If you’ve been to Puerto Vallarta before and are bored of all the usual snorkeling, ziplining, booze cruises and ATV tours, this post is for you.
We visit the Puerto Vallarta area 2 to 3 times every year and are always looking for new things to do and finding hidden gems.
After over a dozen visits, we’ve managed to discover all of Puerto Vallarta’s best kept secrets.
In this post I’ve gathered the most unique things to do in Puerto Vallarta (that you won’t find anywhere else online).
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!
Visit Natural Hot Springs
One of Puerto Vallarta’s best kept secrets is the natural hot springs called Nuevo Ixtlan.
About one hour from Puerto Vallarta, there is a hidden oasis where you’ll find about 20 stone pools in the middle of the mountainous jungle.
Fresh, hot thermal water is piped into each pool for individual groups to enjoy.
After bathing in the water, the minerals literally made me feel like I had found the fountain of youth!
While the entry fee is only about 60 pesos per person, I recommend hiring a tour guide to take you there (it’s a little hard to find and the road can be rough).
We booked this hot springs tour through Viator and it was the best day!
It was a small group (10 people) and we stopped in a couple villages to break up the drive, our guides grilled us a fantastic lunch to eat at the hot springs, and then we stopped for massages on the beach on the way to Puerto Vallarta.
Inside tip: the road into the hot springs can be rough (especially if you visit between July and October).
- If you’re prone to car sickness, have your medication with you!
This is the perfect excursion from Puerto Vallarta if you want a more local experience and try something other than the beach and the Malecon!
Get an Authentic Turkish Bath Treatment
In the Zona Romantic, book yourself a treatment at the HAMAM Turkish Boutique Spa.
After a few days of walking and being in the sun, I can tell you an authentic Turkish Bath is so rejuvenating!
If you’ve never had one before, it’s like a multi-step spa treatment.
It includes steam rooms, sauna, different types of full body exfoliation, hot marble table massages, scrubs, ice massages and more!
It ends with a cool down face mask treatment before a full body massage.
This is the perfect activity to do with your partner, as they only allow one party to be treated at a time.
Both hetero and same sax couples are welcomed. For the ladies, I recommend wearing a two-piece bathing suit.
They provided me with disposable cover up, but they were quite loose.
Inside tip: make sure you’re not sunburnt when you get this treatment, as they won’t be able to exfoliate as much (or it might be a little uncomfortable).
Do a Mezcal vs. Tequila Cocktail Tasting in a Cantina
Tequila is synonymous with Puerto Vallarta, because it can only be produced in the state of Jalisco (where PV is located).
But Mezcal is becoming so popular, why not enjoy a fun evening out and compare the two?
We booked this Mezcal vs. Tequila tasting experience. When we showed up at the lively Mexican cantina, we had reserved spots at the bar waiting for us!
The bartenders greeted us and explained we would be sampling different kinds of tequilas and mezcals before mixing them into different cocktails for us to sample.
It was so interesting how depending whether mezcal or the tequila is used, it can completely change the taste of a drink!
After over 15 samples, we got to choose our favorite where they mixed us a full size drink!
At the end of the experience we were able to participate in the salsa dancing lessons happening, and Karaoke!
Inside tip: either eat dinner beforehand, or you can order off the menu at the Cantina.
Definitely pace yourself as you get a lot of drinks included!
Save Baby Sea Turtles
Help newly hatched baby sea turtles find their way to the ocean!
Between July and November, sea turtles make their way out of the ocean and lay their eggs on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta and surrounding areas of the Banderas Bay.
Unfortunately the eggs are susceptible to predators, so there are now organizations who dig up the eggs to protect them until they hatch.
You can join a tour at one of these organizations where you’ll visit a nursery, see the nests, and visit a turtle camp.
You’ll get to see all the baby turtles that hatched that day.
At the end of the tour, you’ll help release the baby sea turtles into the ocean so they can safely start their journey in their natural home.
Travel Tip: releasing baby sea turtles only happens in season, between September and January.
