way for great photo opportunities, fresh coconut water and other surprises.
48. Kayak in the Bioluminescent Waters
At sunset, you’ll paddle out from Mismaloya beach to Los Arcos National Park, admiring all the marine life while there’s still daylight.
As night settles in, you’ll start to see the glowing plankton come alive in the bioluminescent water.
49. Los Arcos National Marine Park
Los Arcos is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
These massive granite rocks that shoot out from the ocean are surrounded by colorful coral reefs and the area is famous for its vast biodiversity.
Join this tour where you can snorkel here and swim with the dolphins in the wild.