10 Absolute BEST Things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Knowing where to spend your valuable vacation time in Puerto Vallarta can be tough with SO many activities and attractions to choose from. In this blog, I’ve narrowed it down to the 13 absolute BEST things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico so you don’t waste your time on mediocre experiences!
So, you’re heading to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – excellent! We absolutely love this city! We spent over two weeks enjoying everything it has to offer and had a brilliant time.
But, the only problem with going to Puerto Vallarta is that there are almost too many things to do! How do you know what activities to do and what ones to skip with a limited amount of time?
Plus, you’ll probably want to spend a good chunk of your trip relaxing at a beach or sipping on a margarita (and we don’t blame you, we’re all for the margaritas and coronas!)
So, after exploring the wide variety of things to do in Puerto Vallarta for ourselves, we’ve narrowed it down to the 13 absolute best! These are the most popular, highly rated, and fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta that surely won’t disappoint!
13 BEST Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
1. Go on a Food Tour
One of the best tours I have ever done was actually in Puerto Vallarta – a taco food tour!
We came hungry and left stuffed! This taco tour weaved its way through the less touristic streets of the city visiting individual families’ street stalls as well as to local hot-spot restaurants (check out the restaurant Cisneros for the best seafood Tacos!)
We learned that families pass down recipes through multiple generations and that being the one who held the recipe secrets was an honor.
We tried beef, pork, and seafood tacos. All different, but all amazing! We were even treated with a visit to a tortilla factory, bakery, and ice cream shop to end the day. I never expected a food tour to be so great, but it was, and my mouth is still watering talking about it!
Food Tour Recommendations:
We highly recommend the taco tour we did with Vallarta Eats Food Tours. It was so much fun and the food was incredible. Also, considering the amount of food we got, it was really great value! You must book this tour in advance and you can do so here.
The same company we did our tour with also offers an evening tour. This is a great alternative to walking around in the hot midday sun. You can book this evening tour in advance online also.
2. Eat at the Restaurant “El Arrayan”
While we are on the topic of food…I often think that an amazing dining experience should not be forgotten on a list of things to do in any city.
El Arrayan is a fine dining experience with authentic Mexican cuisine at an affordable price while not sacrificing service or quality. The food at El Arrayan stays true to Mexican tradition and is prepared by some of the best Mexican chefs in the region.
We visited this restaurant on a Wednesday night and while most other places in Puerto Vallarta were empty, El Arrayan was full – a testament to how special this restaurant was.
We had duck and lamb with their signature cocktails and ended the evening with a couple pieces of cake! For an authentic Mexican dining experience head over to El Arrayan, you’ll absolutely love it!
Restaurant Details: As far as popular places to eat go “El Arrayan” is one of the most famous. Booking is not essential however it is highly recommended to ensure you get a table at this amazing place.
3. Go Skydiving
Anyone who knows Daniel knows he skydives as a hobby. So naturally, when we arrived in Puerto Vallarta and Daniel discovered that there was a skydiving club, he was signed up to jump the very next day.
Though Daniel skydives by himself, this same company specializes in tandem jumps for people who want a thrill of a lifetime attached to an experienced professional.
We spent quite a bit of time hanging out at the drop zone over our two weeks in the city. Daniel jumped and I watched landings at sunset on the beach. It is definitely one most beautiful places to skydive in the world.
I was surprised at the wide variety of nationalities and ages of the people who decided to jump out of an airplane for the first time in Puerto Vallarta. It clearly is a very popular thing to do for tourists of all walks of life!
Every single person seemed to have a great time. Watching all the nervous jumpers reminded me of the first time I skydived and brought back memories of thrill and excitement. Skydiving sounds scary, but that’s the point!
Our Recommended Company:
Daniel did all of his Jumps with Skydive Vallarta. They follow the American standards for skydiving which means they have excellent safety standards.
These guys were also very professional and fun!
4. Ride an ATV in the Jungle
Going on an ATV tour is always a fun way to spend a couple of hours! But, in Puerto Vallarta, it is even more special as you ride through the jungle and remote villages!
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 near Puerto Vallarta is really one of the most exciting things to do!
Our Recommended ATV Tour in Puerto Vallarta:
This particular ATV tour is awesome! Everyone who does it loves it (all 5-star reviews for this company). You can choose between a 3 and 4 hour tour and photos are complimentary! Just be sure to wear something you’ll be alright with getting a little (or a lot) dirty.