Jungle Healing Chakra Activation
If you’re looking for a unique hike in Puerto Vallarta or are in need of healing and rejuvenation, this experience is for you.
On this excursion, you’ll hike through the beautiful jungle, surrounded by amazing scenery.
At a calming, healing spot by the river, you’ll activate your seven chakras (energy centers) using high-quality singing bowls by your Nepalese-trained guide.
Relax to the sounds of nature and take a refreshing dip in the clear river waters, like mother nature’s energy spa.
After the session, you’ll feel lighter, less stressed, with a clear mind, and your senses will be heightened. It’s a unique and rejuvenating experience you won’t want to miss.
Birria Food Tour Experience
In the state of Jalisco, Mexico, where Vallarta is located, Birria was born, and it’s the best place to try it!
You might be familiar with crispy Birria taco, but there are more ways to enjoy it.
On this 2-hour morning tour, you’ll taste Birria in four different styles, made with beef, pork, and the traditional goat meat.
If you’re a fan of Birria, this tour is a must-do!
This walking tour takes place in the zona romantica and is limited to 8 guests at a time.
Travel Tip: book this tour at the beginning of your trip so you can go back and try your favorites!
Love tacos? Here’s the full list of my personal favorite taco places in Puerto Vallarta.
Take a Unique Day Trip to Sayulita
Sayulita is one of the most popular day trips from Puerto Vallarta, but this tour provides a more local and authentic perspective.
We booked with a local tour guide who first brought us to a roadside market where we sampled local candies and snacks (and learned all kinds of things about local fruits and coffee used for medicinal purposes).
Then our guide toured us around Sayulita to help give us a lay of the land, pointed out all the hot spots and best areas for photos.
We then had a couple of hours of free time before we packed up and headed to a secluded black sand beach away from the crowds.
Even though I’ve been to Sayulita multiple times, I never would have been able to find this spot on my own!
Make sure you wear or bring your swimsuit because the water here is crystal clear for swimming.
We enjoyed a grilled lunch on the beach, which is a special recipe local to the region.
Brewery Tour by Bus
Explore Puerto Vallarta’s craft beer scene!
You’ll visit four breweries and a craft beer bar.
During the tour, you’ll get to taste 15 different local craft beers and enjoy five regional dishes.
It’s a great way to experience Vallarta’s top breweries without worrying about planning and reservations.
You can relax with your friends while your guides take care of everything.
Along the way, you’ll also see some of Vallarta’s best sights and murals.
The knowledgeable guides will introduce you to the world of Mexican craft beer, taking you behind the scenes to meet the staff and learn the secrets of brewing.
Go night kayaking and experience the enchantment of Bioluminescence Kayaking!
On this tour, it will be like you’re paddling through a fairytale, where the water sparkles and glows with each stroke of your paddle.
Settle into your kayak or paddleboard at the stunning Los Arcos National Marine Park (Mismaloya).
You’ll watch the sun set or rise while witnessing the mesmerizing glow of bioluminescent microorganisms in the ocean waters.
You can also choose to swim among these bioluminescent wonders or just observe them from the safety of your kayak or paddleboard.
Things to know about this tour:
- Bioluminescence happens year-round
- You’ll paddle a distance of about 4kms on this tour
- You’ll meet your guide at Mismaloya Beach (11km south from the Romantic Zone)
Visit a Crocodile Sanctuary
El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary, nestled in a rustic environment, serves as a refuge for various native animals, particularly crocodiles, and offers educational tours for visitors.
The sanctuary, operated by dedicated veterinarians and marine biologists, is committed to the rehabilitation and protection of crocodiles and other local species.
Their mission is driven by a profound belief in the vital role crocodiles play in the Puerto Vallarta ecosystem.
For a fee of 250 pesos per person, visitors can enjoy a one-hour guided tour.
This guided experience entails a 2 km journey through the sanctuary, allowing guests to interact with numerous crocodiles and other wildlife species.
