This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Puerto Vallarta is full of fun things to do in itself, but you are in a location where there are so many other great nearby areas, beaches, and tours that if you have the time you really should take advantage of! I have rounded up 17 fun day trips for you to take from Puerto Vallarta— yes there’s that many!
Honestly, I was surprised myself that Puerto Vallarta had accessibility to so many other beautiful places! The great thing is that you can even combine some of these that are in close proximity to each other, and some make great overnight trips as well depending on how much time you have.
Regardless of the type of day trip you’re looking for, from exciting snorkeling tours to relaxing in a neighboring sleepy beach town, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in this list of the 17 best day trips from Puerto Vallarta!
17 BEST Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta
Sayulita, Mexico is a sleepy beach town on the Pacific Coast. Known for its beautiful beaches, epic sunsets, laid-back lifestyle, and safety, Sayulita should be at the top of everyone’s Mexico bucket list.
Sayulita makes for the perfect day trip from Puerto Vallarta since it is only about a 1.5-hour drive away. You can easily can a taxi there for around 800 MXN one-way, or if you prefer, join an organized tour.
Surprisingly, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Sayulita for such a small beach town. Many come for the surf, some the yoga, and others to laze around on the beach. But there’s so much more to Sayulita than that. In fact, there are tons of activities to keep you busy!
Some of the best things to do in Sayulita include:
- Visit YamBak Brewery – Sayulita has its own craft brewery. They serve everything from delicious IPAs to refreshing lagers. This is also a fun party spot in the evenings.
- Go on an atv tour – Imagine cruising through the jungle, mud, and then on gorgeous beaches! This is a really a fun activity that takes you around to see the sights while getting the adrenaline pumping. The best part is, if you go with two people, it’s very affordable at $95 USD. The tour we did was 3 hours long, and afterward, we were all smiling ear to ear.
- Check out the Iguana Tree – This famous tree is iconic in Sayulita as it is home to dozens of large Green iguanas.
- Relax at the beautiful beaches – The main beach in Sayulita is perfect for relaxing at a beachfront restaurant or taking a surf lesson. For something even more beautiful and better for swimming, head to the nearby Playa Los Muertos.
- Hike Monkey Mountain – The most famous hike in Sayulita is, without a doubt, Monkey Mountain. From this epic viewpoint, get breathtaking views over the mountains and the many beaches below. From the Sayulita side of Monkey Mountain, the trail takes around 3.5 to 4.5 hours to complete up and back down. If you want to hike the trail without the hassle you can either book this organized tour, or get a taxi to Higuera Blanca town and hike the south side of the peak.
- Eat amazing local food – There are countless cafes and restaurants in Sayulita. Check out some of the local spots like El Itacate for their famous cheese-wrapped burrito, or head to LA Rustica for Italian. Yah Yah Cafe is our favorite breakfast spot for their selection of huge bagels and creamy smoothies.
Note: While you can easily visit Sayulita on a day trip from Puerto Vallarta, many people choose to spend a couple of nights there. There are lots of great hotels to choose from in Sayulita, so this is a good option for those with time to spare!
Related Read: Read about why we think Puerto Vallarta is a safe destination for toursits and tips to help you stay stay safe!
2. San Pancho
San Pancho is the even sleepier surf town around 5 minutes to the north of Sayulita. It’s a top tourist destination among surfers, beach lovers, yoga enthusiasts, and those looking to enjoy the slower way of life. In fact, San Pancho is a popular place for ex-pats from all around the world.
My favorite thing to do is relax at the beach. Not only is it quieter, but it’s more beautiful! If you surf, you’ll love the waves here – they’re much larger than in Sayulita. There are a ton of awesome things to do in San Pancho including:
- Take a yoga class – Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in San Pancho is yoga. The best part is that there are plenty of yoga studios in the area. The best place to go is called El Estar. They run yoga classes every day with multiple times and classes available. Walk-in classes are 150 MXN. However, they also have packages for the more serious yogis! Unani Yam is another yoga studio in San Pancho you may want to check out.
- Go surfing – The large swells that hit San Pancho put this town on the map. With that said, San Pancho’s beach break is more suited to intermediate to pro surfers. If you’re just learning to surf, you should definitely do a surf lesson at Sayulita Beach instead. The waves here are perfect for beginners, especially on a calm day, and there is certainly no shortage of surf schools.