5. Walk the Malecon at Sunset
The Malecon is the main boardwalk along the ocean in the center of Puerto Vallarta. There are various nice restaurants but also huge dance nightclubs and famous bars such as Senor Frogs.
Along the Malecon, vendors set up stalls selling everything from street food to souvenirs. There are gorgeous statues and a central square which always seems to boast some sort of a celebration.
A walk along the Malecon during sunset is an absolute must-do. It is a vibrant time of day and the sunsets are almost always spectacular!
If you prefer, you can also rent bicycles and ride along the Malecon! This way, you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time!
6. Visit Sayulita
Just over an hour’s drive from Puerto Vallarta is the beachside town of Sayulita. Sayulita is famous for its cobblestone streets, range of trendy cafes and shops, as well as gorgeous beach perfect for swimming or catching a wave or two.
From Puerto Vallarta, you can easily visit Sayulita for a day trip. You can ride the local bus to get there which is the cheapest option but not the most comfortable or quickest. Or, you can rent a car and drive yourself, or take a tour!
If you rent a car and drive yourself you’ll be able to spend as much time as Sayulita as you want! Heck, if you want, you could even spend a night or two!
Our Recommended Day Trip to Sayulita:
If you don’t want to go to Sayulita on your own, you can book a tour!
This particular tour includes comfortable (air-conditioned transport) to Sayulita and back. It also stops at San Pancho (another gorgeous beach) and includes an hour surf or boogie board rental in Sayulita!
7. Go snorkeling or Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is one of my personal favorite things to do! Exploring the ocean underneath the surface is nothing short of amazing!
Around Puerto Vallarta, there are some pristine bays, reefs, and marine reserves where you can see tons of marine life and colorful coral.
There are some really great scuba diving companies in Puerto Vallarta that are PADI certified. You can choose between going on a fun dive or you can even join a course to get certified!
Of course, snorkeling is always a blast too and a great alternative to scuba.
Recommended Scuba and Snorkelling Experiences in Puerto Vallarta:
For those who are experienced divers, this company offers an amazing scuba tour! They come highly rated and visit some of the most beautiful and remote spots. The tour also includes lunch!
If you’ve never scuba dived before but want to learn, you can sign up for this introductory dive with a highly rated company. You’ll get to go on your first ever scuba dive experience with a divemaster in one of the most beautiful bays in the area!
In terms of snorkeling, this full-day tour takes you out on a luxury boat to snorkel at the most beautiful spots all around Puerto Vallarta. As a bonus, they also include breakfast, lunch (seafood), and an open bar!
8. Day Trip to Tequila
Did you know that the spirit “tequila” was actually named after the town where it was first created? That’s right, there is a town in Mexico called “Tequila” (with a capital -T) that is the birthplace of tequila (the alcoholic drink!)
And what’s better, the town of Tequila is located only about a 3.5-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta!
To be completely honest, I loved the town Tequila. I actually spent two nights there so I could really experience what it had to offer visitors. I learned all about the making of tequila as I toured distilleries and Blue Agave farms.
If you do have the time, I highly recommend renting a car, driving to Tequila, and then staying at least one night (you’re not going to be in any shape to drive after a tequila sampling, that much is for sure!)
However, it is possible to go to Tequila on a day trip from Puerto Vallarta. Although a long day, it is definitely worth it! Touring the oldest tequila distilleries in the world is still one of the best things I did in Mexico!
Visiting Tequila on a day trip isn’t the most popular things to do in Puerto Vallarta. And for that reason, your only option is to go on a private tour. This particular private tour to Tequila includes a distillery tour, premium tequila sampling, as well as time to explore the town!
If the long drive to Tequila and back doesn’t sound like fun to you, you can still enjoy tequila right in PV! You can join a tequila tasting tour (guaranteed to leave this one smiling) or even go on a tequila distillery tour including a stop at the tequila museum!
9. Go Deep Sea Fishing
You can go sport fishing in Puerto Vallarta and have the chance to catch fish such as wahoo, sailfish, skipjack tuna and dorado. Some of the fish people can catch in the area are just huge – it’s crazy!
Of course, if you catch any massive sport fish, it is catch and release. But if you want, you can also try and catch something tasty and can bring it back for dinner!
Recommended Fishing Tour in Puerto Vallarta:
This fishing tour takes you out on a specialized fishing boat with a maximum of 7 other tourists. All gear and bait is provided and your expert guide will teach you everything you need to know!