Good to know:
- You can take an Uber or Taxi here, but it’s best to arrange with them to either wait or pick you up after the tour, because cell phone reception is spotty out there.
I posted a full video tour from our visit to the crocodile sanctuary on my YouTube channel.
Hike to Secret Hot Springs
For a more adventurous, off the beaten path hot springs tour, book a tour with a local guide where you’ll have to hike for about 45 minutes before reaching secretive natural hot springs.
Visit the Butterfly Sanctuary
Explore the beautiful Butterfly Sanctuary in Puerto Vallarta with a small group of just 10 or less people.
On this guided tour, you’ll learn all about the life of delicate butterflies and even have the chance to release some newly hatched ones.
The tour is perfect for families and is held in a protected, tropical habitat.
Your guide will show you the amazing plants point out all the unique features of the different butterflies as they free-fly and dance above your head!
You’ll get up close to colorful butterflies and take stunning photos as you stroll through this lovely sanctuary.
It’s an intimate and educational experience in a breathtaking natural setting.
Good to know:
- You can take an Uber, Taxi or city Bus to get there
- It’s nice and shaded, but it can be humid inside the greenhouse (bring water)
- There are no amenities nearby, so hit the washrooms first and plan to eat before or after
I also posted a full tour of the butterfly sanctuary on my YouTube channel if you’re considering a visit.
Tip: If you don’t want to get there on your own, you can book a tour that comes with transportation which also includes a chocolate experience in the cacao garden.
San Sebastián del Oeste Tour
San Sebastián del Oeste, a historical town near Puerto Vallarta, is a captivating day trip if you need something else to do other than a beach day!
Nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains, this colonial-era gem boasts charming streets, centuries-old architecture, and a serene central plaza with an ancient church.
After our scenic drive through twisting mountain roads, we arrived in town and sat down to a locally made lunch before setting out to explore the town’s cobblestone streets.
It was like stepping back in time to the 1700s.
We thoroughly enjoyed this San Sebastian tour that we booked through Viator
Taste of Pitillal Food Tour
Pitillal is a local neighborhood deep in the heart of Puerto Vallarta where very few visitors and tourists go.
However, this is a deeply populated local area, which means the food is abundance, flavorful and inexpensive!
Since it’s off the beaten path, taking a guided food tour is the way to fully immersive yourself in some of the best food you’ll ever taste outside of Mexico City.
On this 3.5 hour tours, you will visit eight authentic tasting locations and receive a behind-the-scenes look at the Pitillal neighborhood and its most fascinating landmarks.
Here’s a sample of what you can expect:
- tostadas with seafood caught fresh that morning
- a twist on Birria
- local tamales
- secret taco stands
Vintage Polaroid Film Shoot in Puerto Vallarta’s Secret Spots
This tour offers a unique opportunity to capture vintage-style photos amidst Mexican art, murals, and local culture.
It includes visits to iconic sites like Elizabeth Taylor’s home, a swinging bridge, and the stunning Los Arcos, all using state-of-the-art Fuji Polaroid cameras, resulting in artistic souvenirs of your experience.
If you feel like you’ve seen all the regular photo spots in Puerto Vallarta, this tour offers a unique perspective to see them through a new lens.
Plus, they’re great souvenirs to remember your trip!
Take Part in a Traditional Healing Temazcal Ceremony
A temazcal ceremony is a traditional Mexican sweat lodge ritual that involves entering a small, dome-shaped structure heated with volcanic stones.
Participants engage in spiritual and purifying experiences through chants, guided meditation, and the intense heat, aiming to promote physical and mental well-being.
It’s a unique and culturally immersive activity to consider while in Puerto Vallarta, and you can book this experience at the Terra Noble Art & Healing Center.
Secret Agave Bar Crawl
This experience is basically a combination of a tequila tasting and walking food tour, with a twist.
You’ll tour the local neighborhoods to sample the finest products made from the agave plant: tequila, mezcal and raicilla.
On this 4 hour tour you’ll visit hidden gem restaurants and bars to sample drinks as well as local cuisine.