- Eat at Yasmina’s Itzalanyasayan Restaurante – Yasmina’s Itzalanyasayan Restaurante was my favorite place to eat in San Pancho. This small holistic restaurant serves up unique dishes that still stay true to Mexican cuisine. Imagine healthy tacos, bowls, and salads. After enjoying one meal here, I was back every day. My favorite dishes were the Pad Thia and the Origin Bowl. Both were delicious and packed with so much goodness!
- Get a photo on the San Pancho Beach swing – Want to get a great photo to remember your trip to San Pancho? Then head to the beach and turn left. Just past the restaurant area, there is a beach swing hung from a palm tree. The swing is the perfect place to capture the beauty of San Pancho Beach, and the best part is, this is a completely free activity in San Pancho.
You can easily take the bus or get a taxi from Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho. However, if you’re visiting on a day trip then a guided tour will ensure you make the most of your time. This particular tour includes comfortable (air-conditioned) transport to San Pancho and back. It also stops at Sayulita and includes an hour surf or boogie board rental in Sayulita!
3. Marietas Islands and Hidden Beach
Islas Marietas, or The Marieta Islands, are stunning and the perfect day trip from Puerto Vallarta by boat! This beautiful national park is home to two pristine islands only 900 meters apart. They are the perfect place to relax and explore some of the best natural beauty Mexico has to offer.
Some of the highlights are exploring different caverns and archways by kayak or paddleboard and seeing fish, turtles, and other sea life while snorkeling! You’ll also stop at Majahuitas Beach, which is very secluded and tranquil.
I highly recommend booking the tour that also visits Hidden Beach. This is by far the highlight, but not every tour visits with the new restrictions. Even tours that advertise a visit to Hidden Beach don’t always get to see the beach.
This specific tour actually visits Hidden Beach and includes snacks, water, and an English-speaking guide. Although there are cheaper options, these DO NOT GUARANTEE a visit to Hidden Beach. To join this tour, you will have to get yourself to Punta Mita around an hour from Puerto Vallarta.
Related Read: One of the best things to do in Cabo San Lucas is a boat tour out to another unique rock formation called The Arch!
4. Playa Mismaloya
Playa Mismaloya is a picturesque beach town where you get a combination of mountain jungle and emerald-green waters. There are amazing opportunities for those who are into water sports! From stand-up paddleboarding to snorkeling, this area has it all.
It’s just a 30-minute drive south of Puerto Vallarta, and you can take a bus or taxi to get here. Expect to pay just a couple hundred pesos to get there via taxi, and less than one dollar if you decide to take a bus!
There are several restaurants that offer fresh seafood dishes, and share their beach chairs, bathrooms, and showers if you eat and drink with them.
You can also head into town if you’re looking for a little more action. There’s Mamá Lucía, a tequila factory where you can do tours and tastings, or the nearby Vallarta Zoo where you can not just see, but even touch, pet, and feed many of the animals!
5. Playa Colomitos
Playa Colomitos is a beautiful, secluded beach 40 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta, just a little bit further down from Playa Mismaloya. However, you can’t just drive there. In order to get to Playa Colomitos, you must either hike or take a boat.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to do the jungle hike to get there, the trail begins in Boca de Tomatlán. This is the last stop for the orange city buses that leave from Zona Romantica. You can expect about a one-mile hike that follows along the mountainous coast with lush views and jungle paths.
Don’t feel like hiking? No worries! Catch a local water taxi from Boca de Tomatlán or directly at the Puerto Vallarta pier in the Romantic Zone. Enjoy viewing the coastline as you cruise along. Prices one-way from Boca de Tomatlán are just a couple of bucks.
Whichever way you decide to get to Playa Colomitos, once you arrive you’ll be rewarded with gold sand, sparkling waters, and a hidden waterfall!
If you get hungry, be sure to visit Ocean Grill Vallarta restaurant for delicious, fresh seafood!
6. El Eden (Predator movie set)
This day trip is actually one of the best tours to do in Puerto Vallarta. This tour involves riding through lush tropical jungle and remote villages!
The tour we did in Puerto Vallarta took us along a dirt road that was really muddy in places (it was the wet season.) This made the tour super fun, and we got more than a little dirty.
After our ride, the tour stopped at the same place “The Predator” movie with Arnold Swaranegar was filmed called El Eden. It featured a gorgeous river and man-made pool. Here we got to have a few beers and enjoy a swim.
The place was beautiful, and the water was so refreshing. There was even a natural rock slide as well as the opportunity to go ziplining. Of course, we opted to simply relax with a beer in hand and cool river water to swim in.