The boat is also licensed for whale watching so you might get lucky enough to spot a humpback whale while you’re out on the water too!
10. Go Ziplining
Ziplining is one of the most popular excursions in Puerto Vallarta. You’ll get a bit of an adrenaline rush as you soar high above the jungle canopy. It is exciting, but it’s also beautiful!
Some of the longest ziplines in all of Mexico are located not far from Puerto Vallarta, making it the perfect place to give it a try!
Recommended Ziplining Tour from Puerto Vallarta:
This adventure tour includes more than just ziplining, it also includes a speed boat ride and the chance to repel down a waterfall! It is the ultimate adventure experience in Puerto Vallarta and comes highly recommended by many travelers!
11. Go to Rhythms of the Night show
The Rhythms of the Night dinner show is the most highly rated show in all of Puerto Vallarta, and therefore, one of the absolute best things to do!
But it is so much more than just a show.
The Rhythms of the Night tour is a full-on evening experience. It starts with a sunset dinner cruise in the Bay of Banderas. You can have a drink on board this luxury boat while enjoying the famous PV sunset.
Then, when you arrived at Las Caletas (a private beach), the dinner and show will begin!
The 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, but it also has a Mexican spin telling historic legends and stories.
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!
Of course one of the main things to do in Puerto Vallarta is to check out the many surrounding beaches. There are a few different options around for beaches depending on what you are looking for.
The main beach in Puerto Vallarta is near the Romantic Zone. It’s a nice beach as there isn’t much for waves and it is walking distance from both the Malecon and central area. For an easy beach to hang out at this is the one.
One downside to this beach is how busy it is. Some people would enjoy the many restaurants lining the beach as they provide services and lounge chairs/umbrellas for rent. But for those looking for some peace and quiet, I would recommend heading to a different nearby beach.
Another option is to head North towards the Hotel Zone. Behind hotels (like the Plaza Peninsula) there is a large stretch of beach that is never very busy. There are limited restaurants and vendors making this beach area much more relaxing than the beach near the Romantic Zone.
For something even more remote, catch an Uber or local bus to the beaches to the south of Puerto Vallarta. Some of these beaches include Playa Palmares and Playa Esmerelda. These beaches will be empty most of the time and allow for some real “RnR”.
Make sure to bring your own shade and snacks as buying these things will be nearly impossible here.
Getting to any of these beaches is as easy as catching a local bus heading out of the Romantic Zone. Just ask any of the drivers the name of the beach and they will either take you there or point at the correct bus. Most people in Puerto Vallarta speak some English so getting around is quite simple.
A great way to explore the beaches near Puerto Vallarta is on a horseback riding tour! This tour will take you to some gorgeous secluded bays and includes lunch!
13. Party in the Romantic Zone
Puerto Vallarta has quite the vibrant nightlife. Every day there are clubs and bars open for business and bustling with locals and tourists alike.
There are two main areas of Puerto Vallarta which are great for nightlife: the Romantic Zone, and the Malecon.
The Romantic Zone is more inland from the Malecon and consists of fewer tourist (still touristy though) restaurants and bars. There is a huge welcoming for the LGBT communities in this area. Rainbows are painted on the outside of restaurants showing that they welcome all visitors!
The nightclubbing scene in this area is happening. Every night of the week there are various clubs open. There is everything from Cabaret to karaoke to sports bars. The people are friendly and the drinks are cheap, so it easily makes for a fun night out on the town.
To save some money, you can buy VIP passes to popular nightclubs in Puerto Vallarta that allow you to skip the line and have an open bar! If you plan on drinking a lot, then this option is probably best!
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 PV:
Low-Budget – 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!
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 – Sunset Plaza Beach Resort & Spa
This all-inclusive resort has it all! It is located right on the beach and also offers three outdoor pools (two rooftop ones) and three on site restaurants. They also have a hot tub, tennis court, and gym. The reviews are impeccable and the location is still close enough to town to easily access!
Traveling more in Mexico?
We love Mexico and have traveled all over Mexico (on a couple of different occasions!) Here are some of our other Mexico blogs that you might be interested in:
- 29 Interesting Things to do in Mexico City
- Guide to Palenque (and the waterfalls!)
- The BEST Things to do in Mexico
I hope these amazing things to do in Puerto Vallarta keep you busy and help you have the best vacation possible! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or reach out!
April 28, 2020