Before we knew it, it was time to take our ATVs back but not before stopping for a generous tequila tasting! We must have tried 10 tequilas!
You can ride your own ATV (no experience required as the experts will give you a lesson) or, you can go in a pair. Regardless though, riding an ATV in the jungle is such a fun tour! Honestly, you won’t regret going on an ATV tour in Puerto Vallarta.
If you don’t feel like going quite as far as Sayulita, you can take a day trip to experience Bucerias – a local city with a gorgeous beach. A day trip to Bucerias is about coming to enjoy the beach, which in my opinion, is much cleaner than Sayulita’s anyway.
Bucerias is about 16 miles (26 km) and 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta. You can easily take a taxi or catch a bus.
There are also many cool things to do in Bucerias, such as visiting the El Edén Jardín Botánico, joining a bike and food tour, wandering the many art galleries, and more. Or, just relax at the beachside restaurants, lounge on the beach, walk the local market and just enjoy the lower prices.
A great time to visit is after the La Cruz Market in Punta Mita (more on that below.) From the market, Bucerias is only 10 to 15 minutes away.
8. Punta Mita
Punta Mita is a peninsula north of Puerto Vallarta known for its stunning beaches. There are lots of fancy resorts here, however, there is also a small town with a public beach area that you can enjoy on a day trip from Puerto Vallarta.
Some of the best things to do in Punta Mita include:
- Go surfing – There are some great waves in Punta Mita for both beginner and intermediate surfers. You can rent a board right at the beach or even sign up for a lesson.
- Horseback riding – I did this 1.5-hour tour, and I really enjoyed it. We rode to Litibu Beach, right near Punta Mita, traveling through the jungle before arriving at the beach. Afterward, we did a quick tequila tasting. For me, the short tour was enjoyable, and I thought it was great value for money. The horse was well cared for and in great shape. On top of that, our guide was 10/10!
- Eat amazing seafood – We enjoyed a huge seafood platter right on the beach the last time we visited Punta Mita. Grab yourself a seat at one of the beachfront restaurants and enjoy fresh seafood with a cocktail in hand. Punta Mita is all about relaxation!
9. La Cruz Market
The La Cruz Market is a seasonal local market that is home to over 200 vendors. You can find food, art, crafts, jewelry, glass blowing, finger-painted tiles, and more here. The best part is it’s all made by locals.
It’s also one of the best places to pick up fresh seafood right from the marina! I recommend coming hungry, because there are plenty of great food options. Better yet, enjoy your food along with amazing views and live music!
Markets are a great way to get a better cultural understanding of the place you’re visiting, so if you have the chance to experience one I always recommend it.
La Cruz Market is located about an hour drive from Puerto Vallarta. As mentioned earlier, it’s just 15 minutes past Bucerias so you can easily kill two birds with one stone and visit both areas if you’d like.
The market is held on weekends from 9 am to 2 pm during the dry season from November to April.
10. Lo de Marco
Lo de Marco is another sleepy beach town that’s remained off the typical tourist trail. This small town has a real Mexican vibe as well as gorgeous beaches and deliciously cheap food.
It’s located about an hour and a half away from Puerto Vallarta, and just 15 minutes north of San Pancho or 30 minutes north of Sayulita.
Lo de Marco is probably a better day trip from Sayulita or San Pancho. If you do plan on visiting San Pancho I recommend combining this with your visit. It’s a lovely town, but I feel it’s best combined with another area.
If you do plan to visit from San Pancho, you can get a taxi to Lo de Marco for around 200 MXN and then explore the town and nearby beaches. Although Playa Lo de Marcos is beautiful, take the short walk to Playa Los Venados for an even better beach.
11. Las Caletas
Las Caletas is a secluded beach you can only get to by doing a tour. You can visit via day tour from Puerto Vallarta, or by doing the Rhythms of the Night dinner show.
Included with the day tour you get a gourmet lunch, open bar, use of kayaking and snorkeling equipment, and a wetsuit upon request. The tour lasts around 7 hours and costs $149 USD. You can even add on additional experiences like cooking classes or spa treatments if you’d like!
The Rhythms of the Night dinner show is the most highly-rated experience in Puerto Vallarta and a show I absolutely loved it! It’s a completely different vibe than the day tour, so it just depends on what you’re looking for.
The Rhythms of the Night tour is a full-on evening experience that starts with a sunset dinner cruise in the Bay of Banderas. On this 1 hour cruise, you can enjoy a drink (or many drinks, as we did) onboard a catamaran while enjoying the famous Puerto Vallarta sunset. During certain times of the year, you may even see whales!
Then, when you arrive at Las Caletas (a private beach), you’ll be seated in the amphitheater to watch the show. The Rhythm of the Night show was actually conceived by the co-founder of Cirque de Soleil, so it is an impressive combination of acrobatics, theatrics, and music and dance. However, it also has a Mexican spin telling historical legends and stories. Honestly, it’s so impressive, and during some parts, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.
After the show, you’ll be taken to one of the many restaurants on the beach to enjoy a romantic candle-lit buffet dinner. The food is fantastic, and there are cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine on offer. We were very impressed with the dinner and the service.
This is truly an experience unique to Puerto Vallarta and one you shouldn’t miss out on! Tickets do often sell out, so be sure to book online in advance!
Fun fact: the spirit “tequila” was actually named after the town where it was first created! Meaning you can enjoy tequila in Tequila – how fun!
From Puerto Vallarta, Tequila is about a 4-hour drive away. There is no direct bus from Puerto Vallarta to Tequila, so you can either bus to Guadalajara and then go to Tequila, or, you can rent a car and drive yourself!
Chances are you will be drinking when you visit, so instead of just making this a day trip from Puerto Vallarta I recommend staying a day or two. otherwise, consider hiring a private driver you can drink and sit back and relax.
I absolutely loved the town Tequila. I ended up spending two nights here myself so I could experience all that it had to offer. It’s such an authentic Mexican town and reminded me a lot of touring the villages of the Sierra Madre. Here are some of the best things to do:
- Go on a Tequila Distillery Tour – The main attraction in the town of Tequila is visiting some amazing Tequila distilleries. Here, you can see how everything is done and of course, try some tequila! Be sure to at the very least check out Casa Suaza or La Rojena (the home of Jose Cuervo!).
- Plant a Blue Agave – Sure, visiting a distillery and tasting tequila is fun, but you don’t truly understand how it’s made until you’ve visited the farm for yourself! Tequila is made from Blue Agave, a type of cactus. They are actually very beautiful and believe it or not, hard to plant! Learning about these plants and seeing thousands of them for yourself is surely an experience to remember!
- Wander the cobblestone streets and explore the town – Tequila is actually a very cute town. The cobblestone streets and colonial buildings will have you transported back in time. There is a huge cathedral at the main square which is gorgeous, tons of street food to sample, and really great shopping (at cheap prices!). There was also a night festival on when I was there and while this doesn’t happen all the time, locals told me it is normal for Tequila to have frequent celebrations and festivities.
Yalapa is a small fishing village on a beautiful beach and it’s synonymous with the best snorkeling. The water is so clear it’s like glass. And the colorful schools of tropical fish are everywhere!
This day trip is a full-day tour to Yelapa and Majahuitas from Puerto Vallarta via boat. Hands down, this is the best excursion in Puerto Vallarta if you want to spend the day leisurely walking through the jungle, swimming near waterfalls, and feeling completely off-the-grid. It is literally like taking a mini-vacation while you’re on vacation.
The forest is lush, and the bay and beaches are private. Only a handful of tours go to Yelapa per day, so it feels magical and special. Enjoy a continental-style breakfast and a light buffet lunch onboard the boat.
Your day trip itinerary includes a stopover in Yelapa, where the locals ride donkeys and ATVs as their primary form of transportation. Then it’s off to Majahuitas!
This Puerto Vallarta tour departs from either Puerto Magico near the ship terminal or Vallarta Adventures, near the El Tigre golf course. The cost for this 5-hour excursion is only $79 USD.
After your big day in the sun, go out to eat at one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta!
14. Majahuitas Beach
Majahuitas Beach is Puerto Vallarta’s ultimate hidden gem. It is a stunning hidden cove where the mountains and sea come together and is secluded from civilization.
I really do highly recommend checking out the tour I mentioned above that allows you to experience Yelapa, Majahuitas, as well as a stunning waterfall. For $79 you really can’t beat all that you get to experience!
Once you’re done exploring Yelapa and head to Majahuitas you’ll love experiencing this private beach alcove getaway.
The tour also offers up the panoramic splendor of Banderas Bay, the mighty Cola de Caballo waterfall, along with plenty of kayaking and swimming to keep you happy all day! The tour includes all your snorkeling and kayaking equipment as well as an open bar. There’s also an option to go horseback riding so bring extra pesos if that interests you.
15. Los Arcos National Park
There are a lot of great snorkeling areas in and around Puerto Vallarta, but Los Arcos National Park is one of my favorites! The best way to experience this gorgeous park is with a tour group where you can be guided by a marine biologist guide and learn about the diverse wildlife that you are going to see.
This half-day tour will take you out on a boat and provide snorkeling equipment. The tour also offers snacks and drinks throughout the snorkeling adventure! Prices for the tour are around 1,442 MXN ($80 USD) and the tour leaves from Puerto Vallarta marina. This is easily one of my personal favorite day trips from Puerto Vallarta.
16. Puerto Vallarta Bontanical Gardens
One of the best ways to enjoy the flora and fauna of Puerto Vallarta is by taking a day trip to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. The gardens’ purpose is to showcase the diversity of the region, as well as protect it.
You can get into the garden for 200 pesos per person. Once in, explore and check out the plants, flowers, vanilla plantations, and hiking trails. They even have a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal! I had brunch there and really enjoyed it – the view of the gardens was spectacular.
I highly recommend going in the morning to enjoy breakfast before exploring the gardens. Listen to the rainforest and watch hummingbirds with a coffee in hand. The best part is you’ll have the opportunity to watch the hummingbirds feed right from your hands with their personal hummingbird feeders!
Especially for my nature lovers, I think you will really enjoy this day trip. The Vallarta Botanical Gardens are located about 45 minutes from central Puerto Vallarta. You can get here via bus, taxi, or Uber.
If you enjoy tours, you can also do a guided tour through the gardens. The 6-hour tour costs just $50 and it includes a guide, transportation (to and from), entrance, and a tequila tasting! Sounds like a great deal if you ask me!
17. Playa Palmares
Playa Palmares is a narrow stretch of beach with clear, turquoise waters that is located about 20 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta. You can enjoy a scenic bus or taxi ride to this destination.
This is the perfect day trip from Puerto Vallarta for those looking to enjoy the sun and sand in a relaxing environment. The surf is also gentle to moderate here if you want to give surfing a go!
This beach has lifeguards, restrooms, showers, a wheelchair ramp, and food concessions to provide quality for its visitors. You can even opt to rent chairs, tables, and umbrellas if you choose.
Playa Palmares is great for relaxing, surfing (for beginners), fishing, and playing in the sand. They do also have speed boats offering banana rides if you’re looking for a little bit more excitement!
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
The hotel options in Puerto Vallarta seem endless, there is so much to choose from for every budget!
Here are some of the best hotels you should consider in Puerto Vallarta:
Low-Budget Hostel – Oasis Original Hostel
This hostel offers dorms beds as well as private air-conditioned rooms (for less than $30 USD!) It’s in a great central location, the staff are incredibly helpful, and breakfast is included!
Low-Budget Hotel – Posada de Roger
We love this hotel! It is located in the heart of the Romantic Zone and is super affordable. All rooms have to air-conditioning and they even have a pool that gets tons of sun. There is a shared kitchen that guests can use too which is a huge bonus. Honestly, this is our go-to place to stay in Puerto Vallarta. If you want to stay here, be sure to book in advance because it is almost always fully booked.
Mid-range Budget – Amapas Apartments Puerto Vallarta
This adults-only hotel offers self-contained apartments. It is located in my favorite area (Zona Romantica) and is very close to the beach, restaurants, nightlife, and shops. They have a pool on site and all rooms are air-conditioned. A studio apartment goes for less than $100 USD a night, but book quick, this place almost always books out!
Luxury – Grand Fiesta Americana
This all-inclusive adults-only resort has it all! It is located right on the beach and also offers an outdoor pool and on-site restaurant. They also have a late night club with a DJ, tennis court, and gym. The reviews are impeccable and the location is still close enough to town to easily access!
Browse all hotels in Puerto Vallarta here!
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Mexico in 2019, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper!
Before you go…
While Puerto Vallarta has plenty of fun things to do, I really think you’ll enjoy taking the opportunity to explore the beauty in the surrounding areas as well! There is such a variety in each of these day trips from Puerto Vallarta that I know you’re going to find something that fits your needs.
Be sure to check out some of our other Mexico posts!
Guide to Exploring the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta
Tuesday 15th of November 2022
Hey! Can you confirm that the car rental you recommended is reputable?
Tuesday 15th of November 2022
Yes, it is, and we use them all the time. Our most recent booking in Perth was not through them, though as the chip manufacturing issue has made prices of rentals like this increase.